Shortly after Anders Behring Breivik carried out his one-man killing spree of his fellow countrymen Friday, the media began to speculate about the killer's possible motivations. The terrorist's disturbing "manifesto" (much of it borrowed from Unabomber Ted Kaczynski) prescribed a race-based revolution across Europe against what he considered the elite, “multiculturalists” and “enablers of Islamization.”
To the New York Times, this seething hatred all apparently sounded familiar:
[Breivik's] manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch Web site, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.
More broadly, the mass killings in Norway, with their echo of the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by an antigovernment militant, have focused new attention around the world on the subculture of anti-Muslim bloggers and right-wing activists and renewed a debate over the focus of counterterrorism efforts.
Al Jazeera went so far as to blame "hate-monger" Glenn Beck, a "peddler of faith" apparently "cut from the same rotten cloth" as Breivik and 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta.
The Times also noted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was right to warn against "domestic radicals," in the United States:
In the United States, critics have asserted that the intense spotlight on the threat from Islamic militants has unfairly vilified Muslim Americans while dangerously playing down the threat of attacks from other domestic radicals. The author of a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism withdrawn by the department after criticism from conservatives repeated on Sunday his claim that the department had tilted too heavily toward the threat from Islamic militants.
To say that Rep. Peter King's, R-N.Y., hearings on radical Islam or comments posted in the blogosphere played any role in mass murder is not only illogical, but it's incredibly irresponsible. After all, you can read Mein Kampf without feeling compelled to kill Jews. Exposure to controversial opinions does not force someone to act any more than owning a gun compels one to kill.
I would never defend the actions of someone like Breivik -- he's a despicable human being and placing blame on anyone other than him is wrong. Equally wrong, however, is trying to link political disputes to such senseless acts.
Update: Newsbusters also notes how the Times was quick to label Breivik as a "Christian extremist," even though there's little to no evidence that his religious beliefs played any role in his killing. Meanwhile, they balked at identifying "Allahu Akbar!" shouting terrorists as Muslims in the past.