By now there’s little chance the news from Norway has passed you by. After bombing the nation’s capital Oslo, Anders Behring Breivik quickly travelled to the island Utoya, dressed as a policeman, and shot 94 people to death at the summer camp of the youth charter of a major political party. He has confessed to both acts of terrorism but does not describe these acts in that manner himself. He believes he is not a criminal but a revolutionary.
There’s a sudden shift in tone now that the identity of this terrorist has been revealed. Friday night when these horrific acts were still unclaimed and the perpetrator unknown, news media immediately and collectively had their predictable Pavlov-reaction, the same they’ve been having for years now. You know.
In a news segment on RTL, a usually fairly balanced Dutch channel, almost half of the news segment was filled with speculation about what could possibly be the motive. Was it Norway trying to extradite an extremist imam? Was it Norway’s role in Lybia or Afghanistan? But that is all it was, speculation. We didn’t know anything yet. Apparently though, several news media thought it safe to assume that it must’ve had something to do with Islam.
In a way, it did. Because Anders Behring Breivik hates Islam. Here is a guy so blinded by hatred and fear for what he thinks European society has and will become under the influence of Muslim immigrants, that he is willing to go out to bomb and shoot innocent people, kids even, to get people to notice his 1500-page nutjob manifesto on how he’s going to start the new crusade to win back Europe. That’s right, he likens himself to Christian knights of ages ago. He has deliberately targeted one of Norway’s biggest political, and ruling, parties, Det Norske Arbeiderpartiet (The Norse Worker’s Party) because of his hate for the multicultural society he believes this party on the moderate left helps perpetuate. He is extremely politically and religiously motivated, by his own admission, but of course his right-wing extremist philosophies and beliefs have nothing to do with his acts now, do they?
Now he’s a lone wolf, and everybody goes out of his way to underline that he is not exemplary for political movements on the right, or for Christians, or for Norwegians, or anybody else for that matter. He’s a sole nutjob, no need to worry everybody, no need for more, harsh questions. No need to look in the direction of politicians who’ve been actively comparing all Muslims to Nazis and describing them as an irreconcilable threat to your western way of life and the freedoms you enjoy. That couldn’t possibly compel someone to justify such acts now, would it, make them believe they’re stopping the next Nazis?
Of course the guy is a wacko, and not exemplary for many. To prepare such an act over the course of years needs cold, meticulous precision, and a dedicated hatred and lack of empathy we usually wouldn’t describe as human. But isn’t it important to note that the same goes when a Muslim nutjob does such a thing? Among the millions of Muslims in this world, not many perpetrated acts like this, and not many would. But by immediately mentioning Muslims when tragedy strikes, media further stigmatize millions of regular people and enforce the image that this is somehow endemic to their faith. As of yesterday, when it was already well-publicized that it was a 32-year old, blond, right-wing extremist, I still met people who were under the impression it had something to do with Al-Qaeda, even though they already heard about the guy being caught. It’s because someone’s first impression is often a lasting one, and in this case, a false one based on nothing but ill-advised speculation.
I applaud the few journalists who actively refrained from speculation and think all the others owe the Norwegian Muslims an apology for their gross misinterpretation of an already horrible tragedy. Because you know what I hear when these hypocrites go out of their way to make sure you understand not all Christians/conservatives/people on the right are like this? The echo of a million Muslims.