Explosions, shootings in Norway

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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82 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    This will result in laws being passed.

    Some of these laws will result in hard feelings.

    This will then happen again. It will happen again around the time that the economic problems of the EU will fully come to a head.Report

    • PJH in reply to Jaybird says:

      What kind of laws? Laws deporting Muslims from the whole of Europe? Oh I forgot, it’s not Islamic terrorism anymore, just a lone crazy loner, right? They are always lone crazy loners when their religion is not Islam.

      “Then again, it could have just been a crazy, evil violent hideous man killing indiscriminately for no reason. Either way, makes no difference. Many innocents have died, and that is a tragedy regardless of the killer.”

      Nope, it the killers are Muslims it’s a tragedy AND a great opportunity to pass laws against people you hate and are afraid of
      That’s the difference. Nobody is going to be calling for any laws to be passed because of that nice Nordic boy killer, no sir.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to PJH says:

        At this point, I suspect that the equivalent of “Caylee’s Laws” will get passed. More gun control, harsher penalties for harming children, and whatever political party the guy belonged to will be blamed for his act.

        Do you disagree?

        Do you think that whatever political party the guy belonged to shares his guilt?Report

    • JGabriel in reply to Jaybird says:

      E. D. Kain: I was angry and upset, and this appeared to be the MO of Al-Qaeda. That it was a racist white loner …

      Erik, don’t you think it’s kind of parochial and self-serving to initially characterize this as an act of Islamic terrorism, but, once the perpetrator is revealed to be white conservative extremist, change it to the act of a racist white loner?

      It’s an act of Conservative Terrorism committed by a European Conservative, just as it would be an act of Islamic Terrorism if committed by a Muslim.

      What’s so lone about this murderer? He is the result of an active and widespread movement to spread hatred of social democrats as well as muslims.


      • RTod in reply to JGabriel says:

        I suspect by “lone” Erik meant done by one guy and not a group. I’m not sure that he was suggesting white people are existential islands.

        Sometimes when we’re dealing with something horrific and awful we’re looking too hard to find an enemy. It appears Muslims weren’t the right people to blame; it may well turn out that white nationalists aren’t either. But wherever the leaking news takes us in the days to come, I’m pretty sure we’re going to find the person to blame wasn’t Erik.Report

        • BSK in reply to RTod says:


          Erik may not have meant it that way, but that is often how the narratives go when comparing terrorist actions perpetrated by whites and those perpetrated by folks of color. White guys are “lone wolves” while brown folks must be part of some larger movement. I don’t think it is unfair to think that Erik was playing into that meme through the language he used here.Report

          • RTod in reply to BSK says:

            BSK – what you say is 100% true. But so is the concept that narratives will start on the other side that people like Erik are to blame (in fact, it seems to be a running theme here since last night with a bunch of passionate folks).

            I think both side’s reactions are both natural and understandable. I’m just not sure what good going out and trying this hard to find a “them” to confront helps. I can even picture scenarios where it makes matters worse.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to JGabriel says:

        JGabriel – I never once suggested that he wasn’t part of a larger group. Indeed, I’ve suggested he was a white nationalist – and nationalists in Europe have their very own political parties. It does appear he was acting alone in this attack, though that’s far from certain.

        But I think you’re working too hard here to ascribe motives to me that I do not have. I’ve explained at length that this looked like Al-Qaeda due to the coordinated attacks. Now it appears like a white nationalist attacking political opponents who he sees as obstacles to his nationalist beliefs. We will surely find out more. I am not in this bizarre fashion people are ascribing to me defending white people or any non-Muslim groups. Al-Qaeda is a specific group; white nationalists have no similarly well-organized terrorist groups in Europe as far as I know (though that could quickly change given the political organization of these groups).Report

        • JGabriel in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          E.D. Kain: But I think you’re working too hard here to ascribe motives to me that I do not have.

          Erik, my apologies if I seemed to be ascribing motive. My intent was to reveal potentially unexamined bias, not motive.

          And I’m not going to blame you for initially speculating that Al Qaeda was the attacker here. My first speculation (at Balloon Juice) was conservative extremists, based on the targets, but — based on the two-prong attack — Al Qaeda was an equally valid assumption. It could have been either, and that my assumption was right was merely chance.

