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Oslo Mass Murderer Andrew Breivik and the American Far Right

Laurie Essig teaches at Middlebury College and is the author of American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards and Our Quest for Perfection. Essig writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education's Brainstorm Blog, where this post originally appeared.

Tea_partyYesterday people started sending me emails about how Andrew (Anders) Breivik, the Oslo mass murderer, had specifically targeted left-wing journalists and professors as well as feminists in his 1,000 page manifesto, 2083, A European Declaration of Independence.

Let me be clear. The real motivation behind Breivik’s attack was racism and xenophobia, pure and simple. But he saw the problem as not the Other coming to Europe, but Europeans letting the Other in. In particular, Breivik blamed “cultural marxism” and “feminism” for diminishing the ability of Europeans to create strong nationalist movements and strong men that would keep the Other out of Europe in the first place.

Galleycat ran a piece about how Breivik singled out left-wing cultural elites. As Breivik wrote

The thing is that many of our political and cultural elites, including politicians, NGO leaders, university professors/lecturers, writers, journalists and editors – the individuals making up the majority of the so called category A and B traitors, knows exactly what they are doing. They know that they are contributing to a process of indirect cultural and demographical genocide and they need to be held accountable for their actions.

And as Mona Willis Aronowitz, the daughter of feminist Ellen Willis (and Marxian scholar Stanley Aronowitz) was shocked to find out, Breivik targeted her mother by name. Willis Aronowitz wrote over at Good that Breivik was motivated by a real misogyny that played out as anti-feminism.

Breivik mentions (my mother) in the same breath as Simone de Beauvoir (go Mama!) and blames them for the “skyrocketing divorce rates” and “plummeting birth rates” that created a “cultural and demographic vacuum” in the West. According to Breivik, this vacuum led directly to the Islamic takeover he cited as justification for Friday’s bombing and shooting spree.

After reading more about Breivik’s thinking,  it started to sound depressingly familiar and so I started to read the damn thing. Yes, you can read it online.  And there is much to find disturbing. First and foremost, Breivik is clearly not alone. In fact, he mentions distributing the manifesto to his 7,000 Facebook friends and their friends. Second, Breivik is not stupid. The manifesto is logical (to the point of psychosis), practical, offers all sorts of useful advice on how to carry out the revolution throughout Europe, and extremely well-written despite English being Breivik’s second language. And third, as I suspected, there is absolutely nothing unusual about Breivik’s thinking because it is exactly like the far-right thinking in this country.

The thinking goes like this: they are at war because their white and male privilege are being dismantled by a host of demons from Marxists and socialists to feminists and queers. They must join together with other white men and make war—literally, with lots of weapons—against these groups or see their world destroyed.

It is the exact same thinking that links the “Mexican threat” to the “socialist government of Obama” to the “Muslim threat” to “castrating feminist bitches”  to the “Ivory Tower” to “left-wing journalists.”

In fact, what I read of the Manifesto  sounds a lot like the far-right hate mail and, at times, death threats that arrive in my inbox on a regular basis. How often have I received notice that “after the revolution you will be shot first” because I am a “traitor”? Enough times that I mostly ignore these threats.  In other words, Breivik’s philosophy is a lot like what many (white and male) people seem to be thinking here.

The only real questions that remain are:

Why do these men have such easy access to weapons?

Will our national security forces, so obsessed with looking for terrorism from without, begin to realize that some of the red-blooded American (or Norwegian) men who love God, country, and tradition so much that they are willing to threaten to kill all who disagree are in fact armed and dangerous?