The baleful effects of the recent attacks in Norway, where Anders Breivik bombed Oslo’s government district and then gunned down teenagers at a Labour party camp, murdering at least 77 people, have not been limited to that horrific carnage.
For the atrocity has produced a reaction among people on the political Left in Britain, Europe and the U.S. that is in itself shocking and terrifying.
Former Norwegian prime minister and current chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee Thorbjorn Jagland has said that, in response to the violent attacks, David Cameron and other European leaders should use a more ‘cautious’ approach when talking about multiculturalism.
Cameron has said multiculturalism (the doctrine that gives the values of minorities equal status to those of the majority) has failed, and has also talked about ‘Islamist extremism’ as a cause of terrorism.
Jagland, however, said leaders would be ‘playing with fire’ if they continued to use rhetoric that could be exploited by extremists such as Breivik.
This is because Breivik’s so-called manifesto shows that he is violently against mass immigration, multiculturalism and Islamisation — and that he wants the forced repatriation of Muslims from Europe and the murder of all who have promoted multiculturalism.
But to connect such abhorrent ravings with Cameron’s comments is simply grotesque.
First and foremost, this is treating Breivik as if his words deserve to be taken seriously and at face value.
As of now, however, we don’t know whether Breivik is psychotic, a psychopath or under the influence of all the drugs he claims to have taken.
We also don’t know what part, if any, his political views actually played in this atrocity.
After all, since his target was his country’s Labour party one might just as well surmise that he was motivated by hatred of his father, who was a Labour party supporter and who was divorced from Breivik’s mother when the killer was a baby.
In any event, someone who travels to a teenagers’ summer camp and invites them all to gather round so that he can kill them all cannot be considered rational.
Yet the former Norwegian premier is treating Breivik as if he is a political terrorist whose words have the authority of a sane and coherent creed.
Even if he was motivated by hostility to multiculturalism and Islam, it is perverse to suggest that no one should write about these things because some deranged person raving about such ideas has run amok.
It’s a bit like saying no one should express concern about late abortions or animal cruelty because it leads straight to the firebombing of abortion clinics or animal-testing laboratories.
Multiculturalism and Islamic extremism raise entirely legitimate and very serious concerns about defending a culture from attack both from within and from without.
Jagland seems to be cynically exploiting the murder of more than 70 innocents to make a connection which is as obnoxious as it is opportunistic in order to bully into silence those who express such legitimate democratic concerns.
Shockingly, he is merely one of many who are doing so.
As soon as the atrocity happened, people on the Left saw a heaven-sent opportunity to smear mainstream conservative thinkers and writers by making a grossly distorted association between Breivik’s attack and their ideas.
They claimed that anyone on ‘the Right’ who had spoken out against multiculturalism or Islamic extremism was complicit in the atrocity and therefore had a moral duty to stop writing about such things.
To my stupefaction, I have become a principal target of this incendiary witch-hunt, being smeared for having helped provoke the Norway massacre.
One of the first out of the trap was British blogger Sunny Hundal, who delt at length upon two of my articles which had been quoted in Breivik’s purported manifesto and gave the impression that I was a major influence on Breivik’s thinking.
But in Breivik’s 1,500-page diatribe, I was mentioned precisely twice. The first time was a quote from an article in this newspaper about family breakdown.
The second was another article about the revelation by a former civil servant that the previous Labour government had kept the public in the dark about a covert policy of mass immigration.
Breivik made no mention of anything I had written about Muslims, Islamic terrorism or Islamisation.
Moreover, he also mentioned dozens of other conservative or liberal writers and thinkers. Among others, he quoted: Winston Churchill, George Orwell, Mahatma Gandhi, the Labour MP Frank Field, Tory Nicholas Soames, philosopher Roger Scruton, Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Swedish thriller writer Lars Hedegaard.
Oh, and William Shakespeare, as well as the fathers of English liberalism John Stuart Mill and John Locke.
So the fact that Hundal singled me out like this while failing to mention these others (apart from a brief reference to Mr Clarkson) was an egregious smear — which was soon circulating and building up hatred on Twitter and the internet.
Soon, others joined in the hate-fest — even across the Atlantic. In the Toronto Star, columnist Heather Mallick wrote that unlike ‘almost everyone else praised by the killer’, I had not said I was horrified by the atrocity in Norway. Not only that, but whereas everyone else had wept at the murder of schoolchildren, ‘she [Phillips] spits’.
But, on the contrary, I had written on my own website in terms far stronger than many other writers that there could never be any excuse for mass murder.
And the quote from my writing on which she based her ‘spitting’ claim was actually not about the atrocity at all, but about the people using those murders to foment just this kind of hatred.
Norweigan police at Anders Breivik’s farm outside Oslo, Norway
Then there was Seumas Milne in the Guardian — who tried to make the smear stick by insisting that my criticism of the secret policy of using mass immigration to destroy British identity was ‘Breivik’s feeling precisely’.
But the truth is that the outrage at that policy is shared by millions of decent British people. So Milne was in effect smearing not just me, but all those millions by implying that their opinions also formed a ‘continuum’ with Breivik’s actions.
As one Guardian reader commented following Milne’s contemptible attack, the fact that he had deliberately blurred the distinction between reasonable political opinions with which one might disagree and the actions of a terrorist meant he was creating hysteria and polarisation.
Indeed, the result of such incitement has been a veritable tsunami of electronically-generated mob hatred.
Some of the comments about me that the Guardian allowed on its website below Milne’s article were vicious.
And people have been emailing me a steady stream of positively unhinged hatred and bigotry, including comments such as ‘evil witch’, ‘your vile outpourings have substantially contributed to fear, hatred and violence’, and ‘you have blood on your hands’.
Some words undoubtedly do have hateful or violent consequences — but they are by definition hateful or violent words.
Nothing I have ever written falls into either of those categories. On the contrary, I try to defend people against hatred and violence.
I’m always careful, for example, to draw distinctions between individuals and causes, such as the ‘human rights’ agenda, and I have always stressed the distinction between peaceful Muslims and Islamic extremism.
No, it is those who under the cover of accusing me of incendiary writing are themselves inciting hatred.
The claim that ‘blood is on my hands’ can so easily translate into someone seeking my own blood. Heaven forbid that should happen — but if it did, there would be a direct causal link with those who have whipped up this wicked firestorm.
Indeed, those who have exploited the killing of innocents in Norway to provoke such an eruption of distortion, demonisation and irrationality should disgust and alarm all decent people everywhere.