[UPDATE: After the following post was published, Steve Emerson’s lawyer contacted The Nation to complain that his actions following the bombing of the federal buiding in Oklahoma City in 1995 had been mischaracterized. In the post, I included Emerson among those who "immediately blamed Arabs and Muslims" for that attack, which was of course carried out by a far-right, white veteran of the Gulf War, Timothy McVeigh. Emerson’s attorney, anxious to get the facts precisely right, points out that Emerson did not specifically blame Arabs or Muslims for McVeigh’s terror. His lawyer notes that what Emerson did say, at the time, was this: "This [the bombing] was done with the attempt to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait." That is, in fact, what Emerson said, and it seems to me that at the very least Emerson was adding more fuel to the fire that was burning then — at least until McVeigh’s arrest — that the bombing was an act of Middle Eastern terrorists. At the very least, it is specious, if not downright racist, to conclude the trying to "inflict as many casualties as possible" is a "Middle Eastern trait."]
By now, the American far right is cringing over revelations that the Norwegian bomber and camp-shooter was a white, ethnic Norwegian with far-right sympathies and fantasies of a global anti-Muslim, ethnic cleansing “Knights Templar” movement, and a fundamentalist-style Christian to boot.
Let’s leave aside, for a moment, the near-endless roster of those who immediately ascribed the attack to Al Qaeda and its allies. Like Steve Emerson and others who immediately blamed Arabs and Muslims for Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, they—along with mainstream commentators and the panoply of self-styled “terrorism experts” trotted out on CNN, Fox and elsewhere in the wake of the Oslo attack, it was convenient to blame Al Qaeda and Co. But no.
In fact, Anders Behring Breivik might have fit in nicely as a member of Newt Gingrich’s anti-jihad staff or as a researcher for Robert Spencer’s obsessive jihadwatch.org. Even the New York Times today notes that Breivik owes a debt to Spencer et al., noting that Breivik’s feverish, anti-Muslim manifesto “which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch Web site, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.”
Like Sarah Palin, who took heat over her bullet-oriented rhetoric after it was revealed that she’d pasted a gunsight target on Representative Giffords, who was later shot by a deranged person, the purveyors Muslim-hating, sharia-fearing, terrorist-obsessing, mosque-removing rehtoric such as Spencer and Gingrich now have to be held to account. There’s a lot more to come, of course, about Breivik, and about whether he had accomplices or was a loner, but it’s not too early to conclude that a mentally ill fanatic like him might take seriously the idea that Western civilization is crumbling in the face of Islamic onslaught and decide to do something about it.
It’s an exact parallel with those who shoot abortion-performing doctors and bomb clinics when it’s drummed into their head over and over that abortion is a “Holocaust.” Who wouldn’t take up arms against perpetrators of a Holocaust?
In 2009, when the Obama administration warned that right-wing terrorism might be at least as serious, if not more, than Muslim extremist terrorism, the conclusion was bitterly denounced by conservatives. But the Times notes today:
The author of a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism withdrawn by the department after criticism from conservatives repeated on Sunday his claim that the department had tilted too heavily toward the threat from Islamic militants.
Paul Woodward, writing in War in Context, outlines the myriad connections between Breivik and his thought-leaders such as Spencer, Pamela Geller, and others. And Jim Lobe, writing in lobelog.com, skewers the idiotic Wall Street Journal for its editorial, “Terror in Oslo,” that placed the blame—oops!—on Muslims enraged about publication in Norway of the cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad. Lobe—along with Steve Clemons and James Fallows of The Atlantic—also takes on Jennifer Rubin, the excruciatingly bad “Right Turn” columnist for the Washington Post, who dredged up Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute who waxed eloquent about Muslim “snakes”:
There has been a lot of talk over the past few months on how we’ve got al-Qaeda on the run and, compared with what it once was, it’s become a rump organization. But as the attack in Oslo reminds us, there are plenty of al-Qaeda allies still operating. No doubt cutting the head off a snake is important; the problem is, we’re dealing with global nest of snakes.