Glenn Beck: There’s a difference between being cool and looking like a ‘d***head’

There’s little doubt that the attempt by many on the liberal left to align the mass murder of so many Norwegian citizens on one day with the conservative right rather than the ultra nationalist cause is both malign and ill conceived. But Glenn Beck’s reaction to the news (comparing the dead of Utøya to the Hitler Youth) put me in mind nothing so much as this sketch from Eddie Izzard:

“Cool” is a pursuit of youth, it’s a fashion link thing being cool. It’s linked to the circle- you’ve got “Looking Like a Dickhead” over here, “Average Looking,” “Kind of Cool,” “Cool,” “Hip and Groovy…” “Looking Like a Dickhead”!

More seriously, there is such a thing as an Ultra Nationalist extreme in Europe. It may not have anything to do with the constitutional left or right, but it is a real problem for both; not least because this guy has put action what gets routinely and casually talked about online.

Cass Sunstein talked about this problem a few years back. And in a post from a few years back which acknowledged the dangers (and opportunities) of a growing vacuum in left right politics, our own Pete Baker noted:

“To paraphrase, the erosion of the categories of left and right in the common conversation is, in part, a result of those categories’ failure to adequately “make sense of the complexities of environmental or identity politics, or the savage logics of ethnic and sectarian strife”.

“Sound familiar? The risk, as I see it, is that, as that erosion continues, the apparent certainity offered by the savage logic may seem more appealing to some, not less.”

I’ve no further comment on Mr Beck’s foolish mutterings on the radio show to which he’s already been busted, except that a little bit of Norwegian (or, indeed, any kind of) history might stand him in better stead in future. Last words of wisdom to Stephen Fry:

…knowing is not enough. If you cannot feel what our ancestors felt when they cried: ‘Wilkes and Liberty!’ or, indeed, cried: ‘Death to Wilkes!’, if you cannot feel with them, then all you can do is judge them and condemn them, or praise them and over-adulate them.

History is not the story of strangers, aliens from another realm; it is the story of us had we been born a little earlier. History is memory; we have to remember what it is like to be a Roman, or a Jacobite or a Chartist or even – if we dare, and we should dare – a Nazi. History is not abstraction, it is the enemy of abstraction.

For now, I’d be very careful in taking Mr Breivik’s solicitor’s exasperated conclusion that he’s insane. It may be that we’re witnessing the emergence of a pre-modern political strain borne into reality from the internet which thrive upon the “savage logics of ethnic and sectarian strife”. Such politics are neither ‘left’ nor ‘right’ nor even ‘cool’ (in any sense of that word).

But it demands to be taken seriously in its own terms by constitutional politicians of both the right and the left. At this stage we don’t know how deep, or how wide or how serious this is. It would be foolish to foist it upon some imaginary (and convenient) political daemon in order to make your opponents look like, well, erm, ‘d***heads’.

But now is not the time for further self aggrandising political abstraction.

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  • Into the west

    great post, I think the sketch nails it.
    The erosion of categories of L/R leads to 2 classes
    You’re either cool or a dickhead
    Isn’t enough to know just that…

  • I’m unsure where this headline piece is going.

    I wasn’t aware that “the liberal left” were primarily dedicated to identifying the “conservative right” as the root cause. I thought we effete pinkos were far more taken by shock. Some of us have acquaintance with families from the Arbeiderpartiet whose sons and daughters could well have at that camp. The dead might be counted so many because Breivik’s intended target, the legendary “mother of the nation”, Gro Harlem Brundtland (who would surely have had an armed guard) had made her speech and departed. I even suggest Jens Stoltenberg has demonstrated remarkable restraint.

    None of that is a “vacuum in politics”.

    What I do know is that the EDP and the likes of Melanie Phillips are shuffling aside as fast as they can. When Breivik quoted Phillips’s 28th October 2009 farrago —

    [Immigration policy under Labour was] a politically motivated attempt by ministers to transform the fundamental make-up and identity of this country. It was done to destroy for ever what it means to be culturally British and to put another ‘multicultural’ identity in its place

    — in its entirety, it merely completed a cycle of gross misrepresentation the “conservative right” had been propagating. The “conservative right” here includes Chris Grayling (see speeches passim).

    Anyway, I doubt seriously that anyone, especially with Northern Irish connections, would assume we live in a world populated only by “some imaginary political daemons”.

  • Mick Fealty

    See the third para Malc; after the Izzard quotation…

  • pippakin

    Great post. I think there has been an erosion of respectable right and left wing politics. The Conservative party in the UK is supposed to be the right wing party but I can see no difference between Blair and Cameron. All the partys want the middle ground and that leaves potential danger on either side.

    I always think of Glen Beck as showbiz and pop showbiz at that, perhaps some take him more seriously…

  • Correction and guidance accepted.

    Except it isn’t Just what gets routinely and casually talked about online. Long since, much of the poison passed into the main arteries of professional comment.

    ¶ When Mel Phillips can be paid a princess’s ransom for trash talk as bad as any Glenn Beck — to the extent that her perverse and untruthful spoutings apparently got her fired from The Spectator,

    ¶ When Chris Grayling steams in to support the Daily Mail‘s and partisan and inflammatory lies on immigration policy,

    ¶ When “liberal” David Cameron uses “dog-whistle” rhetoric about immigrants in his local election campaign,

    “some imaginary political daemons” it definitely ain’t.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Of course Breivik is a creature of the right.

    And of course, what the right will never admit, is that there are, within Her Majesty’s armed forces, and those of the United States, plenty of soldiers who have killed seventy, eighty, a hundred children in their time, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or some other imperial charnel house.

