Columns / Discourse / April 18, 2012

Word Politics Corner: When good men do nothing

On July 22, 2011, relatively peaceful Norway was rocked by two attacks — a car bomb in Oslo killing eight people and a shooting at a youth summer camp killing 69 — and now at his trial the killer claims he did it for the defense of his country.
Anders Behring Breivik, in his 1,500 word online manifesto, concerns himself with the evils of multiculturalism and expounds upon his extremist ideologies: Europe belongs to white, Christian people who, in his world, will overtake current governments, make him regent and then create breeding projects.
After posting his “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence” (a fictional account of European resistance to a Muslim takeover) online, Breivik bombed government buildings in Oslo; then a few hours later posed as a police officer at Utøya island’s Labour Party youth camp and opened fire on unarmed minors and adults.
Given his strong opinions, it was no surprise he admitted to his actions, but he claims he is “not guilty.”
Asked in trial, Breivik said he would kill again, Europe was facing a “Muslim takeover” and the Labour Party had to pay the price for making Norway vulnerable to this through its embrace of multiculturalism.
For him, his actions were in the best interest for Norway, and in his own words he deserves to be free and receive a medal. And while he dreams of that, prosecutors have made him undergo various psychiatric evaluations: the first found him criminally insane and then was contested. A newer evaluation is in process.
While his regency does sound off to say the least, his manifesto does not. I am in no way trying to state he is or is not criminally insane. I’m not even a psych major, let alone an expert, but I do want to point out one thing.
Leaving his actions and regency aside, his declaration of independence is … normal. And I mean normal by the standards of far-right parties in Europe.
The declaration (which can be found online) includes: dismantling of the European Union, lower taxes, stronger border control, hostility toward Muslim Europeans and immigrants (deport them), the end of funding to the Palestinian Authority, strict support of Israel, anti-Marxist rhetoric, removing multiculturalism from government and curricular policies, establishing cultural heritage programs, end immigration of nonindigenous peoples and the rejection of Political Correctness.
In the Far-right world, this is conventional. In comments online at various websites he has stated his admiration of the English Defense League (a far-right organization in UK) and his desire to create a Norwegian Defense League, and he’d probably find supporters for that easily. The only things — and they are big things, mind you — that set him apart are his actions on July 22.
Norway has been cautious in airing his views at the trial, though Breivik wants to take the stand to explain himself. He has stated he used the actions to publicize his manifesto and point of view. The fear is that he could incense other like-minded individuals or groups to take up his cause, perhaps to its violent extremes.
Some might argue the question: what is on trial here? Is it the man’s actions or the ideas that led to them? I’m content to say (if he isn’t criminally insane) he should be persecuted for his actions only. At the end of the day, we’re coming back to the same question asked in wars against Al-Qaeda: how do you combat an ideology?
In my view no ideology should be censored, the possibility of sliding down is too great. But should we be giving alternative views or context?
When you’re confronted with issues on the large scale — such as when California Congressman Duncan Hunter was asked if he would support the deportation of natural-born American citizens who are the children of illegal aliens because they lacked American souls — or on the small scale — such as when students at Knox College feel harassed based on a prejudice — how do we act?
Ironically, both Breivik and I come to the same quote, which he featured at the beginning of his manifesto:
As Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Rana Tahir
Rana Tahir is a political columnist for The Knox Student, primarily covering international issues. She will graduate in June 2013 with degrees in political science and creative writing, after which she will attend the University of Denver's publishing institute.

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