Sunday’s front-page, over-the-fold New York Times headline on the massacre in Norway (over a story by Scott Shane and Steven Erlanger) was blunt: “As Horrors Emerge, Norway Charges Christian Extremist – Manifesto Shows Plan of Attack, Fear of Islam.”
But while the Times showed no reluctance to identify Anders Behring Breivik, the lone gunman in the Norway attacks, as a “Christian extremist” in a front-page headline and hinted at more danger from "right-wing extremists" in Europe (photo credit Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Agence France-Presse) the paper previously showed a clear reluctance to identify Islam after the last major terrorist attack on Europe, the deadly July 7, 2005 attacks by Muslim terrorists on subways and buses in London that killed 52. Instead the Times treated the attacks as British Prime Minister Tony Blair's "bitter harvest" for following President George W. Bush into Iraq.
As more information about the London attacks came, a July 9, 2005 story focused on a theory “that the plot was carried out by a sleeper cell of homegrown extremists rather than highly trained terrorists exported to Britain.” But what kind of extremists? The Times left out the words “Islam” and “Muslim.” ("Muslim" showed up only in a quote, and without context.)
Erlanger and Shane reached back to the Oklahoma City bombings of 1995, calling killer Timothy McVeigh “the right-wing American.”
“This is the Norwegian equivalent to Timothy McVeigh,” the right-wing American who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, said Marcus Buck, a political scientist at the University of Tromso in northern Norway. “This is right-wing domestic terrorism, and the big question is to what extent Norwegian agencies have diverted their attention from what they knew decades ago was the biggest threat” to focus instead on Islamic militants.
Sunday’s report from Berlin by Nicholas Kulish did not shy away from ideological labels either, at least not for villains on the right: “Norway Attacks Put Spotlight on Rise of Right-Wing Sentiment in Europe.”
The attacks in Oslo on Friday have riveted new attention on right-wing extremists not just in Norway but across Europe, where opposition to Muslim immigrants, globalization, the power of the European Union and the drive toward multiculturalism has proven a potent political force and, in a few cases, a spur to violence.
The success of populist parties appealing to a sense of lost national identity has brought criticism of minorities, immigrants and in particular Muslims out of the beer halls and Internet chat rooms and into mainstream politics. While the parties themselves generally do not condone violence, some experts say a climate of hatred in the political discourse has encouraged violent individuals.
The bombing and shootings in Oslo also have served as a wake-up call for security services in Europe and the United States that in recent years have become so focused on Islamic terrorists that they may have underestimated the threat of domestic radicals, including those upset by what they see as the influence of Islam.
In the United States the deadly attacks have reawakened memories of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, where a right-wing extremist, Timothy J. McVeigh, used a fertilizer bomb to blow up a federal government building, killing 168 people. That deadly act had long since been overshadowed by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Perhaps the most surprising about-turn came in Britain, a country that has long considered itself among the most immigrant-friendly in Europe until a series of coordinated bomb attacks in London six years ago. In one of his most noticed speeches, Mr. Cameron told the Munich security conference in February that the country’s decades-old policy of multiculturalism had encouraged “segregated communities” where Islamic extremism can thrive.
"The events" of 9-11? Also note that while Kulish slapped a "right-wing" ideological label on McVeigh, he did not even acknowledge that the terrorists who bombed London commuter trains in July 2005 were Muslim.
More warnings followed of the danger posed by the "right-wing."
But neither does Norway exist in a vacuum. Its right-wing scene is connected to the rest of Europe through the Internet forums where hate speech proliferates and through right-wing demonstrations that draw an international mix of participants.
By contrast, the 2005 London bombings were treated as somehow understandable in the wake of Muslim anger over Bush and especially British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the invasion of Iraq. Reporter Alan Cowell all but blamed Blair: “Perhaps the crudest lesson to be drawn was that, in adopting the stance he took after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Blair had finally reaped the bitter harvest of the war on terrorism -- so often forecast but never quite seeming real until the explosions boomed across London.”
Reporter Hassan Fattah, in a July 16, 2005 front-page story, "Anger Burns on The Fringe of Britain's Muslims," found understanding for one of the Muslim terrorists, Shehzad Tanweer: "To the boys from Cross Flats Park, Mr. Tanweer, 22, who blew himself up on a subway train in London last week, was devout, thoughtful and generous. If they understood his actions, it was because they lived in Mr. Tanweer's world, too. They did not agree with what Mr. Tanweer had done, but made clear they shared the same sense of otherness, the same sense of siege, the same sense that their community, and Muslims in general, were in their view helpless before the whims of greater powers. Ultimately, they understood his anger.”