    Unlike Breivik, they will never face justice. Rather, they are lauded as heroes.

  • DC

    I agree with Malcolm – I haven’t really spotted any drive by the liberal left to pin this on conservatives / nationalists; im wondering if this is just imagined by those in that political realm or those who support right-wing causes – is it that such people and supporters may have a bit of a guilty conscience, especially when reading what happened to the left in the likes of Germany prior to WWII, etc.

    The first thing I thought was that a mad man has struck.

    Then secondly – typical, social democrats persecuted again!

    But the guy’s thinking was all wrong he seems to have had an historical reading of the old left / right divide – ignoring the fact that it isn’t cultural marxism in the ascendency today, but rather commercialisation and people identitifying with products and things produced by business.

    Sure there is some ‘PC talk’ but it is most definitely not in the ascendency nor in the driving seat. It is there because rights-based Commissions have been set up by various left / right governments as part of the diverse make up of societies that exist within functioning democracies. Various opinions are catered for and have to be factored in whether Andres Behring Breivik likes it or not. That’s democracy!

    But in my view, the main driver of immigration has been the EU and of course it has been working hand in glove with big business. What is the first lobby to speak out whenever restrictions are proposed on immigration? Is it not usually big business.


    Because it can’t be arsed training natives up to fill posts and wants to buy in employees from elsewhere on the globe in a similar way english premier league football teams do!

    Thankfully Andres wasn’t that politically savvy because I have no doubt if he had placed his bomb in Brussels than Oslo – and managed to take out a committee or two there that – whilst not sparking a nationalists / right-ish movement for change immediately – would have had a more long term political impact. There is most definitely popular opinion across many nation states that views the EU extremely negatively, too much change, too fast too soon, and wealth be allowed to drift from the older wealthier nations to the new post-communist entrants.

    Courtesy of capitalism and it chasing cheap labour there.

    Mixed into this pro-business approach, German intellectual Hans Magnus Enzensberger labels the EU as being a control freak bureaucracy:

    It is no wonder Europeans do not like their EU, says Enzensberger. Who could possibly read the acquis communautaire at 150,000 pages? Who can make sense of the alphabet soup of posts, agencies, and EU parties? Europeans express this discontent by simply ignoring it and not voting in the EP elections. But what a comfortable punishment for the EU’s autocrats! He is mystified as to why this charade has not led to full-fledged mutiny.

    At the very least, Enzensberger praises the EU for being a well-meaning control freak—and non-violent, unlike other brief attempts to unite Europe (he mentions Napoleon and Hitler). But as these empires flopped, the EU version is fated to end unhappily as well, maybe sooner than we think.

    The only criticism of this control freakery approach is that it falls down entirely on the issue of financial regulation and banking control, because the EU hasn’t gone after the banks in any effective way, it hasn’t changed the structures there either – it is most definitely hands off.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s an off topic rant Billy. By contrast, this is a decent conversation between a liberal and conservative in the US:

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Surely it’s far too short to be classified as a rant?

    Just pointing out that the right simply is not consistently opposed to mass murder. It’s only opposed to it sometimes – such as this. But when it’s done by our boys in uniform, medals are handed out.

  • Mick Fealty

    No, it *was* a rant. Just watch the clip.

  • Alias

    The real significance is the emergence of the militant individual as opposed to the militant group. These are highly organised individuals without an organisation, and are thereby able to slip beneath a counter-terrorist radar that is tuned to detecting groups and disrupting them via inflitration and other weakness of a group.

    This is the future of terrorism is the individual, albeit of the highly intelligent variety.

  • Alias

    And since I have yet to master the basics of grammar, I am excluded. *Saintly look*

  • DC

    Billy – you’re right, of course he was a creature of the right, and the right-wing groups do have a guilty conscience for sure.

    Andres identifies with conservative state-led cultural identity, of clans and races fighting the bit out over territory, like animals wanting to mark out their own territory to raise their own clan up on.

    The only dispute is that there has been any popular opinion to pin this on them by left-leaning groups.

  • DC

    Sorry – I suppose to be correct, he was a creature of the right but outgrew it and became more radical, but that’s where he came from, for sure.

  • Mick Fealty

    DC and Billy,

    I could get further into this, but I feel that since II’ve put some thought into this piece, I think there is an onus upon you to open the debate somehow.

    It’s not sui generis right position to go in and spray kids with a gun; that implies departure from pluralist politics that this guy’s politics represent. It’s also way in advance of anything Melanie Phillips (who I know is way beyond the liberal left pale) has ever written (no matter how many times this guy has brigaded her into his manefesto)…

    Just remember the title…

  • al

    “For now, I’d be very careful in taking Mr Breivik’s solicitor’s exasperated conclusion that he’s insane. It may be that we’re witnessing the emergence of a pre-modern political strain borne into reality from the internet which thrive upon the “savage logics of ethnic and sectarian strife”. Such politics are neither ‘left’ nor ‘right’ nor even ‘cool’ (in any sense of that word).”

    Morally insane perhaps but reading through some of his book last night I couldn’t help but feel that he was unswervingly focused on doing what he thought was right. He seemed to have friends who knew his views but never saw this coming. Insane people are not this focused and driven.

    I often wonder about technology and the wealth of information on the internet that could be easily used by individuals to cause this sort of carnage.

  • Alias

    I’d be careful about allowing this example to be used as a pre-text by another class of political fanatics to further another agenda, i.e. that of censoring the Internet.

  • DC

    So have I Mick, I’m fed up with right-wing radical nuts misplacing blame onto social democrats – who really only want to use politics and democracy to try and get a better deal from markets and business via regulation and laws etc.

