Political violence is inimical to the political process and changes it outside of its normal civic parameters, Hannah Arendt writes in the book by that very name: Political violence.
That is the awesome realization that comes to mind considering what Anders Behring Breivik did. He not only committed a heinous crime, his crime will affect the political process in Norway and a lot of other countries. That is a sinister truth.
Realization of this threat may lessen its impact.
Behring Breivik resembles the jihadists he purportedly opposed. The methods are the message.
Like the 9/11 suicide bombers, who also saw themselves as knights, he takes history into his own hands, acting like a god and destroyer.
The powers that be, i.e. the media, commentators, politcians try to exorcise the demon by calling it hate. But Behring Breivik was dabbling in some of the fundamental questions of our time. Exorcising those questions will not make them go away.
Hate is a word that pales beside the enormity of what Behring Breivik did. He tried to change history, just like the 9/11 bombers, by extreme violence and gruesomeness.
What is striking in his writings is not first and foremost hate, which is usually connected to emotions. Feelings are not predominant, but plenty of cold logic. Behring Breivik has assembled a theory of history and feels obligated to act on its behalf. It is megalomania on an epic scale.
People are truly frightened by this spectacle and rightfully so. In the Middle East such persons wield state power and strive to acquire nuclear bombs.
Those persons and forces think of violence as a legitimate tool, not constrained violence as executed by a legal state, but unrestrained violence against civilians. That is what was let loose in Europe in the 20th century. Now modern terror are replicating this threat.
In an age of technology one person can destroy thousands of lives and communicate his acts to the whole world. What was lacking to conform to the jihadist picture was a testament and a video. Now we have both.
One should not be relieved that this act was committed by a Norwegian and not an islamist, in the sense that this is a see-saw, understanding it as a zero-sum game. That is a dangerous political construct.
Terror is threatening the political process whoever is perpetrating it. Any attempt to utilize this for political gains, by blaming political opponents and smearing them, is playing into the terrorists hands.
Violence and mass terror as Friday’s acts certainly were will affect the politial process. But how? A heavy responsbility weighs on the shoulders of those who wield media and political power. There is already a tendency to play the blame game accusing websites of fomenting hate crimes.
There certainly are a few hate-driven websites, but they have little traffic. People tire of them quickly. Others have a wider audience because they present genuine, serious articles and news stories and give room for debate. Document.no has attempted to fill such a role in Norway.
One should not underestimate people’s common sense. It is simply not the case that hate draws an audience.
But there is a case to be made that a stifling climate in main-stream media elicits frustration and anger amongst many. As one can easily observe this anger is spewing out from comments in online papers. The editors employ «professional» firms who vet their comments. Major Norwegian and Swedish papers are employing a company in Varberg, Sweden, who moderate their readers’ comments, thus placing an important part of their communication with readers in other people’s hands. To me that seems like a betrayal of the contract that implicitly exists between editors and public.
A lot of people can tell frustrating tales of being censored or having totally normal communications removed, simply because they contained words or expressions that at the time were considered unacceptable.
There is every reason to fear that this paranoia will gain momentum after 22/7 in Norway. People are afraid and susecptible to what they are being told about who is dangerous.
But legitimate political debate cannot be banished without serious political repercussions.
USA and Europe are undergoing major changes and are in the thick of a debt crisis that will affect all of society. There are fundamental conflicts that need to be solved in a democratic way. That presupposes an open debate.