Norway and the rise of “acceptable racism.”
I’m sure many of you watched the scenes taking placed in Norway with horror and rightly so.
Particularly disturbing was the knee jerk reaction, reminiscent of the news coverage following the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma bombings, the continual repetition that the incident had all the characteristics of an Islamist plot. The “gates of Vienna” mindset tirades posted in the comments sections of online coverage (before they apprehended the white blonde suspect) made for particularly infuriating reading; page upon page of ranting amounting to nothing less than an incitement towards a Muslim/Asian Pogrom. This prejudged notion of Muslim involvement lasted right up until the shocked exclamations that the gunman was blonde and of Norwegian appearance. The Daily Express still couldn’t resist putting in a section about Jihadists and cartoons of the prophet Muhammed the next day despite contrary evidence, and The Sun went with the even crasser “Al-Qaeda Massacre, Norway’s 9/11.” This coverage is merely a manifestation of a wider arching problem created by an amalgamation of factors created by politicians, the media and the far right all pursuing their own particular agendas which happen to have a convergence of mutual interest. There is clearly a double standard involved in the reporting of terrorism in the mainstream media largely dependent upon motives and perceived aims. A clear example of this is the coverage of the Tea Party inspired would-be assassin of U.S congresswomen Gabrielle Gifford, Jared Loughner. Despite having clear political affiliations and using means that would be classed as terrorism by even the loosest of definitions applied to Islamic Extremists, he was barely ever described as such. The subsequent coverage followed the paradigm and similar characterisation of Timothy McVeigh, David Copeland (the Soho bomber) and undoubtedly Anders Behring Breivik; that of the insane lone gunman.
There appears to be reluctance in the immediate coverage following the Norway bombing and shooting to call him for what he is, namely a right wing, Christian, conservative terrorist inspired by the resurgence of the far right in Europe and America. Despite clear right wing allegiances the media have persisted in portraying him as an insane individual and shown little will to analyse the underlying causes and factors which drove Breivik to commit these atrocities; such as their own innately Islamophobic and disproportionate news coverage of terrorism plots. Twitter and Facebook posts by Breivik have shown his admiration for the Tea Party movement and advocated a cultural European movement founded upon a similar basis. In his posts he also talks of starting a “cultural defence” street movement largely inspired by our very own EDL with whom he had contact. As anarchists we should be above the exploitation of human suffering in order to gain political brownie points, however there is a clear link between the concessions made to the new forms of “acceptable racism” since 2001 and its tacit acceptance by mainstream culture that has led to a legitimisation of such views which must be pointed out. With so much deference to authority people still often look to mainstream culture and figures to gauge which views are socially acceptable and which ones are not. The platform given to groups such as the EDL and BNP has allowed their lies to become acceptable norms, of which the aforementioned media coverage and continual emphasis on the ethnicity of the perpetrator are just one manifestation. This acceptance has been endorsed by politicians who seek to politically posture as tough by using immigration as a vote winner (See Black Flag Issue 232 “Victims of the political game.”), keep people occupied with banalities and garner support for unpopular foreign policy by dehumanising the “enemy.” With David Cameron even making dangerous speeches such as his infamous “multiculturalism has failed,” speech on the day of a major EDL mobilisation in Luton. Cameron and the Tories (not renowned for their tolerance) have literally handed the far right PR material; parts of the speech were even quoted on National Front literature in the Scottish Elections last May. The media pander to this type of sentiment and even, debatably, cause it in part with their sensationalist stories and even outright lies to sell papers. They then feign ignorance at what could have possibly driven this cultural nationalist to fear for the future of his culture and country so much so that he would resort to such abhorrent acts in an effort to help his country?
Together politicians and the media have created an atmosphere where prejudice sells, which is becoming evident with the far right making gains throughout Europe and creating a popular “European Caliphate” and “demographic time bomb” myth, which is now permeating itself into society as a legitimate view. This Norwegian incident and the attack on Gabrielle Gifford should draw attention to the difference between free speech and incitement to attacks on minority populations and politicians who, meaning well, may be defending multiculturalism. I also hope this will clearly indicate the pitfalls of tolerating bigotry in the name of freedom of speech and act as a catalyst towards the rejection of the edifices of “respectable racism” such as the BNP and EDL. I can already see their counter argument to the idea that Breivik’s actions are a manifestation of the vicious myths and lies they spread: this was one unrepresentative isolated incident, not all nationalists are extremists, the irony of which appears to be lost on nationalists and the far right.