    Andres should know that in terms of migration it is the EU that has been driving that along with big business, largely working to further the aims of capitalism which Andres purports to be in favour of, to spray a lot of Labour kids in the belief he is combating cultural marxism and immigration is just simply wrong.

    Andres should have tried looking at his beloved business friendly ideology first of all (he writes in his manifesto that he is economically liberal). Andres needs a re-think and should focus on big business which left to its own devices doesn’t give a damn about social responsibility or communities.

    Oh – and also, we are not long out of a banking crisis as well, which was most certainly not as a result of cultural marxism but instead happened as a result of neoliberalism – hands-off-ism which people like him and his business pals all love, but which has now cost nations and communities a hell of a lot when they were forced at the behest of governments to bail out the banks.

  • Mick Fealty

    You may be DC. But that’s no excuse to rant. Go watch the video before you post any more.

  • Reader

    Billy Pilgrim: You think it’s a coincidence that Breivik got such a hard-on from dressing up like a soldier?
    The left like their uniforms too. As does violent nationalism. In fact, lots of people who set out to kill for a cause have their special outfits, even if they do their actual killing in plain clothes. However miniscule their movement, they seem to want to share the blame with comrades or commanders as their victims die at their feet.
    Even if they can’t get anyone else to play along; no doubt they think that the “lurkers support me in email”

  • Alias

    The problem with Mr Breivik is that his repugnant methods delight those who oppose his ideas; and they delight them because they serve to taint those ideas with his methods. Whatever sense he made about EU totalitarianism will now be dismissed as uber-nationalism which it will be claimed must be censored so that young folks will not be killed by these ideas. There is now a moral imperative to be proffered within the EU regime to the effect that the regime will be strenghtened by his actions rather than weakened by his ideas. If the likes of Breivik did not exist, then the EU would have to invent him.

    The media in the main are in the role of mitigators for the EU so that the people come to see the surender of their national sovereignty to it as promoting their national interest rather than negating it. This is particularly true in Ireland where all of the newspapers campaigned for the Lisbon Treaty and where the national broadcaster threw away any pretence it held of objectivity. Likewise, 160 out of 166 TDs in Dáil Éireann (the Ceann Comhairle doesn’t vote) voted for it while a majority of the population voted against it. The reason you have that massive disjunct between TDs and the electorate is that the main political parties (Fine Gale, Labour, and Fianna Fail) have an anti-democratic policy of only selecting europhiles to run for public office, thereby ensuring that all dissenting voices are censored from the national debate. They also opperate what is referred to as a bi-partisan policy on the EU which also ensures that they are all united in censoring the national agenda so that only europhilia is permitted and all democratic scrutiny of the EU never arises. Essentially, this is totalitarinism without the name.

    So, in that context where dissenting voices are not provided with any space beyond what they can muster in the margins of the Internet, I predict that as the EU moves to more overt totalitarianism, as it will do when it becomes a single state, that we will see a rise of terrorism within the EU as the enslaved nations realise that they have forfeited their national rights by stealth. While the EU is relying on a servile media to progress its agenda, it is still left with the little problem of what to do about the Internet. As befits a totalitarian regime, it will attempt to censor it while telling people that their freedoms are being curtail to protect their freedoms rather to violate them. But its too late now since what is ‘out there’ is downloaded to disk and exists on other formats.

    Of course, Norway isn’t even in the EU, so you can imagine what is coming from within…

  • Damian O’Loan

    “It may be that we’re witnessing the emergence of a pre-modern political strain borne into reality from the internet which thrive upon the “savage logics of ethnic and sectarian strife”.”

    Do you mean we’re witnessing extreme expressions of nationalism? Sectarianism? Your sentence is not very clear.

    Do you really think there is a coherent ideology underpinning this man’s actions or any of these far-right movements in Europe? If so, I’d be interested to hear what it is. In 1500 pages and at what cost, that man didn’t manage.

    Savage – yes. Logic – no.

  • Mick Fealty


    Yes to the first. No to the second. It doesn’t have to be coherent to find physical expression.

  • Damian O’Loan


    Then it’s simply blind terrorism built on a mass of contradictions. Neither Beck nor Breivik holds a monopoly on contradiction or incoherence, but they are both a lot more guilty than most in those regards.

    If there is some logic behind Breivik’s physical force, then you should identify it. You said he’s not crazy. I don’t think it matters much except regarding whether he is fit to stand trial. I think anyone arguing for extreme nationalism based on the mass of contradictions that inevitably follows is radically incoherent.

    I don’t see your point here. Sentences like the one I highlighted may look pretty but they don’t say much.

  • RepublicanStones

    The problem with Mr Breivik is that his repugnant methods delight those who oppose his ideas;

    What sheer unadulterated bollocks. Those now engaging in the ‘I told you so’ are not doing so with Cheshire cat grins and rubbing their hands in glee. Unless you have a link to prove otherwise? Simply reiterating the danger that the festering rhetoric of Mad Mel, Geller, Spencer et al (whom are shunned by many on the Conservative right) does not mean one takes Breivik’s actions as an aphrodisiac. Utter nonsense.

  • RepublicanStones

    Btw here are the faces and bios of those who prick…i mean Beck, likened to the Hitler Youth

  • It’s that “fish-and-chips” wrapper moment.

    I’m about to discard the pile of old papers when I get to reading Charles Moore’s The Spectator’s Diary for 25th June — yes, this is a well-bestrewn house.

