Extremists, radicals and madmen

My ancestral homeland of Norway has always seemed to me to be one of the saner and safest countries in the world. While there have been rare incidents of mass, public violence, most Norwegian policemen do not even carry guns. When the news of the bombings and shootings in one of the most peaceful nations on the globe hit the news, the world reacted with shock and sadness. The second thing many news media sources did was to begin speculating on who was responsible. The initial response was that it had to be an Moslem terrorist action. Imagine the furious rewrites which had to be developed when the Norwegian police revealed that the plot was masterminded by a blond, blue-eyed, Norwegian extremist.

Not only did the media jump to the wrong conclusions, some, like MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan, have made illogical and insensitive statements that in part try to justify this madman’s violent and horrific actions.

History tells us that there have always been madmen possessed by ideas of their need to save the world from itself. Our own country has in recent history experienced the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh and I’m sure if we dug deeper in our history, we would find more cases.  In the past, an act of this kind would have been in the paper in a day or two and would have been on the nightly news. Our modern connectedness makes current madmen instant celebrities. Pictures of these atrocities were posted to the internet almost immediately. Breivik’s manifesto was posted instantly and circled the globe within seconds. Before anyone could stop it, his message of hate was being read world wide.

This is one of the very dangerous parts of our electronic age. Not only did Breivik become famous in an instant, he was also able to connect with and to receive validation, feeding his delusions, from other like-minded people prior to last week. It is frightening how many hate-filled comments have been posted across the internet following this tragedy. In another time, he would have been an isolated madman. He would not have had others encouraging him in his madness. Publishing his manifesto in the local newspaper would have resulted in societal censuring. More sane minds might have responded with letters to the editor or the editor could have chosen simply not to publish it. He also would not have had such easy access to information about how to build bombs. He might have had a harder time learning the schedule and layout of the camp where so many young people were killed. His successful carrying out of such a plan would have been unlikely.

When does a strongly held belief cross the line between radical thought to hatred and then to violence? Is there ever a purpose which makes it right to gun down, in cold blood, innocent children? There is no cause which forgives the terror experience by the victims or the anguish felt by their families. There is no justification for what Breivik has done.

Jesus Christ never advocated violence. Even when faced with his own death, he asked for forgiveness for those who executed him. Anders Behring Breivik is wrong about many things in addition to having missed this part Christ’s teachings.

Copyright © 2011 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains