As the world struggles to make sense of the tragic attacks in Norway last week, it has become apparent that Anders Behring Breivik, the main suspect held by police, left a long trail of online comments, a YouTube video, and a manifesto outlining his political beliefs. The New York Times reports today, Breivik “endeavored to find common cause with xenophobic right-wing groups around the world, particularly in the United States” and his manifesto “quoted extensively from the anti-Islam writings of American bloggers.”
In his manifesto, Breivik cites an assortment of right-wing figures, but a troubling theme is evident in the 1,500 page document. Breivik was directly influenced by the same cadre of American anti-Muslim activists that have gained a powerful following in the contemporary conservative movement in recent years. Many of the leading Islamophobes who inspired Breivik have also been responsible for a rising tide of hate campaigns, from the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” hysteria to a disturbing trend of demonstrations against Muslim Americans across the country:
— Breivik cites neoconservative Islamophobe Frank Gaffney on opposition to Turkey joining the EU, and reprints a post from Gaffney’s think tank, the Center for Security Policy: Gaffney, a former Reagan official, is a regular on Fox News, a writer for the Washington Times op-ed page, a sought-after speaker at major conservative conferences, and a ubiquitous talking head on talk radio. His think tank created a website to orchestrate protests against the the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in Manhattan. When he is not arguing that President Obama is a secret agent of the Muslim Brotherhood or claiming that radical Muslims have infiltrated the top levels of American government, he is calling for people who practice Islam to be prosecuted under sedition laws.
— Breivik cites blogger Pamella Geller several times in his manifesto, reprints articles praising her: Geller, the writer behind the popular anti-Muslim blog Atlas Shrugs, has been perhaps the most proactive anti-Muslim activist, given the fact she was the first to smear the planned Park51 community center as a “victory mosque” and was involved in demonstrations against the construction before most of the media gained an interest. As Geller travels the country promoting her belief that Muslims are an inherent threat to American society, she has been connected to protests against mosques in California, Tennessee, and other states.
— Breivik posts a 45-minute interview with Brigitte Gabriel, a leading organizer of grassroots anti-Muslim activism: Gabriel is the author of several popular anti-Muslim books, is the founder of ACT! For America, a group Gabriel created to engineer a permanent activism base for efforts to scapegoat Muslim Americans. Her group has collaborated with Tea Party groups, pushed bans on Sharia law in states, and mobilized a vicious hate rally in Orange County earlier this year. In an interview with ThinkProgress, Gabriel confessed that she regularly advises Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY).
— Breivik extensively quotes Robert Spencer, a leading anti-Muslim writer sponsored by David Horowitz: Spencer’s blog Jihad Watch, along with Geller’s site (Spencer and Geller created the group “Stop Islamization of America” to distribute action alerts), have driven anti-Muslim memes in the news for years. Sponsored by David Horowitz’s think tank, Jihad Watch has led efforts to purge the Republican Party of Muslim Americans and is a constant purveyor of strange anti-Muslim claims, like one recently that former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) had secretly converted to Islam. Despite his links to Holocaust deniers and other unsavory individuals, Spencer provides punditry for Fox News, National Review, and other top conservative media organs. ThinkProgress has found his books sold at CPAC, the College Republican conference, and events for Young Americans for Freedom.
— Breivik linked ten times to video clips for the movie Obsession, a documentary created by a secretive group called the Clarion Fund: In 2008, a mysterious organization called the Clarion Fund mailed the documentary Obsession to 28 million households in swing states leading up to the election. The movie argues that Muslims are waging a war against America, and will stop at nothing to destroy western civilization. Clarion has subsequently produced more films, which are distributed and publicized widely by Geller, Gabriel, Spencer and other leading anti-Muslim activists. The group is chaired by a number of prominent Islamophobes, including Gaffney and Daniel Pipes.
The American media has failed to connect the dots in recent years as anti-Muslim activists like Geller, Spencer, Gaffney, and Gabriel have played an incredible role in fomenting a surge in anti-Muslim hate in America. Most reporters latch onto right-wing opportunists like Newt Gingrich, who at the height of the Ground Zero Mosque protests added fuel to the fire with his own bigoted comments. But there is a well-financed, well-coordinated effort among far right Islamophobes to orchestrate a “crusade” against Muslims. While the American Islamophobe machine has mostly inspired petty vandalism against mosques and racist demonstrations in the United States, the massacre in Norway is a grim reminder that dehumanizing hate can have dangerous but unintended consequences.