          My original point, in the above comment, was that I think there’s an unspoken bias when an act is described as terrorist while it’s believed that it was committed by Muslims, but suddenly the word drops out of the conversation when the terrorist is revealed to be a white conservative. And I stand by that.Report

  2. Rufus F. says:

    Should I feel guilty that I’m only hearing about this now and here? Terrible news.Report

  3. Burt Likko says:

    I see that the shooting suspect was described as blond and Nordic looking.Report

  4. PJH says:


    From the Guardian live blog:

    “AP has this:

    A Norwegian police official says the 32-year-old Norwegian man suspected of the Oslo bombing and a shooting at a youth camp does not appear to be linked to Islamist terrorism.
    The official says the attacks probably have more in common with the 1995 attack on a U.S. federal building in Oklahoma City than the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
    He says the suspect appears to have acted alone, and “it seems like that this is not linked to any international terrorist organizations at all.” He added that the investigation is still ongoing and that things can change.
    The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because that information has not yet been released by Norway’s police.”

    So, no further updates, Mr Kain? Now that it is not Muslims who are believed to be responsible, you don’t care anymore? Oh well, it might be brilliant Muslim terrorist recruiting homegrown blue-eyed boys, right? Or the politically-correct Norwegian government lying because they are trying to protect those evil Muslims in Norway from the right-wing nationatlist parties’ retribution. Any more conspiracy theories you would like to put out aside from that this is obviously Muslim terrorists recruiting nice, Nordic boys to do their dirty work for them?

    “Even if the vast majority of Islamic immigrants to countries like Norway are peaceful, the fact that some would bomb newspaper buildings government buildings in retribution for publishing Mohammed cartoons is deeply troubling. Attacking a youth camp dressed as a police officer…this is simply a disgusting, despicable thing to do. How do people become monsters?”

    I’m sure you answer to that last question is when they become Muslims. Hey, why not deport all of them, even the vast majority who are “peaceful”?Report

  5. PJH says:

    I guess this is ED Kain’s coming out party as an Islamophobic. Why am I not surprised after that “Muslims need better PR” article?Report

  6. E.D. Kain says:

    P.S. I’ve updated the post to note that the villain in this horror is (surprise!) a blond guy. Blond guys are assholes, typically. If Shrek or the Lannisters taught you nothing else, then just remember: blond people can’t be trusted.

    Not to make light of this awful tragedy. I’m sorry if anyone takes it that way. This is just awful and I can’t bend my mind around it fully. I truly thought this had Al-Qaeda’s MO all over it. Looks like I may have been wrong.Report

  7. BSK says:

    “This doesn’t rule out Islamic extremism – there are white Muslims (I know, it’s crazy but it’s also true!) so it still could have been an Islamic attack, white skin notwithstanding. Then again, it could have just been a crazy, evil violent hideous man killing indiscriminately for no reason. Either way, makes no difference.”

    How come if he was Muslim, it would be Islamic extremism but if he’s a white non-Muslim, he’s just a crazy white guy? Why don’t we look at Christian extremism or blond extremism or Norwegian extremism?Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to BSK says:

      Sure, it could be Christian extremism. Much of the cultural tension in Europe right now is between Westerners and Islamic immigrants, though, so it isn’t exactly strange to consider that angle. It could also have been an attempted set up. Mainly I don’t want to seem racist by saying white people can’t be Muslim. Are we to never speak of Islamic terror anymore?Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to BSK says:

      Also why are you such a bigot? You didn’t mention the possibility that it was a Buddhist or a Hindi. How dare you.Report

      • Herb in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I vote for a very unhinged Black Metal fan…

        In other words, a Satanist. Think Varg Vikernes. Not Osama Bin Laden.Report

      • BSK in reply to E.D. Kain says:


        I don’t think the snark is being productive.

        My point is that if the man was a Muslim, we immediately associate his actions with the larger group of which he is affiliated, whether or not his motivation was the religion. Before we even knew if he was Muslim, you suspected that Muslim extremism might be the cause. And that isn’t exactly an unreasonable position to take. As you note, a tension does exist.

