Monday, July 25, 2011
There is very little to be gained from a study of Anders Behring Breivik. He was a loner who was alienated from the society he lived in, suffered from depression, played violent video games, used steroids, listened to angry music and was of above average intelligence. This profile describes half the spree shooters in the last two decades, right down to the Columbine Massacre.
It is not Breivik's politics that make him significant. He was an outsider who despised society and escaped into romantic fantasies of omnipotence fed by video games and popular culture. Breivik cultivated a detached attitude toward the people around him and was obsessed with violent exercises of his masculinity. All this is common to killers of all political stripes and of no political affiliation whatsoever. His journal reveals a man who vacillated between crippling depression and grandiose plans. This manic-depressive behavior suggests Breivik may be bipolar. It is unknown if he was taking medication for it. He may have been self-medicating instead and rather than controlling his mood swings, it worsened them. Breivik's journal shows some awareness of his emotional instability, but his later entries are too caught up in his grandiose fantasy world to seek psychiatric help.
Had Breivik not imagined himself a crusader, then he would have become an animal rights activist, an anti-capitalist terrorist, or just a random spree killer-- acting out scenarios from Modern Warfare 2, his favorite video game, in real life. There is no use in trying to apply some measure of consistency to his beliefs. And his choice of targets likely had a large element of personal grievance or resentment to it that he then dressed up in manifesto form.
Breivik, like so many modern young Western males, was a loner, a disaffected cynic looking for something to believe in. A man in a place without positive images of manhood. No decent path between the hyperviolence of the action hero and the submission of the citizen of the postmodern state. A favorite escape of his was into a fantasy past through role playing games. An identity that he tried to adopt in reality by calling himself a knight.
The combination of steroid use, isolation and violent fantasies made him a ticking social time bomb. But it was the system that lit the fuse and made it possible for him to transform personal dysfunction into a political statement. That convinced an intelligent man that he could exploit a social problem to bring down the authorities. It was Breivik who pulled the trigger, but it was the Norwegian authorities who created and then ignored the social problem of Islamic immigration, that enabled him to exploit it in a burst of horrifying violence.
The Oslo killings are a tragic reminder that conflicts rarely remain one sided. And it is foolish to expect them to. Violence begets violence and extremism creates extremists. Terrorism gives birth to more of the same. Throughout history this has often been the case. One atrocity being met with another until the whole bloody heap becomes indistinguishable and everyone is covered in blood. Such awful events are the mountain of which the history of nations is made of. Whether it is Europe, Africa or the Middle East-- this is the nature of our shared history. Once the lamp is opened and the genie of violence is unleashed, wishing will not put it back.
As human beings we crave a simpler narrative. That of victims and perpetrators. Good and evil. But the more complex dynamic of human affairs makes such simplistic stories difficult to sustain. There are of course victims and perpetrators, but there is often guilt and innocence on both sides. There were after all good Nazis and bad partisans, good Viet Cong and bad Americans. Such aberrations from the norm are difficult to sustain, but they exist. It is hard to be a good person in a bad cause or a bad person in a good cause, but it is certainly not impossible. And not so uncommon that they need to be classified with the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot.
The Mai Lai massacre did not mean that Americans were no better than the Viet Cong. And the rape of German women by French soldiers did not mean that the Free French were no better than the Nazis. Such views too are unforgivably simplistic, and use individual incidents of unequal stature and accountability to mask the far larger moral gap between the two sides.
Oslo has become symbolic of pacifist idealism, which is why the bloodshed is so stunning, but also inevitable. Any ideal pursued to a far enough extreme gives birth to its opposite number. Violence attracts idealism and idealism attracts violence. Both pacifism and violence represent unbalanced extremes. And extremes often have a way of coming together in an explosive collision of opposites.
The search for blame in all the usual places is inevitable, but counterproductive. The Oslo killings are another item on the ledger of the high cost of Islam. The explosive rage on both sides fueled by a social instability created by aggressive immigration with no thought to its impact on the country as a whole. It was Brevik who spent nine years planning and carrying out the attacks, but it was the political authorities who had created a scenario that made it possible.
There are of course shootings carried out all the time with no larger political justification, and it is possible that Brevik would have acted regardless of any of the events of the past nine years. But it is far more likely that by giving him an antagonist to fight, the authorities brought those violent events into being.
