When I posted, in the aftermath of the horrors in Norway, that the man behind the atrocities was associated with the American Right and with anti-Muslim bloggers, who bear some responsibility for the consequences of their rhetoric, I achieved the near-impossible.
I angered my old friend Maclin Horton, who is almost preternaturally laid back.
We went back and forth in the comboxes at his blog (http://lightondarkwater.typepad.com/lodw/2011/07/norway.html). Eventually, he came up with this scenario: I have for years criticized the neoconservatives, beginning in the pages of Caelum et Terra, the magazine. At that time, in the early 90s, my criticism was mostly of the neo-con Catholics for their attempt to hijack Catholic social teaching in the service of capitalism. I was not too attentive to the larger agenda of the movement, as they had little political power. Eight years of Bush and Cheney, a spat of wars, and talk of a “Pax Americana” cured me of that blindness, and indeed the whole ordeal of those eight years reawakened my dormant political radicalism. Unfortunately, the ship has not veered from its course under Obama, and the imperial project continues.
What if, Maclin asked, some unstable person, citing my words, had started shooting the Catholic neo-cons, maybe attacking a youth conference they had sponsored? How would I feel if journalists then blamed me?
I would be horrified, of course. And I would think it unfair.
And how would this be different? After all, our hypothetical shooter would profess the same ideas that I have, just as the Norwegian shooter’s words read like a neo-con manifesto, with a big dose of Knights Templar romanticism thrown in.
It is different because I never advocated violence against neo-cons, or against anyone else. The neoconservatives on the other hand not only have urged violence, they have orchestrated it in Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other places in the Islamic world. Indeed, they are personally responsible for the deaths of perhaps a million dead Iraqis.
To be fair they never advocated shooting Norwegian schoolkids just because they were associated with a Leftist political party, but violent rhetoric begets violence.
I stand by my original post.
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