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US Islamophobes Try to Change Subject on Anti-Muslim Norwegian Mass Murderer

Anders Behring Breivik, the man who orchestrated the horrific attacks in Norway on Friday, appeared in court for the first time today, and claimed that he has “two more cells” working in concert with him.

Mr Breivik had earlier said he had acted alone.

Prosecutor Christian Hatlo said police could not rule out that someone else was involved and confirmed an investigation was underway into Mr Breivik’s claims that he had worked in a cell, or group, and that there were two other cells.

Mr Breivik has been charged under the criminal law for acts of terrorism. The charges include the destabilisation of vital functions of society, including government, and causing serious fear in the population.

The judge said that Mr Breivik had admitted carrying out the attacks but had not pleaded guilty to the charges.

Norway has a maximum prison sentence of 21 years, but those deemed to pose a risk to society can be detained longer. Breivik is unlikely ever to leave prison.

The death toll has mercifully declined to 76 from 93, but it’s still a horrific tragedy, “one of the worst mass killings in postwar Europe” according to the New York Times.

Breivik’s manifesto, which showed a hatred toward multicultralism, Muslim infiltration and also women, revealed a noxious strain of European anti-immigrant nationalism, which is mirrored here by Islamophobes in the United States. Predictably, they are engaging in the time-honored tactic of calling for nuance after someone ideologically aligned with them commits an atrocity.

Among the conservative to rush to judgment were Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, and Andrew Breitbart’s The Breitbart website surmised that the attacks could have meant that Norway’s “big Muslim problem” had “just blown up in its face.” Erickson wrote via Twitter: “Terrorist bombing in Oslo. I bet you it was not Lutherans who did it.”

Now that their uninformed and ideologically motivated guesswork has been proven wrong, these same conservatives are adopting the “No True Scotsman” fallacy and claiming that Breivik’s abhorrent behavior was not that of a Christian, but more akin to that of a Muslim.

Erickson writes that while he was wrong, he was nonetheless justified in his assumption because Christians, unlike Muslims, do not commit politically motivated violence:

“With Christians, it is rather rare to see a self-described Christian engage in heinous terrorist acts. In fact, in as much as there is an Arab Street filled with muslims [sic] more often than not cheering on the latest terrorist act of radical Islamists, you will be very hard pressed to find a Christian who does not condemn the act regardless of the faith of the person doing the killing.”

Right-wingers have a concerted strategy when it comes to hyping Muslim extremists. When some facts enter that dispute their pay hypotheses, they tend to put the facts on trial, rather than alter their views.

Charlie Pierce’s spectacular piece reminds us that this could happen here, and in fact has happened – at least thirty times – in the last several years. Right-wing terrorism remains a threat to peace and security. Anger, demonization and the characterization of Muslims – and liberals – as illegitimate is a toxic mix. When it manifests itself as it did in Norway, the bigots who promote the same hate speech here want to drop the subject. They shouldn’t get away with it.

UPDATE: There’s much to admire in Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s reaction to the attack, especially because it was specifically an attack on him and his party.

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David Dayen

David Dayen