Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the Norway massacre

July 25th, 2011

Tim Denee illustration - norway massacre
Illustration by Tim Denee –

As the work of a homegrown right wing dissident, the Norway massacre clearly has more in common with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing carried out by Timothy McVeigh than with the jihadist attacks launched on 9/11. Unfortunately, the lack of any links to Islamic extremism didn’t stop the New York Times and Washington Post from initially attributing the attacks to Muslims – and when the perpetrator became clear, the NYT then did its best to blame al Qaeda anyway, by way of alleged imitation.

The outrageous piece of join-the-dots and make-it-up-as-you-go reasoning by the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin is here. The bizarre reasoning by the NYT that if it wasn’t Islamists, it was anyway – by imitation – is here.

And a hat tip to Glenn Greenwald of Salon for noting the crucial NYT paragraphs :

Terrorism specialists said that even if the authorities ultimately ruled out Islamic terrorism as the cause of Friday’s assaults, other kinds of groups or individuals were mimicking Al Qaeda’s brutality and multiple attacks.

“If it does turn out to be someone with more political motivations, it shows these groups are learning from what they see from Al Qaeda,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New America Foundation in Washington. “One lesson I take away from this is that attacks, especially in the West, are going to move to automatic weapons.”

Right. So even if the perpetrator is a right wing Christian fundamentalist motivated by a hatred of Muslims and Marxists, the culprits are the Muslim activists he is allegedly imitating. (As for the NYT expert’s point about automatic weapons, this is wrong, too – news reports indicate that the automatic weapon used in Oslo was fired in careful, single shot mode, and not to spray bullets into crowds.) In reality, Anders Behring Breivik had imitated Timothy McVeigh – not Muslims – in that the initial explosion at the government building in Oslo was caused by a car bomb packed with the same kind of agricultural fertiliser used by McVeigh in his attack on the FBI building in Oklahoma City.

There is a further strand in the reportage by Greenwald that is worth quoting in full. Namely, the media reports carried the meta-message that if it was terrorism, it was caused by Muslims – and if it wasn’t Muslims, it wasn’t terrorism. Here’s how Greenwald unpacks this extremely dodgy bag of goods, starting with the NYT’s defensiveness about its original reporting :

…. Initial reports focused on the possibility of Islamic militants, in particular Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or Helpers of the Global Jihad, cited by some analysts as claiming responsibility for the attacks. American officials said the group was previously unknown and might not even exist.

There was ample reason for concern that terrorists might be responsible.

“In other words,” Greenwald comments, “now that we know the alleged perpetrator is not Muslim, we know – by definition – that Terrorists are not responsible; Conversely, when we thought Muslims were responsible, that meant – also by definition – that it was an act of Terrorism. As Richard Silverstein put it:

How’s that again? Are the only terrorists in the world Muslim? If so, what do we call a right-wing nationalist capable of planting major bombs and mowing down scores of people for the sake of the greater glory of his cause? If even a liberal newspaper like the Times can’t call this guy a terrorist, what does that say about the mindset of the western world?

“What it says,” Greenwald continues, “is what we’ve seen repeatedly: that Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes, no matter the cause or the target. Indeed, in many (though not all) media circles, discussion of the Oslo attack quickly morphed from this is Terrorism (when it was believed Muslims did it) to no, this isn’t Terrorism, just extremism (once it became likely that Muslims didn’t).”

And where does that leave New Zealand’s response? President Barack Obama was in PM John Key’s company when he first responded to the US media on the Oslo attacks, and the contrast between the responses by the two leaders was quite striking. Obama said that the international community had a stake in co-operating to prevent acts of terror around the globe. After adding that the U.S. still didn’t have all the facts about the attack, Obama explained: “We have to work cooperatively together both on intelligence and in terms of prevention of these kinds of horrible attacks.”

