There’s a problem here, and it has nothing to do with political correctness. It’s not even simply about public language. The problem is that the more we explain away acts of domestic terrorism as isolated cases of madness, the less capable we become of spotting it. Having realised the weekend’s attacks in Norway weren’t Islamist, we must do better than lazily assuming Breivik is just Norway’s answer to Martin Bryant.
Martin Bryant he is not. Bryant is a loner who massacred 35 people apparently as a way of getting attention: to “make everyone remember me”. Breivik is a committed political activist. His manifesto (which for the time being is on YouTube), if correctly attributed, makes this abundantly clear. It is deeply implausible that this was anything other than a textbook case of terrorism. It was fear-inducing violence by a non-state actor in the service of a political cause.
Understood this way, we can see that Breivik is far from an isolated case. This is clearest in America, where the phenomenon of “domestic terrorism” has been on the rise for the last three or four years. Here, I’m not talking about “homegrown” Islamist terrorism, which has also increased. I’m talking about people who, crudely speaking, are like Breivik: white, male citizens with some or other political axe to grind in their own nation.