From AlterNet, by Bill Berkowitz
“It was a little over a month ago that the Norwegian Islamophobic Christian fundamentalist Anders Behring Breivik, wreaked havoc in Norway, killing 77 and injuring many more, and more than seven months since a bomb planted along the route of a march honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was discovered.
After the initial flurry of reportage, analysis, commentary and punditry, for all intents and purposes the Breivik story has disappeared into the ether that is the American mainstream media.
Maybe it is thus because it happened in far off Norway, maybe it is because our attention span is disastrously truncated, maybe it is because – like in so many of these cases — he has been too easily dismissed as a madman acting alone.
Perhaps, too, the connective tissue between Breivik and homegrown Islamophobes is too hot to handle.
Interrupting the ‘March of Time’
These days, we’ve pivoted on to other things: the debt-ceiling fiasco; the daily vicissitudes of the stock market; anguish over more U.S. troops being killed in Afghanistan and the increasing carnage in Iraq; Rupert Murdoch’s serial scandals; Rick Perry’s prayer-fest followed by his celebrated tossing of his hat into the Republican presidential ring; and, of course, the devastation of Hurricane Irene.
As Keith Olbermann exclaims on his nightly “Countdown” program at the end of the zany videos segment; “Time Marches On.”
The Spokane syndrome
In a engrossing essay in the August issue of Esquire titled “The Bomb That Didn’t Go Off”, Charles P. Pierce interrupts the march of time, hopefully for more than a short rest-bit as he revisits the site of a bomb that didn’t explode. Pierce takes a close look at the events of January 17, in Spokane, Washington, and places them within the borders of the question: Why has a series of right-wing-initiated violent actions in the U.S., including bombings, plans for bombings, and assassinations, have not gotten the attention they deserve?
To recap: On January 17, a bomb was discovered on a “bench in the corner of a downtown parking lot at the intersection of Washington Street and Main Avenue,” a spot that was on the route of the hundreds of marchers expected to take part in the annual Martin Luther King Day celebration.
The bomb was discovered by “three maintenance workers [who] were sprucing up the perimeter of the parking lot at Washington and Main, shining up the route of the march.” Police came, the area was cordoned off and evacuated, the bomb, that was discovered to be an IED, was robotically disarmed, the march was re-routed; no bomb went off, no one was hurt. Eventually, Kevin Harpham was arrested and accused of planting the bomb.
And, as the Reverend Percy Happy Watkins, who has delivered a reenactment of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Spokane for twenty-five years or so, pointed out: “We just forgot about it, that’s what we always do.”
Pierce writes: “That the events of January 17 largely have faded from the news has nothing to do with luck at all. That is all human agency – how a fragmented country gathers the pieces of an event like this and tries to construct from them, not necessarily the truth of what happened, but a story that the country can live with, one more fragment among dozens of others that the country has remembered to forget.”
As we move deeper into an age of misinformation, disinformation, and superfluous information, maintaining our collective memory will more and more depend on honest information brokers; storytellers, journalists, investigative reporters who pursue a story with a passion and hunger for truth.
Circling back to Breivik
Thanks to some heady research and reporting by Jason Boog of GalleyCat (“The First Word on the Book Publishing Industry”) and others, we have learned that in his 1,500 page manifesto titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence Breivik, the Norwegian Christian fundamentalist accused of killing 77 people in a car bombing and the subsequent murder spree at a youth camp, had “outlined plans for attacking writers, journalists and literature professors.”
Breivik, who has claimed that there were more people involved in his actions and who is currently being held in isolation, suggested that “revolutionaries consider attacking both ‘literature conferences and festivals’ and ‘annual gatherings for journalists,'” as they appeared to be soft targets.
According to Boog, Breivik wrote in his manifesto that: “in Norway, there is an annual gathering for critical and investigative press where the most notable journalists/editors from all the nations media/news companies attend … The conference lasts for 2 days and is usually organized at a larger hotel/conference center. Security is light or non-existent making the conference a perfect target.”
He also earmarked literary festivals as being target rich environments: “This is where many cultural Marxist/PC authors … meet and socialise. Prioritised target groups make out the bulk of the participants who attend certain literature conferences and festivals: Writers (90%+ of these individuals support multiculturalism and usually portray their world view through their works), editors and journalists in cultural Marxist/multiculturalist publications, [and] a majority of individuals related to various “cultural Marxist/politically correct” cultural settings and organisations.”
Boog pointed out that Breivik accused authors and academics, including Georg Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci, Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno, of spreading political correctness and multiculturalism: “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.”
Seeming to take a page from Lynne Cheney’s National Association of Scholars, Breivik claimed that college reading lists were also particularly suspect: “Unfortunately, that has not stopped the cultural critics from indoctrinating this new generation in feminist interpretation, Marxist philosophy and so-called ‘queer theory.’ Requirements for reading Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and other dead white males are disappearing, to be replaced by options to take studies in ‘The Roles of Women in the Renaissance’ (an excuse to lament the sexism of the past) or ‘The Bible as Literature’ (a course designed to denigrate the Bible as cleverly crafted fiction instead of God’s truth). The reliable saviour of the intelligentsia is the common man and his common sense.”
If Breivik’s prolix rambling sounds mad, that is because there may be madness present. But, does any of his toxic notions sound madder that some of Ann Coulter’s book titles (Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right), a typical headline at Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugged website, the Islamophobic writings of Ryan Mauro, or the radio stylings of the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer?
As Charles Pierce pointed out in his Esquire piece about the incident in Spokane, “A political act of madness is still a political act. We use the madness to separate the events so that we don’t have to recognize the politics they have in common. The madness of each individual act enables us to distance ourselves from the politics that burn under the polite society we’ve created like a fuse looking for tinder, like a bag in search of a bench.”