Breivik’s Cold Logic

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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109 Responses

  1. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Well said. If the West is to be just another flavor of intolerance, then count me out.Report

    • Thanks.

      I decided to leave this bit out of my post, but the other day one of Geller and Spencer’s acolytes wrote a post disclaiming any connection between the “anti-jihadist” movement and Breivik by arguing that the “anti-jihadist” movement only advocates the use of state-sanctioned force against Muslims and abhors the private use of violence against Muslims. There was also a reference to the Left and those not on board with said movement as being in deep denial about “WW IV.”

      This struck me as only slightly removed from hair-splitting. If indeed one accepts that we are in the midst of WW IV, and one has no hope of getting one’s government to fight it as such and thereby defend one’s country, is it such a leap to go from advocating government-sponsored violence to taking matters into one’s own hands?Report

      • is it such a leap to go from advocating government-sponsored violence to taking matters into one’s own hands?

        Yes, MT, I do think it’s too big a leap, rhetorically, conceptually, and in reality. Unless they’re nutters, then anything can happen, and it does.

        To intimate that Spencer or Geller are capable of that I think is unfair, and worse. As for their “acolytes,” I don’t know them and neither do you. But that anti-Muslim violence since 9-11 has been virtually non-existent speaks well enough of the US, even JihadWatch “acolytes.”

        I find your own comment here less like hair-splitting then an ax to the head. The commenter in question calls jihadism WWIV, not WWIII, which would have been the Cold War. There was little or no vigilantism vs. Communists either in the US. We gave them professorships instead. ;-}

        People who wish to preserve this nation don’t routinely destroy it, despite sophistries to the contrary hereabouts and thereabouts. There are probably 100 million people vehemently opposed to abortion in this country and only a handful who ever took to violence.

        If people are going to make hay about the violent threat of the “far right” in this country, then I ask they clean up their rhetoric and start excluding the overwhelming rest of us from that appellation.Report

        • A few quick notes, and then I must go for awhile:

          1. I don’t actually think Geller and Spencer would turn to violence anytime soon. I also don’t think that they actually believe that we are as close to destruction as they seem to claim. But at some point, taking matters into one’s hands is justifiable to save one’s country, is it not? Certainly, most would say that the French Resistance movement’s actions were justifiable. If “Islamofascism” really is the new Nazism, then at what point does extralegal resistance become appropriate?

          2. A key point in all of this is that the so-called “anti-jihadist” movement in the US actually does have access to the reins of power. That makes a big difference. As I say below, I am not at all worried that the “Right” in this country is about to embark on a massive campaign of violence. Instead, I’m trying to understand why this particular person felt comfortable acting the way he did, and whether such a conclusion was within the realm of rational.Report

      • Avatar JGabriel in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I think we’re in danger, in some respects, of over-emphasizing Breivik’s anti-Muslim attitudes and underestimating the importance of his hatred of social democrats and the center-left in general. Breivik blew up the offices of a Labor government, then shot the next generation being trained for Labor governance.

        Even Breivik’s lawyer admits as much — from The New York Times:

        Asked if the rampage was aimed at the Labor Party, or at Muslim immigrants, Mr. Lippestad [Breivik’s lawyer] said, “This was an attack on the Labor Party.”

        Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to JGabriel says:

          I think it’s pretty clear from this post that I think his attacks were aimed very much at the Labor Party. The question I am asking here is in essence “why was it important to him to attack the Labor Party?”

          It’s not enough to answer simply that he hated the Labor Party – or even the center-left in general – and that this hatred is why he attacked them. That tells us nothing. If his target was the Labor Party, then obviously he hated the Labor Party. But why did he hate the Labor Party so much that he wanted to kill off an entire generation of its leaders-to-be? The answer to that is I think pretty clearly that he believed the Labor Party (and really any European left of the BNP) to be surrendering to the perceived Islamic invasion, to “Islamofascism.”Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Indeed, better Chamberlain than Mosley.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to James K says:

        Mark: ” Obviously, Geller and Spencer have never advocated the use of private violence in furtherance of their goals, though they make no bones about their support for state-sponsored violence in support of those goals. ”

        Please note that the US is lavishly using state-sponsored violence. We’ve racked up a massive kill tally. The most efficient use of energy for somebody like Geller & Co. is to nurture a political climate where these wars continue and increase.

        “Nor is it right to blame them for what happened in Norway – what they do clearly falls well within the bounds of free speech.”

        Absolute non sequitor. Hating on muslims is going to lead to some people taking those ideas to their logical conclusions.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Have you read Mencius Moldbug’s latest?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        When I get home. It’s not a website you check from work. (Despite being, in theory, “safe”.)Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

          Read it here.

          (Note: a link to an essay ought not be seen as endorsement of the ideas contained within. Though I do admit to finding him a guilty pleasure quite regularly…)Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird says:

            Used to be a guilty pleasure of mine too. But he’s fallen way, way too hard for the whole collective guilt thing, and he seems to think it allows him justification to say whatever he pleases. Cringeworthy, this:

            But we do need to remember that terrorism, left or right, is a legitimate military tactic. Just as a nation that idolizes Che has no genuine moral grounds for condemning ABB, a nation that annihilated Dresden has no genuine moral grounds for condemning OBL. We’re not exactly history’s pure and precious little snowflake.

            Next he’ll be telling us the Jews killed Jesus, lest we forget.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Okay, I agree with you about him being a terrorist and having a certain logic to his behaviors. But, I’m still not comfortable quite going here because I’m afraid of either, 1. normalizing his behavior, or 2. absolving him of some responsibility for it. As callous as this is, I feel a strong need to mark a line between him and the rest of us who are functioning humans. I realize how that sounds, but I’m guessing I’m not alone right now.

    What’s amazing about human beings is just this ability we have to operate on the level of abstraction as well as at the level of day-to-day reality. And when we deal with politics, we’re dealing with abstractions: the nation, the media, the left, the right, etc. But, we retain the connection to the day to day reality of our families, our friends, other people- this keeps us sane. I can talk about “the media” and remember my Uncle in the media; I can talk about “the left” and contrast that abstraction with my sister on the left. And, at some level, I hope to god that, were my abstractions to lead me logically to firing a dum dum bullet into a child in order to blow their body apart, I’d remain connected to the level of thought that recogizes the horror of that. To me, psychopaths cannot deal with anything but their abstractions- terrorists are simply psychopaths whose abstractions are “political”. So, on the logical abstract level, yes it makes sense to say blow up a pizza parlor in Tel Aviv or whatever. But on the level of basic humanity, that’s not how we behave. To my mind, the scariest thought is that a terrorist might not have come up with the goal before the tactic- maybe the point all along was to blow apart children and it took nine years to make sense of that.

    I fear that if we talk about, “Well, he was this guy and his head got filled with these poisonous ideas, and so, of course, in the context of those ideas it made sense to do this”, it will just normalize his behaviors or absolve him of full responsibility for them. That’s not to say I care for someone like Pamela Gellar- the one time I read Atlas Shrugged for a few hours I got the distinct impression that she’s crackers. But I think of this in terms of the former Auswitz guard who’s been caught and is on trial. On one hand, yes, his behaviors were shaped by poisonous ideas. On the other hand, the man himself watched women and children marched to their deaths and did not respond the way a human being would- thus, by his behavior, he has separated himself from the human community. I’m also fully and ironically aware that “the human community” is an abstraction.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I get your point, but I don’t think this absolves him of individual responsibility for his acts at all. Additionally, part of my goal here is to point out the problem with normalizing certain attitudes.

