The Norway Horror: Nativism Gone Mad
What can you say about a lone gunman who massacred some six dozen young campers on a peaceful green island in a deep-blue lake in picture-perfect Norway? That he was a monster? Certainly. That he was insane? Questionable. That he feared and resented a surging tide of Islam in Western Europe? Absolutely. That he blamed his country’s liberal government for giving those Muslims a free pass to immigrate and procreate? Yes again, unfortunately.
Self-appointed European savior Anders Breivik is a nativist, possibly the most extreme example of the breed since Hitler. His crime was years in the making, as young Breivik tangled with Muslim gang members in Oslo and watched Mohammed’s crescent rise over entire sections of the Norwegian capital. In some Oslo schools, only a minority of students currently speak Norwegian. Such a sweeping demographic shift over just a few decades has to trigger the inner alarm systems of sensitive individuals, and eventually Anders Breivik had all he could take.
The blond Nordic avenger had read alarmist accounts of the emerging “Eurabia,” the Islamicized Europe that would represent the ultimate triumph of the medieval Caliphate. Europe had turned back the Muslim tide at the gates of Vienna in 1683, but here they were again. In his own land, no less. Breivik’s anger smoldered until he could no longer contain it; he had to act.
Did he venture into Oslo’s Muslim quarter to vent his rage? No, apparently he set off a bomb at a key government building in Oslo, then cleverly masqueraded as a policeman at a camp for the children of liberal Norwegian families — the same liberals who seemed to roll over passively in response to the Muslim incursion. He’d show them.
Am I attempting to justify the wanton massacre of innocent young campers on a summer retreat — an unimaginable, unforgivable rampage that magnifies every parent’s worst nightmare ten times over? Of course not. Am I even trying to justify Breivik’s nativist rage? No, I’m simply exercising my ability to understand where that rage came from. I do understand it, even though I revile the man and his crime.
Unlike the United States, which has long positioned itself as a land of immigrants, European nation-states like Norway grew up around a single ethnic group speaking a single language and practicing a single religion: Christianity. All three of those traditions are eroding now, as Muslim “guest workers” have established permanent colonies throughout Western Europe.
All this demographic change raises a thorny question: should nations be allowed to preserve a modicum of ethnic “purity” that guarantees a future for the genes, language, culture and traditions they’ve nurtured over the centuries? Or does such talk veer too close to the kind of hysterical nationalism championed by a certain infamous mustachioed dictator back in the 1930s?
It doesn’t have to be all or none. I believe that nations have a right and even a duty to preserve their singular identity. You don’t preserve it by committing genocide against the aliens in your midst, or by mowing down dozens of innocent young campers at an island retreat. And unless you’re the United States, you don’t do it by permitting unlimited immigration until your urban communities deteriorate into bastions of sullen and penurious outsiders. Most of Western Europe has been erring in the latter direction, and staunch nativists like Anders Breivik have been driven to rage.
But just how extensive is the ethnic shift in Europe? Will we see Eurabia in our lifetimes, or has someone been jiggling the statistical evidence? There’s no question that alarmists have been inflating the Muslim population trends for dramatic effect. One particularly absurd report claimed that the average Muslim woman in France produced 8.1 children, compared to 1.8 for native French women. In reality, Europe is in no danger of becoming majority-Muslim by mid-century, as commonly feared by the right-wing nativist resistance. Muslim birth rates in Europe are actually dropping, gradually approaching the anemic levels currently mustered by native Europeans.
Still, France is already ten percent Muslim, with larger concentrations in the big cities and a much higher percentage among the young. And there’s no sign of significant assimilation, as the Muslims typically confine themselves to ghettos and preserve their alien ways. When Parisians politely speak of the “youths” in their midst, they’re actually referring to those troublesome Muslim youths.
By contrast, Norway is only three percent Muslim, though the Islamic presence is more visible in and around Oslo. Breivik’s early run-ins with Muslim gangs, coupled with his inflammatory reading and his own florid imagination, combined to produce a monster. Was the man deluded in fearing the rise of an Islamic Europe? Not entirely, but let’s say his fears were greatly exaggerated. Like so many extremists, he apparently confined his reading to sources that fed his prejudices.
Here’s the nub of the problem behind virtually all extremist thinking: these people borrow their ideas almost exclusively from thinkers who think the way they think. They read books written by authors who think the way they think. They watch newscasts by journalists and pundits who think the way they think. They even restrict their social contacts to friends and colleagues who think the way they think. When you have an ideology to protect, you can’t consort with infidels.
The Internet makes it easier than ever to screen out opinions that clash with your own; you simply avoid reading articles from the other side of the ideological tracks. It’s no wonder that relatively unbiased news sources like CNN and Newsweek have been struggling for an audience. We don’t want the truth; we want our own thoughts neatly and persuasively packaged for our consumption.
In these bewildering times, more and more of us crave certainty so we can feel a little more at home in the cosmos. We crave that certainty even if it means becoming a little untethered from reality. So we see legions of lower-middle class Americans, victims of the worst economic downturn in eighty years, swallowing the conservative Kool-Aid and voicing violent opposition to tax hikes for the rich. They’ve been told that taxation is evil and un-American, they believe it, and they cling to that belief as if it were the Rock of Ages.
In Norway, Anders Breivik convinced himself that his native land was under assault by malevolent conquerors, and he reinforced that belief by immersing himself in the literature of hate. In the end it was all he could see. Borrowed ideas supplanted the sights, sounds, textures and aromas of real life; a tranquil, tree-shaded island retreat became a nest of treacherous collaborators. This homicidal ideologue wasn’t killing individuals with families and youthful aspirations. He was killing symbols of liberal thought, and one target was the same as another.