"Before beginning our Crusade, we must do our duty by decimating cultural Marxism."
This, reportedly, is one of the statements made by Anders Behring Breivik in a video explaining the horrific shootings in Norway on the weekend. Anyone dismissing the terrorist as "a lone madman" should think about that statement, because it reveals the calculation behind Breivik’s actions. The words certainly did not originate in the mind of the terrorist, but were planted there with the help of poisonous political discourses which have enthusiastic proponents here in Australia.
It is this statement that explains the choice of the terrorist’s targets: the offices of the Labour party government, and the youth camp for young members and children of the Labour Party at Utoya island. These were no indiscriminate acts, but rather calculated acts of political terror aimed at the political Left by a person who saw himself as a member of the political Right. Breivik is the manifestation not of merely of personal insanity, but of an increasingly toxic political culture plagued globally by incivility and extremist rhetoric.
As soon as it became known on Sunday that the terrorist was not a Muslim immigrant — as everyone had assumed — but instead a "tall blonde man", the readers of conservative blogs went into overdrive. Many justified and apologised for the atrocity. "The dog is biting back," was an all too common refrain. Do not believe the claims of Andrew Bolt and his ilk to be moderates any more than you would believe the claims of radical clerics who disown their followers. They fan the flames, reap the monetary reward, and then plead innocence when it all blows up in our faces.
Yet politicians and commentators who trade off fear should take some responsibility for the consequences of their fear mongering. The world is a big scary place to a lot of people, but it is nowhere near as terrifying as the prophets of doom would have us believe.
According to the Right, we are all about to be engulfed in a civilisational war where we will all be forced to convert to Islam and live by Sharia law. According to the Left, we are all about to burn thanks to unchecked global warming. If you believe the hyperbole, one side of politics sees western civilisation being destroyed, the other sees life on Earth under threat. Under these circumstances, we should not be surprised by political violence. In fact, we should be surprised that there is not more of it.
It’s also true that one side of politics currently benefits from and deploys more inflammatory rhetoric and chaos than the other. Sadly its effectiveness is reflected in their polling. Paul Keating’s encapsulation of Abbott’s strategy as saying "Give me the job or I’ll wreck the place" sums it up. We have a Right who delights in hyperbole and shock value as much as the Tea Party in America and the far Right in Europe do. In Quadrant magazine in March this year, Hal G.P. Colebatch attacked "Western nihilist[s]or liberal extremist[s]" whose "program of the modern world is to kill Christ" through "postmodernist death-warrants": "Newton, Einstein and Planck are on the list for liquidation along with Confucius, Dante, Shakespeare and Mozart."
Talk of death-warrants, liquidation and killing Christ is the kind of deliberately provocative language with which Quadrant and other right-wing forums are awash. If the Left was going to stop me reading Dante or listening to Mozart, I would be on the barricades too — but of course, no one is doing any such thing.
Colebatch warns, without any evidence, of the "spiral of falling living standards" that will be unleashed upon the West by these liberal and green nihilists. Bolt cautions his readers that "Global warming extremists will turn off your lights". Another right-wing blogger in New Zealand strikes a typical note in condemning "the damn Progressives, who have been fouling our civilisation now for five decades or more".
You don’t have to listen to the pundits of the Right and their followers for long before you hear that the West will be de-industrialised as well as converted to Islam. According to the opponents of "Cultural Marxism", the Left is in league with the Muslims to "kill" Christianity and usher in a new age of One World Government under the Prophet Muhammad.
It would be no surprise if the readers of such inane commentary were to include Breiviks-in-the-making who cower in the corners of their lounge rooms afraid of the coming of Sharia law and headscarves. In fact, pundits like Bolt are masters of sowing fear and indignation among their followers — and then threatening to unleash that anger. It is the old Geoffrey Blainey argument: if you dare to dismantle White Australia, then White Australians will riot in the streets. Keating’s description of Abbott applies to the commentators too.
Far from defending either liberty or conservative values in any sense, too much of this class of commentary is a tacit — and sometimes open — apology for violence.
Of course, we can never know what people like Osama bin Laden or Anders Breivik or Timothy McVeigh would have done had they not been inspired by their anti-liberal ideology. But we do know what they did with the tools they were given. The people who make those tools should think hard about what they are being used for. The mainstream media could do more to critique extreme claims — so that extremists are not given the credibility and coverage they currently enjoy. Accusing the Left and Muslims of being in a vast conspiracy to destroy Western civilisation may provide titillation to members of the right-wing political parties, but it sows fear among people who have no reason to fear at all.
After all, no-one has produced any evidence of a vast Nazi-Christian or Marxist-Muslim conspiracy to destroy civilisation or life on Earth — it’s just, sadly, our sense of proportion and reason that are under threat.
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