      I don’t think it’s as simple as “spreading obsessive ideas about Muslims caused him to do this.” In fact, I would reject that notion. What I am trying to get at is more that terrorism requires a belief in the terrorist that he has fellow travelers, willing to finish what he starts (or continues, as the case may be). Such beliefs may be truly delusional, in which case there is not much for anyone else to contemplate – such was, I think, what happened in the Loughner case.

      But in this case, we aren’t dealing with someone who seems to be truly delusional about the notion that he has support. This was not a “loner” in the traditional sense of the word, but instead someone who apparently was fairly social.

      Since he was non-delusional, I think it’s important to understand why he thought he had support, and why he thought what he was doing was justified.

      Yes, there is an element here of him needing to dehumanize those he was killing before he could kill them. But even here, perhaps especially here, the dehumanization had been largely normalized in the circles where he traveled.

      On some level I suppose I would be heartened by the full-throated condemnations of Breivik from Geller and Spencer, were it not for the fact that they are combined with claims from Geller like “If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists. If anything incited him to violence, it was the Euro-Med policy.”

      Were it not for quotes like that, I’d say “okay fine, they’re denying any culpability here (and they should!), but they’re also making clear that this guy was not a fellow traveler, that they don’t actually have the level of certainty necessary to justify these kinds of actions, and their readers don’t, either.” But that’s not what we are faced with; instead we are faced with doubling down on the persecution complex in which there really does exist a massive Muslim conspiracy to destroy the West and which will result in said destruction unless something drastic is done, and soon.

      I think that the Gellers and Spencers of the world really do find what Breivik did unacceptable and appalling. But I think if they really do believe as such, then they should also look at how what they write does not line up with that.Report

      • The bank forecloses on yr house. You go shoot up the bank. Two different things.

        Maybe the bank was right. Or maybe they unfairly and unjustly foreclosed. But that has nothing to do with shooting up the bank, even if they had some level of guilt.

        On some level I suppose I would be heartened by the full-throated condemnations of Breivik from Geller and Spencer, were it not for the fact that they are combined with claims from Geller like “If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists. If anything incited him to violence, it was the Euro-Med policy.”

        Were it not for quotes like that, I’d say “okay fine…”

        Fair criticism, this. Gentle, even.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        “On some level I suppose I would be heartened by the full-throated condemnations of Breivik from Geller and Spencer, were it not for the fact that they are combined with claims from Geller like “If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists. If anything incited him to violence, it was the Euro-Med policy.””

        We’ve seen that here, where a LOG blogger I won’t name came out of a meeting with a certain islamophobic hater (was it Spencer?) blaming muslims for being persecuted.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Rufus, I think Henry Milgram’s experiments showed that under certain situations, most of us are capable of dehumanising others.

      For a good long while, a lot of people thought that slavery was just fine. They were wrong, but that doesnt mean that they were psychopaths.

      Soldiers have been killing others throughout history, and again they are not any more psychopathic than the rest of us.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

        They were wrong, but that doesnt mean that they were psychopaths.

        It also doesn’t mean they weren’t psychopaths.Report

      • Avatar KenB in reply to Murali says:

        Stanley Milgram. Just read an interesting article in my alumni mag about the SPE – a couple of the people they interviewed cast some doubt on the standard interpretation. One of the jailers said he went into it actively trying to push the envelope. One of the prisoners felt that Milgram was doing his best to incite bad treatment, that it didn’t just occur organically. Not that these are more authoritative than other opinions, but i hadn’t been aware of their existence.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to KenB says:

          Ken, you’re thinking of the Stanford Prison Experiment, not Milgram’s shock experiments. The SPE has recently been replicated, but it’s such a loose methodology that inerpretation is difficult. The shock experiments were replicated hundreds (literally) of times, by Milgram and others, before research ethics made it impossible to continue to do so.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Murali says:

        Murali, the examples you refer to are contaminated by cultural norms and authorities. If Breivik had been told to do what he did by someone in authority, that would definitely be a mitigating factor. As would it be if he were participating in normative behavior for his culture or subculture.

        But he was an outlier of grand proportions. His actions were not the result of social conditioning. If they were, many, many others with similar cultural (or subcultural) conditioning would be doing or attempting the same thing.

        Now, if it turns out that these actions are replicated, repeatedly, then we have to start looking at it as a cultural problem rather than one person’s extreme behavior.

        Keep in mind, we’re focusing on actions here, not ideology (anti-Muslim, anti-Marxist), where ideology is contagious and there are subcultures dedicated to his ideology. But the transition from ardent opposition to murdering screaming children is a bridge crossed only once.

        Pre-Columbine, my best friend wrote a fictional story about a kid that went in and shot up his school. We looked at it and said “God, you know that there are days that I want to do that.” We really, really hated out school, and there was some sentimental folk-heroism attached to the notion. Then what we were talking about started actually happening (not at our school). Some kids out there took the thoughts we were having and ran with it.

        Those kids weren’t right. Even if we might have shared some sort of loose ideology, there was something warped and twisted in them that made them think that was a good idea. It is a bridge crossed with sufficient rarity (even in the 90’s) that it appears that there is something seriously wrong with the individuals involved. Their experience was not sufficiently different than ours (and of oh-so-many miserable adolescents) to account for the behavior.

        It started seeming to come bloody close to being something other than “something wrong with those kids.” There was a sort of relaying effect. Copycats and the like. Legitimate fears of it becoming normalized. Once enough people start doing something, then you start moving away from it being something a crazy person does to something people that are followers start to do. That’s when it becomes a cultural problem rather than a problem of a few mentally disturbed individuals taking thoughts and feelings that a lot of us have and doing what mentally undisturbed people do not do.

        (We’ve since discovered with regard to Columbine that the kids were not the bullied outcasts once thought, but that doesn’t preclude their being bullies and outcasts. They had their clique – which, so did we – but were rejected by the mainstream system of the school. And, with the misery of adolescence combined with the hatred of the institution, I can’t say that I can’t relate.)Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to Will Truman says:

          Will Truman July 25, 2011 at 11:36 pm

          “But he was an outlier of grand proportions. His actions were not the result of social conditioning. If they were, many, many others with similar cultural (or subcultural) conditioning would be doing or attempting the same thing.”

          IMHO, ‘outlier’ doesn’t mean what you are trying to make it mean. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised that most calls for lynching didn’t result in actual lynchings. But that doesn’t mean that they had an effect.

          The term I’ve used above, and will continue to use, is that this guy is somebody who read certain people said, believed what they said, and carried out quite logical actions based on what they said.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    To the fanatic, one who ought to be an ally but refuses to buy in to the fanaticism is probably worse than an enemy — because this is not just someone who will attack and destroy you, this is someone who will betray you first. Thus,

    In this worldview, it is the appeasers and apostates, the people who are supposed to protect their culture, who are the biggest problem. As Spencer Ackerman notes, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists kill far more Muslims than they do Westerners, just as Breivik chose to kill his fellow countrymen and their children.

    Which dovetails into the concept that in the fight against terrorists, we are at greater risk from ourselves than we are from our enemies.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Burt Likko says:

      There’s also the interesting note that the jihadists and the anti-jihadists can’t possibly both be right about moderate Muslims. If the jihadists are right that they’ve been seduced by the west, it pretty much destroys the anti-jihadist idea that they’ve been unaffected by contact with the west.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Rufus, many jihadist leaders have had contact with the West and are disgusted by it. See Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of its modern manifestation.

        What was so awful about Sayyid Qutb’s experience in America that led him to regard modernity as an abomination? Well, he went to a dance in Greeley, Colo.: “The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips . . .”

