Anders Behring Breivik had no legitimate grievance | Gavan Titley and Alana Lentin

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Anders Behring Breivik had no legitimate grievance | Gavan Titley and Alana Lentin

In a Comment is Free post in the Guardian Gavan Titley and Alana Lentin explore the rhetoric being generated since Anders Behring Breivik’s Norway massacre which seeks to explain the violence of the attacks as a result of the “corrosion of Europe by Islamicisation and multiculturalism”.

Multiculturalism has historically been accompanied by accusations of “reverse racism” and “unfairness to whites”. Since 9/11, politicians and commentators have held it responsible for an extraordinary range of social and political problems. The overwhelming power attributed to this semi-fictional project, and the fact that it is often critcised in countries with small immigrant populations, with no real history of multiculturalism in practice, should give pause for thought.

It is widely recognised that racism underwent a change in the post-war period, shifting from being an ideology of racial hierarchy to one of “natural” cultural incompatability. The so-called “new racism” of far-right parties during the 1980s and 1990s ingested the language and logic of multiculturalism, and portrayed ordinary – white – people as victims of an elite imposition, hypocritically denied their “right to culture”. These ideas are pressed into service in the emerging defence of Breivik’s political despair. In extreme versions, multiculturalism is regarded as self-hatred, in more nuanced attacks as a laudable experiment that foundered on the rocks of their difference and “our” naive generosity. Both versions portray “multiculturalists” and “immigrants” as an internal threat to a given national culture, and an otherwise pristine state of social cohesion.

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Donagh is the editor of Irish Left Review. Contact Donagh through email: