When Jared Lee Loughner killed six people and seriously wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tuscon, it started an argument about the use of violent rhetoric in American politics. But Loughner is clearly unhinged, and his actions appear to be primarily a result of his own insanity.
With Anders Breivik, the influence is much more clear. He references American right-wing figures specifically in his manifesto. Much of his rhetoric could be cribbed from the anti-Islamic right. The difference is that Breivik went a step farther by believing that he could start a shooting war between civilizations by committing an atrocity.
Just to make that connection even more clear, some right wing figure are stepping forward to agree with Breivik’s motivations, if not his actions.
… awful as this atrocity was, native-born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent.
That threat comes from a burgeoning Muslim presence in a Europe that has never known mass immigration, its failure to assimilate, its growing alienation, and its sometime sympathy for Islamic militants and terrorists.
Europe faces today an authentic and historic crisis.
As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right.
Much of his analysis of cultural trends in Europe and the danger created by Islamic immigration and infiltration is accurate. But clear thinking Westerners and every Christian I know believes these problems can be solved through public policy rather than mass murder.
Breivik’s angst was caused by the presence of so many Muslims in Norway and Europe, which he correctly observes is leading to “cultural annihilation.” But he blames their presence not on the Muslims themselves but on the “cultural Marxists” and their obsession with diversity and unrestricted Islamic immigration. So he went after the Marxists rather than the Muslims.
Ross Douthat is a bit more subtle, but argues much of the same point:
For decades, Europe’s governing classes insisted that only racists worried about immigration, only bigots doubted the success of multiculturalism and only fascists cared about national identity. Now that a true far-right radical has perpetrated a terrible atrocity, it will be easy to return to those comforting illusions.
But extremists only grow stronger when a political system pretends that problems don’t exist. Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have an obligation to acknowledge that Anders Behring Breivik is a distinctively right-wing kind of monster. But they also have an obligation to the realities that this monster’s terrible atrocity threatens to obscure.