23 July 2011
Of course, early reports of yesterday's atrocities in Oslo and environs had to consider the possibility of Muslim involvement. The first report I saw, which was just about the car-bombing, before the horror at the youth camp was widely known, saw fit to mention that Norway is a NATO member and was participating in the bombing of Libya. An Islamist attack was not implausible. But something nagged at me. Actually, two things did. One was my friend Crhymethinc, who before we'd even heard of the bombing was telling me about the Constantine's Sword documentary, which had gotten him alarmed about the potential for right-wing Christian terrorism around the world. The other was the fact of the car-bombing itself and the choice of a government building as a target. It reminded me a little too much of Oklahoma City and Timothy McVeigh. Then the attack on the island emerged as a gigantic amoklauf, perhaps the worst such case in modern history. While wearing a police disguise is an Islamist terror tactic, it's not theirs exclusively, and in any event an Islamist is still more likely to draw people to himself in order to blow up. Here, however, was the hallmark of the amoklauf: the power of the gun. Here was another madman who wanted to see his victims fall before him and die. Here was the sadism that's one of the few things the suicide bomber isn't guilty of. While we have one notorious example of an Islamist mass shooter, the Fort Hood killer was Americanized and militarized in an exceptional way. With the rest, it is something like an ethical obligation, I suspect, to die with their victims. Many an amoklaufer does the same, but not before they've had the satisfaction they've sought from seeing people killed. We don't know yet what the suspected Norway killer's ultimate intentions were -- or even whether he acted alone or with the sort of help that McVeigh enjoyed. But he apparently didn't plan on dying. And we appear to know that the suspect was a man of the Norwegian right, and that the island camp where the slaughter happened was run by the leftist governing party. The choice of political targets probably makes the suspect a terrorist rather than an amoklaufer, but the distinction probably isn't significant. If right-wing terrorism in general should prove decentralized or individually initiated, there'll be little difference between the lone-wolf terrorist and the typical amoklaufer. Such acts are unlikely to further any political agenda in any systematic way. They come closer to the pure nihilism usually on display in an amoklauf. If there is a threat to be perceived in right-wing Christian violence, it may not take conspiratorial form, with an al-Qaeda counterpart announcing long-term political goals. But it may be fair and even necessary to ask whether Christian extremism is one of the many potential triggers for transforming an otherwise harmless malcontent into a mockery of martyrdom. One should expect extensive cooperation from the majority of Christians in any such inquiry, since they should be the first to recognize such manifestations as heresy against the non-violent message of Jesus. If they want to insist that theirs is a more inherently peaceful faith than Islam, they couldn't prove the point more convincingly than by purging every violent tendency from their midst, just as they as Muslims to do.