The Tundra Tabloids publishes the following review at Fjordman’s request.
Book Review: The New Quislings
The American author Bruce Bawer, who has lived in Norway for over a decade, in early 2012 published the ebook The New Quislings: How the International Left Used the Oslo Massacre to Silence Debate About Islam. It deals with the aftermath of the terror attacks in the Oslo region on July 22, 2011 where Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in cold blood, first with a bomb in central Oslo and then with a shooting spree at the island of Utøya outside of the city. Relative to its population size, Norway lost more of its citizens in these attacks than the USA did during the Islamic Jihadist attacks of September 11, 2001.
A similarly deadly atrocity somewhere else would have caused a lot of grief and pain, but perhaps not triggered the nearly existential crisis that it did in Norway. As a previously sheltered Scandinavian society, Norway has had a tendency to see itself as immune to the ills that befall the rest of the world. The country’s left-wing political elite, which sees itself as a beacon of virtue, eagerly seized upon a suggestion by the American writer and alleged terror expert Mark Juergensmeyer that Breivik was a “Christian terrorist,” although Breivik openly admits that he is not a religious man at all. Even his defense lawyer Geir Lippestad states that ABB respects and admires the violent methods employed by the Islamic Jihadist terrorist network al-Qaida.
Bawer is at his best in this book when pointing out that in the days following the terror attacks, the Norwegian political and media elites were busy reaching out to imams and visiting mosques, while at the sametime ruthlessly attacking all those who were seen as critical of Islam, Multiculturalism or the official immigration policies. These local dissidents were the only ones who were seen as outside of the circle of universal peace, love and the brotherhood of man.
He notes the glaring double standard that if people who commit acts of terrorism shout Islamic slogans or cite the Koran as justification for their actions, this has absolutely nothing to do with Islam in any way. On the other hand, if a mentally unbalanced man quotes a large number of peaceful individuals and uses this to justify terrorism, these writers should immediately be attacked and blamed as co-responsible for his acts. Apparently, terror has absolutely nothing to do with Islam but a lot to do with so-called Islamophobia.
Breivik’s unspeakable atrocities in a single day gave the ruling Multicultural elites a chance to reestablish their authority, which had been slowly, but steadily eroding for years, and suppress public dissent. Far too often, they eagerly grasped this opportunity with both hands. In the first months after 22/7, the only possible choice for individuals who had been critical of Islam or mass immigration was to repent, now, of face public ostracism. Bawer describes a repressive atmosphere of fear and public ritual shaming of political dissidents.
The aggressive name-calling and campaign of intimidation did not stop after it gradually became clear that Breivik had probably acted alone, barely even after he was declared insane by psychiatrists. The right-wing Progress Party suffered its greatest losses in many years during the local elections in Norway in September 2011. The fact that they sometimes gave in and tried to appease those who verbally assaulted them only made them appear weakand made the aggressors more aggressive.
Bawer writes about me going public as Fjordman shortly after the Breivik case. He states that he knew me from several years back and that we had met socially a few times in Oslo in addition to exchanging emails. This is correct. Bawer was friendly towards me and invited me along for the Pim Fortuyn Memorial Conference on Islam in The Hague in the Netherlandsin February 2006, where I met some international writers such as Robert Spencer, Andrew G. Bostom, Ibn Warraq and Bat Ye’or for the first time. I knew Spencer, Bostom and others via the Internet already but had not met them in person prior to this date.
Bawer indicates in his book that he generally liked my personality, stating that I was friendly, “obviously very widely read”and knowledgeable about many aspects of Arabic culture as well as about Islam and Islamic history. I was highly critical of Islam, but at the same time did not say bigoted or offensive things about individual Muslims as human beings. On the negative side, he includes some critical comments about me, states that he thinks my pen name is “very silly” and indicates that I can also appear arrogant at times:
“In any event, at the time of the atrocities I had not been in contact with him for a couple of years, had seen virtually none of his recent work, and had actually forgotten his real name. As soon as it emerged that he was Breivik’s ‘hero,’ I was overcome with sympathy for him. As far as I knew, he had never written anything that any sane person would read as encouraging violence. In my view, he was an earnest, intelligent young man for whom there had been no place in a foreign service that treats Hamas with more respect than it does Israel, and who therefore sought to serve his country’s interests in the only way he could come up with – by writing about the truth as he saw it.”
The author regrets seeing me “being tarred mercilessly by Norwegian media” in the aftermath of 22/7 because some of my essays had been quoted without my knowledge or approval by a mentally disturbed person I had never once met. He states repeatedly that he thinks the terrorist Breivik is insane, or at least partly so. It is true that insane or mentally disturbed individuals can still potentially be influenced by society around them. If this was the case with Breivik, Bawer agrees with those suggesting that to the extent that ABB had “indirect accomplices,” these are the Multiculturalists who have suppressed real public debate about vital issues.
He ends his book with a comment by an unnamed observer stating that it’s not the people whose books Breivik read and quoted who created the mental atmosphere prior to July 2011. “It’s the people who refused todebate and discuss the contents of those books and instead chose to stigmatize their authors – and who in the aftermath of the Oslo massacre decided that this was an opportunity to win the argument without having to address the evidence. They’re exploiting this episode as viciously as they can to try to restore their control over the parameters of public debate – not understanding that that is precisely what caused the problem in the first place. And not understanding, either, that their ‘solution’ will only make things worse.”
I hope to give a more in-depth review of this book later, but I find it to be somewhat uneven. Bruce Bawer does not lack courage or writing skills, he can read Scandinavian newspapers in the original languages and has followed the local political debate for years. In short, he is in a good position to describe Norway after the Breivik case as an outsider who is at the same time knowledgeable about this country. When writing at his best he does precisely that, but he could have been more effective in achieving this goal if he had structured his book differently.
I understand the intent behind his provocative title. He is tired of being on the defensive vis-à-vis the political Left and the Multiculturalists. Just like you cannot win a football match by doing nothing but defending yourself, so you cannot win a verbal battle by constantly being on the defensive. You need to take the initiative and go on the offensive. I firmly believe this analysis to be correct and sympathize with the author’s intent. Attacking is necessary, but not if this means scoring a rhetorical own goal. Unfortunately, I fear that this is precisely what Bawer has done by choosing a title like The New Quislings.
The pro-Nazi collaborator Vidkun Quisling was executed by firing squad for treason at Akershus Fortress in Oslo on 24 October 1945,being at that point one of the most universally reviled Norwegians who everlived. Linking his name with the Norwegian political elites nearly 70 years later was strategically unwise and largely misses the mark, politically as well as ideologically. It probably scared away parts of Bawer’s potential target audience, too. I say this as a friendly person. There are good reasons to be critical of the ruling elites and their Multicultural ideology in many Western countries, but the criticism of them has to be precise and accurate.
In general, the Western world often seems to be mentally stuck in the age of the Second World War, which after all ended three generations ago. The text is also not as international as it could have been. It might have benefited from including more examples of how Breivik’s massacre was exploited politically in countries other than Norway.
Summed up, this is a book that contains some good sections, but overall it’s not as good as it had the potential to be. It is not Bruce Bawer’s bestwork, although it reminds us that he is not a coward. His adopted homeland hasa shortage of dissidents and could use Bawer’s writings skills and insights, but he would be more effective in his struggle if he channeled his rage more efficiently and attacked the problem from a different angle. The author would have benefited from spending a few more months polishing his material and focusing it in another way.