Key however, went one step further and – without any evidence of linkage –used the Oslo attack to put in a plug for New Zealand’s presence alongside the Americans in Afghanistan:

If it is an act of global terrorism then I think what it shows is that no country, large or small, is immune from that risk,” Mr Key said. ”And that’s why New Zealand plays its part in Afghanistan as we try and join others like the United States to make the world a safer place.”

Just how New Zealand helping the Americans to fight Muslim nationalists in Kabul might deter an anti-Muslim Christian fanatic in Norway was left unexplained. Making the world a safer place, it would seem, is a far more complex task than merely taking signals from the Pentagon about where our troops are to be deployed, and for how long.


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    1. 19 Responses to “On the Norway massacre”

    2. By Rose on Jul 25, 2011 | Reply

      Thanks, John Key, for confirming my suspicions that you are a bigoted Islamophobe. Yet another reason to refrain from voting National. I didn’t really need another reason, but still, thanks…

    3. By Joe Blow on Jul 25, 2011 | Reply

      Yeah, Key’s a chump… Obama on the other hand is one shrewd dude!

    4. By mutyala on Jul 25, 2011 | Reply

      Unbelievable. The linked piece by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post is absolutely shameful, as is her non-retraction.

    5. By Jackal on Jul 25, 2011 | Reply

      I’m not sure that you’re being totally honest about the New York Times article. It seems reasonably balanced to me. When you describe it’s sentiment as:

      Right! So even if the perpetrator is a right wing Christian fundamentalist motivated by a hatred of Muslims and Marxists, the culprits are the Muslim activists he is allegedly imitating.

      In my opinion, that’s not what the NYT article said at all. It said that other terrorist organizations would have learnt from what Muslim activists have done. This seems reasonable logic to me. The authors – ELISA MALA and J. DAVID GOODMAN also reported on what the Norwegian Muslim leaders said:

      Muslim leaders in Norway swiftly condemned the attacks. “This is our homeland, this is my homeland,” said Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of the Islamic Council of Norway. “I condemn these attacks, and the Islamic Council of Norway condemns these attacks, whoever is behind them.”

      You will also note that it’s Terrorism specialists comments that are being reported on.

      Each of the paragraphs you’ve referenced have a qualifying statement beforehand to show who is saying what. It’s not the opinion of the authors but the opinion of so called experts, which has rightly been reported and shown to be completely incorrect.

      Although I ultimately agree with Greenwald’s analysis and your summation, the focus should be on the perpetrators of falsehoods, not the people who report on those untruths.

      However, John Key’s statements and the Washington Post article is indefensible.

    6. By Leon Henderson on Jul 25, 2011 | Reply

      Another excellent article Gordon. Have you seen this one: (?)

      Incidentally, while on the subject of the Jewish-American “Is A Terrorist/Isn’t A Terrorist” thing, well, the Ruling Class of the USA and their corporate-mass-media do not believe that the following mass-murdering CIA-trained butcher is a Terrorist at all:

      Will await Joe Blow’s inevitable attempt to defend this killer as being “a freedom fighter against the Castro tyranny” or some other such garbage.

    7. By John M on Jul 25, 2011 | Reply

      Thank you Gordon for a good article. Yes, Key’s response was shallow, self-serving and servile. Well done Key(s), the US’s poodle deserves another pat.

    8. By Graham on Jul 25, 2011 | Reply

      That’s the second big botch up by Mr Key this week. Perhaps we should ask for a less confused and deluded person to take over the fire sale of our precious state assets?

    9. By remo on Jul 26, 2011 | Reply

      key is more than a chump. he is an international financier at a key moment in our history. and I sure am getting tired of mainstream calling 911 a jihadist attack. Look abit closer !

    10. By Rose on Jul 26, 2011 | Reply

      The Norwegian terrorist didn’t have to learn from any Muslim activists, he could have learnt everything he needed to know about using bombs for terrorism from another blue-eyed blond, Tim McVeigh, and everything he needed to know about using sniping for terrorism from the Mormon perpetrators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Therefore it makes at least as much sense, if not more, to blame the USA for teaching terrorism tactics to the world than to blame Muslims. Also, let’s not forget that the IRA honed the art of terrorism over many years, using both bullets and bombs, while they were generously funded by American supporters.