    From the first paragraph, anent the “centre-right think-tank Policy Exchange” (they’re the ones who gave us “pupil premium” and Boris Johnson’s pogrom on bendy buses and such stuff) —

    Many of the nicest English people deplore ideology in politics, but the problem is that, if nice people have no ideology, others do not follow their example. Nasty ideology has the field to itself. This is very marked in the field of Islamism, in which Policy Exchange does excellent work. One reason that extremist can, almost literally, get away with murder, is that moderates do not have the facts and the contacts with officialdom to counter. Another value of think-tanks is that very few people are any good at policies. There are people who are good at ideas, and there are people who are good at administration, but you need to translate the ideas into forms that can be implemented.

    Therein I see the conflation of a propriety (the need to develop an ideology of decency, with which I heartily concur) with an élitist arrogance (think-tanks are an essential good, even when what they propagate is a bad).

    So — the NI dimension, and writ small — bendy-buses are bad, but Boris bogglers (even if made by Wrightbus, at a cost of £7.8 million for the prototype — an equivalent bought off-the brochure would be all of £250,000) are good.

    So, also, — writ large and Mel Phillips-friendly — in that “field of Islamism, in which Policy Exchange does excellent work”, PE’s “Hijacking of British Islam” was hardly marked by “hard” research.

    A proposition:

    ¶ An ideology is a collective statement. An individual or a cadre issues, at best, a proposition, a manifesto. It would only develop into an “ideology” were a quantum of thought to accede to it.

    ¶ The defect of the internet is that it allows the individual (a Breikvik or a Policy Exchange or a Redfellow) to lay out a thesis or several, and assume that, uncontradicted, they are some kind of gospel.

    ¶ We don’t need a priori to suppress the Breikviks, the Policy Exchanges, the Redfellows of this world. We do need to ensure they are constantly circumscribed, and — above all — challenged when they cross that essential divide of decency, and tolerance. That requires the rest of us — left, right, and centre — to have a democratic, shared essential ethos of what is acceptable and proper. Somewhere in there is a true liberal ideology.

    When I heard 150,000 Norwegians, of all classes and conditions, singing Nordahl Grieg’s Til Ungdommen, I heard an ideological statement.

  • DC

    There needs to be a debate about racism and a local view developed on whether criticism of having an open labour market where EU migrant workers bring down wages for the lowest paid is something which is actually tantamount to racism.

    My understanding of racism is that of particular ethinic groups holding superior views of themselves over others based on traits and behaviours of that particular ethnicity – whereas complaints of local non-skilled jobs being opened up to millions of eastern Europeans seems to me to be more linked about diminishing employment prospects because of an open door policy that creates fast changing demographics – than of any master race-type thinking.

    And remember the trouble with opening up unskilled jobs is that meritocracy goes out the window as there are no qualifications required for menial / manual labour jobs, whereas for the middle class type jobs – opening labour markets in these sectors should be fine – because in theory in terms of recruitment the prospective employee must have the qualifications and experience at hand in order to make a successful pitch to the employer / business. As not everyone can or wants to be a lawyer, or doctor, or nurse so this in itself reduces the amount of churn out there when opening up to new EU labour markets. And of course the higher up the job value chain you go the more important it is to have good communication skills thus filtering out more eastern European applicants. As a relative of mine said to me once – as an accountant he didn’t go far in his line of work because of his grasp of maths but through his command of English.

    Whereas to be a cleaner or road sweeper say – this doesn’t apply – so middle class type jobs are protected via the backdoor using supposedly ‘meritocracy’ and skills and experience, but for non-skilled jobs it is a free for all – open to millions across the EU.

    And it affects the wealthier states more so simply because of the wage differentials – which attracts employees from the less well off member states because life here is seemingly more advanced in terms of pay and opportunities and life expectancy etc.

    And this might be the issue that Mick I think tries to raise in terms of the space that is left whenever parties evacuate the left and right for the centre – as there aren’t any debates being had on the edges that should be had in a bid to try and flesh out complex issues on behalf of the less well off and lesser paid. What rushes in instead is something more basic and sinister because it is probably simpler to deploy and elicits more votes because of that. Racist-lite / sectarian-lite political parties?

    Even for instance today – no political party seems to have explained to the electorate precisely what happened during the financial crisis and just where the public’s money has gone and why it has gone there.

    It just seems to be capitalism is because capitalism does – end of. No debate. And also no blame to be had there – so look elsewhere thank you, ps it wasn’t the government’s fault either!

  • Alias

    “If there is some logic behind Breivik’s physical force, then you should identify it.” – Damian O’Loan

    The logic isn’t hidden. He committed the massacre to gain a platform for his views.

    “What sheer unadulterated bollocks.” – RepublicanStones

    Thanks for forewarning me about the content of your post.

    “The problem with Mr Breivik is that his repugnant methods delight those who oppose his ideas; and they delight them because they serve to taint those ideas with his methods.” – Alias

    And we see the so-called liberal left in the US busying doing exactly that. As Mick has already pointed out, they are missing the mark.

  • Mick Fealty


    It’s not just abandoning the space, it’s also losing touch with ordinary people. Not so much as representatives, but as whole institutions. Thus you get the kind of intellectual political and emotional disjunct between Brown and that still loyal Labour voter in Oldham.

    What’s remarkable about that incident is that she still votes for him, but he’s in a party that no longer really understands why she would.

    There was a rather scurrilous campaign recently by the Tories to suggest that because the BNP was growing in Labour heartlands that somehow the BNP was an ‘of-the-left’ party. People on the left should be wary of returning the ‘compliment’.

    Scurrilous, because the Labour party has much more in common with the Tories than either will ever have with the BNP (for some of the reasons Alias outlines). It’s a distraction from the real challenge of ultra nationalism of the type posed by Brievit.

