Friday, July 22, 2011

A Blast, Bullets, Bodies, Norway, and Getting a Grip

More than a dozen people were killed in Norway today. At least one bomb in Oslo, and a lot of bullets in a camp for teenagers, are responsible. It's early days, but my guess is that it's a terrorist attack with two targets.

I think it's probably a "terrorist attack:" but that's not the whole story.

Depending on whose headlines you read, the attack wasn't done by Islamic Islamist terrorists. (Associated Press, via The Washington Post) and, more specifically, it was a domestic terror attack. (Nils Myklebost, Forbes)

But, like I said, it's still early days.

Remember Oklahoma City

The dude who was arrested - here's what Mr. Myklebost wrote, in part:
"...A police official said the 32-year-old ethnic Norwegian suspect arrested at the camp on Utoya island appears to have acted alone in both attacks, and that 'it seems like that this is not linked to any international terrorist organizations at all.' The official spoke on condition of anonymity because that information had not been officially released by Norway's police.

" 'It seems it's not Islamic-terror related,' the official said. 'This seems like a madman's work.'

"The official said the attack 'is probably more Norway's Oklahoma City than it is Norway's World Trade Center.' Domestic terrorists carried out the 1995 attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City, while foreign terrorists were responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks...."
(Nils Myklebost, Forbes)
As I've said before, right-wing extremists sometimes really are terrorists. (June 6, 2009) Which isn't the same as saying that everybody who disagrees with Code Pink is a terrorist.

"Islamist," "Islamic," and Unintended Consequences

Establishment news services in America, when they must, often call Islamic crazies who kill people "Islamist" terrorists. This mincing around the unpleasant reality that some folks believe that they're defending Islam by killing people is, I hope, well-intentioned.

Just as some folks assume that the CIA blew up the World Trade Center, others seem convinced that all terrorists are Ay-rabs, that everybody in the Middle East follows Islam, and that all Muslims are terrorists. Or at least support terrorists. And, perhaps just as bad: aren't Americans.

I've posted about that sort of chauvinism before:
I doubt - very much - that any euphemism will change the mind of a chauvinist. And euphemisms have a way of drawing attention to what they're dancing around. Think the way many still try not to use the word "sex," in many contexts - and that isn't quite another topic.

Outfits like Al Qaeda and the Taliban make no secret about being Muslims. They say they're waging a holy war. I think it's silly to pretend that they're not "Islamic," at least by their own definitions.

Unpleasant Realities - are Still Realities

Using a euphemism like "Islamist" may draw attention to warped religious beliefs of that particular lot of terrorists.1 Think how terms like "collateral damage" and "friendly casualties" did nothing, at best, to make folks feel better about unpleasant realities of war.

Here in America, the shine seems to have worn off political correctness. Silly labels, occasionally ham-handed efforts to avoid "sexist" pronouns like s/he, and goofball neologisms like waitron: all failed to unite everyone in an affirming siblinghood of person.

It also made a fair number of folks in this country very tired of living in another person's fantasy world. I've opined about that, in another blog:

But - Norway's too Nice for Terror?

Quite a lot has changed since my Norwegian ancestors raided my Irish forebears - and most of the rest of Europe. Norway, and Sweden, have a reputation for being very nice places to live.

So, how could something like today's attack possibly happen in such a nice place? It's actually a sensible question.

There seems to be an assumption that nice places shouldn't have nasty experiences. It's jarring, when an unpleasant reality plows through that expectation.
"...Ian Dutton, who was in a nearby hotel, said the building 'shook as if it had been struck by lightning or an earthquake.' He looked outside and saw 'a wall of debris and smoke.'

"Dutton, who is from New York, said the scene reminded him of Sept. 11 -- people 'just covered in rubble' walking through 'a fog of debris.'

" 'It wasn't any sort of a panic,' he said, 'It was really just people in disbelief and shock, especially in a such as safe and open country as Norway, you don't even think something like that is possible.'..."
(Associated Press, via
I sympathize with Mr. Dutton, and the folks in my ancestral homeland. It's a shock when parts of an orderly, civilized, society get blown to bits - along with some of the folks living in it.

But - trouble happens. Over two dozen centuries ago, someone made this observation:
"For mischief comes not out of the earth, nor does trouble spring out of the ground; 2But man himself begets mischief, as sparks fly upward."
(Job 5:6,7)
I've opined about that before, in another blog: A Catholic Citizen in America (September 6, 2010).

And yes: I'm one of those people. A practicing Catholic. Which may not mean what you've heard it does.

Finally, an example of labels and reality. These folks are Christians. Their group identifies itself with that label.

(Reuters photo, via, used w/o permission)

They are not, however, typical Christians. Not even here in America. And that's another topic, for another blog.

Somewhat-related posts:
In the news:
1 "Warped religious beliefs?" That's not entirely my view.

I think the habit of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, of killing folks who disagree, has started surviving Muslims thinking. That, and the way that Information Age technology lets folks compare old-world customs with post-18th-century law.

It'll take time for changes to happen, but I think significant numbers of Muslims are re-evaluating what they believe:


Brigid said...

I think there might be something missing here: "(according to Muslims they target)"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


That wasn't well-written. I've re-done that "warped religious beliefs" remark, and added a footnote that may (or may not) clarify things.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.