        But when we discover the man is white, the suspicion is still that he is motivated by Islamic extremism, even though the odds are against it. And when you do describe him, you make no mention of his race, ethnicity, or religion.

        There is a theory that folks of dominant groups succeed as a group and fail as individuals while members of marginalized groups succeed as individuals and fail as a group. In the real world, this means that when a black guy does something stupid or illegal, many people wonder what is wrong with black people or black culture, but when we elect a black president, no body sings the strengths of the black community. Conversely, when a white guy does something stupid or illegal, no one worries about the corrupting influence of country music. But when white people are successful, it affirms the stereotype that white people are supposed to be successful.

        So, you can respond with snark if you must, but I challenge you to consider how your own perceptions informed the stark difference in your response when the suspect’s race and religion were unknown and you presumed him to be Muslim and your response upon learning otherwise.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to BSK says:

          Is there anything that we could do that would qualify as productive?Report

          • BSK in reply to Jaybird says:

            Productive in terms of addressing the situation in Norway? Not really, though I think the most honest and thoughtful the conversation, the better equipped we are to prevent such situations in the future, though any gains here are likely to be infinitesimal.

            Productive in terms of the dialogue being put forth? Certainly.

            Productive in terms of being reflective and learning and growing and challenging ourselves? Absolutely.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to BSK says:

              From here, it feels like something that, once upon a time, we wouldn’t have heard about for a month or two if we heard about it at all… and we’re stuck in our homes wishing that the world were not this way and waiting for a donation webpage to spring up in the same way that we were the last 17 times that something truly horrid happened.Report

  8. BSK says:

    Let me ask this… was this terrorism?Report

    • RTod in reply to BSK says:

      How on Earth would we know at this point?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to BSK says:

      What’s the definition of terrorism again?

      It is intended to be a political act or can it be the act of a madperson?

      Is it intended to be an act of asymetrical warfare or can it be the act of a lone gunman?

      Is it supposed to be political or can it be apolitical resentment?

      The definition changes weekly, it seems.Report

      • BSK in reply to Jaybird says:


        That was sort of my point. For many people (including our government), terrorism seems to be defined as any violent act committed by a Muslim. If a Muslim guy gets in a bar fight, some are apt to label in terrorism.

        It is just upsetting that the immediate response to a Muslim committing such a heinous is to declare it part of a larger terroristic movement while the immediate response to a white guy committing the same act is the “lone wolf” trope.Report

  9. Katherine says:

    …Or, it could have been a terrorist who wasn’t Islamic. I generally respect you, E.D., I wouldn’y have expected this kind of a post from you.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Katherine says:

      Jesus H. Christ people. Two apparently coordinated attacks that look like they were done by … Al-Qaeda. Get off your damn high horses. If none of you honestly thought “Hey maybe this was a terrorist attack possibly by Al-Qaeda” I say you’re liars.Report

      • I think an acknowledgement that you hastily jumped to a conclusion that you should not have jumped to until the facts were in would be most helpful.

        Did plenty of people initially and justifiably suspect AQ? Certainly. But there is a difference between having a suspicion and jumping to a conclusion which you then announce to the world as something more than a suspicion. As we saw in the Loughner case, the publication of those early conclusions as fact has a pronounced effect on our ability to understand what happened and to respond appropriately once the actual facts are out. Instead, they lock us in to conclusions that become hard to abandon even when the facts contradict those conclusions.Report

        • Also worth mentioning: in the case of the DC sniper attacks, the jump to conclusions and the difficulty of abandoning them probably came at the cost of several additional lives.Report

          • Which conclusions are you referring to? I recall two competing narratives.Report

            • Having lived inside the Beltway at the time, the dominant narrative was that we were clearly looking for a middle aged white serial killer. There were also some people who IIRC suspected AQ. Neither of these were correct, but in retrospect the dominant narrative in particular led just about everyone to ignore some pretty strong facts that would have ruled it out.