        In 1949, Greeley, Colo., was dry. The dance was a church social. The feverish music was Frank Loesser’s charm song Baby, It’s Cold Outside. But it was enough to start a chain that led from Qutb to Zawahiri in Egypt to bin Laden in Saudi Arabia to the mullahs in Iran to the man arrested in Afghanistan on Sept. 11. And it’s a useful reminder of how much we could give up and still be found decadent and disgusting by the Islamists. A world without Baby, It’s Cold Outside will be very cold indeed.

        [—Mark Steyn]

        What the jihadist sees is that his fellow Muslims, not he himself, are being corrupted by the West. This is a real and not uncommon sentiment, nor is it necessarily left back home when one emigrates to the West.

        You can take Salem out of the country but
        You can’t take the country out of Salem…
        Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to tom van dyke says:

          many jihadist leaders have had contact with the West and are disgusted by it.

          Many Christian leaders living in the US have been similarly appalled.Report

          • You might say a liberal society is a Rorschach test for authoritarian hatred.Report

          • And, Mr. Stillwater? I must say these facile equivalencies between Christianity and Islam are getting on my nerves. there have been 10,000+ Islam-linked terrorist acts worldwide in the past 10 years, I rechon single or low double digits for Xtianity.

            Further, Christian “Dominionism” even of the Rushdoony stripe—if anybody actually took the trouble to look it up and understand it as it understands itself instead of uninformedly douchebagging it—wants the political commitment to Christ and the Bible to be voluntary.

            Someday. It’s eschatology, not politics. One must know the difference, even if it means looking up “eschatology.”

            😉

            Now then, some [very] moderate Muslims are misread by Islam critics, and they are simply saying the same thing about shari’a, that man should choose [and one day will] to live under Islamic law. Again, eschatology of the Muslim persuasion.

            However, for many Muslims—not just the al-Qaeders—living under shari’a, God’s law, is possible in the here and now or at least in the imaginable immediate future. Polls in Egypt say they want the new government to reflect Islamic law; Tunisia looks like a coin flip. Turkey [98-99% Muslim] is moving away from Ataturk’s Western-style secularism. Many or most other majority-Muslim nations have Islam worked into their constitutions.

            And I’ve actually defended this per Montesquieu and political philosophy, that the regime should reflect the manners and mores of the underpinning society.

            But for those in the West, if not the law for their whole Western host country, some, many or most want some version of Islamic law applicable within the Muslim society-within-a-society. Whether it’s some, many, or most is somewhat unanswerable at the present time, but IMO it’s because the Euroleft doesn’t really want to know.

            But they’ll find out soon enough. Me, I don’t think it’s a fad that will be assimilated away—in no small part because Europe does not truly assimilate those they politely call “immigrants.” [I’ve been meaning to look up the various naturalization-citizenship laws, but I don’t believe they’re on the whole as liberal as America’s.]

            Which brings us to America,. And the various JihadWatch types.

            First of all, I think their argument is more about Western Civilization as a whole and not just the US. And although there are uniquely American constitutional features that say “it can’t happen here,” slippery slope arguments are not innately invalid.

            And when we see an Islamic “society-within-the-society” getting footholds in our closest cousins, Canada and the UK, the slippery slope arguments seem far from absurd.

            Me, I’m sanguine that our “American exceptionalism,” pluralistic yet assimilative, will accommodate Muslim sentiments to the satisfaction of and for the good of all. I do believe in an American exceptionalism that is more inclusive of man’s “goods” than any other regime’s.

            I do not expect us to have to put legal restrictions on the burka [and crucifices and yarmulkes] as militantly secular France has felt obliged to do. It is so far unconstitutional to ban “hate speech” of various types as many European states have done. And I do think—hope—that America’s Muslims feel they get a fairer shake on every social and civil level here than anywhere else in the world, and that American citizenship can be seen as compatible with Islamic theology.

            Until the eschatology kicks in, anyway. then all bets are off.Report

            • Avatar BSK in reply to tom van dyke says:

              “I must say these facile equivalencies between Christianity and Islam are getting on my nerves. there have been 10,000+ Islam-linked terrorist acts worldwide in the past 10 years, I rechon single or low double digits for Xtianity.”

              Do you have any stats or citations to back this up? Doing the math, this works out to almost 3 Islam-linked terrorist acts a day. Doesn’t that seem a bit absurd? Now, if you are going to consider every violent crime committed by a Muslim to be “Islam-linked terrorism”, perhaps you might be on to something. But then we’d have to apply the same definition to Christians, and my hunch is the number might just creep north of double digits.

              And lest we forget the Christian-god-inspired grand-daddy of terrorists, who I’m pretty confident has the greatest death toll to his name, all in the name of god… http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/oct/07/iraq.usaReport

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to BSK says:

                Look it up yrself, BSK, then get back to me. No time or interest in these careless callouts anymore. I’m confident enough of my figures to have written it, because I know the ankle-biters are just looking for a hole in my sock but there ain’t one here. Unlike them, I don’t just make shit up. Or write without having done my homework. This is a good blog and I respect the folks here.

                You have something to say, say it; a counterfactual, post it. Belly up to the grown-up table. Otherwise, get off my back.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to tom van dyke says:

                That isn’t how it works. You made a positive assertion and the onus is on you to provide support. I don’t have to look up the facts to support your arguments. If you are going to make outlandish statements and offer absolutely no support of them, you will be exposed as the disingenuous liar I am quickly coming to believe you are.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to tom van dyke says:

              Here’s what I take away from your comment: that Muslims are violent; fanatical; desirous of imposing Sharia on Western societies; and that the US is likely immune to this.

              Alternatively, I’m quite sure that the Muslims your referring to in the above view Christians as violent; fanatical; desiring to impose western Christian dogma on Islamic societies; and that Islamic countries are most likely immune to this.

              Is that a false equivalence?Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’d go further… how many Islamic countries invaded Western countries and attempted to impose Sharia law or a theocracy? How many Western, Christian-majority countries invaded Islamic countries and attempted to impose Western-style democracy?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BSK says:

                Good point. It is a false equivalence.Report

              • Avatar Tony S. in reply to Stillwater says:

                If that’s all you take away you miss the basic distinction between external “invasion” and the “society-within-the-society” that is directly relevant to the views of most anti-jihadists. For example, most of those cited by Breivik (e.g. Fjordman and Lawrence Auster) are not neoconservatives and have no interest in imposing “Western-style democracy” on Muslim lands. They are concerned, rightly or wrongly, about the presence of Islam in the West and about a ruling multiculturalist ideology that is incapable of demanding assimilation. Like most Muslims, they believe that “the regime should reflect the manners and mores of the underpinning society.”Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to tom van dyke says:

              Further, Christian “Dominionism” even of the Rushdoony stripe—if anybody actually took the trouble to look it up and understand it as it understands itself instead of uninformedly douchebagging it—wants the political commitment to Christ and the Bible to be voluntary.

              Everyone knows it’s voluntary to be stoned to death for worshiping a false god.Report

            • Avatar Boegiboe in reply to tom van dyke says:

              A good response, TVD, and I agree with large parts of it (especially the part about America being better at assimilating, rather than insulating and isolating, other cultures than many (most?) other Western nations.

              I would like to know where you get the 10,000+/decade figure from. A citation would suffice, unless it’s your own compilation of statistics, in which case you really ought to make a post explaining what you include and exclude. It really is an incredible number and needs some backing.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Boegiboe says:

                Oh no, Boegiboe. See, when dealing with TVD, he demands that you do the research to back up his claims and accusations. It is too much to ask that he do his own research. He just throws things out there and hopes they stick and, when called upon them, tells you that the onus is on you to disprove it. Fail.Report

            • As usual, plenty of worthwhile points in here Tom.

