A Million Ticking Breiviks

Tick… tick… tick…

The “normal” right wing crazies are distancing themselves as much as they can from Anders Breivik. The truth is, he’s a right-wing crazy, and he’s a Christian. Deal with it.

This week’s On the Media had a segment on Breivik’s religious beliefs. Give it a listen. They play a clip from Bill O’Reilly, who desperately tries to convince us that “No true Christian” would do what Breivik did.

OTM interviews Jeff Sharlet (who frequently writes about the dangers of Christian fundamentalism), who actually sat down and read Breivik’s entire 1500-page manifesto. Sharlet says that Breivik starts out “not particularly religious” in the beginning of the document but slowly becomes a full-bore Christian by the end of the manuscript.

I’m not going to lay the bulk of the blame for his behavior on Christianity. The impression I get from this report and other things I’ve read is that he was already an intolerant xenophobe. The Christianity is just something he picked up along the way. He probably found things within Christianity that reinforced his bigotries, just like you can find things within the Bible that back up any preconceived notions you’re looking to support. The Christian fanaticism was probably just a byproduct of his existing conservative fanaticism.

That’s the important part of this story. Breivik is a dangerous conservative fanatic. It’s his rabid adherence to and belief in the terrified and hateful views of the far-right conservative movement that drove him to mass murder.

Sure, something is probably wrong inside his head. Most extreme conservatives, who hate everyone different, don’t go on murderous rampages. But there are quite a few right-wing extremists who are just barely restraining themselves, and that’s only due to social pressure. They know they’d go to jail. Most of them would even agree that randomly killing other people is “wrong” by most definitions, including by their own personal moral code. But they also would claim that killing in self defense is justified. And killing to protect your home is justified. And killing to defend your country is justified.

So you see, there is almost nothing stopping the hundreds of thousands (or millions?) of the most right-wing of the right-wingers from killing one (or two or a hundred) non-white non-Christians, if given a plausible excuse or if they feel sufficiently threatened.

Look at the epidemic of lynchings we had (mostly in the South) between the end of the Civil War and the 1960s. Some lynchings were perpetrated by just a few people. Other lynchings were perpetrated by large crowds. All told, thousands (or tens of thousands) of ordinary non-crazy, non-sociopathic, church-going white people murdered over 3400 black people (and 1200 white people!). Most of these lynchers would probably begrudgingly admit that the black guy they just killed actually was a human being. Most of them would probably admit that killing human being is immoral. Yet every single one of them justified their actions. How? Because they felt threatened. They were acting in self defense.

It’s very easy to turn a normal person into a killer. Just make him feel threatened enough.

The current tone of political “debate” in this country (in the town halls and at the teabagging rallies and on Fox News and on countless radio stations) is too toxic and too inflammatory. Don’t throw gasoline on a smoldering fire. Norway isn’t as far away as you think.

13 Responses to “A Million Ticking Breiviks”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Most extreme conservatives, who hate everyone different, don’t go on murderous rampages.

    Wait. As the economy continues to decline, and as the snake oil their leaders are selling them fails to provide relief – in short, as suffering increases, their tempers will likewise become increasingly shorter.

    How many times have we heard them tell us if they didn’t fear God, they’d be out there raping, pillaging and plundering? How difficult would it be for them to convince themselves that God wants them to cleanse the earth of liberals and other abominations?

    They’ve already killed our educational system, and are in the process of killing off social services. What’s the difference to someone who lives in a paranoid fantasy?

  2. Ron Britton Says:

    Jeff:

    How difficult would it be for them to convince themselves that God wants them to cleanse the earth of liberals and other abominations?

    Not hard at all. That’s my point. I think the difference between what I said and your scenario here is that I’m saying that feeling threatened is the key justification they need.

    It sounds like you’re suggesting that they won’t need to feel personally threatened, that all it will take is for them to think they are doing God a favor. That’s an even lower bar. I hope that isn’t all it takes.

    I think your scenario actually does require the same thing I mentioned. As the economy continues to fail, then they will then feel threatened, because “the other” has taken their jobs.

  3. ericsan Says:

    It’s very easy to turn a normal person into a killer. Just make him feel threatened enough.

    I’m not so sure. I constantly feel threatened by these yahoos and I haven’t murdered anyone yet. But maybe it’s because I don’t have a god to tell me to do it. Go figure.

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    Ericsan:

    I constantly feel threatened by these yahoos and I haven’t murdered anyone yet.

    I think it’s partly a matter of degree and partly a matter of how secure you feel. When you think you don’t have much to lose, you’re more likely to do things you wouldn’t otherwise.

  5. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I think it’s partly a matter of degree and partly a matter of how secure you feel. When you think you don’t have much to lose, you’re more likely to do things you wouldn’t otherwise.

    It’s not just that. Some people will never act violently while others will turn to violence at the drop of a hat. And then everywhere in between.

    It’s important to remember that. For every Breivik, there’s a thousand racist assholes who aren’t murdering people. Some of them might even approve of the actions, but would never commit those acts themselves.

    As much as teahadism scares the bejesus out of me, I really don’t think these people are populous enough to do irreparable damage to the nation. Yea yea, happy shiny Parrotlover77, but let me explain. That’s not to say bad things won’t happen, people won’t die, and so on. But let’s get some perspective here.