              I don’t want to go into too much detail on this, though, because I don’t want to thread jack.Report

  10. E.D. Kain says:

    I apologize for the intemperate comments. This whole mess has me upset and I think I am hardly alone in at first thinking this sounded like Al Qaeda. That it turns out it was a white rightwinger nationalist is cold comfort and bodes very ill indeed.Report

    • tom van dyke in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      Let’s take a breath. If it was a Norwegian McVeigh it bodes not a lot.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. There have been Al Qaeda threats against Norway and the other Scandinavian countries.Report

    • PJH in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      Especially after you were saying maybe the right winger nationalists weren’t so wrong about their fear of Islam after all. But that’s okay, continue snarking and making fun of other people, without acknowledging your initial reaction. You first thought was “the attackers were muslims, therefore they must be terrorist”. Then once you realized they were blond Nordic, it changes to “well, they must be white Muslims, too”. Notice how desperate you were to believe that THEY ARE ISLAMIC TERRORISTS regardless of the news coming out. And oh, you should put another update, it’s been confirmed it’s a right-wing Christian, unless you still believe evil Muslims are still responsible for it anyhow.

      Oh, oh, I know the spin, right wing nationalist Christian groups are doing this because they are concerned about the growing threats of Islamism in Norway. This is their way of opening people’s eyes to the threat of evil Muslims. Therefore, it’s the fault of evil Muslims anyway. Q.E.D.

      I dare you to write that post.Report

    • BSK in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with connecting the attacks to Al Qaeda. My issue is that, in the face of mounting evidence that it was not Al Qaeda (is there any evidence they deliberately recruited white folks to carry out attacks?), you still hung tight to that suspicion. And when it was pretty much confirmed that this guy had no ties to Islamic extremism, you immediately shifted the tone from one of group blame to individual blame, something emblematic of white privilege that I think would serve you well to reflect on and explore.Report

  11. PJH says:

    “In any case, the guy that shot all those poor kids in Norway looks to have been a blond Norwegian. This doesn’t rule out Islamic extremism – there are white Muslims (I know, it’s crazy but it’s also true!) so it still could have been an Islamic attack, white skin notwithstanding. Then again, it could have just been a crazy, evil violent hideous man killing indiscriminately for no reason. Either way, makes no difference. Many innocents have died, and that is a tragedy regardless of the killer.”

    Please update this part in your post and not just in the comments if you don’t want to be made fun by other bloggers tomorrow about screaming Islamic terrorism at the first available opportunity. Or I suppose you could just delete the whole thing to spare yourself embarrasment from your left-winger friends you were courting before. That probably won’t work out so well for you anymore, I’m thinking, after something like this.Report

  12. PJH says:

    James Fallows is already highlighting Jennifer Rubin’s faulty, uncorrected assumption about it being the work of Islamic Terrorists. Better update the post fast, you don’t want his sight to turn to you next. Unless you still want to double down on the whole white Muslim boy thing, all evidences to the contrary. Up to you, I’m just worried about your reputation among the smart left-wing blogger set you were cozying up to recently.Report

  13. PJH says:

    Here’s an article from NYT to help you in your update


    You’re not one of those people who think NYT is part of the evil liberal conspiracy, right? Probably not, since you’ve been flirting with both sides of the political divide for a while now. Okay, some choice quotes from the article to help you make up your mind whether you should double down on that Muslim white boy theory:

    “The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center here and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 91 people dead.”

    “The acting police chief, Sveinung Sponheim, said the suspect’s Internet postings “suggest that he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views, but if that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen.””

    “He said the suspect had also been seen in Oslo before the explosions. The police and other authorities declined to say what the suspect’s motivations might have been, but many speculated that the target was Mr. Stoltenberg’s liberal government.”

    I’m sure you can find other sources on your own.Report

  14. PJH says:


    Please refer to this as a good way to walk back your initial faulty assumption in a classy way, without mocking and making fun and snarking on your commenters (I’m not talking about me, I was rude on purpose, you can mock me all you want, but you were also extremely rude to other people who were disagreeing with in the most polite way possible). You can learn a lot from Mr Joyner.Report

  15. Danny says:

    >>> This doesn’t rule out Islamic extremism – there are white Muslims (I know, it’s crazy but it’s also true!) so it still could have been an Islamic attack, white skin notwithstanding. Then again, it could have just been a crazy, evil violent hideous man killing indiscriminately for no reason. <<<

    Or maybe even an evangelical christian, anti-muslim, right-winger who wanted to kill a lot of politicians and 80+ kids who were members of the Labor party's youth organization. Because his anti-muslim, right-winger beliefs made him so angry that he wanted to kill.

