Wednesday, 27 July 2011
OK. Here’s how it works: mass-killers of children who aspire for the return of the Knights Templar do not currently represent a significant social force in society. So whatever they do, no matter how horrific, has no political meaning. End of story.
As to what those who do have some weight in society (or think they do) choose to do with the actions of a madman is another matter, and that’s all that we are really dealing with here.
When the news of the Norwegian killings first broke, and the geniuses on the right ignored the description of the gunman, and decided that Islamic fundamentalists were now peroxiding their hair, there was some grim merriment from other commentators at their embarrassment. But now that the pendulum has been interpreted as swinging the other way, we have others doing much the same thing.
It does not help that, like many lunatics, he had some theories on how the world works – in fact quite a lot of them – and wrote a 1,500 page (!) manifesto to spray them out. Given that this means we are talking about three quarters of a million words, it’s no surprise that the scope is pretty wide, and even includes a little known political figure from the other side of the globe.
That someone would take philosophical guidance from John Howard is amusing enough. That others would find meaning when that someone happens to be clearly a lunatic is even more amusing, in a sick joke type of way. For those that insist on doing so, they clearly have a bit of a problem. For to try and place some meaning on how Breivik interpreted Howard, or Gandhi or Locke or Burke, whom he also quotes, assumes that there is some rationality that would make such a connection meaningful. Given that his actions are irrational, even in terms of its own goals, that is clearly not possible.
The argument seems to be that Howard’s views, while not directly related to those of Breivik, have irresponsibly contaminated the violently susceptible. The first problem with this, as we have seen as the right recovers its poise, is that this argument can be used to cut both ways, either used to blame those who bang on about the problems of immigrants, or immigrants themselves who make others do so. The second problem is that if public debate is to be determined by what lunatics might make of it, we may as well not have any, just in case.
Finally, it simply isn’t how ideas work. Ideas only have power in as much as they are picked up because they describe the reality of those that do have some social weight. What we have at the moment is political commentary whose ideas aren’t especially being picked up by anyone, who must instead look to a madman to help make their point. Says it all really.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 27 July 2011.Filed under Media analysis