              I must say these facile equivalencies between Christianity and Islam are getting on my nerves. there have been 10,000+ Islam-linked terrorist acts worldwide in the past 10 years, I rechon single or low double digits for Xtianity.

              I have seen this number thrown around before. I don’t think it proves the point it is used to prove regarding the comparative threats to the West from Islamic fundamentalism versus Christian fundamentalism (and, FWIW, I would agree that the threat of Christian fundamentalism is somewhat overblown). That number for attacks worldwide is going to almost entirely (I’m guessing 80-90%) consist of attacks by Muslims against Muslims in predominantly Muslim countries or at least against military targets in Muslim countries, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such attacks raise their own concerns, but they don’t constitute a direct threat to the West in a manner materially different from, say, Viet Cong terrorism in the 1950s through 1970s (and the number of VC terror attacks between 1965 and 1972 appears to be comparable to the number you are citing of Islamic terrorist attacks, with 33,000 killed and 57,000 kidnapped during that period in terror attacks according to Wikipedia).

              We do not say that during that era such attacks represented a Buddhist threat to the Western way of life. It was of course not inappropriate to chalk those attacks up to Communism, but even there it is difficult to separate the ideological motives from the nationalistic motives, just as in the case of Iraq, Afghanistan and, increasingly, Pakistan, it is difficult to separate the religious motives from the tribal or nationalistic motives.

              Lest we forget, moreover, those Muslims who seek to emigrate to the West are in no small part doing so in order to flee the chaos of which the frequent attacks in the Middle East and South Asia are symptomatic. So it would not be quite right to attribute that threat of violence to Muslim emigres to the West.

              However, for many Muslims—not just the al-Qaeders—living under shari’a, God’s law, is possible in the here and now or at least in the imaginable immediate future. Polls in Egypt say they want the new government to reflect Islamic law; Tunisia looks like a coin flip. Turkey [98-99% Muslim] is moving away from Ataturk’s Western-style secularism. Many or most other majority-Muslim nations have Islam worked into their constitutions.

              And I’ve actually defended this per Montesquieu and political philosophy, that the regime should reflect the manners and mores of the underpinning society.

              Obviously, you and I see eye to eye on this point, more or less. To be sure, I think basing law on a religious belief system is utterly wrong. In the cases of such countries, however, I basically do not view their refusal to accept separation of church and state as my concern, since I do not live there (and will rarely, if ever, visit there), whereas I view American Christian opposition to the separation of church and state as very much my concern, even if the strength of that opposition is largely overblown.

              Which brings us to America,. And the various JihadWatch types.

              First of all, I think their argument is more about Western Civilization as a whole and not just the US. And although there are uniquely American constitutional features that say “it can’t happen here,” slippery slope arguments are not innately invalid.

              And when we see an Islamic “society-within-the-society” getting footholds in our closest cousins, Canada and the UK, the slippery slope arguments seem far from absurd.

              Me, I’m sanguine that our “American exceptionalism,” pluralistic yet assimilative, will accommodate Muslim sentiments to the satisfaction of and for the good of all. I do believe in an American exceptionalism that is more inclusive of man’s “goods” than any other regime’s.

              Now this is the interesting part. I agree wholeheartedly with your last paragraph, and I will also concede that there is a real dilemma for some of our European brethren. But the reason for this is important: the problem arises not so much because of an actual threat from Muslims as it does from the host country’s desire to preserve a particular national character. That desire is nothing to sneeze at, either – for many/most European countries, their very essence is tied up in particular shared attitudes and traditions. In such countries, I can see opposition to multi-culturalism being an entirely reasonable position. In the US, it is a much different story, though: the dynamism of the melting pot is at the core of our culture. Our immigrants assimilate well in no small part because the essence of our culture is that it is dynamic and can adapt to the immigrants, making it a lot easier for the immigrants to adapt to our culture.

              The American experience by and large proves the Gellers and Spencers of the world wrong: Muslims can adapt to the West, provided the West is capable of adapting to Muslims.

              But, as I say above, this still leaves a dilemma for most European nations – if assimilation means that the culture itself has to adapt, and the culture itself is heavily based on tradition, how does the nation adapt without destroying or at least undermining that culture? Is this even possible? This is a legitimate issue in such nations. But the Spencers and Gellers of the world, as well as the BNPs and Geert Wilderses, prevent a good faith discussion of this issue with their faux-theology and exaggerated or misleading claims about Islam. Worse, this is not just an issue of making deeply flawed claims, it is as much an issue of being obsessive about those claims to the point of blaming almost any imaginable problem on Muslims or accommodation of Muslims.

              Rather than encouraging a discussion about the extent to which nations value the preservation of their individually unique and traditional culture versus accommodating large numbers of immigrants, these demagogues instead traffic in terrifying Westerners into thinking that they themselves are on the verge of living under Islamic law. In reality, the issue is whether, as you hint at, these cultures are can tolerate a “society within a society” of people who can never fully integrate with the national culture absent a significant change in that culture. European nations aren’t faced with a choice between cultural preservation and living under sharia law; they’re faced with a choice between cultural preservation and further Americanization of their culture.Report

              • MT, “separation of church and state” has been taken to mean separation of religion and politics, more accurately separation of religious conscience from politics.

                I think it’s hard to understand the religious right viewpoint through the filter of the secular [even hostile] press. America was never a theocracy, not even the original Puritans. However, American law was in harmony with Christian sensibilities, but now, such things are read as an intrusion of church on state.

                But this is bad history, and not socio-politically accurate either. Now it’s true that the “separation” contemplated the Roman church’s historical meddling in political affairs, but Henry VIII put the shoe on the other foot—the state controlled the church, not vice-versa.

                In the debate over the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, it was the minority Baptists, not the Enlightenment secularists, who swung the day, recognizing that the majority Anglicans/Church of England and Presbyterians could gang up on the Baptists and legislate what “true” Christianity is.

                [The famous Jefferson letter to the Danbury Baptists that put “separation of church and state” in the public consciousness—it’s not in the Constitution—contemplates this dynamic as well.]

                To sum up quickly, even the Christian “Dominionists” ala RJ Rushdoony—a fringe theology—want submission to Christ and the Bible to be voluntary, no different than the moderate Muslims who want shari’a someday. Again, this is eschatology, not politics.

                However, there are many Muslims, esp in Europe, who are actively agitating for their society-within-a-society, here and now. [There & now.]

                This is a necessary distinction. Further, religious rightism in America is not Rushdoony, it’s very much more Princeton’s Robert P. George, who argued in Romer. It is an error to stir it all into an undifferentiated soup, even more so to call the soup “Rushdoony,” or American Theocracy. That is demagoguery. It was what was supposed to happen under the Dubya regime. It didn’t.

                [Hell, papists are 25% of the electorate. Do you think they want to be ruled by Pat Robertson, let alone Dominionists?]

                As for the rest, we seem in relative agreement; hair-splitting can wait. Thx for the thoughtful reply as always.

                [Per our pluralism, just as unAmerican as theocracy is the French laïcité: This is the current argument.]Report

              • I probably agree with this more than you’d expect, as it largely gets at why I think fears of an American Christian theocracy are overblown. Despite my agnosticism, I agree completely with you that it is and should be entirely appropriate for religious conviction to inform one’s political views. My disagreement would probably come from the fact that there are nonetheless individual issues where religious belief forms the basis for using the state to restrict victimless acts by others, and I believe that this is an illegitimate basis for regulating such acts.

