Suggestions that the “counter-jihadist” ideology spread by such websites as Frontpagemag.com, run by neocon David Horowitz, and the affiliated “Jihad Watch,” inspired – and provoked – the Norway killer Anders Behring Breivik have been met with cries of outrage by the neoconservative Right. This is hardly surprising: confronted with the sight of someone who put their hateful and inherently violent ideology into practice, what else are they supposed to do? There is, however, a superficially reasonable case to be made against drawing any larger lesson from the Norwegian tragedy. As Gene Healy, a vice president of the Cato Institute, put it:
“In general, invoking the ideological meanderings of psychopaths is a stalking horse for narrowing permissible dissent. Former New York Times columnist Frank Rich provided a classic in the genre with his February 2010 piece ‘The Axis of the Obsessed and Deranged,’ in which he railed against the dangerous climate of anti-government rhetoric and warned that a ‘tax protester’ who flew a plane into an Internal Revenue Service building in February may be a dark harbinger of Tea Party terrorism to come. (No such luck, Frank.)
“But blaming Sarah Palin for Jared Loughner, or Al Gore for the Unabomber makes about as much sense as blaming Martin Scorsese and Jodie Foster for inciting John Hinckley. There’s little to be learned from the acts of ‘the obsessed and deranged.’ But these incidents ought to teach us not to use tragedy to score partisan points.”
All of which is true – up to a point. This is generally true, but in the case of Breivik, however, what Healy misses is the specific content of the ideas expounded in the killer’s online manifesto [.pdf], and the video which summarizes his stance. For what Breivik and the counter-jihadists are saying is that Islam is at war with the West – and that a “culture of appeasement” prevalent on our side of the barricades is delivering us to the Enemy. If you go through the material published by Robert Spencer, who is quoted in some 64 instances by Breivik, one central idea leaps out at you: we are at war with the one billion Muslims on the planet Earth. Not that we should be at war, or will be at war – the battle, in Spencer’s view, has already commenced, not on account of anything we in the West have done, but because Islamic doctrine is inherently violent and expansionist. Likewise, Pamela Geller, his collaborator in “Stop the Islamization of America” – and its European affiliate, which Breivik supported – denies the very existence of moderates in the Muslim camp. David Swindle, who writes for Horowitz’s website, describes the internal debate among counter-jihadists at one of their West Coast retreats:
“Breakfast begin [sic] with a debate between Robert Spencer and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser on the prospects for reform within Islam. Andrew McCarthy moderated and begin the talk by explaining that he still debates amongst himself over whether we’re at war with Islam or Islamism. This is a healthy debate to have and the position I find myself in at the moment. I’ll dissect Spencer and Jasser’s engaging back and forth once we have the video posted but in the mean time my position is basically that I embrace Spencer’s intellectual skepticism about the challenges reform faces but Jasser’s optimism and spirituality about the necessity of the project still wins me over.”
Even the hardcore ideologues within the Horowitzian camp find the blanket condemnation of an entire religion a bit hard to take. For if all Muslims are the Enemy, then Breivik’s agenda – mass deportations and/or mass murder – takes on an aura of legitimacy.
Spencer seems to realize this, which is why he has been backtracking and fuming over the sudden attention to his “work”:
“The hapless Adam Serwer in the Washington Post lies outright when he says that ‘most of Geller and Spencer’s blogging consists of attempts to tar all Muslims with the responsibility for terrorism….assigning collective blame for an act of terror through guilt-by-association.’ In ten books, hundreds of articles, and over 25,000 blog posts, I have never “attempted to tar all Muslims with the responsibility for terrorism,” and challenge Serwer to prove his claim.”
Horowitz “defends” Spencer by writing:
“Robert Spencer has never supported a terrorist act. His crime in the eyes of the left is to have told the truth about Islamic fanatics beginning with the Islamic prophet who called for the extermination of the Jews and said in his farewell speech that he was called to fight until all men say that there is no God but allah. (see Bruce Thornton’s article today’s Frontpage).”
While not coming right out and saying all Muslims should be deported and/or killed, Spencer – and Horowitz – believe Muhammad’s followers pose a deadly and imminent physical threat. Oh, and by the way, go read another Islam-is-evil rant, which supposedly proves Horowitz’s point. These people condemn themselves out of their own mouths.
Spencer is a fake-“scholar” whose innumerable polemics are all about the same thing: the intractable evil and danger posed by Islam. He believes there is a conspiracy to impose Sharia law on America, and annex the United States to a “global caliphate.” This is the stuff of pure fantasy, and yet anyone who takes it seriously and accepts its premises has to believe that the Muslim world must be challenged militarily – which is precisely what neoconservatives have been urging since well before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And they succeeded in their mission, to a large degree: today we are embarked on a worldwide crusade which involves the invasion and occupation of a great deal of the Middle East. Breivik and his collaborators – if any – are simply taking it one step further, and in that they are more consistent than their neocon brethren, who prefer to have other people fight their wars of choice.
