- - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

By Bruce Bawer
Broadside e-books, $2.99, 266 KB

On the morning of July 22, 2011, an explosion rocked the streets of Oslo. A car bomb parked close to the office of the prime minister went off, killing eight and injuring dozens. If that was the worst thing that had happened that day, Norwegians would have been lucky.

They weren’t, of course. After the explosion, a man dressed as a police officer came by ferry to the island of Utoya, about a half-hour west of Oslo. It is the site of the summer camp for a Labor Party youth organization, where the children of the folks who run the country learn and play. The man said he had come to safeguard them after the explosion, but he seemed sketchy and carried a huge gun that didn’t look at all like police issue. He quickly opened fire. He yelled “hurray!” and “bullseye!” and “got you!” as he killed 69 unarmed children and injured 66 more.

That man, we now know, was Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old “right-wing extremist” and a monster. Hours before the attacks, he emailed a “manifesto” to about 1,000 people that prints out to roughly 1,500 pages. The document draws extensively on outside material, quoting and plagiarizing freely. It spells out both the reason for and the method of the attacks. Breivik’s concerns were multiculturalism, Islam and “cultural Marxism.” Rather than attack Muslims, he decided to strike the root, by targeting the current and future sponsors of Norway’s policies.

This created a serious problem for Bruce Bawer, which he explores at length in his new e-book “The New Quislings: How the International Left Used the Oslo Massacre to Silence Debate About Islam.” It became clear rather quickly that Breivik had read deeply in the literature that criticizes unreconstructed Islam and multiculturalism in Europe and, moreover, that he had read Mr. Bawer’s writings. Breivik had been a regular commenter on a website about “immigration and related issues” called Document.no, which quickly collected all of his writings together for public consumption.

Mr. Bawer writes, “The first thing I did was to search Breivik’s comments … for my name. It came up three times.” These mentions were not slashing but neither were they entirely positive. In one, Breivik wrote of a possible alliance between anti-Islamists and cultural conservatives, “Bawer is probably not the right person to work as a bridge-builder. He is a liberal anti-jihadist and not a cultural conservative in many areas. I have my suspicions that he is TOO paranoid. (I am thinking of his homosexual orientation.) It can seem that he fears that ‘cultural conservatives’ will be become a threat to homosexuals in the future.”

For whatever reason, the author doesn’t fill in the necessary background here. His relationship to conservatism is indeed a fraught one. In the early 1990s, he quit as a critic at the American Spectator over a suggestion that he change one sentence in a review that asserted the absolute equality of homosexual and straight relationships. He broke with the New Criterion when the magazine refused to spike a piece he considered gay bashing.

He moved to Amsterdam in the late ‘90s, and then Norway, because he found it easier to live in Europe as an openly gay man. But then he discovered the purported dark side of European tolerance. European multiculturalism welcomes unreconstructed Muslims, and Islam is not terribly tolerant of gays or feminists. Moreover, he found that multiculturalists really hate it when you point out that official toleration can lead to grotesque outcomes.

Norway’s response to Breivik’s attacks was more multiculturalism, a good helping of militant anti-racism and broad hints that this free speech business may have gone too far. Serious critics of the country’s policies had been tarred by association with Breivik, and the voters provided the feathers. The Progress Party, the country’s classical liberal party which had questioned some aspects of Norwegian immigration policy, came in for a rhetorical and electoral drubbing.

Mr. Bawer insists that Breivik was “mad” and that his attacks do not invalidate serious arguments against multiculturalism. He labels the country’s ruling class “Quislings,” after Vidkun Quisling, the official who helped to hand the country over the Nazis and the Jews over to the gas chambers during World War II.

“The New Quislings,” he writes, “similarly welcome a new breed of totalitarian occupiers - and seek to impose their own regime of ideological orthodoxy, ruthlessly using every tool at their disposal to silence their critics.” Mr. Bawer confesses that he means to provoke with this analogy. I’m guessing he’s succeeded beyond all measure.

Jeremy Lott, editor of Real Clear Books and Real Clear Religion, is writing a book about death.

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