A Million Ticking Breiviks
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.