    Even by the most generous polling, tea party supporters are not anywhere close to a majority. Further, any act of domestic terrorism will be dealt with swiftly. We will lose some civil rights, but what are patriots today will soon be spun by the media into Waco-style cultists. Then the hammer will come down by the ATF and the tea baggers will become as fringe as any other militia group.

    I just don’t see any mechanism by which this is a Godwin-referential nazi-style threat to this country.

    But all that said, some bad shit is going to happen. And it’s fucking scary. And it pisses me off how these domestic terrorists (what else could bringing an assault rifle to a political rally be called other than TERRORism) are treated with kid gloves by our incompetent media right now.

  6. Ron Britton Says:

    PL:

    As much as teahadism scares the bejesus out of me, I really don’t think these people are populous enough to do irreparable damage to the nation.

    I’m not claiming there are. I’m saying that there are a lot of them. Some (presumably small) percentage of those are on the extreme edge, which is just barely short of committing violence themselves. If they get worked up enough or feel threatened just a little bit more, that will be all it takes to tip them over the edge.

    My title was a bit of hyperbole. There’s easily a million who are worked up and angry. They’re not all going to flip.

  7. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Point taken. I definitely agree with that. There will almost assuredly be at least one domestic terror incident along the same lines as Breivik. I’m guessing there probably have already been attempts, but they were stopped by law enforcement.

    The attempted assasination of Rep. Giffords was pretty close itself, although the culprit was more of a general conspiracy nut and not as much a wingnut, despite some wingnutty tendencies (unrelated(?): Glenn Beck is also a conspiracy nut). He was also reported to hate teevee and radio, so he apparently didn’t directly get his marching order from Beck/Limbaugh.

    While I’m for strong civil liberties, I’m also for good law enforcement funding that doesn’t require drug war seizures. I’m worried with all the budget austerity talk that nuts will slip through while we cut everything but the war on getting stoned. Then when an incident happens we’ll pass crappy civil liberties legislation (Patriot Act 2) instead of addressing the more fundamental issues of manpower, money, and direction.

    Welcome to the new Banana States of America. At least the average age of the teabaggers is 98. They won’t be voting for much longer. I find solace in that even though things are shitty right now, they were far shittier in many ways just a couple generations ago.

    EDIT: Maybe that’s part of the solution. When you are limited by arthritis and the maximum speed of your hover-round, you can’t cause much damage when you finally do go Full Metal Tea Gunner.

  8. Thomas Says:

    Not to be a nit-picker, but killing is, in fact, not against the Xians’ moral code.

    The best translation of the commandment from the original Hebrew is not, “Thou shalt not kill,” but rather, “Thou shalt not murder.” Though, the connotation of the word is even more specific, applying only to members of one’s own tribe and only in regards to recklessness.

    Though clunky, a more accurate way of expressing it would be “Thou shalt not kill members of your own tribe without a good reason.”

    So, they can pretty much kill whoever they fancy and still be okay with the bearded man in the sky that watches when you masturbate.

  9. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I had heard that before. I’m pretty sure most Christians don’t know this. I’m also pretty sure they don’t care. Christians have been okay with killing since forever, no matter what translation of the 10 commandments they adhere to.

    The reason is even simpler than finding an excuse in translation. Almost all Christian factions believe in forgiveness, for even the gravest sin, as long as you accept Jesus into your heart (which, btw, I still don’t know what that means — believe in him REALLY REALLY hard?).

  10. Ron Britton Says:

    In my experience, most Christians go with the “Thou shalt not kill” version. I think it might have to do with which Bible they happen to favor.

    I’ve certainly heard some of them use the “Thou shalt not murder” version, usually to justify killing abortion doctors or other crimes.

  11. Sue Blue Says:

    Thou shalt not kill – with the following exceptions:

    Heathens (variously defined; anyone not going to the same
    church)
    Sinners (gays, abortion doctors, Democrats, liberals, etc., etc.)
    Apostates (atheists, agnostics, Unitarians)
    Midianites (tinted people)
    People caught working on the sabbath (somewhat OT)
    Adulterers (women)
    Anyone God tells you to kill during your private conversations
    with Him

  12. anti_supernaturalist Says:

    it could happen here, easily

    Germany’s uncontrolled experiment in murder and human degradation from 1933-1945 should convince any (legally) reasonable person that ordinary men and women can be separated into haters/hated, murderers/murdered — jailers/prisoners.

    What may be surprising is how quickly that can take place, under controlled experimental conditions. See http://www.prisonexp.org/legnews.htm — for a brief overview of the famous Stanford University psych experiment. (BTW, it turns 30 this year.)

    the anti_supernaturalist

  13. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I’ve read about that experiment before. It’s frightening not only in the sense we are talking about here, but that this is happening every day to the millions of prisoners in this country. We are psychologically damaging those we are trying to rehabilitate*. And we wonder why the rate of criminal recurrence is so high.

    I would hope that if I was ever given equivelent power over somebody else, I would use the power wisely. Although, I suppose that science says that may not be the case!

    If humanity is to survive another thousand years, let alone millions, we will need to breed out our predatory instinct. Whether this is somehow done naturally, or by manipulating our genes, it needs to be done.

    Everytime I see somebody celebrating the taking of life, it sickens me. Whether it be the smug smile of a dictator or the beer-fueled “yeehaw” of American hunting culture, it’s all a part of the exact same problem.

    * Yes, I know that despite the term “correction facility,” very few prisons are even remotely equipped to actually rehabilitate, no matter how authority act towards prisoners.