The events in Norway have been truly shocking. There is no excuse, and can be no excuse for the actions of Anders Behring Breivik, no matter how frustrated and fearful he is of Norway's future.
He is, by common consensus, something of a nutter. That's an argument it is difficult to mount an argument against. Right minded people do not explode car bombs outside office buildings and go on shooting sprees at youth camps.
I thought that the Prime Minister and Justice Minister of Norway conducted themselves with great dignity during the press conferences the evening of and day after the atrocities, many leaders of many countries would have reacted with rage and fury, lashing out at targets they imagined to be responsible, it is a great credit to Norway that their politicians were able to keep cool heads in the direct aftermath.
Unfortunately not everyone has been able to demonstrate the same, and have demonstrated an extremist leaning themselves. As this man was anti-EU, (an organisation that Norway is not a member of and is unlikely to join), and so the pro-EU lobby has been quick to insinuate that anyone who opposes the EU is just like this nutter and would explode bombs and shoot children at the earliest opportunity. It's a disgusting way to do business, but that's the EU for you.
Sky News have been running the English Defence League logo on their TV graphical sidebar in relation to this story this morning. This is also not helpful. I've little time for the EDL, there's a few things about them which don't sit well with me, but I'm not about to associate them with a mass murderer, if anything I think Unite Against Fascism are the more likely to do physical harm to people.
Of course one of the hallmarks of UAF is how they demonstrate their opposition to fascism by preventing people from expressing their opinion and threatening or using violence against those who they don't agree with when they won't do as they're told and shut up. So on balance, I'd say I have the merest fraction of respect for EDL whereas for UAF I have none at all.
But that's the media for you, EDL don't like the EU or Islam therefore it is reasonable to lump them in with this mentalist. Lazy, sloppy. The bear baiting has started as well. Just wait for the discussion shows on radio and TV, and watch the extremists having their leads slipped on the air. I'll assure you this, no-one who is going to condone Breivik's actions will get anywhere near a microphone or the phone in studio switchboard, however plenty of people will be given free reign to demand that Breivik be subject to some sort of summary 'justice', that he must be barred from speaking in his own defence, or at all, and that the death sentence is the only just one in this case. They will demand that people who are anti-EU, anti-Islam or just hold views that are nebulously labelled as 'right-wing' or even against whatever it is these correspondents believe in, are subject to some sort of control, monitoring or censorship. They will see nothing wrong in that. Because they will not consider that the same could be extended to them, or anyone. This is a bad man, so why go to the expense of a trial? Why should his mad ramblings be entertained? Why should those who think like him be allowed to speak and write without control?
The answer is simple, because as soon as you withdraw that right from one person, you withdraw it from all. Yourself included. Never underestimate the ability for politicians to turn your own weapons against you. Once you declare someone as extremist and shut down their ability to speak, the easiest thing in the world is for you to be declared the same and suffer the same treatment.
Freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial are vital, even if it means that occasionally someone will write something you don't like or stands up in court and says something you find offensive. Your views are reasonable, aren't they? Of course, they're yours. But what happens if all of a sudden someone denounced them as extremist, and the moves you advocate now have been put into practice? What then?
No, the correct response to extremism is not extremism.