The Breivik Threat

Anne Applebaum has a smart piece today about something that’s tough to write about without sounding glib. If you question the legitimacy of your opponents, and you demonize them, then isn’t the natural extension of that to pick up a gun and start shooting.

In contemporary America, we also have people who are—and I am inventing this word here—illegitimists: They believe that the president of the United States is illegitimately elected, or that the country is ruled by a cabal that is in turn controlled by some other sinister force or forces. In the past, left-wing illegitimists were quite common, and in fact Marxism is a classic, paranoid version of this creed. The illegitimist Marxist argument goes like this: Bourgeois democracy is a sham; bourgeois politicians and the bourgeois newspapers are tools of shadowy financial interests. The entire system deserves to be overthrown—and if a few people die in the course of the revolution, it’s all for a good cause. Though not every Western Marxist advocated violence, this is certainly the kind of argument that motivated the Weathermen, the Baader-Meinhof gang, and other far-left American and European terrorists of the past.

We have a number of safety valves that Europeans don’t have. One thing about our politics that the “Third Party now!” schmucks don’t factor in is that it’s good to have a party of the left that absorbs radical elements and a party of the right that does the same. The anti-government wave in this country has, blessedly, mostly taken the form of increased support for Republicans. So has discomfort with Islam. For the most part. Anti-Islam rhetoric is still far more illegitimist than, say, anti-Obama rhetoric. This is why the Stop Islamicization of Europe/America crowd so worries the exiles, like Charles Johnson of LGF.

“I’m absolutely horrified at this,” Johnson told me over e-mail yesterday. “It’s worse than my worst fear of what might happen. Sure, [Breivik] would have found justification no matter what, but the fact is that he found justification in the writings of the ‘counter-jihad’ blogosphere. He was an admirer of those people, not just a reader. He saw them as heroes. Breivik’s the only one who’s directly responsible, of course, but some of the blame for creating this atmosphere of paranoid anti-Muslim hysteria has to go to Geller, Spencer, and their fellow travelers. It’s not as if people haven’t been predicting something like this for years. It gives me no happiness to say it, but my warnings have turned out to be more accurate than I ever would have wanted.”