A bunch of stuff has happened lately, but before I move onto the next thing, I just want to say how staggered and aghast I am at the attacks in Norway. [TW: Violence, racism]
I’m a politically active young person and I’ve spent a lot of time at events similar to the ones that the young people were at — the young people he massacred for being committed to left-wing electoral politics, for having the commitment and drive to engage in democracy. So many dead all at once, and the news that he particularly targeted nonwhite people as he rampaged.
I was so badly shaken by that. I thought of the remarkable, committed, brilliant, passionate and compassionate young people I’ve worked alongside, the future of politics in this country. I thought: if I had been Norwegian (and slightly younger today), I might well have been attending the event. That might well have been me cowering, frantically turning off my cell phone so it couldn’t give me away, praying I might not be seen and not knowing if the person I’d been debating with, strategizing with, organizing with, eating with, laughing with, an hour ago, was alive or dead.
That could be me, numbly moving forward, trying to deal with that grief and anguish, and months from now when I could again face even the idea of any sort of political action, trying to do it without the friends and colleagues who had surrounded and inspired me.
After I was done being overwhelmed by that feeling, other things came to mind. There’s the awful racism of how the initial reports played out — pundits ready to pontificate about how terrible it was that Al Qaeda had pulled another attack when of course it turned out to be a home-grown far-right Eurabia-believing clash-of-civilizations cultural-racist middle-class male with a hate-on for Muslim people, immigrants, and multiculturalism, not coincidentally much like what the pundits had just been enabling and audience-targeting. Not a trace of apology, let alone any recognition of that particular anti-irony.
Of course as soon as that became clear, he instantly metamorphosed into “a lunatic,” neatly othering him with the power of ableism (it’s inconceivable that teaching hatred should have done this! After all, hatred never leads to violence! Wait, he must be crazy, okay we don’t have to think about it thank god, was worried there for a second) and also nicely emphasizing how if he happened to be Muslim, the idea that he was “a lone nut” wouldn’t occur to anyone even for a second even if true. Oh, and further stigmatizing actual mentally ill people into the bargain (who are of course more likely by a couple orders of magnitude to be the victims of violence than perpetrators.)
[ETA: I had already written this when I was handed an excellent example of this kind of thinking — amazingly enough, by none other than Boris Johnson.]
(As a footnote and because this is still Femme Guy!, I note that one of the things he complains about in his manifesto is the evil P.C. forces of multiculturalism promoting female empowerment, reducing the white birthrate, and “feminizing” European boys. Surreally, one of the specific complaints under the last heading is boys being taught to knit. Which, as a friend points out, is among other things woefully ignorant of the history of European knitting.)
I should say I’ve actually seen a fair amount of good coverage of the attacks, the killer’s motives, the danger of right-wing xenophobia. And I was heartened and inspired by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s words: “The answer to the attacks must be more democracy and more openness.” Indeed, I can only hope that’s what we see.
But I’m concerned — we have a tendency to ignore right-wing political violence as being something other than “terrorism,” for example in the case of violence against abortion providers and their facilities in the U.S. (Of course, as soon as a left-wing protester breaks a window, everyone in, or near, the protest is a hooligan and should be rushed by the police, kettled, beaten, held in makeshift prisons for days, denied their constitutional rights, have their artificial limbs confiscated, etc., etc.)
Maybe we can finally focus attention on right-wing political terrorism, its pervasiveness, its roots in punditocracy and false populism. But of course it won’t bring those seventy-six people (good gods, seventy-six, in a country with fewer people than Toronto) back.