Well, OK, not really. But as news of the atrocities committed in Norway broke last week, before Anders Breivik was identified as the culprit, Western journalists initially conjectured that responsibility might lie with Islamist terrorists or even 'anarchists' (a possibility suggested by Bradford University's Professor of Peace Studies, Paul Rogers, on BBC television news). The Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker and, more splenetically, Craig Murray, have both noted the Islamophobic nature of this coverage - although it was for a Guardian blog, no less, that The Observer's Peter Beaumont wrote a detailed article - now completely revised, of course - connecting the attacks to 'Islamist militants'. Sadly, the attribution of domestic terrorism to Islamists is hardly unprecedented (to take just one outstanding example, consider how the 1995 Oklahoma bombing was initially described in the US media as having Middle Eastern connections), but it is deeply cynical, racist and xenophobic.
Meanwhile, cynical and hypocritical politicians who are themselves responsible for mass murder (notably Barack Obama) are earnestly expressing solidarity with the assassin's victims. Nor have these politicians lost any time in exploiting the tragedy to reinforce public faith in democracy. The Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, for example, has been attempting to rally Norwegians around the flag in an expression of national unity, telling mourners in Oslo that 'by taking part' in public grieving, they were 'saying a resounding "yes" to democracy'.
For the ruling class, indeed, Anders Breivik's reactionary beliefs - summarised in his post-modern, cut-and-pasted manifesto - represent, in Laclauian terms, the 'constitutive outside' of liberal democracy. The horror of Breivik's actions prove, we are told, the moral superiority of liberal capitalism over the 'violent' or 'extremist' ideologies that would overturn it. And yet Breivik's violent hostility towards immigrants reflects the consensus of bourgeois political parties everywhere. In light of this, we should insist that Breivik's ideology and actions, in all their barbarous irrationality, represent the apotheosis rather than the antithesis of capitalist social relations. As Robert Kurz wrote in his 2002 essay 'The Fatal Pressure of Competition', 'the psycho killers are robots of capitalist competition gone haywire: subjects of the crisis, dedicated to the concept of the modern subject, and fully educated in all of its characteristics'.
Moreover, the 'democratic' state will use Breivik's rampage, as it uses all terrorist attacks, to its advantage. Over the last few days, media coverage of the killings has regularly raised the question of whether the Norwegian state may have been 'naive' about the prospect of a terrorist attack in Norway. This is perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the public discourse around the killings, for it surely paves the way for ever tighter state restrictions on civil liberties.