The neoconservative agenda [.pdf] is about one thing and one thing only: the desirability and necessity of a war to the death against the Muslim Enemy. Their relationship with Breivik is identical to the links between the “theoreticians” of yesterday’s New Left – Herbert Marcuse, Franz Fanon, etc. – and the activist rank-and-file, the college professors and the kids. Spencer is the theory: Breivik is the practice.
A screed posted on Horowitz’s website defends Spencer as being a mere “researcher” whose job it is to “monitor” the Muslim Threat. The pose of impartiality is supremely unconvincing. Spencer is a “researcher” in the same sense as Breivik: both start out with a foregone conclusion and then “research” assiduously to rationalize their preexisting agenda.
Breivik’s hate, expressed in terms of violence, is repulsive and therefore “fringe” – and yet Spencer and his ilk are the “respectable” proponents of the same basic ideology. Breivik was consigned to the margins, a member of a small sect – the “Knights Templar Europe” – which may very well have consisted of one member, himself. Spencer, on the other hand, has achieved a measure of quasi-respectability – or, at least, respectable enough to be included in a “training session” for military intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Do we really want the man who inspired the worst mass murder in recent memory “training” our military and instructing our police in the intricacies of “Jihad in America”? That is just asking for trouble.
I have to add that there is one person who accurately foresaw this coming, and it is none other than my old adversary Charles Johnson, of the “little green footballs” website. Johnson is a former counter-jihadist who balked when his former buddies, like Geller, began palling around with the English Defense League and their continental co-thinkers around the “Gates of Vienna” and Brussels Journal sites. Johnson warned, more than once, that this could lead to nothing but bad-and-crazy, and raised the alarm: unfortunately, no one listened. While I have absolutely nothing in common politically with Johnson – indeed, quite the opposite – I have to give him credit for his remarkable prescience in calling out the dangerous transatlantic alliance between our homegrown haters and the Euro-crazies of Breivik’s sort.
Breivik, Spencer, and the burgeoning anti-Muslim mini-industry that sprang up after 9/11 constitute an Axis of Hate, one that inevitably grew out of the “axis of evil” rhetoric employed by the Bush administration and their neoconservative Rasputins to justify the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. For over a decade, the West has been awash in a sea of propaganda targeting the Muslim world as a “swamp” which has to be “drained” for the good of humankind. Is it any wonder that some took seriously the comparison of Muslims to mosquitoes and embarked on an eradication campaign?
Which brings us to the oddest aspect of this tragedy: instead of turning his murderous hatred on the congregants of a mosque, Breivik slaughtered defenseless children attending a Norwegian Labor Party youth camp – all native Norwegians, and not a likely venue in which to find Muslims. The camp, held yearly, is a rite of passage for the children of the ruling Norwegian Labor Party elite – and this reflects another measure of the influence Breivik’s American co-thinkers had on him. Central to the analysis offered by Spencer, and the Islamo-haters in general, is the idea that the West is asleep, and their job is to awaken it to the imminent danger posed by Islam. And this isn’t a benign sleep, in their view, or a natural one: the public has been liberally dosed with the poison of “multiculturalism” by the “elites,” who have engendered a “culture of appeasement.” This sort of language, echoed in Breivik’s “European Declaration of Independence,” is a common theme in counter-jihadist circles. In an interview with Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan, Frontpage’s Jamie Glazov asks:
“Glazov: Describe for us Britain’s culture of appeasement. What do you think engendered it?
“Phillips: Various factors. First, the kind of moral inversion and cultural slide I’ve just been talking about. Next, sheer funk. Then there’s Britain’s deep reluctance – which it shares with the US – to get stuck into issues of religion. It’s a kind of fastidiousness that religion represents private space into which a liberal society should not intrude –which is fine, all other things being equal, but which of course here they are not.…
“Finally, don’t forget that before a certain Winston Churchill came along and inspired the ‘bulldog breed’ who stoically endured the Blitz and saw off Hitler, Britain in the 1930s was cheering to the echo Neville Chamberlain’s ‘peace in our time’. There is an insularity to the British that leads them to think that, provided they don’t upset anyone beyond their island fastness, nasty people in far-away places will leave them alone. And besides, the British ruling class have always done appeasement. Think of their betrayal of the Jews and kowtowing to the Arabs in Mandatory Palestine.”
Besides an admiration for Winston Churchill, Phillips and Breivik share the same obsession with enforcing cultural purity and blaming decadent liberal elites for a loss of national identity:
“Multiculturalism has turned Britain’s values inside out – and the root cause of the problem is the deconstruction of Britain’s identity. For decades, the British elite has been consumed by loathing of its national identity and values which it decided were racist, authoritarian and generally disagreeable. Much of that was due to our old friend, post-colonial guilt. The elite was therefore vulnerable to the predations of the left, which had signed up to Gramsci’s insight that a society could be suborned by replacing its normative values by the mores of those who transgressed them or were on society’s margins.”