    Is that a possibility that we can allow ourselves to consider?

    Just saying….Report

    • BSK in reply to Danny says:

      But Danny… he was mentally disturbed! He doesn’t represent all whites or all Christians or all evangelicals or all right-wingers or all anti-Muslim folks. He was one guy doing a crazy thing that had nothing to do with his identity or beliefs.

      However, if he was a Muslim, obviously his actions would have been emblematic of all that is wrong with “those people” and would have demonstrated the fatal flaw of those people and their world view. Because they all have a singular world view.Report

      • Danny in reply to BSK says:

        Exactly BSK! It’s not like all those posts at The Corner about Europe being overrun by muslims with values foreign to ours, like all those posts about christianity being under attack, about the decline of western civilisation being at hand, like all that would ever actually be believed by someone who would then decide to go to war to defend Europe, Christianity and Western society. It’s not like the guy was a fan of Pamella Geller or something.

        That’s silly.Report

  16. Obliterati says:

    Hunh, this post is gonna live in infamy…

    Actually, my first thought when I heard about this was “neo-nazi skinheads”, but guessing AQ was hardly way off base. But it has to be said, ED’s update and some of his comments in the thread look painfully bad right now. I hope he doesn’t choose to just pretend this whole post didn’t happen, I’d really like to hear his thoughts on this in light of the new information about the bad guy.Report

  17. E.D. Kain says:

    Here is my update – it’s brief for now as I am pressed for time. I will say again though that I didn’t know who the guy was when I initially updated the post and didn’t want to rule out Islamic terrorism just because he was white. At that point it certainly didn’t look like Islamic terrorism though.


  18. E.D. Kain says:

    I have also updated this thread.Report

  19. sneezy says:

    “…a number of people are very angry with me for suspecting this was an act of Islamic terror. Frankly, I think it was a reasonable thing to think…”

    No, it wasn’t remotely close to “a reasonable thing to think.” The reasonable thing to think was “I have no idea who this guy is or what his motivations are, so I will avoid jumping to conclusions and wait for more information to come to light.”

    But you went right ahead and jumped to conclusions anyway. And it looks now as if the conclusions you jumped to were both prejudicial and dead wrong. This tells us nothing about recent events in Norway, but does tell us something about you.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to sneezy says:

      When I wrote this post there was no ‘guy’ to speak of. Just the initial report that bombs and shootings were both taking place in what looked to be a coordinated terrorist attack similar to those carried out by Al Qaeda. Now please get down from your high horse before you fall off.Report

      • sneezy in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        “When I wrote this post there was no ‘guy’ to speak of.”

        OK, so change the sentence to read “I have no idea who did this or what their motivations are…”. It doesn’t change the point, and it doesn’t change what your initial post tells us about you.Report

  20. BSK says:

    “…because when radicals do something like this they put moderates at risk – if this had been an Islamic attack, the backlash in Norway would have been very real.”

    I think we ought to examine why this is true when the radicals are Muslim but not when they are with other groups. If a radical Muslim had committed these or similar acts, you are right that the backlash against all Muslims would have been intense. But when a radical conservative committed these acts, there will probably be some hemming and hawing about conservatives, but no real backlash. Why?Report

    • PJH in reply to BSK says:

      Agency. Conservatives have elite opinion and conventional wisdom to back them up, Muslims in America and Europe, sadly lack representation in these hallowed crowd, reducing their agency to make their case.Report

  21. Bob says:

    Lololol. Norway being a target of Islamist extremists seems rather silly.

    People need to think about the OK City bombing before jumping to conclusions.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Bob says:

      Laugh out loud out loud out loud?Report

    • tom van dyke in reply to Bob says:

      Jul 8, 2011
      OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian security police are seeking charges against three men suspected of planning Scandinavian bomb attacks in an alleged plot with possible al Qaeda connections, state broadcaster NRK reported Friday.

      After their arrest last July the three told different stories — one admitting a plot to blow up China’s embassy in Norway, one saying his target was a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, and one professing his innocence.Report