July 26, 2011

Free Speech By Americans Responsible For Norway Horror?

We knew it would happen -- various figures in the media and elsewhere would start finding a way to not merely connect conservative and anti-Islamist voices to the Norway Horror, but also assign responsibility for Anders Behring Breivik and his crimes to those espousing "far-right", "anti-immigrant" and "anti-Islamic" views. Take these examples.

On Monday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams proclaimed that Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik "seemed to be heavily influenced by some people in this country who write and blog about the perceived threat from Islam."
With a post entitled "When Christianity becomes lethal," liberal theologian and Center for American Progress senior fellow Susan Brooks Thislethwaite took to the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog yesterday to indict conservative Christian theology as a catalyst for the terror espoused by Norwegian bomber/shooter Anders Behring Breivik:
Breivik’s chosen targets were political in nature, emblematic of his hatred of “multiculturalism” and “left-wing political ideology.” This does not mean that the Christian element in his ultra-nationalist views is irrelevant. The religious and political views in right-wing ideologies are mutually reinforcing, and ignoring or dismissing the role played by certain kinds of Christian theology in such extremism is distorting.
The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them, as well as copying multiple passages from the tract of the Unabomber.
The Norwegian terrorist who murdered more than ninety innocent civilians — many of whom were teenagers — did not act alone. Or rather, he acted within a cultural and political context that legitimises his fearful and hate-infested worldview. It is now clear that Anders Behring Breivik was exposed to large amounts of right-wing propaganda. This tragedy underlines the urgency with which normal people around the world must combat fundamentalist nationalists and chauvinists wherever they may be. But it also demonstrates the extent to which reactionary bigotry has infected mainstream thought.
Since Norway's gunman had apparently written a manifesto citing two anti-Islamist websites based in America, our "progressive" friends have gone to town, liberally including a laundry-list of foes. All somehow share the blame.

Leading the left's hit list is blogger Pamela Geller, whose work was said to have been mentioned by gunman Anders Behring Breivik. That somehow opens the door for bringing Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and other American commentators into the mix.

No real proof for these connections is ever presented -- at best you have a couple of quotes from a couple of websites that are certainly within the mainstream -- specifically Atlas Shrugs and Gates of Vienna. From there the Left and the media (but i repeat myself) have attempted to expand the circle of blame to include other prominent conservative figures in this country who have written on similar themes.

Now let me be clear -- I subscribe to the feed of both websites. The Gates of Vienna was at one time one of the blogs that participated in the Wacher's Council with me, and I once would have counted the major co-bloggers (whose pen-names are Baron Bodissey and Dymphna) as close online friends before our interests and blogging focus drifted in different directions. But having read their writings over the last few years, I can tell you that the site owners at both blogs are adamant in their opposition to violence as a means of combating what they see as the threat of radical Islamist ideas and practitioners to the survival of Western culture. I don't agree with them on everything they write, but I can't say that I've seen anything on the sites that contradicts their stated positions in that regard. As such, I find it impossible to accept the argument that linkage to a website, or quotes from one, by a madman imputes responsibility for the madman's actions upon the bloggers.

But let's assume that there were, in fact, a direct connection between the acts of violence we saw in Norway and the words of these bloggers and other commentators who have been blamed for the deeds of Anders Behring Breivik -- a "smoking gun" in the form of a note that said "I read this on the website and am, in response, going out to commit murder." Would that create culpability on the part of the speaker or writer? Hardly -- unless there was a direct call for violence in those words.

So to those who would make the argument that we on the right side of the political spectrum must cease to speak or moderate our rhetoric -- or that the government must act to limit the speech that they blame for the Norway Horror or some other act of violence -- I say the following:

Those who argue that Americans must silence or moderate their political speech lest the most unstable individual in society somehow be pushed to violence are nothing less than fascists opposed to the First Amendment. Let the free people of this country speak their minds freely and without reservation — and to hell with these would-be censors!

UPDATE: I won't get into the questions a fundamentalist Christian out of a guy who wrote the following in his manifesto.

Contrary to early reports, Anders Behring Breivik is not a Christian. In fact in his 1,518 page manifesto, the perpetrator of the atrocities in Norway has specifically disavowed any real commitment to Christ. In his own words:
A majority of so called agnostics and atheists in Europe are cultural conservative Christians without even knowing it. So what is the difference between cultural Christians and religious Christians?

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian (p. 1307).

In other words, the terrorist is a Christian only in the broadest cultural sense of having been born into an overwhelmingly Christian society -- but he has no actual connection to those things that make one a believing Christian, much less a "fundamentalist". A more accurate description would be that he is a secular agnostic.

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