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August 01st 2011 print

Merv Bendle

The myth of right-wing terrorism

The campaign by the left to depict the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, as a right-wing Christian fundamentalist is intensifying and becoming increasingly successful.


The campaign by the left to depict the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, as a right-wing Christian fundamentalist is intensifying and becoming increasingly successful.


A Google search for ‘Breivik, right-wing’ produces 2.4 million results; ‘Breivik, Christian’, 3.1 million results; and ‘Breivik, fundamentalist’, 950,000 results; while even the omnibus appellation, ‘Breivik, right-wing, Christian, fundamentalist’, scores 503,000.

These are phenomenal results given that the atrocities were only committed a week ago and that before that Breivik himself was virtually unknown, and no assessment whatsoever existed of his political and religious associations. And yet already Breivik is being described as a Christian Fascist or ‘Christofascist’, completing the identification of Christianity with far-right political extremism and terrorist violence.

Almost all of these several million evaluations are based on Breivik’s now infamous 1518 page ‘manifesto’, 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence, a document that seems to be most accurately described as a rag-bag of quotes, notes, ramblings, observations, and cut-and-paste passages taken from writers he has noticed on-line and with whom he believes he agrees.  

This makes it possible for weekend tabloids like the Sunday Mail (31/7) to run a three page feature article about Breivik’s ravings, along with pictures of John Howard, Peter Costello, Cardinal George Pell, and Keith Windschuttle running across the top of the pages along with Breivik’s endorsement of their views, implying their guilt by association.

It also makes it possible for the Courier-Mail (30/7) to run another feature article, declaring “Breivik a trigger for right-wing militants”. This article asks “whether Breivik’s bloodbath will spark copycat attacks from other misfits within Europe’s networks of ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis, or perhaps in the US where anger among anti-government, pro-gun militia groups is at boiling point”. It quotes terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna’s observation that Breivik intended his heinous acts to be “like a right-wing 9/11”, triggering a wave of further right-wing attacks, “with cascading effects” across Europe and the US. He believes that Breivik will be a hero for such groups, who will seek out heroic images of him, perhaps in much the same way that the left adopted the famous image of Che Guevara, and Islamists treat images of Osama bin Laden as iconic.

Obviously, the primary aim of this campaign is to damn an entire pantheon of right-wing, conservative, moderate liberal, and Christian people and their ideas and values by associating them with Breivik. This has provoked rigorous and energetic rebuttals from some of these targets, such as Windschuttle, and Andrew Bolt. It has also drawn the editorial attention of The Weekend Australian (30/7). Nevertheless, very great damage has been done, and the idea that Breivik is a representative right-wing Christian fundamentalist has now become firmly embedded in the collective consciousness, as I predicted a week ago (“Explaining Oslo: Suspicions & Scenarios”, Quadrant Online, July 25, 2011).

However, the campaign has another aim, and this is to promote the idea that Europe and the US, and even Australia, are now facing the threat of ‘right-wing terrorism’, possibly even on the scale of the terrorist war against the West being waged by al Qaeda. If this idea were to take hold it would deflect media and public attention away from al Qaeda and its affiliates, divert considerable resources from the war on terror, and provide a significant propaganda victory for global Islamism at a time when it is gearing up to hijack the ‘Arab Spring’ movements for democracy in North Africa and the Middle-East in order to impose Taliban-style Islamist theocracies as the basis for a pan-Islamic Caliphate.

Historically, there exists no foundation at all for the proposition that a widespread right-wing terrorist movement is about to emerge. In the academic study of terrorism it is usual to break its modern history up into four waves. These can be briefly listed as follows: Wave 1: 1879-1914: Anarchist/Nationalist Terrorism – e.g., The People’s Will in Russia. Wave 2: 1920s-1960s:            Anti-Colonialist Terrorism – e.g., the IRA in Ireland, and the FLN in Algeria. Wave 3: 1960s-1980s: International Terrorism – e.g., the Red Army, Red Brigades, PLO. Wave 4: Since 1979: Religious Terrorism (predominantly Muslim) – e.g., al-Qaeda, HAMAS.

In none of these waves of terrorism, over 150 years, have right-wing groups had a significant or even identifiable presence. In the first three waves, the dominant ideologies were on the far-left, involving various forms of collectivist anarchism and socialism, combined with nationalism and anti-colonialism, which came to be viewed in terms of Marxism-Leninism and involved an allegiance to the communist bloc, led by the Soviet Union and/or Communist China, which portrayed themselves as committed (and rival) supporters of ‘national liberation movements’, on whose behalf much of the terrorism was carried out throughout this period.

The present wave of terrorism, led by Islamist and Jihadist groups, has adopted the Marxist-Leninist analysis of global politics that prevailed during the period of international terrorism, and melded this to its own form of Salafism or fundamentalist Islam. It is supported with massive financial and material resources provided predominately by Saudi Arabia and Iran, in what is emerging as a ‘war for the soul of Islam’.

In comparison, right-wing terrorism has a very minor presence on a global scale and has nothing even remotely like the financial and logistical networks that supported international and religious terrorism. Where right-wing individuals or cells do emerge, as with Timothy McVeigh or Breivik, they appear to be lone-wolf terrorists with little or no operational or ideological infrastructure to support them, and their attacks are completely counter-productive to the causes they profess to be supporting. (This leaves open the possibility that Breivik was identified and cultivated by an organization with an interest in discrediting precisely the ideas Breivik has become so quickly associated with.)

Reference is frequently made to neo-Nazis in Europe and to the militia movement in the US, however these have carried out very few terrorist attacks, and they have also been thoroughly penetrated by security and intelligence agents. The neo-Nazis are also usually vastly outnumbered in any confrontation by the police and left-wing mobs, and appear to do much more harm than good to their alleged causes.

Where militia movement personnel have been involved in armed conflict with law enforcement agencies it has usually been as a result of the latter’s’ attempts to execute warrants, as with the infamous 1992 Ruby Ridge operation, which led to the payment of massive compensation to the alleged militia ‘terrorists’, and to a Senate inquiry and report calling for reforms to prevent a repeat of the episode and to restore public confidence in federal law enforcement..

The response of the left to the Norwegian atrocities has been opportunistic in the extreme, and its attempts to construct a phantom ‘right-wing terrorism’ threat can serve no other purpose than to distract attention and resources from the struggle against the real and pervasive threat of Jihadi terrorism and Islamist theocratic dictatorship at a crucial period in Muslim and world history.