                The type of separation that concerns you, and which as you suggest largely exists in France, is something I would also find unacceptable here – to me, that amounts to little more than the establishment of atheism as the official government religion.

                However, there are many Muslims, esp in Europe, who are actively agitating for their society-within-a-society, here and now. [There & now.]

                Understood. I think this gets at why I view this as a legitimate and important issue for Europe.* It isn’t so much that Muslims threaten to impose their will on Europe as it is that Europe does not (and arguably should not) provide an avenue for assimilation – Muslims will not have the opportunity to influence the culture of their new nation in a way that will allow them to take some ownership of it and thus they can not fully become part of that culture without completely surrendering their own. So you get ghettoization, which probably isn’t good for anyone in the long run, even if it provides the usual immediate benefits of immigration for all.

                *I am being mildly hypocritical here by weighing in on issues that really don’t affect the US. I will make a half-hearted attempt to avoid such hypocrisy by noting that I at least have a marginal interest in how things turn out in Europe since I really, really enjoy visiting the continent and thus intend to continue visiting there as frequently as my wallet allows.Report

            • Avatar Barry in reply to tom van dyke says:

              “Further, Christian “Dominionism” even of the Rushdoony stripe—if anybody actually took the trouble to look it up and understand it as it understands itself instead of uninformedly douchebagging it—wants the political commitment to Christ and the Bible to be voluntary”

              The whole point of Dominionism is to dominate. And Rushdoony is basically warmed-over slaver falsepriesthood.Report

          • Avatar Barry in reply to Stillwater says:

            To the point where, if they were muslim clerics/spokespeople, it would be quite legitimate to cite them as evidence for a fifth column in the USA.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Farmer says:

    We also need to be careful not to dampen criticism of religious ideology which in itself can create intolerance. I hope that criticism of some forms of Christian religious intolerance is not dampened if a religious zealot starts killing the children of atheists, and that this “cold logic” is not given the respectability necessary to associate the killer with critics of Christian zealotry. I wholeheartedly resist any Christian effort to influence government and culture and impose Christian religious law in America. The fact that some critics of Islam resist attempts to impose Islamic law in their countries can’t be associated with a person or groups of people who begin murdering innocent people because they logically conclude that their actions will prevent Islamic influence, just as a nut in America who started killing the children of atheists can’t be associated with criticisms of Christian influence on government policy.

    If progressives vehemently oppose limited government, and if a progressive begins killing Tea Party members, there is no way to stretch the murderous actions far enough to even suggest that progressive criticism of limited government plays even a small role in influencing the murderer. Insane logic is still insane, and a broken mind can attach to any emotionally charged issue and then take insane actions, even if in the insanity we can detect cold logic — the cold logic for the madman is just a mechanism of justification within the realm of his insanity — it has nothing to do with the legitimate criticisms in the civil world of diverse ideas and opinions. There’s no way to prevent the madman from grabbing hold of any position taken by anyone and then acting insanely logical on the position.

    Just as we can’t legitimately associate critics of western culture to radical, murderous Islamists, we can’t legimately associate critics of Islam with murderers like Breivik. It opens the door to associate all kinds of evils to freedom of speech, free-thinking and diverse ideologies which don’t promote murder as a means of resolution. We don’t want to go down this road. If Obama’s heated rhetoric against conservatives causes a deranged old person afraid of not getting a SS check to kill the children of Paul Ryan to stop conservatism in the future, we certainly can’t associate the killing with Obama’s rank hyperbole.Report

    • 1. There is a big difference between resisting the imposition of Islamic law upon the West and obsessing constantly that the West is teetering on the brink of Islamization. The failure to so distinguish indeed is one of the great fallacies that Geller et al seem to commit most frequently. Virtually every single person that Geller et al view as being collaborators with Islamists would in fact vehemently oppose any organized effort to Islamicize the West if such an effort ever got anywhere. But guess what? That threat doesn’t actually exist!

      2. Criticism of speech – and that is what I am doing here – is not censorship. It is, itself, speech. Am I calling anywhere here for Geller et al to be censored? No, not remotely.

      3. What I am doing, however, is saying that Geller, et al are ignoring how what they write and say, if true, would in fact justify exactly what happened here. That’s not blaming them, it’s saying that maybe they’re insincere or at least haven’t exactly considered the implications of them being right.

      4. To pretend that this guy was just a lone whacko operating in a vacuum is simply fantastically wrong. Loughner was a lone whacko operating in a vacuum, literally in his own world. This guy? I have yet to see a meaningful quote from him to suggest his worldview differed from fairly common worldviews on anything other than tactics, and even there, the tactical differences are readily explained by the different location in which he lived.

      5. The difference in locations is also important because it destroys your analogy to the US. Breivik’s logic wouldn’t apply in that analogy because the view in that analogy has access to political power. Breivik’s didn’t. That’s an important distinction. I don’t actually worry too much about a Geller acolyte doing what Breivik did here in the US since Geller’s viewpoint has access to political power.Report

      • These are weak defenses you make — I simply said it’s a raod we don’t want to go down — you are taking it as accusations of calling for censorship — don’t be so defensive. I simply disagree with your analysis.Report

      • What I am doing, however, is saying that Geller, et al are ignoring how what they write and say, if true, would in fact justify exactly what happened here.

        I’m not sure I agree, for reasons I will get to in a minute.

        Before that, however, how would you relate this to dire climate change predictions/projections justifying environmental terrorism? There’s also the example of abortion clinic bombing, which, if abortion is murder, could indeed justify killing abortion docs.

        So what’s the solution to this? Should you not say what you believe because somebody who has different tactics is more likely to act on them? Are you insincere if you believe abortion is murder and yet do not believe in operating outside the framework of the law in order to prevent it? You can chalk it up to a “difference in tactics”, but it would seem to me that makes all the difference in the world.

        I recognize that you’re not playing the “blame it on Geller” game, but even if we agree that she’s not responsible or shouldn’t share in the blame, what is the responsible thing to do when you see us teetering on the brink of catastrophe but want society to be saved through legal channels?

        To bring it back to why I disagree, it’s not just the horror of what he did that makes it not the natural extension to the perceived threat. Bombing the Norwegian Parliament? Sure. Bombing a mosque? Sure. Killing a bunch of horrified children? I don’t see a cold logic in which this is the route to go. To me, it demonstrates being out of touch even with your own movement, which is where he is supposed to be getting his worldview from.

        On the broader question, I think we have to view insanity as a spectrum. Loughner would be at the far end. Move over and you get to Brievik. Move over more and you get to McVeigh. I don’t know where Osama bin Laden would fall on this spectrum, or the 9/11 crew itself, though I feel less qualified to judge because the environment in which they were raised was so different from my own.

        (I should add that to me, the difference between an insane terrorist and a coldly calculating one is morally neutral, in my view. It seems dismissive to call someone insane, and yet it seems that you’re citing someone for being particularly evil if you deny said insanity.)

        Also, this is flippant and beside all points, but I have to say it:

        I don’t actually worry too much about a Geller acolyte doing what Breivik did here in the US since Geller’s viewpoint has access to political power.

        So Republican access to power does prevent terrorism. Awesome!Report

        • Re: Eco-terrorism, there is probably a good degree of similarity in how I would analyze it.

          In terms of “what is the solution,” I don’t know that there is much of one. I am not asking the Gellers of the world, or the most alarmist environmentalists of the world for that matter, to start shutting their mouths out of the fear that someone else might find their statements to require violent tactics. If I am asking anything, it is simply that they seriously ask themselves “do I really believe this with such a level of certainty that I am not willing to even consider evidence that contradicts my belief?”

