Forward Thinking

Does Oslo Terror Indict Rightists? Did Unabomber Indict Al Gore?

By J.J. Goldberg

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Anders Behring Breivik leaves the courthouse on July 25

Ross Douthat, conservative-in-residence on the New York Times’ Op-Ed, makes an important cautionary point in his Sunday July 24 column, “A Right-Wing Monster,” about the surge of progressive comment citing the Norway massacre as an indictment of the New Right of Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy (and the House Republicans and Yisrael Beiteinu, I might add) with their anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner, anti-multiculturalist ideology. That’s no more legitimate, Douthat argues, than tying the environmental terrorism of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski to Al Gore:

For many years, a quiz entitled “Al Gore or the Unabomber?” circulated on conservative Web sites. The quiz juxtaposed passages from the former vice president’s eco-manifesto “Earth in the Balance” with quotes from Theodore Kaczynski’s critiques of industrial civilization and asked the reader to guess which writer was which. …

Enterprising left-wing bloggers have already begun to play a similar game with Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian man who apparently justified last week’s mass murder of helpless teenage campers with a 1,500-page “compendium” calling for a right-wing revolution against Europe’s ruling class. Judging by the manifesto’s contents, Breivik has roughly the same relationship to the cultural right that Kaczynski had to certain strains of environmentalism. The darkest aspects of his ideology belong strictly to the neo-fascist fringe. But many of his beliefs and arguments echo the rhetoric of mainstream cultural conservatives, in Europe and America alike. …

How should European conservatives react? Not with the pretense that there’s somehow no connection whatsoever between Breivik’s extremism and the broader continental right. While his crimes should be denounced and disowned, their ideological pedigree has to be admitted.

But this doesn’t mean that conservatives need to surrender their convictions. The horror in Norway no more discredits [Angela] Merkel’s views on Muslim assimilation than Ted Kaczynski’s bombs discredited Al Gore’s views on the dark side of industrialization. …


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