    Actually Malcolm I suspect this is not far from what Charles Moore was on about in that Spectator issue. You may not like Policy Exchange, but it is essentially an aggressively liberal project.


    I actually said I would treat his solicitor’s claim that he’s ‘insane’ with some scepticism. He may well be deranged in any normal sense of the word, but he displays the same calm rationale that other killers for ideological reasons do.

    What I meant to say more clearly is that what he has is a highly personalised strain of ‘political thinking’ of a type that can be developed and sustained through the net in ways that it could not before.

  • RepublicanStones

    And we see the so-called liberal left in the US busying doing exactly that.

    As Mick has already pointed out, they are missing the mark.

    Alias you claimed that his repugnant methods delight those who oppose his ideas

    Please lets see a link. And don’t try and infer Mick said the same thing. Big difference between taking delight in something, and using it against ones ideological opponents.

    Another interesting take on Breivik

    Anders Behring Breivik is Not a Fundamentalist Christian, He is Something Worse

  • DC

    Good link RS, good link indeed:

    He is the vivid, brutal, expression of a bubbling right-wing political movement of the post 9/11 era, emerging not from fascism or neo-fascism or from “revolutionary nationalism”, but from the unholy marriage of Austrian School economics and paleo-conservative cultural identity Romanticism – think Goethe, Scifi/Fantasy novels, and von Mises spawn a child.

    Those of us who follow the right, the real right, the ideological right, not the administrative right or the hooligan right, not a single word of what Breivik wrote in his manifesto or his video comes as a surprise. It is part an parcel of this world-wide scene of pan-nationalists, who decry “hate ideologies” like Nazism, Islam, and Marxism, while speaking of a common, mildly anti-racist, pro-Zionist, politically incorrect world of “European tolerance in isolation” – yet harboring violent fantasies of retribution and domination. Fantasies Breivik has merely acted upon, but are not unique to himself.

  • DC

    Mick – I am not quite sure what you are trying to say re Labour and the Tories and Alias.

    Is it that both parties have retreated away from democracy and are too media focused nowadays and out of touch generally with people and in particular the base?

    Both you and Alias might appreciate the article below re the EU:

    “Democracy deficit” is far too mild a euphemism for the authoritarian condition that German intellectual Hans Magnus Enzensberger attributes to the European Union. For Enzensberger, this term makes Europe’s congenital absolutism sound like a difficult to treat, but relatively harmless malady.

    In fact, he argues, this undemocratic gene is inscribed in the European Union’s DNA. “As if the 19th and 20th century battles over constitutionality never happened, the Council and the Commission were agreed from the very beginning that the people would have no voice in the European community’s decisions,” he claims, tracing this ethos all the way back to Jean Monnet. No one really believes it can be healed by cosmetic nips and tucks, Enzensberger charges: “This democracy deficit is nothing more than a glad-handed expression for the political evisceration of the citizen.”

    Since the 1950s, the today 81-year-old, Munich-based literat has held back nothing in his searing critiques of the Federal Republic’s democratic failings. In his latest book, actually more of an extended essay entitled Gentle Monster Brussels or the Incapacitation of Europe, Enzensberger turns his formidable power of criticism to the European Union. But unlike with the postwar West German state, Enzensberger is unconvinced that this EU can ever evolve into a demos for and by the people.

    Enzensberger is neither a nationally motivated Europhobe nor a left-wing internationalist. He believes in some kind of united Europe—though it is unclear exactly what kind that is—and forthrightly acknowledges the superlative achievements of the Union in its postwar incarnations. Yet he questions whether such a supranational body can even hope to aspire to be a democracy that is worthy of the word. His answer is unequivocally negative. On the contrary, a ruling executive with such tenuous legitimacy and limited by Potemkin checks and balances is certain to crave—and amass—ever more power and jurisdiction, just as the EU has over five decades.

    The crux of Enzensberger’s ire is the missing link between the Union’s bureaucratic apparatus and the 500 million Europeans that it makes policy for—in their best interests, as it interprets them. The European Parliament, supposedly the home of the vox populi, is nothing more than a fig leaf for the system’s paternalistic nomenclature. The parliament, like its distant pseudo-constituencies, is hapless vis-a-vis the real locus of power, namely the Commission’s cabinets, the general directorates, and committees that issue one set of directives on the heels of another.

    Enzensberger views the EU as an homogenizing behemoth on full-speed-ahead autopilot that rides roughshod over the rich diversity of the Europe that he so admires. It regulates the intimate minutiae of every Europeans’ life with its fetishistic controlling of everything right down to the color combinations of leeks and the width of condoms. (What either leeks or condoms has to do with Europe’s diversity, he does not say.) He charges that 80 percent of all new legislation today in EU member states is not passed by national legislatures, but formulated as ordinances by the EU apparatus—and on the terms of Brussels’s ubiquitous lobbyists.

  • wee buns

    ”It may be that we’re witnessing the emergence of a pre-modern political strain borne into reality from the internet which thrive upon the “savage logics of ethnic and sectarian strife”. Such politics are neither ‘left’ nor ‘right’ nor even ‘cool’ (in any sense of that word).”

    I’ve read about Breivik being described as a millennialst (but have lost the link to which article, however saved an extract & booksource):

    ”What it is is millennarian: the belief that all manner of redemptive possibilities lie on just the other side of a crucible of unspeakable chaos and suffering. At his arrest, Breivik called his acts “atrocious but necessary.”

    How pervasive this kind of impulse has been throughout history and across cultures, and how much its many strains—Christian, Marxist, Islamist, Nazi, environmentalist and so on—have in common. Like many active cataclysmic apocalypticists, he believed that the socio-political world is in huge tension, like tectonic plates about to crack, and if he can set off a small explosion in the right place it will unleash far greater forces.

