The civilized world shared revulsion at the mass murders in Norway committed by Anders Behring Breivik. It is certainly natural to wonder why anyone would commit such a horrific act, and whether the killer acted alone or was an agent for others.
Reports have suggested that Breivik was, among other things, both neo-Nazi and pro-Israel. That incongruity ought to have been a red light to speculators that his was a confused mind, with too many demons for anyone to quickly decipher.
There have been killers, of relatively sound mind — such as the 9/11 killers — who clearly acted in the service of religious or political ideologies and armies, like Al-Qaeda. In that case, it is imperative that we connect these “soldiers” to their cause and generals.
In other cases — as with President John F. Kennedy’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, who was devoted to foreign communist governments, and with Sirhan Sirhan, who deliberately assassinated presidential candidate Robert Kennedy on the first anniversary of Israel’s victory in 1967 — killers have expressed sympathy for causes, yet acted independently. No reasonable voice ever suggested that Oswald or Sirhan must be linked with communist intellectuals in academia or those who offer a reasoned critique of Israeli policies.
Too many people rushed to link the Arizona gunman who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords this winter to conservative talk radio, before those accusations were humbled by the obvious magnitude of the killer’s mental illness.
The American media has been cautious to avoid blaming all Muslims, or even all of radical Islam, for mass murderers such as the Fort Hood killer, even when they have admitted to being inspired by radical Islamic politics and incitement.
And yet, lessons are slow to be learned and consistency is elusive. Headlines labeled Breivik a “Christian extremist,” even as the same publications have been far slower to label various would-be American jihadists as “Muslim extremists.”
Outrage at the killings in Norway is mandatory. To blame others who share a legitimate fragment of Breivik’s illegitimate views is both premature and unfair.