Breivik embodies the intersection between rightist populism and liberal political correctness

The philosopher, Slavoj Žižek, writes:

In Anders Behring Breivik’s ideological self-justification as well as in reactions to his murderous act there are things that should make us think. The manifesto of this Christian “Marxist hunter” who killed more than 70 people in Norway is precisely not a case of a deranged man’s rambling; it is simply a consequent exposition of “Europe’s crisis” which serves as the (more or less) implicit foundation of the rising anti-immigrant populism – its very inconsistencies are symptomatic of the inner contradictions of this view.

The first thing that sticks out is how Breivik constructs his enemy: the combination of three elements (Marxism, multiculturalism and Islamism), each of which belongs to a different political space: the Marxist radical left, multiculturalist liberalism, Islamic religious fundamentalism. The old fascist habit of attributing to the enemy mutually exclusive features (“Bolshevik-plutocratic Jewish plot” – Bolshevik radical left, plutocratic capitalism, ethnic-religious identity) returns here in a new guise.

Even more indicative is the way Breivik’s self-designation shuffles the cards of radical rightist ideology. Breivik advocates Christianity, but remains a secular agnostic: Christianity is for him merely a cultural construct to oppose Islam. He is anti-feminist and thinks women should be discouraged from pursuing higher education; but he favours a “secular” society, supports abortion and declares himself pro-gay.

His predecessor in this respect was Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch rightist populist politician who was killed in early May 2002, two weeks before elections in which he was expected to gain one fifth of the votes. Fortuyn was a paradoxical figure: a rightist populist whose personal features and even opinions (most of them) were almost perfectly “politically correct”. He was gay, had good personal relations with many immigrants, displayed an innate sense of irony – in short, he was a good tolerant liberal with regard to everything except his basic stance towards Muslim immigrants.

What Fortuyn embodied was thus the intersection between rightist populism and liberal political correctness. Indeed, he was the living proof that the opposition between rightist populism and liberal tolerance is a false one, that we are dealing with two sides of the same coin: ie we can have a racism which rejects the other with the argument that it is racist.

Furthermore, Breivik combines Nazi features (also in details – for example, his sympathy for Saga, the Swedish pro-Nazi folk singer) with a hatred of Hitler: one of his heroes is Max Manus, the leader of the Norway anti-Nazi resistance. Breivik is not so much racist as anti-Muslim: all his hatred is focused on the Muslim threat.

And, last but not least, Breivik is antisemitic but pro-Israel, as the state of Israel is the first line of defence against the Muslim expansion – he even wants to see the Jerusalem temple rebuilt. His view is that Jews are OK as long as there aren’t too many of them – or, as he wrote in his manifesto: “There is no Jewish problem in western Europe (with the exception of the UK and France) as we only have 1 million in western Europe, whereas 800,000 out of these 1 million live in France and the UK. The US, on the other hand, with more than 6 million Jews (600% more than Europe) actually has a considerable Jewish problem.” He realises the ultimate paradox of a Zionist Nazi – how is this possible?

A key is provided by the reactions of the European right to Breivik’s attack: its mantra was that in condemning his murderous act, we should not forget that he addressed “legitimate concerns about genuine problems” – mainstream politics is failing to address the corrosion of Europe by Islamicisation and multiculturalism, or, to quote the Jerusalem Post, we should use the Oslo tragedy “as an opportunity to seriously re-evaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere”. The newspaper has since apologised for this editorial. (Incidentally, we are yet to hear a similar interpretation of the Palestinian acts of terror, something like “these acts of terror should serve as an opportunity to re-evaluate Israeli politics”.)

A reference to Israel is, of course, implicit in this evaluation: a “multicultural” Israel has no chance to survive; apartheid is the only realistic option. The price for this properly perverse Zionist-rightist pact is that, in order to justify the claim to Palestine, one has to acknowledge retroactively the line of argumentation which was previously, in earlier European history, used against the Jews: the implicit deal is “we are ready to acknowledge your intolerance towards other cultures in your midst if you acknowledge our right not to tolerate Palestinians in our midst”.

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