Cliff May

Who deserves the blame for the terrorist attacks in Norway? My answer would be the perpetrator and no one else -- unless it turns out there really is a modern Knights Templar or some other organized movement that sent him on his mission of mass murder.

But there are those who disagree, who see this atrocity as part of a wider conspiracy – or, perhaps, as a convenient stick with which to beat their political and ideological opponents.

One example: The New York Times last week ran an editorial arguing that Anders Behrig Breivik was “influenced by public debate and the extent to which that debate makes ideas acceptable.” The “broader” issue, says the Times, is that “inflammatory political rhetoric is increasingly tolerated.”

Which raises the questions: Who decides what constitutes inflammatory rhetoric? And if such rhetoric is unacceptable and intolerable, who should censor it and by what means? (Memo to young readers: Back in the day, great newspapers were defenders of free speech, including that which some would see as inflammatory.)

The Times editorial adds: “Even mainstream politicians in Europe, including Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France have sown doubts about the ability or willingness of Europe to absorb newcomers. Multiculturalism ‘has failed, utterly failed,’ Mrs. Merkel said last October.” The implication is clear: If these European leaders have doubts about the worldview and policies the Times and other avatars of progressive opinion endorse, they should take the opportunity to shut up about it.

A few days later, the Times brought in reinforcements, publishing an op-ed (memo to young readers: back in the day, op-eds opposed, rather than echoed newspapers’ editorial positions) by two Norwegian commentators, Jostein Gaarder and Thomas Hylland Eriksen. They asserted that “the hatred and contempt from which [Breivik] drew his deranged determination were shared with many others throughout the international right-wing blogosphere,” which they further characterized as “Islamophobic” and consisting of “loosely connected networks of people — including students, civil servants, capitalists, and neo-Nazis. Many do not even see themselves as ‘right-wing,’ but as defenders of enlightened values, including feminism.”

Their meaning is plain too: Those concerned about such issues as gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia, honor killings within Muslim communities in the West and the genital mutilation of Muslim girls are, objectively, on the side of neo-Nazis and therefore they also should put a sock in it.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.