          The main point I am trying to get at here is just that Breivik’s actions make a disturbing amount of sense as an act of terrorism in no small part because he had reason to believe that he had fellow travelers prepared to do as he did. Maybe he was wrong- and let us all hope so- but the Geller quote blaming what he did on “Islamic supremacists” suggests that such a belief was not entirely unreasonable.

          As for why he specifically chose to kill teenagers, he was not only killing the next generation of multiculturalist leaders, he was also killing what he viewed as Norway’s modern Hitler Youth (a view since echoed, it would seem, by Glenn Beck, again reinforcing the notion that Breivik was not nuts to think he had fellow travelers here). And of course, he would not be the first terrorist to recognize the effectiveness of attacking children for purposes of inducing the fear upon which terrorism relies – we are not very far removed from Beslan.Report

          • Avatar BSK in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            Mark-

            I think this sums up your approach quite nicely and I struggle to see why others aren’t getting what you are getting at.

            What I think we must look more closely at is whether Breivik truly is an anomaly within his “movement”. Do we really believe he is the only perpetrator of anti-jihadist violence? Obviously, nothing on this scale has been committed, but I’ve read accounts of Muslims being physically harassed or attacked in this country because of a belief that they are attempting to “take over”. The people might not have written 1500 page manifestos, but they are clearly informed by the same viewpoint: Muslims and their supporters are attempting to fundamentally change our society and ought to be stopped. Now, some of these acts might not have been rooted in such a calculated and nuanced world view; some of it might have just been anger and fear manifesting itself into violence. But isn’t the same true for much of what has been lumped together under the umbrella of “Islamic terrorism”? Many acts of Islamic terrorism are clearly part of a larger movement with specifics aims and agendas; there is no denying that. But it wouldn’t surprise me if many others were also motivated more by fear or anger than by a specific plan to take down the west. I think of much of the insurgent violence in Iraq. A lot of that is carried out by the relatives of victims of the Iraq war, who throw grenades at check points… a far cry from the organization of a 9/11 style attack.

            The fact is, Breivik is not alone. This is not the first act of anti-Muslim violence motivated by a fear that they are “taking over”. This is obviously the first on this scale, but it is not the first. I am not implying that Breivik is somehow linked to these folks through anything but a shared ideology or worldview. But it is highly unlikely that many (not all) insurgents in Iraq have any link to OBL or AQ.

            We paint with broad strokes when the culprits are Muslims, but suddenly dissect with scalpels when the culprits look like us.Report

        • Avatar Ben Wolf in reply to Will Truman says:

          There is no such thing as Eco-terrorism. Burning a Hummer dealership is economic warfare, the effort to make the enemy’s activity too expensive to continue. Terrorism is the employment of violence to create fear and effect political change. “Eco-terrorists” are (properly understood) rebels, not terrorists. One might also consider the fact that Eco-rebels take great care to ensure no one is physically harmed when they employ violence, whereas “terrorists” work to make the body count as large as possible. I am unaware of a single desth related to the Eco-rebellion.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Ben Wolf says:

            I’d agree with you about Earth First!- what they did was basically more like arson or vandalism than terrorism. I don’t know if I’d want to go as far as to say no one was ever injurred or killed by an eco-warrior. The Unabomber might have been a lone wolf, but he did blow up some people in a way that I’d still call terrorism. And tree spiking was denounced by Earth First!, but only after a mill worker got injurred by a spiked tree in 87.Report

            • Avatar Ben Wolf in reply to Rufus F. says:

              The Unibomber is weird. Depending on what part of his manifesto you read he could be classified as an anarchist, an environmentalist or a right-wing extremist. I certainly can’t pin him down.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

          Well, let me bring Evil Jaybird in here and ask him for his take on the whole Before that, however, how would you relate this to dire climate change predictions/projections justifying environmental terrorism? There’s also the example of abortion clinic bombing, which, if abortion is murder, could indeed justify killing abortion docs issue.

          Evil Jaybird, what do you think?

          (rrarghr)

          What will the outcome of ABB’s acts be at the end of the day?

          It won’t be to limit Marxism one bit, it won’t result in limiting multiculturalism one bit, and it won’t result in the European Right’s causes being picked up by so much as a single citizen. Indeed, all of the European Right’s most prominent politicians are stampeding over themselves to get to the microphone first to decry this horrible display of violence. Leftist politicians will bring it up as reasons that people on the fence should vote Leftist and Rightist politicians will be too busy denying that the guy had anything to do with them to actually give a coherent argument about why people on the fence should vote for the Right.

          ABB failed to achieve that which he most hoped would happen. Moreover, it will result in a backlash of *MORE* leftist politicians, *MORE* multiculturalism, and *MORE* of the things he was hoping to destroy.

          In the same way, this idea that anti-abortion activists ought to bomb abortion clinics will (and has) backfired. There are any number of folks stampeding to microphones to decry this horrible violence and, of course, they do *NOT* condone violence in any form, Christianity, etc. The backlash against abortion clinic bombings would outweigh *ANY* benefit that the so-called “pro-life” movement would want to see.

          You have to frame your thesis in such a way that the anti-thesis doesn’t overwhelm it.

          (falls asleep near dumpster behind purple pants store)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I don’t actually worry too much about a Geller acolyte doing what Breivik did here in the US since Geller’s viewpoint has access to political power.

        Access in principle or access in fact? There is a very vocal and very large group of people in the US that have access to political power in principle, but feel denied that access as a matter of fact: because political institutions are corrupt and corrupting. The logic underlying their hostility towards political solutions isn’t that divorced from Breivik’s as you seem to suggest.

        Also, I do think that an in principle inability to participate in political decision-making via elections (etc) in certain cases political oppression offers a justification for terrorist acts (whether it’s a sound justification is another matter).Report

    • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Mike Farmer says:

      I wholeheartedly resist any Christian effort to influence government and culture and impose Christian religious law in America

      Who proposed incorporating the Code of Canon Law into the U.S. Code or any state code?Report

  6. Avatar trizzlor says:

    I think it’s deeply wrong to talk about these kinds of acts as if there’s a continuum from petitioning for violent state action to taking matters into your own hands. Geller et. al have never advocated for the latter, and in the wake of Breivik’s attack have reiterated that point – all that should be required of them. There is no slippery slope that leads to what Breivik did, and having made their position clear and consistent, Geller et. al. are be absolved of any responsibility for his actions. Perhaps it would be useful to ask the “anti-Islamofascists” if there is ever a point at which private violence would be justified, but to the best of my knowledge this is a question they are furiously intent on dodging.

    One important point that needs to be made is that this is a luxury that Geller et. al. do not grant their opposition. In fact, they traffic explicitly in using the actions of a violent group to tar similarly minded individuals who are against violence: Muslim fundamentalists and moderate Muslims or non-Muslim “dhimmis”; Communist dictators with democrats or socialists, &c. This certainly makes them hypocrites, but it does not make them culpable, and we should strive to avoid making similar mistakes.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor in reply to trizzlor says:

      Ugh, sorry if that sounds preachy. My issue is merely with a single sentence from your post : “If one accepts the worldview of the Gellers and Spencers of the world but lacks any means of preventing the perceived forthcoming conquest of one’s country by Islam through legitimate political means, should we be shocked that one turns to illegitimate means to achieve those ends?“.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to trizzlor says:

      trizzlor,

      Good comment. Personally, I think this comment gets at what I take to be the central issue here. That is, as you rightly say, Geller’s (and etc) advocacy for the use of state violence against perceived enemies does not entail advocacy for the use of private violence against perceived enemies. That those two types of advocacy are categorically distinct and there is no slope, slippery or otherwise.