Breivik, too, targets Gramsci and the Frankfurt School as the conspiratorial bogeymen behind the Western elite conspiracy to eradicate traditional culture and – quite improbably – raise the crescent flag over “Londonistan.” So the main enemy, it turns out, isn’t Muslims at all – it’s the “elites,” as Phillips (and Breivik) characterize them, our own leaders who are betraying us. That’s why Breivik turned his gun on the youth camp at Utoya island: he was eliminating future progenitors of the “culture of appeasement,” which Phillips describes with such gusto in her interview with Glazov, describing it as the idea that:
“All cultures were equal to each other and which thus provided minorities with an enormous weapon with which to force the majority to give in to their demands. One of the consequences of this was moral inversion, which holds that since minorities are weak they must always be victims of the majority because it is strong. So even when minorities behave badly, it’s always the majority’s fault. Translate that onto the world stage, and you arrive at the view that even when third world people commit terrorist outrages against the west it must be the west which is to blame. That’s why multicultural Britain said, after 9/11, that America ‘had it coming to them’ – and why, after the London bombings last July, it said the reason British Muslim boys had blown up the London transit system was because of Britain’s support for the US in Iraq.”
As one of Britain’s few but loudmouthed neocons – they actually have a Henry Jackson Society over there! – Phillips couldn’t help putting a foreign policy gloss on her point, because that, indeed, is the point. To the counter-jihadists, such as Phillips – and the David Horowitz types in this country – the goal is to provide enough ideological fuel to keep the flagging “war on terrorism” going. With a war-weary public, and even many Republicans, calling for US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and cuts in the military budget, the War Party is in a panic. They are going into overdrive pushing this “stop the Islamization of the West” campaign as a counterweight to the overwhelming desire of Americans to attend to our own business right here at home.
As the temporary madness imbued by the 9/11 terrorist attacks wore off, a systematic campaign of anti-Muslim provocations was launched, starting with the Muhammad cartoons and ending in the growth of anti-Muslim gangs like the English Defense League. One could attribute this to spontaneous forces acting without direction, but when it comes to the intrigues of nations, I can’t help but think of what Ayn Rand said in, I believe, The Fountainhead: Don’t bother to examine a folly, ask yourself only what it accomplishes.
Who benefits from a wave of anti-Muslim hysteria and terrorism carried out by previously unknown groups such as Breivik’s “Knights Templar Europe”? This is the first but not the last question one has to ask, and other questions naturally follow, such as: how did Breivik manage to finance his terrorist operation, which was begun, full-time, starting in at least 2009? Aside from his own boasting about having started several successful companies, we don’t really know how Breivik made a living through all the years of preparation for his day of terror, except what’s on the public record: his Facebook page, and official records, some of which are coming to light. We know he is the sole director of Breivik Geofarm, a business with 790 employees engaged in growing vegetables. I see no evidence of his having seriously worked for a living, although he did get a degree in management. But what was he managing – and who were the investors? There are also rumors he gave a lot of money to the counter-jihadist movement. Where did it come from?
Aside from these mysteries, however, another point needs to be made, and that is the key link between the theorists of the counter-jihadist movement, such as Phillips, Horowitz, et al., and its practitioners, or street-level activists, such as Breivik. In her Frontpage interview, Phillips is asked what inspired her to write Londonistan. Her answer unlocks the mystery of why Breivik chose to slaughter Norwegian children, whose declining birth rate he decries in his magnum opus, and in particular the children of Norway’s political elite:
“I was just appalled by the fact that, not only had Britain become the key European hub of Islamist extremism and terrorism during the 1990s under the noses of the British authorities, but even after both 9/11 and last year’s suicide bombings in London the British political and security establishment is still appeasing Islamist extremism, and remains in a state of denial about the threat to the west. After the London bombings, when home-grown British Muslim boys set out to murder as many of their fellow British citizens as possible, a senior London police officer went on TV and said that the words Islam and terrorism did not go together. If a threat is so badly misunderstood in this way, it will not be defeated.”
If the British – or Norwegian – political and security establishment has, in effect, gone over to the enemy, then Breivik’s actions – in the context of this implacable Spencerian war between Islam and West – are entirely justified. If the security and political establishment won’t defend the West against the Muslim Threat, then the Knights Templar Europe surely must. Given Phillips’ thesis that the authorities had gone over to the enemy, Breivik could depict himself as a Crusader out to save the West. Along with Phillips, Breivik believes that Western elites aren’t merely inadequate – they’re treasonous Quislings.
Let American neocons try to scramble out of taking responsibility for their European offspring all they want, for all the good it will do them. The family resemblance is too strong to be denied.
And please don’t give me any guff about “guilt by association.” The neocons have been playing that game for years: indeed, they may have invented it. They can dish it out, but they sure can’t take it – well, isn’t that tough?
The neocons should embrace their Prodigal Son, who is at last returning home, and the proof of parentage is right there in front of our eyes: in Breivik’s by now very public utterances, of which we have probably not heard the last. I’m counting the moments until he starts quoting Robert Spencer at his trial.