Political terror, visionaries and cynics

Posted by – July 25, 2011

It’s now clear to anyone who has seriously looked into the background and writings of Anders Behring Breivik that he’s a political terrorist. He didn’t commit violence because of mental illness or an outburst of emotional bitterness, but out of a considered determination to effect change by any means available. In that respect his actions are best compared with those of Che Guevara, Timothy McVeigh, Osama bin Laden, Vladimir Lenin, Nelson Mandela, Ted Kaczynski, … All people who had a political desire that was radically, fundamentally opposed to the existing reality around them, and very little hope of success via the conventional political process.

All of the above were successful terrorists, and most of them were successful in achieving their political goals. One of them, Mandela, is universally praised; Guevara and Lenin get a lot of support, and even bin Laden is largely the hero of those he would call “his own”. This is almost completely dependent on their political goals and popular images, not the violence of their actions. Whether or not you sympathise with them tends to depend on to what extent you share their goals.

Sidetrack Whether you empathise with them is a very different thing, and mostly depends on what kind of person you are. People get very emotionally worked up over how much they hate and despise killers, but it’s really not much worth debating over. I’ll just say that I have the human disease of empathising with just about anyone whose position I understand enough about, and that includes all the people I mentioned above. /Sidetrack

It also bears mentioning that in most of these cases the absolute significance of their violence is very small. Osmo Soininvaara remarked that every day as many people die in traffic in Europe as died at the hands of Anders Breivik. Osama caused a very big bang indeed, but it was dwarfed in every way by the response it received. Lenin’s violence is by far the most prolific, but even then he’s more remembered for his political philosophy and historical significance than the millions of peoples’ enemies who died. Breivik wanted to strike a strategic blow at the heard of Norwegian social democracy, but ultimately it was very personal violence, the main significance of which is the loss of young lives, the terror of the survivors and the lifelong grieving of their families and their nation.

What I’m trying to say is that if you do care about the violence but don’t care about the politics and the setting, you’re being myopic. Where is history coming from? Where is it going to? I don’t know is there that much to be learned about that from this event, but it’s what it made me think about.

The Norwegian response to those questions was clear: yes, this was a political attack against our way of life, and we are going to preserve and safeguard it. Prime minister Stoltenberg said

You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy and our ideals for a better world. We are a small nation and a proud nation. No one will bomb us to silence. No one will shoot us to silence. No one will ever scare us from being Norway.

Stoltenberg is talking about the grand social democratic project: democracy + state-controlled capitalism + progressivism + universal human rights. Equality of the sexes and ethnic groups. No personal discrimination.

In Breivik’s view, this is a false Norway, one taken over by “cultural Marxism” and globalism, in irreversible decline and about to be overrun by foreigners. This view is not so uncommon anymore, and indeed is shared by eg. Halla-aho. In his manifesto Breivik quotes lengthily from Norwegian blogger Fjordman, who must now find a way to disown his ideological disciple. He writes:

How do I feel about knowing that the assumed perpetrator of these atrocities has quoted me in his much-talked about book? Absolutely terrible. What else can I say? I must stress that I have not yet read his very long book or manifest and I have neither the time nor the stomach to do so at the present time. I can only refer to the bits and pieces of it quoted in various news articles and what others keep telling me. He has apparently quoted a great many texts from a variety of public sources, one of them being me. His total lack of respect for human life is not, however, something he can have picked up from me, or from any of the other Islam-critical writers I know such as Robert Spencer or Bat Ye’or. Indeed, the lack of respect for human life is often one of the great shortcomings of Islamic culture that we have consistently pointed out.

The main difference between Fjordman and Breivik is that Fjordman advocates resistance (“I would suggest that one thing we should fight for is national sovereignty and the right to preserve our own culture and pass it on to future generations.”), Breivik advocates attack. Not against Muslim immigrants, by the way – he views them as innocent animals, acting in their own best interest – he wants to attack the social democratic project.

Stoltenberg, Fjordman and Breivik all believe in affecting the course of history. That’s the non-cynical position. They dare to dream, like Che Guevara, Timothy McVeigh, Osama bin Laden, Vladimir Lenin, Nelson Mandela and Ted Kaczynski. People like that are dangerous, but important.

But they’re the exception. Most people are apathetic, or cynics. The fellow who writes The Fourth Checkraise is a good example. He’s a smart guy, got a CS PhD in Finland, was/is disgusted by social democracy, upped sticks to Canada (although I think that’s more because he married a Canadian) and lives the existence of a comfortable misanthrope. As far as I can tell, he broadly shares the Halla-aho / Fjordman / Breivik view, but with a completely cynical attitude. Towards Finland he has the attitude of “smell you later, suckers”, often relishing what he considers to be Finland’s incurable stupidity and economic underperformance. On the topic of Breivik, he wrote

Since I am as giddy as a schoolboy on Christmas Eve waiting for the day that the European welfare states collapse, and the day that all those good little white liberals and leftists finally open their eyes and realize to their abject horror that they have become an impotent and irrelevant minority whose effete shibboleths the new majority doesn’t even pretend to respect, let alone obey any more while they can’t afford to escape their utopia where we white conservatives quite happily prosper, this development should nicely accelerate the schedule of transformation of the Nordic countries into snowbound Sao Paulos over the next few decades. To quote the Cappy: Enjoy the decline!

This future is essentially Breivik’s nightmare.

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