      And on that score, I agree: the two types of advocacy are distinct. But isn’t the question under discussion (well one of them) whether there is as a matter of fact a continuum here? Eg., that insofar as an individual is persuaded that the use of state violence against perceived enemies is entirely justified and even necessary, and that they in addition view government as in some sense aiding those perceived enemies (by supporting, eg., multiculturalism) , the use of state-sponsored methods of self-defense becomes a moot point and private violence is therefore entirely justified?

      As you say, it would be good to get a clear answer from some of the advocates of state-violence against perceived cultural enemies on the use of extra-legal private violence. But my guess is that they would categorically deny that any type of extra-legal private violence would ever be justified. I guess I think this type of answer (if they were to give it) would be to some extent disingenuous, since it would deny a fundamental premise that is embraced by many people who use (or advocate) the use of private violence to achieve political goals: that government, being part of the perceived problem, cannot offer remedies for a solution.Report

      • Stillwater:

        Exactly right. Also – trizzlor, I very much appreciated your comment, just wasn’t able to get around to it. Thankfully, Stillwater answered as I would have.

        I also would just add that I’m pretty sure if they were pushed on specifics, they would eventually acknowledge this continuum. In fact, I think most of us would. As I say above, I do not know of many who would argue that the actions of the Resistance in Vichy France (tool of the Nazis as it was) were unjustified. By all accounts, Breivik seems to have viewed himself as acting in precisely such a capacity. If one accepts the notion advanced by Geller et al that European governments have become, in essence, “Islamofascist” puppets, then the comparison between Vichy France 1941 (or, better still, Norway 1941) and Norway 2011 isn’t simply reasonable, it’s exact.Report

        • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          Thanks for the replies. As I see it, Stillwater has laid out the two components of Breivik’s logic:

          A. The continuum from violent state action to violent personal action as response to a perceived evil. Hypothetically, if you think something is an evil that justifies state violence, there must be a point at which that evil takes over the state and requires private action. The various WW2 resistance movements being clear positive examples of this.
          B. That the current government has indeed irrevocably yielded to the perceived enemies and private violence is now justified.

          Without knowing the status of (B) we cannot say anything about the likelihood of a person to commit a terrorist act, which to me indicates that these two logical views are disjoint. (A) is necessary for Breivik’s act in the same way that a weapon or a victim is necessary; and so the proponents of (A) must be equally absolved of responsibility. The alternative is that any fiercely held belief (for which, by definition A must hold) makes one culpable for like-minded extremists; a concept which would simply make the idea of culpability meaningless.

          Returning to the original point: “should we be shocked that one turns to illegitimate means to achieve those ends?” Yes, we should, because Breivik’s evil does not lie in his anti-Islamist views but in his belief that Norway is a fascist state whose downfall justifies terrorism. Unless we descend into relativism, we can look at that decision and say “No, such an act is not justified” and place the blame entirely on Breivik.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to trizzlor says:

            trizzlor,

            Without knowing the status of (B) we cannot say anything about the likelihood of a person to commit a terrorist act,

            I think this description isn’t quite right – at least insofar as you’re attributing it what I said. (Or maybe this is the disagreement between us.) It’s not the factual truth of whether government has been subsumed by perceived enemies that matters, it’s the perception by the actor that it has.Report

  7. Mark, I think this is a very interesting post. We serious “scholars” kind of assume logical sense = good; emotional sense = bad; but in the case of psychopaths, it is quite medically the absense of human empathy that drives them to their crimes. The nuts and bolts of how psychopaths carry out their deeds and who they choose to murder belongs to logic because logic is all that’s there. Anyone here ever read the Unibomber’s manifesto? His logic and analysis is compelling up until a certain point, when all of a sudden he matter-of-factly concludes that the only way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of technological advance is to start offing profs as though murdering people is an acceptable solution to a common problem (what would ever give anyone that idea?).

    Psychopathy is fairly widespread, but most psychopaths don’t take the kinds of steps Breivik did. Acts like those of Breivik and the Unibomber also require full-bore narcissism and extraordinary drive: who writes a 1500-page manifesto?Report

    • but in the case of psychopaths, it is quite medically the absence of human empathy that drives them to their crimes. The nuts and bolts of how psychopaths carry out their deeds and who they choose to murder belongs to logic because logic is all that’s there.

      Elegant, eloquent, CC. Esp “because logic is all that’s there.” Now there’s the chill down the spine.Report

    • Avatar Louis B. in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      One who plagiarizes?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      This is probably quibbling, but it’s not the case that the difference between, say, you and me and a sociopath, or perhaps more accurately, someone with antisocial personality disorder (psychopath is a seriously antiquated term) is not the presence or absence of emotion. Empathy, yes, but emotion no. They are not operating on cold logic alone. Hell, without emotion, cold logic doesn’t really operate anyway. At least, it doesn’t operate effectively, because it has no way of picking out objects or goals. Sociopaths have emotions, and strong ones, and they guide their behavior. Unfortunately, those emotions don’t allow them to identify with others, as they often do for us.

      It’s in this sense that it appears, to me at least, that Breivik’s reasoning could easily be construed as sociopathic. I don’t see any empathy in any of it, nor do I see in any in his actions. Now, being a sociopath and being “insane” are two different things. A sociopath is perfectly aware of what’s real and what isn’t.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Chris says:

        I agree on both distinctions (emotion-empathy and sociopath-insane). I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Everyone needs emotion of some sort to drive behavior.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      Chris, is Breivik an actual psychopath? My (limited) understanding of the existence of such creatures in reality is that they lack the necessary emotional drives to keep them focused on task and away from prisons or drug addiction. Breivik’s actions strike me as being the consequence of considerable emotional drive, not the lack of one. A real psychopath wouldn’t bother doing what Breivik did; it’d be too much work.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to North says:

        I agree. I’m neither an expert on the topic nor have I met or talked to Breivik, but I imagine he’s a psychopath in the sense that he lacks the physiological capacity for empathy. (Although I think “psychopath” is a dated term.)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to North says:

        I am not a clinical psychologist, so I don’t feel comfortable with even armchair diagnoses, and all I know of Breivik is what you know, but I would not be surprised if he were a sociopath (like I said, “psychopath” is an antiquated term that no longer has any clinical application). And as I said before, antisocial personality disorder does not mean no emotion, just no (or reduce amounts of) empathy. He clearly had strong emotions, as sociopaths often do. I just haven’t seen any evidence of a complete or even substantial partial inability to distinguish real and unreal. I would be surprised if it turns out that he’s ruled insane, or unable to stand trial for psychological reasons. I think he’s a nutjob, but nutjob is not a clinical diagnosis. It just means his world view is seriously fished-up, as are the ways in which he has chosen to act on it.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Chris says:

          I’m forced to wonder if Norway had capital punishment, he’d still have done it. He seems quite sanguine about life in prison.

          On the other hand, the sociopathic narcissist McVeigh seemed fine with his death sentence, halting his appeals. I just don’t know.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to tom van dyke says:

            Hard to say. It’s sort of infuriating that he didn’t shoot himself at the end like one expects in these rampages. On the other hand, his writings suggest that he entirely expected to be killed by the authorities and was fine with that. Call me heartless, but I’m hoping he gets treated like Jeffrey Dahmer while in prison.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Rufus F. says:

              I’m hoping he continues to speak about the importance of fighting multi-culturalism and citing the important works of people who shaped his views. From prison.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to tom van dyke says:

            Well, there’s little if any sound evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect, but those studies are on aggregate data, and it’s not hard to imagine individual cases in which it is a deterrent. However, it seems like this dude bucked the trend of suicide or fighting it out with the police to get his message out, rather than to spare his own life, so I’m not sure how much of a deterrent the death penalty would have been in his case.Report

  8. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Very nice post. Lots to think about here. You said,

    But it is that obsession which ultimately makes Breivik’s actions so coldly and frighteningly logical.