    11. By Leon Henderson on Jul 26, 2011 | Reply

      Hey Gordon: I did’nt see my post (above) so wrote another one, pushed the button, and after it was entered, then discovered that the previous attempt at a post had mysteriously materialised on this page! This has happened several times on another website too. It is probably the ancient PC I have got, it is more than six years old and is agonisingly slow; being stuck with Dial-Up (because Roger Douglas gave American Telecom our Telecommunications Network, where with the extortionate highway-robbery charges of American Telecom, people like me can barely afford even Dial-Up – and now the rotten National party have given the thieving scumbags the new Broadband Network as well!!!) sure does not help. It can take a long time for all the stuff to appear on a page. So am just writing this so you know why the latest submission was made. Cheers Gordon.

    12. By Joe Blow on Jul 26, 2011 | Reply

      @ remo

      Okay, he’s a muppet then…

    13. By Joe Blow on Jul 26, 2011 | Reply

      @ Leon

      Na, he intentionally targeted civilians so he’s a terrorist. Unlike you Leon, my views are not as predictable as you may have hoped them to be.

      Good luck with your cult like Zeitgeist brainwashing machine… think for yourself man! It’s not too late! “There’s a war on your mind!”

    14. By Elyse on Jul 26, 2011 | Reply

      Key is a reactionary and much more dangerous than most people think.

    15. By Leon Henderson on Jul 26, 2011 | Reply

      We meet again, Joe Blow! Gosh, you appear to have been able to momentarily snap-out of your Zionist brainwashing by tersely stating “…so he’s a terrorist”. Heck, there might be a TEENSY little bit of hope for you yet Joe Blow, but no doubt Fox News, CNN, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal (and not to mention BBC and Guardian News & Media) will soon have you back to your normal National Party/ Act Party/Business Roundtable self!!!

    16. By richarquis on Jul 27, 2011 | Reply

      I’m taking bets on Leon vs Joe. Monies can be sent to my bank account in Nigeria. Winners may need to place an additional deposit to collect.

      I’m starting to wonder if this forum is headed down the path. I always enjoyed reading the discussions here, but lately, I’m starting to wonder.

      Let’s stay on target and try not to pick fights with each other, hey guys? We can’t find articles of this quality on most other sites, so let’s respect the work and keep it civil. This is a great springboard for rational and logical discussions. Even if we disagree with each other, we can still be thoughtful and considerate of our words, and of how we treat one another. If we want a slanging match, there are a hundred other places where that is the norm.

    17. By richarquis on Jul 27, 2011 | Reply

      By the way – Obviously, the opener of that was tongue in cheek, an exaggeration to illustrate my actual point. Just thought I should clarify in case of potential misunderstandings.

    18. By Joe Blow on Jul 27, 2011 | Reply

      @ richarquis

      Point taken richarquis. I agree. I’ll put down my guns…

    19. By Leon Henderson on Jul 28, 2011 | Reply

      Same here (as Joe Blow is saying) richarquis: none of it was nasty or anything, it was just having some fun and trying to do the one-upsmanship thing, and it’s pretty easy to get a bit carried away!!! But fair enough richarquis, I too will lay down my spud-gun!!!

    20. By Leon Henderson on Jul 29, 2011 | Reply

      Have been for the first time to have a look at the forums on (Sunday Star-Times) and it is even worse than richarquis implies: endless screeds of often grammatically incomprehensible and abominably misspelled ravings (nothing like mine!!!!)with everyone accusing everyone else of not being able to spell (!!!)and practically everyone also ranting straight over the tops of each other. No surprise to see that Fascist Media Darling who calls himself “Whale Oil” plastering posts everywhere there (and by God, has he ever got plenty of Fellow-Travellers as well!). Richarquis, understand absolutely now why you dread so much Scoop being dragged into a bottomless pit like

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