    ” In this sense, Mr. Landes adds, “the thing he resembles most is the people he hates.”

  • Alias

    RS, your inability to understand English is your concern.

    The best help that I can offer you is to repost the sentence that you cannot understand in the expectation that you might ask a carer to explain it to you:

    “The problem with Mr Breivik is that his repugnant methods delight those who oppose his ideas; and they delight them because they serve to taint those ideas with his methods.” – Alias

    I’ll give you a little hint (as I’m in a good mood): the qualification is in the second part of the sentence.

  • Alias

    DC, that’s a good article, but I’m suspicious of any critic of the EU who wants to reform it, when a true critic would want to abolish it. To seek to reform it is to accept the validity of the EU’s fundamental premise that the nations of Europe have no right to self-determination.

    Those nations faught hard to win that right, and there will come a day when they realise that it has been stolen from them by stealth and by fraud. Unfortunately, unlike other colonial conquests, the blood will only spill when it comes to re-asserting national rights. That will involve civil war since it will be between those who are loyal to the EU within the region and those who are loyal to the nation. It is going to involve terrorism.

    A bit like prominent eurosceptic groups such as Open Europe, these groups proport to be opposed to the EU but are actually in support of it, merely seeking reform of it.

    Incidentally, I don’t think that Mr Fealty is a eurosceptic.

  • Damian O’Loan

    “What I meant to say more clearly is that what he has is a highly personalised strain of ‘political thinking’ of a type that can be developed and sustained through the net in ways that it could not before.”

    Well, you said:

    “It may be that we’re witnessing the emergence of a pre-modern political strain borne into reality from the internet which thrive upon the “savage logics of ethnic and sectarian strife”.”

    You’re clutching at straws, you’re giving his political rant far too much credit.

    Like the article RS links to, which notes Ayn Rand as a hero of the online Marxist-hater breed, then lends her intelligence and philosophical insight to an incoherent murderer without even citing her name.

    Perhaps he’s mentally/emotionally unstable and it’s a psychiatrist, not a political scientist, who could best identify his true motivations?

    What’s hard for the media is this – aside from a case of mass murder, there is nothing new here.

  • In his extended paean to the political ghost of “Saint” Vince Cable,Matthew Norman joins the dots in the Independent:

    … the danger posed to every one of us by right-wing nutters is horrendous, and no other senior British politician has shown the guts to state it plainly. In fact, Vince might have gone further by sourcing this surreal crisis to the twin forces against which he has lately declared war. The bankers – the “spivs and gamblers” whom he is again fighting Treasury resistance to bring under control – lit the inferno. Now Rupert Murdoch stokes it, via Fox News, inflaming Tea Party mania to such white heat that the Republican establishment is melted into doing its deranged bidding.

    Vince could go further still. If he fancied giving a major speech on the historic threat of right-wing extremism in times of grave economic terror, as he should, he might identify the Norwegian monstrosity as part of the same continuum. The right-wing nutter responsible was influenced by the musings of Melanie Phillips, a regular guest on Glenn Beck’s thankfully defunct Fox show. Mr Beck’s response to the horror is to liken the summer camp attended by those sweet, innocent Norwegian kids to a Hitler Youth rally. Sometimes, there are no words.

    In that piece you have a gratuitous nod to Don McLean, a swift nip through modern political history, a kick in the groin of the Tea Party, and even Cassandra, fair as golden Venus standing on Pergamus.

    Try to keep up, you at the back there!

  • Mick Fealty


    I am not sure I understand what you are trying to get at. What I am saying is this was a serious thought through attack on the Labour establishment of Norway. This guy took aim and killed a whole cadre of future political leaders of his country.

    Now you can choose to call him a lone nutter, I call it fecking serious. Reading it against Islamic fundamentalists misses the point. The Taliban have a constituency; this guy, beyond the friends he converses with on the net, does not.

    It’s not an ideology in the sense that it has widespread buy in. That’s why I called it a ‘strain’, like a mutant virus, or a seed that mutates. It is not what we commonly recognise as a political enterrpise, but it is just as deadly.

    Ignoring it, or using it cheaply to smear your political opponents, is not an advisable option.

  • Mick Fealty

    Malc, I had that in the sidebar first thing this morning. It’s a good piece, but I think you’re bending it a little out of shape to bring it in here.

  • Mick Fealty @ 10:44 am:

    Indeed, “bending it like Bentham” [sic], as we students of philosophy might say.

    I accept the castigation; but this TCD-classicist, who touched the robe of William Bedell Stanford, could scarcely resist the charms of Homeric stock epithets. Now that really is bending.

    But back to Bentham. What lies a long way behind Breivik’s unreason is something that patently derives from Robespierre and the Jacobins:

    …the first maxim of our politics ought to be to lead the people by means of reason and the enemies of the people by terror….the basis of popular government in time of revolution is both virtue and terror: virtue without which terror is murderous, terror without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing else than swift, severe, indomitable justice; it flows, then, from virtue.

    Hardly by conincidence, that precise quotation, as edited, appeared (in English), ripped from a Yahoo posting, from “anonymous” at, on June 12th 2008.

    There is an irony that Robespierre (that speech to the National Convention, Feb 5th 1794 is accessible on line, including was reaching towards the utilitarianism developed by Bentham and Mill.

  • Damian O’Loan

    As regards any ideology whatsoever, he clung most to something like the extreme nationalism espoused by Beck. Yes, that is worrying in a time of economic crisis.

    Yes there are parallels between the present day and 1930s Europe. The invention of the internet does not make Breivig some unprecedented beast.

