as with everyone else, i'm absolutely gutted about the news in norway. it's appalling attack and a terrible tragedy for the people of that country. i started writing this post last night, but it's such a difficult one to write. so i'm going to apologise in advance if there's anything here that could possibly imply that the people of norway deserve anything less than our full sympathy and support.
there are some things that are bothering me about the way this issue is being reported. it's hardly an original thought for me to point out that the use of the term "madman" to describe the terrorist who carried out these attack is hugely ablist and damaging to those with a mental illness. the conflating of violence with mental illness is not backed by any research anywhere, and perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
more than that, to imply that the man responsible for these horrendous attacks was not fully sane is to absolve him of some of the responsibility for the attacks. it is to deny the deliberate and calculated nature of these attacks, that were well-planned and so sadly efficient. this is not the work of someone who has lost their mind, but of someone with the full use of their faculties and a full understanding of what he intended to achieve:
Mr. Breivik was also believed to have posted a video on Friday summarizing his arguments. In its closing moments, the video depicts Mr. Breivik in military uniform, holding assault weapons. Rarely has a mass murder suspect left so detailed an account of his activities. The manifesto describes in detail his purchase of chemicals, his sometimes ham-handed experiments making explosives and his first successful test detonation of a bomb in a remote location on June 13.
by failing to call these attacks exactly what they are ie a full-scale act of terrorims directed against people with a shared political ideology, we shift away the focus from where it needs to lie. it needs to lie with those groups that mr breivik was associated with and it needs to lie with the people who are creating an environment where a person can feel justified in carrying out such an action.
there is no doubt that the environment in europe has become increasingly anti-immigrant, with an extremely negative focus on muslims. as the new york times points out, this kind of thinking is not just in the private arena, but has become an increasing part of the political environment:
The success of populist parties appealing to a sense of lost national identity has brought criticism of minorities, immigrants and in particular Muslims out of the beer halls and Internet chat rooms and into mainstream politics. While the parties themselves generally do not condone violence, some experts say a climate of hatred in the political discourse has encouraged violent individuals.
... Groups are gaining traction from Hungary to Italy, but it is particularly apparent in northern European countries that long have had liberal immigration policies. The rapid arrival of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants, many of them Muslims, led to a significant backlash in places like Denmark, where the Danish People’s Party has 25 out of 179 seats in Parliament, and the Netherlands, where Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom won 15.5 percent of the vote in the 2010 general election.
... Both the Danish and Dutch right-wing parties are backing precarious minority governments while not directly participating by having ministers, and inching toward mainstream acceptance in the process.
the norwegians were totally undeserving of these attacks. it is a cruel crime against those directly or indirectly affected. what i'm seeing in several comments around the traps is that the norwegians are particularly undeserving victims. i think that's unfair on all those innocent civilians who have suffered from bombings and terrorist attacks around the world. each of those are equally undeserving of the violence that has descended on them. any attempt to mark out degrees of victimhood is repellent. can we not offer our support to the norwegians at this time, without the unnecessary comparisons? they're unhelpful and don't actually indicate any higher degree of concern.
it's hard not to look at this act, in conjunction with other acts of violence happening around the world, and feel a sense of despair at the polarisation of hate groups and their increasing power. how on earth do we counter something like this, and where do we even begin? any attempt to lower the hatred or to encourage a toning down of hate-filled rhetoric is quickly lost in "freedom of speech" arguments. the fact is that hate groups around the world - regardless of religion (or lack thereof), ethnicity, nationality - have always managed to gain a high degree of political success by targetting minorities or some conveniently framed other. despite the incredible violence such a tactic causes, human beings fail to learn from history and we fail to adequately counter this particular tactic.
unfortunately, i don't have any answers in my own mind. if a cure for this kind of political and social illness was possible, then i'm sure it would have been applied by now. all i can do is express my sadness, and ask that people name this act correctly. it's not madness, it is terrorism.