    Yes, indeed. But the obsession is based falsehoods, the logic derives from myths. There is certainly an internal coherence that is externally reinforced, but logic doesn’t circumscribe rationality, it’s a subset of it.

    I go back to an earlier comment I made: the guy is morally insane. On that score I don’t think a credible argument can be put forth. Even if his cold logic is internally coherent, it remains completely divorced from humanity. And reality. That is a functional definition of an ideologue (ie., zealot) as well as a psychopath. But it also based on and embraces fundamental principles that are delusional. (BTW, is there really any doubt about that, from a rational pov?) That’s very close to a functional definition of insanity.

    Whether this is political terrorism of the same type as more conventional acts depends on context, to be sure. Often terrorism is endorsed and acted upon for very clear and pragmatic goals: eg., fighting against state terrorism in the absence of more peaceful political or institutional structures.

    And one other point: I don’t think we ought to be so quick to absolve those demonizing Muslims and multi-culturalism here in the States simply because they’re exercising a constitutional right to free speech. Incitement is legal term that carries consequences if convicted. Constant repetitions of an anti-Jihad refrain certainly brings people with rigid views and emotional issues closer to acts of violence, especially when the speakers (not necessarily Gellar or Spencer) casually embrace ‘2nd Amendment Remendies’ to compel government to institute their demands. As you say, it’s of a piece, and I agree. But I’d go further.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

      among other errors: “fighting state terrorism in the absence of access to more peaceful political or institutional structures”.Report

    • Avatar Tony S. in reply to Stillwater says:

      At what point should objection to the spread of Islam or multiculturalism become legal incitement? At constant repetition? At “demonization?” At promulgation to people with “rigid views” and “emotional issues.”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tony S. says:

        At what point should objection to the spread of Islam or multiculturalism become legal incitement?

        Fair point. And I don’t know. One consideration would certainly be the degree to which political speech can be shown to have caused, or encouraged, the group violence perpetrated against Muslims in the imagined scenario. The purpose of the comment, however, wasn’t to advocate for refinement of the word’s meaning as much as highlight that such a category already exists, and that free speech is already constrained to some degree by laws on the books.

        Btw, I’m not advocating for restrictions on speech: I’m mostly suggesting that people who argue or suggest that the 1st Amendment political speech of person X has no causal connection to person Y’s behavior aren’t being very honest about things.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Stillwater says:

          This is already a more or less settled matter in American law. I don’t know how it works in Norway, but over here, it takes a specific and credible threat to exceed the protections we offer to free speech.

          To be clear, I find Pam Geller loathsome. Just in case you were wondering. It irritates me to no end that she’s appropriated the name of a book I admire for a cause I despise.Report

  9. Avatar North says:

    An amusing point raised in many places: under Geller’s own logic she is culpable for what Breivik did. Geller (and many others on the right) hold Islam collectively responsible for the private violence done by Islamic terrorists. How then can Geller claim she is nor responsible* for the violence done by a Christian right wing terrorist? Especially one who writes stuff that could easily pass for her own writing on Atlas Shrugged were the last step of private violence simply replaced with state sanctioned violence?Gooses and ganders etc.

    *ideologically responsible that is. I do not for a moment consider her materially responsible nor is censorship an option. But by her own reasoning she is responsible for the crimes of her ideological fellow traveler.Report

    • Avatar Tony S. in reply to North says:

      Don’t Spencer and Geller hold specific parts of the sacred texts and traditions of Islam responsible for encouraging the “private violence” of self-consciously Islamic terrorists, rather than Muslims as a “collective?”Report

      • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Tony S. says:

        Yes, I don’t think Geller has anything against Muslims in general, but even if she erroneously blames Muslims for the insane actions of others, that would simply make her wrong, too.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Tony S. says:

        Tony S., if true it’s bad reasoning. As everybody knows, the Bible has plenty of funky stuff: executing homosexuals, and…wait for it…drunk and disobedient children.

        What matters per good sense is how the various scriptures are normatively put into practice in the real world. There is no record of the Hebrews killing gays as standard practice, certainly not their drunk kids!

        Neither is there evidence that Muslims have ever wantonly slaughtered Jews or infidels just on general principles, even though there are Quranic verses that could reasonably be interpreted to do so. Not even al-Qaeda lives by such an ideology. It believes its murders are not murders, but justice. See

        http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/09/inside-al-qaeda-rsquo-s-hard-drive/3428/

        For non-adherents to judge scriptures at face value is to fail to understand the religion as it understands itself. And for the non-adherent, such scriptures are merely the work of men anyway. The non-adherent has no business telling an adherent what his Holy Book says or means.

        That is bullshit, be it a non-Christian arguing the Bible against itself, or a non-Muslim arguing the Quran against Islam in practice and especially in theory.

        That’s fundamentalism, the non-adherent’s biggest bogeyman.Report

        • Avatar Tony S. in reply to tom van dyke says:

          TVD, I’m familiar with your view that “normative practice” is what matters and I pretty much agree. That is why I included “self-consciously” and “encouraging” in my previous comment. Much of Spencer’s work has to do with Muslims’ citation of their own scriptures as justification. The point in response to North is that no such citation is possible with respect to either Spencer’s or Geller’s work (or, I believe, most of the other anti-jihadists cited by Breivik).Report

        • Avatar Tony S. in reply to tom van dyke says:

          Slightly off-topic, TVD, but what is your opinion of this argument by Raymond Ibrahim:

          “Yahweh clearly ordered the Hebrews to annihilate the Canaanites and surrounding peoples. Such violence is therefore an expression of God’s will, for good or ill. Regardless, all the historic violence committed by the Hebrews and recorded in the Old Testament is just that—history. It happened; God commanded it. But it revolved around a specific time and place and was directed against a specific people. At no time did such violence go on to become standardized or codified into Jewish law (i.e., the Halakha).

          This is where Islamic violence is unique. Though similar to the violence of the Old Testament—commanded by God and manifested in history—certain aspects of Islamic violence have become standardized in Islamic law (i.e., Sharia) and apply at all times. Thus while the violence found in the Koran is in fact historical, its ultimate significance is theological, or, more specifically, doctrinal.”Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke says:

          Neither is there evidence that Muslims have ever wantonly slaughtered Jews or infidels just on general principles, even though there are Quranic verses that could reasonably be interpreted to do so.

          And Christians haven’t done this for over 65 years.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to tom van dyke says:

          That is well put Tom.Report

  10. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Glenn Beck makes Geller look sane by comparison, compares Utoya to the Hitler Youth.Report

  11. Avatar wardsmith says:

    Man is not a rational being. Man is a rationalizing being.Report

  12. Avatar MQ says:

    And, Mr. Stillwater? I must say these facile equivalencies between Christianity and Islam are getting on my nerves. there have been 10,000+ Islam-linked terrorist acts worldwide in the past 10 years, I rechon single or low double digits for Xtianity.

    I find these kinds of statements morally problematic. They’re an attempt to demonize Islam and contribute to the kind of fevered atmosphere around the “Muslim threat” that helped lead to this incident. I would bet that over the past ten years more Muslim civilians have been killed by Xtians than Xtian civilians killed by Muslims. The “terrorist acts” categorization is a pure product of access to state power.Report