Terrorism or Narcissism? Understanding "Root Causes"
A friend in Turkey writes to ask about the meaning of the word "terrorism," vis-a-vis the awful massacre in Norway last month:
If the person who killed 100+ people in Norway were Muslim, the Press would have declared him as a terrorist. For now though, he is just an 'Assailant ', 'Attacker' (Reuters), 'Gunman' (BBC, CNN & Al Jazeera). Looks like 'Terrorist ' is a name reserved for Muslims? The US Dept of State calls it… an 'Act of Violence', Not an 'Act of Terrorism'. What're you thinking about this??
Here's my reply to my friend:
I agree that there could be some racism involved in these discussions--Norway does not have a spotless record in the 20th century, as Europe in general doesn't--but not much in this case, I think. That is not the main issue concerning how the killer's actions are being categorized.
Much more important is that it appears the assailant was/is a madman (mentally ill). Terrorists are evil-doers, but they are typically not insane, and the clinically demented (even mass murderers) are not normally counted as terrorists. There are right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim extremist groups in Europe, of course. And they are dreadful. But they are not very significant, do not have much support, are not well organized--and so far have not undertaken the kind of systematic terror campaigns that groups like Al Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others have engaged in for decades.
Neither do you see anyone dancing in the streets, celebrating the violence in Norway--as we witnessed in some places after 9/11. This time nobody is expressing support for the "martyr's" cause--the way many supported Bin Laden, or at least professed an "understanding" of the "root causes" of his actions, and continue to aid groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, et al.
So far as I know, this schmuck murderer, Anders Breivik, was a lone nut case--his tragic deed therefore, in my opinion, was even more pointless than terrorism (which is saying something). Imagine by contrast if he were part of an organized group that took credit for the act, and promised more to come--then it would be terrorism, and everyone would support eliminating such a group and its networks.