Violence driven by social instability must be at least partly laid at the feet of those who caused the social instability. And that is not a handful of American critics of Islam, but the Norwegian authorities whose social and immigration policies created an explosive situation that had already exploded into violence before.
We cannot regard Brevik as an isolated phenomenon or as the creature of a handful of foreign pundits. He was a Norwegian whose views and attitudes echoed those of many of his countrymen. His violent response to social problems created by the authorities and aimed at the authorities should be deplored. But at the same time we must learn the lessons of not the act itself, but of the social instability that gave rise to it. It is the best chance of avoiding a repetition of it by those who would, like Brevik, exploit social instability as a means of promoting a violent solution.
Muslim violence, whether it is planes being flown into skyscrapers or women being raped with religious sanction, are likely to inspire answering acts of violence. Such acts should be condemned, yet so should the apathy toward the social instability created by Muslim immigration that gives rise to them.
When a woman is raped on the steps of the Norwegian parliament, it should be every bit as shocking as Brevik's massacres, not because their damage is equal, but because they are both wake up calls to a major social problem that cannot be swept under the rug.
Muslim immigration and its attendant violence gave Brevik his casus belli to take action against the authorities. It may inspire future Breviks as well. It is easy to blame the pattern of ideas that Brevik cited in his manifesto, but the manifesto and the ideas are the children of an existing social problem. A problem so severe that a woman can be raped on the steps of the Norwegian parliament with no one moving to intervene.
The European media will use the Oslo killings to argue against the regional trend of examining Muslim immigration. But they have it exactly backward. A social problem cannot be solved by refusing to examine it or by silencing all discussion of it. Social problems breed and worsen in silence. As do all things in the dark. Brevik's shootings should rather be a wake up call to seriously examine the impact of Muslim immigration on Oslo in particular, and Norway in general.
Brevik was not a Muslim, yet he was motivated by Islam, as surely as the most devout Jihadist. Islam defined his actions, as surely as it does theirs. The only difference is that they were acting for Islam, while he was acting against it. But the problem of both Brevik and the Jihadist emerges from a common source. Islam.
Violence rarely remains one sided. In Norway, Brevik has added a second side to a triangle, whose third side is politically correct apathy and nervous pacifism. That second side is as bloody as the first, and no more removable without addressing the first side and the third.
Whether it is the Madrid bombings or the Oslo rampage-- all these horrors are a reminder that Europe's current policies have failed. That integration has not worked and multiculturalism has given rise to hostile cultures living side by side. Brevik's actions and growing tension on the far right remind us that apathy and mouthing multicultural slogans can no longer substitute for a serious examination of the problem.
This latest horror warns us that violence will be exploited by the violent, and that the European equation is now in danger of having a third variable. We have had the Jihadists and the apathetic authorities, now there are the Breviks. Dangerous men looking for a cause and a reason to fight. And the social instability and violence created by Islamic immigration gives them a reason.
Talk of suppressing extremism will not prevent the Breviks, it will only encourage them by giving them a more definite enemy to fight. Anti-government violence in Norway and Sweden, countries which have repressed free speech the hardest, is no coincidence. Authoritarianism only feeds anti-government tendencies. It is impossible for Europe to rid itself of the Breviks, without also ridding itself of the social problems that make them possible.
The best way to stop the Breviks of the future, is to steal their thunder. To seriously examine the high cost of Islamic immigration, the failures of integration, the violence taking place under the shadow of multiculturalism-- and to honestly and seriously address these things.
Brevik would not have acted if he did not believe that the authorities would play into his hands. If the Norwegian government really wishes to defeat the ideas he championed, it must pull their claws, by addressing them as social problems, rather than by denying them and repressing their critics. Europe's history of domestic radicalism should provide ample reasons to show why such an approach is unwise and counterproductive.
As long as a social problem remains neglected and a source of social instability proliferates, then the violent tendencies of dangerous loners will be channeled into its path. That is how World War I began. It may be how World War III will begins. The duty of responsible authorities is to address the social problem, not with slogans, but with concrete and realistic measures. If a social problem is a swamp, then it must be drained. Oslo's social problem is Islamic immigration. The fever swamp of violence cannot be drained, until the immigration that feeds it is drained as well.