    Nor does it mean that he is a serious political thinker. Even that his actions were the result, primarily, of his political beliefs.

    And nobody takes the rise of the far-right lightly except those who welcome it. There are very few left-wingers using it for cheap shots like you say.

    There is an act of mass murder that should be taken seriously.

    There is a rise in the far right that should be taken seriously.

    It is very serious that these two may not be directly connected, despite what the murderer claims.

    There’s nothing wrong with a bit of precision. It’s what you’re calling for, and you fail by own measure.

  • Mick Fealty

    I thought I’d made my views on Beck crystal clear.

  • Malcolm,

    I’ve just had this annual row over the French Revolution with Harry Flashman, surprised to see you at it as well. The idea that all repressive and coercive politically/ideologically-motivated violence somehow has its origins in the Terror is simply to put it bluntly, nonsense. Why don’t we place the roots of forcing people to believe something through violence in the Christian tradition? After all, both catholics and protestants have a strong track record of this, of forcing people to save their own souls by practising the proper religion at the threat of losing their heads.

    Or, if we want to choose the era of the French Revolution, we could do worse than have a look at the suggestions posed by Edmund Burke and his mates as to how to deal with people opposed to the political status quo, years before the Terror was even thought of in France. And it wasn’t to engage them in debate through the public sphere.

    The roots of people like Breivik lie in many different places, but the reaction against the Enlightenment and the French Revolution is most certainly one of them.

  • cailleachdearg

    His tactics may be psycopathic, his ideology is mainstream…..
    In Austria, far-right parties polled an unprecedented 30 % of the vote, their best performance since World War II.
    In the Netherlands Geert Wilders and his far-Right anti-Islamic immigrant party shot to second place behind the ruling Christian Democrats taking 17 per cent of the vote.
    The second largest party in Norway runs on a strongly anti-immigrant platform.
    In Italy, the government fingerprinted all Roma in the country, including children under 14 this, only two generations after that the Nazi’s introduced similar administrative measures.
    In Denmark, more workers now vote for the right than the left. The right wing anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party is in effect the new labour party.
    The east has also witnessed an upsurge of rabid nationalism and an indisputable surge in neo Nazism. Huge anti-Semitic demonstrations take place in towns where there are no Jews, in fact where Jews have been absent since they were slaughtered seventy years ago in the Holocaust.
    In Russia alone since 2004 extreme elements of the far right have murdered more than 350 people in racist attacks.
    In the European elections, Jobbik ‘The Movement for a Better Hungary’, has become the country’s third largest party.
    In Slovakia an anti-gipsy extremist ultra-nationalist was elected into the European parliament.
    In Poland mainstream centre right parties ally themselves closely with extremist far right groups as it suits them and in Europe the British Tories seem little troubled at being associated with a foreign party that associates itself with Hitler’s SS.

    Gone are the days however when support for the radical right comes only from neo-Nazis; they now come from ordinary citizens, business people, teachers, clergy and trade unionists . Capitalism’s new service workers, in particular, vote for the far right, as do the self employed, subcontractors and temps; with few prospects and less hope young men especially turn to the far right.

    It is clear that populist, right-wing forces are gaining ground with a simple message of quasi left-wing anti-globalist rhetoric with populist cries against a shadowy global elites; but the far right is also against the welfare state, the tax system, opposition to immigration and multi-culturalism, an uncompromising stance on law and order, violent homophobia and calls to exclusive ethnic nationalisms. It’s not going away and third way neo-liberal rhetoric of “aspiration” and “meritocracy” alongside the ongoing and massive increases in social inequality will only drive more into the arms of the far right.

  • DC

    Alias – Mick I think is a democrat first and foremost, than any sort of Eurosceptic, but he needs to provide more detail on his views about this, as I am unsure exactly as to where he stands.


    The guy was a nut case, I’ve no doubt he has pulled together in his brain those old nationalist sentiments which *belong in the last century* – but none the less tended to view social democrats as a force which could destabilise conservative elites either in politics or business through the flattening out of control, class and salaries.

    But regardless of whether this could still come about today – social democracy is most certianly not in the ascendency in terms of the concept outlined above, which likely would threaten a neo-liberal conservative world view.

    So I think he is a mixed up mad man.

    This will not be a catalyst for change as he isn’t weaving together modern popular public opinion or applying political science in any meaningful way which could be used together as some sort of movement for change.

    As I said, a bomb in Brussels and taking out of Von Rompuy would’ve augmented the right better than this attack on his own people and capital city – besides capitalism is in full flow throughout the world it would seem – not cultural marxism.

    The modern day gripe is of banking and politicians failing to protect the public from the costs of reckless gambles taken inside the financial sector – the neutral application of the law has failed because certain wealthy individuals who have profited profusely have been allowed to walk away from banks which they have bankrupted without being asked to return said personal profits in a bid to cover costs – yet governments do nothing about this fact and instead tax the public to recapitalise their banks, doing the bidding of the wealthy.

    People say taking money off bankers and freezing assets and personal accounts belonging to them is illegal neo-statism and authoritarian, but what is increased taxation on the general public and cuts in public spending and services not if not neo-statism as well? It is just more acceptable because it seems it can be done more easily, than interfering with the rich.

    A case in point has to be Fred Goodwin’s pension – how can that be right, if the law is created in such a way that allows this then the law is an ass – this is proof of the failure of the law.

    Banking bonuses continue and on a large scale, despite banks not lending to business which ultimately scales back growth. Perhaps if the CEOs put these bonuses back onto the balance sheets more lending could be done.

