A vile logic to Anders Breivik’s choice of target

A vile logic to Anders Breivik's choice of target
A vile logic to Anders Breivik’s choice of target

In Anders Behring Breivik’s ideological self-justification as well as in reactions to his murderous act there are things that should make us think. The manifesto of this Christian “Marxist hunter” who killed more than 70 people in Norway is precisely not a case of a deranged man’s rambling; it is simply a consequent exposition of “Europe’s crisis” which serves as the (more or less) implicit foundation of the rising anti-immigrant populism – its very inconsistencies are symptomatic of the inner contradictions of this view.

The first thing that sticks out is how Breivik constructs his enemy: the combination of three elements (Marxism, multiculturalism and Islamism), each of which belongs to a different political space: the Marxist radical left, multiculturalist liberalism, Islamic religious fundamentalism. The old fascist habit of attributing to the enemy mutually exclusive features (“Bolshevik-plutocratic Jewish plot” – Bolshevik radical left, plutocratic capitalism, ethnic-religious identity) returns here in a new guise.

Even more indicative is the way Breivik’s self-designation shuffles the cards of radical rightist ideology. Breivik advocates Christianity, but remains a secular agnostic: Christianity is for him merely a cultural construct to oppose Islam. He is anti-feminist and thinks women should be discouraged from pursuing higher education; but he favours a “secular” society, supports abortion and declares himself pro-gay.

His predecessor in this respect was Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch rightist populist politician who was killed in early May 2002, two weeks before elections in which he was expected to gain one fifth of the votes. Fortuyn was a paradoxical figure: a rightist populist whose personal features and even opinions (most of them) were almost perfectly “politically correct”. He was gay, had good personal relations with many immigrants, displayed an innate sense of irony – in short, he was a good tolerant liberal with regard to everything except his basic stance towards Muslim immigrants.

[Extract. Appeared in The Guardian on August 8th 2011.]

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