The key lesson from Oslo is that fear blinds, not just those who act on violent impulses but also those who bear witness to it. Americans should finally examine the ripple effects of political ideas with which they’ve grown dangerously comfortable. As the facts of Breivik’s ideology slowly broke through, mainstream news showed momentary compunction. But that emotion was quickly overtaken by a second and equally familiar theme in coverage of political violence: the often-deceptive “lone wolf” trope that threads through debates about domestic white supremacist movements. On one hand, the lone-wolf theory is refreshing in that it recognizes individuals can commit acts of terror even without the direction of an established group. But it also affords mainstream Americans a mental safe zone that detaches “the crazies” from more acceptable right-wing and racist currents in the public discourse. The failure to grasp the continuum of extremism creates self-enforcing ignorance, as seen in Homeland Security’s attempts to downplay the threat of militant right-wing groups amid pressure from conservatives. True, extreme ideologies can’t be solely to blame for extreme violence. But curiously, that principle just doesn’t seem to apply to Muslim community leaders, constantly pressured to formally denounce every act that carries any suspicion of Islamic radicalism. The “lone wolf” concept doesn’t buffer European and American Muslims against the collective guilt that so many right-wingers gleefully impose on their religious identity.The assumption is that Western Christian liberalism is incompatible with fundamentalist violence. But Frank Schaeffer points out the flip-side of those vaunted Western values: "There is a growing movement in America that equates godliness with hatred of our government in fact hatred of our country as fallen and evil because we allow women choice, gays to marry, have a social safety net, and allow immigration from other cultures and non-white races." So how many more “lone wolves” will it take to force people to recognize a collective threat?
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