  • Garibaldi @ 11:53 am:

    C’mon! Be fair!

    That totally misrepresents my previous post.

    I merely pointed that an “anonymous” poster on a Norwegian site (one that Breivik seems regularly to have used) had ripped a heavily-redacted Robespierre quotation from a Yahoo thread. I then diffidently suggested that the quotation, as presented, was part of a speech which, in its whole, presented Robespierre in a different light.

    No more, no less.

    I doubt we would find ourselves greatly at odds in interpreting 1789 and all that.

    La plus extravagante idée qui puisse naître dans la tête d’un politique est de croire qu’il suffise à un peuple d’entrer à main armée chez un peuple étranger, pour lui faire adopter ses lois et sa constitution. Personne n’aime les missionnaires armés; et le premier conseil que donnent la nature et la prudence, c’est de les repousser comme des ennemis.

    Almost relevant, if slightly “bending”.

  • DC

    The roots of people like Breivik lie in many different places

    And the roots do lie in the right, from wiki:

    ‘Breivik was previously a member of the Progress Party (FrP), which promotes libertarian, conservative and right-wing populist viewpoints[17][95][96] and its youth wing FpU. According to current FpU leader Ove Vanebo, Breivik was active early in the 2000s, but left the party in 2007 as his viewpoints became more extreme.[97]’

  • Malcolm,

    Apologies if I misunderstood and misrepresented you. Robespierre, as your second quote identifies, was a peace loving person, forced into extreme measures by the forces of reaction.

    On a different note, regarding this idea being put about by people in the media that Breivik is a neo-nazi of some sort, I don’t think that stands up, and it’s also why I think we should be careful about labelling him far-right as a synonym. He supports Israel, for example, which makes it very difficult to place him in such company.

    It seems to me Breivik was a reactionary extremist. His hatred is for modern ideas of equality and toleration, as we can see from his views on women. Some call people like him a revolutionary traditionalist. That seems to me to be an interesting and possibly accurate idea.

  • Damian O’Loan


    “La plus extravagante idée qui puisse naître dans la tête d’un politique est de croire qu’il suffise à un peuple d’entrer à main armée chez un peuple étranger, pour lui faire adopter ses lois et sa constitution. Personne n’aime les missionnaires armés”

    From 1:45 if you’re short on patience…

  • Sadfly, Damian O’Loan @ 3:57pm, Robespierre was a man ar bheagán Béarla.

  • Sandfly? Sadly? Take your plick!

  • RepublicanStones

    I’ll give you a little hint (as I’m in a good mood): the qualification is in the second part of the sentence.

    Sorry Alias, no dice. The repugnant inference you made is there for all to see. If you were merely highlighting how some might use this attack to smear the critics of multiculturalism, you could have simply stated as much. Instead you inferred a that everyone who opposes his ideas (you didn’t even bother to add a caveat such as ‘some’) will gain some pleasure or gratification from this horror.

    He supports Israel, for example, which makes it very difficult to place him in such company.

    Not so. Muslims have simply replaced Jews as their object of ire. Not to mention that one does not have to be philo-semitic to be a zionist or support Israel. As I have previously mentioned on Slugger, even Goldhagen and Finkelstein agree on the issue of exaggerated philo-semitism.

    Further the bible-belt christian zionists, dispensationalists in the Dixie states of the US, strongly support Israel for rather unsavoury theological reasons. But then again Herzl’s prediction turned out to be rather prescient in this regard. And i don’t think the traditional bread and butter politics of those in the Bible Belt can be really be claimed to be anywhere near the left.

    But remember, some folks simply support Israel because they believe the Gates of Vienna have simply moved 1463.3 Miles to the east.

  • wee buns

    Did you see the editorial of the Jerusalem Post, including weird disclaimer by editor-in-chief.

    ‘Perhaps Brievik’s inexcusable act of vicious terror should serve not only as a warning that there may be more elements on the extreme Right willing to use violence to further their goals, but also as an opportunity to seriously reevaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere. While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.’
    The challenge for Norway in particular and for Europe as a whole, where the Muslim population is expected to account for 8% of the population by 2030 according to a Pew Research Center, is to strike the right balance. Fostering an open society untainted by xenophobia or racism should go hand in hand with protection of unique European culture and values.

    Europe’s fringe right-wing extremists present a real danger to society. But Oslo’s devastating tragedy should not be allowed to be manipulated by those who would cover up the abject failure of multiculturalism.

    The editor-in-chief adds: As a newspaper, The Jerusalem Post strongly denounces all acts of violence against innocent civilians. This editorial is not aimed at deflecting attention from the horrific massacre perpetuated in Norway, nor the need to take greater precautions against extremists from all sides.

  • DC

    Well, just as I thought the guy’s been declared mad, despite Mick’s cautionary warning against coming to that conclusion right at the outset.

    From Russia Today:

    Confessed mass killer Andres Breivik is not mentally sound and cannot be held accountable for the double terror attack in July, which ended with 77 people dead, doctors have determined, as cited by Norwegian media.

    Psychiatrist Torger Husby, who was among the medical team examining the self-proclaimed crusader, said he and his colleagues had come to a clear conclusion on the 32-yaer-old’s mental health, but declined to elaborate.

    Psychiatrists who evaluated the mental state of mass killer Anders Breivik have come up with an assessment for a Norwegian court on Tuesday.

    The key findings are expected at a news conference later on Tuesday. The finding by the two forensic psychiatrists will help determine whether Breivik is sentenced to prison or psychiatric care.

    “The conclusion is … is that he is insane,” prosecutor Svein Holden told a news conference. “He lives in his own delusional universe and his thoughts and acts are governed by this universe.”