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Breivik and the dangers lurking in extremist views

Anders Breivik:

Katherine Stuart writes: Re. “Rundle: Breivik’s fight to be ruled sane begins” (Tuesday, item 3). Guy Rundle’s analysis of the trial of Anders Behring Breivik in relation to the hard right in Europe fits well with some commentators in neighbouring Sweden, and with undertows towards nationalism, separatism and in fact away from European union that have been evident in much of Europe for some time.

I recently read a book entitled Änglamakerskan (The Angel Maker) by Swedish author Camilla Läckberg, what might generally be described as pulp fiction. Though a largely tedious read, its central story concerned right-wing extremism going back to a fictionalised trajectory of Hermann Goering’s connections with Sweden pre- and post-WW2. And the thwarting of a plot to kill and maim in Stockholm that bore an eerie resemblance to Breivik’s crimes (in the book, to be perpetrated by a small group from within a thinly disguised representation of Sweden’s own xenophobic party). It was published in September 2011, written well before the events in Norway in July 2011, but its author acknowledges this eerie resemblance in an afterword in the book.

I read just yesterday in the Swedish press that Norway has the highest rate of incarceration of criminals as insane in Europe, which tends to support Rundle’s argument that “its tendency (is) to regard any politically ‘extremist’ ideas as simply outside of the ambit of commonsense and sanity”. It could certainly be argued that this constitutes denial of uncomfortable realities but it may also simply be a very natural response of the main body of the community (the silent majority?) to what it sees as repugnant and dangerous to its existence.

It would indeed be gratifying if Breivik’s trial caused any of the hard right in Europe “to confront their own nihilistic conduct”, but even better if it caused the likes of those who read Andrew Bolt’s diatribes and nod in agreement (those “ordinary folk” who we meet every day) to see the dangers lurking in any extremist view, no matter how credible or gratifying it might appear to be to thrust the burden of one’s everyday ambiguities and dilemmas onto a convenient scapegoat.

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Media briefs: Brown v Crimes … Age subs probe … girl in Pulitzer photo …” (yesterday, item 15). I note you have signed up to the description of the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik as just a mass murderer. That would suggest this was a random act, a sort of Columbine on steroids by a boy who, as Johnny Cash would say, shot people just to see them die.

But it was clearly an act of terrorism designed to prove a political point, one report from his court case says:

The teenagers he killed were not innocent non-political children but people guilty of upholding multicultural positions, the mass killer Anders Behring Breivik told a court yesterday.

He said the youth wing of the Norwegian Labour Party that he attacked was akin to the Hitler Youth movement, indoctrinating young people into hatred of Norway’s cultural heritage.

”I have carried out the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack committed in Europe since the Second World War,” he bragged.

If his name was Osama I am sure there would be no fudging of the facts as regards this man’s actions. He is, depending on your point of view, a freedom fighter or a terrorist. He is not just a mass murderer and to call him this diminishes the significance of his actions and diminishes the young people who died in this terrorist attack.

Would the US allow the 3000 who died on 9/11 to be called victims of a few mass murders?

Pell and Dawkins:

Keith Binns writes: Re. “Rundle: why Pell and Dawkins need each other” (yesterday, item 14). As someone who has genuinely wrestled with the idea of what a non-mythical God might be I would like to applaud Guy Rundle’s intelligent and perceptive article yesterday.

Dawkins’ arguments have been shredded often (Darwin’s Angel: An Angelic Riposte to “The God Delusion” and God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?) but it is difficult to find a media commentator like Rundle who has pin-pointed exactly his biggest weakness: Dawkins’ problem in debate has always been that he can’t credit versions of theism that are more sophisticated than old-man-in-the-sky type stuffi.e. He habitually uses straw man arguments. When you have top scientists designating themselves as at least theists because of the science (usually because of some version or other of the anthropic principle) then this is not the way to be taken seriously other than by those who already agree with you.

As someone who is not of the right politically, and is in favour of  women and married clergy and gay marriage, it pains me to have people listening to George Pell and thinking that my views and his have much in common. Where are Tim Costello and John Smith from Melbourne, Dave Smith from Sydney or Doug Hynd from Canberra? The ABC is so lazy in who it gets to represent me.

Justin Templer writes: Guy Rundle writes that Cardinal George Pell spruiks “a mythologised God — a sophisticated version of such, but still a mythologised account nevertheless, and one that, as it becomes elaborated, reveals itself as essentially childish and absurd.”

Childish, absurd — yet sophisticated? In 1 Corinthians the word is:

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

But not all of us put away childish things when we become men.

The Greens:

Matt Davis writes: Ken Lambert (yesterday, comments) appears to be wasting his money on a Crikey subscription. It’s clear he hasn’t been reading much from his absurd claim that … “The Greens’ place in the sun has been made possible only by the Gillard minority (government) …”

No Gillard — no Greens” rejoices Lambert.

A reliably informed 13% of the voting public beg to differ. And, considering the existential threat to the carbon pricing scheme from an Abbott government, you can bet on the Green vote to rise next time around.

Sadly, Ken, it won’t be “a size 12 work boot” that ends the Greens time in the sun — more likely it will be the clouds of pollution coming from a Liberal Party-controlled Australia.

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  • 1
    Meski
    Posted Thursday, 19 April 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    @Justin: True enough. Whilst most grow up, and realise that the Easter Bunny and God aren’t real, others continue to believe in them.

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