Since the tragic double terrorist attack in Oslo, Norway, we are seeing shooter Anders Behring Breivik's right wing affiliations and Christian religion called into question, ridiculed and in some cases ignored by conservative media outlets.
There was no doubt that, after incorrectly trying to link the incident to Islamic terrorism, many conservative reporters and commentators would attempt to distance the alleged shooter from both the religious and political views he so obviously held. I figured we would see the religious-rightists say that "this is not a real Christian," even if Breivik referred to himself as Christian in his writings, under the guise that no one who commits mass murder could be a Christian.
However, I must admit I'm surprised about the lack of discretion and tact with which wild claims are being made. At the top of the list is Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, who is outraged that media outlets are accurately portraying Breivik as a Christian and a right winger.
O'Reilly made the statement that "no one who believes in Jesus would commit mass murder." This is an outrageous supposition, not only because in this case the alleged shooter is both a Christian and a political conservative, but because even a casual look at American prisons would confirm there are many Jesus-believing Christians who have not only committed mass murder, but have been convicted of it by juries of their peers.
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Has O'Reilly ever heard of the Crusades, the Inquisition, or witch hunts?
O'Reilly and many other conservatives in the media aren't showing the slightest hesitation to defend Christianity in a way that is indefensible – that is, preemptively stating that anyone committing certain crimes would by definition not be Christian.
On a recent broadcast of "The O'Reilly Factor," the host added that "Breivik is also not attached to any church" as evidence that he couldn't possibly be a Christian. At face value, this claim couldn't be more absurd. To look at one anecdotal example exposing the illogic of this argument, I am Jewish. I have been Jewish my entire life. No one has ever questioned my Judaism. However, I'm also not "attached" to any synagogue, and the argument that as a result I could not possibly be Jewish doesn't stand up to the slightest scrutiny.
There is, however, some brilliance to the idea that anyone, whether they claim to be a Christian or not, fails to meet the standard of being a "true" Christian if they commit mass murder. While bizarre to clear-thinking individuals, many will fall for this preemptive exculpation of "bad" acts that anyone calling themselves "Christian" might commit. You can be a Christian all your life, and O'Reilly will accept it, but if you commit mass murder, it turns out you weren't really a Christian all along.
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What we do know is that this is the same argument many conservatives rejected when it came from Muslims in discussions about Islamic extremism. When guest after guest on radio and television programs explained that reasonable Muslims # which are almost all of them - neither support nor condone terrorist acts, and that those acts are in no way representative of Islam, conservatives laughed, denied, insulted and often attempted to embarrass those making the claims. This confirms the hypocrisy and lack of substance in the assertions now being made in the context of the Norway terrorist attacks.
Beyond being an interesting discussion topic, the lack of focus on right wing terrorism not perpetrated by people with darker-than-white skin, regardless of religion, could be quite the danger.
On "The David Pakman Show," we've often discussed the obsessive, near frantic focus on Islamic terror, including U.S. Rep. Peter King's "American Muslim hearings," designed to focus discussions of terrorism solely on one group. However, as we've also discussed, right wing terror is becoming an increasingly significant problem in the U.S. and around the world, with over 20 right wing terror incidents in the U.S. in recent history, and over 60 that were foiled by law enforcement.
If conservatives are successful in keeping the discussion of terrorism away from all sources other than Muslims, it will not only be incredibly disrespectful to almost all followers of Islam, but will put Americans and citizens of the world at risk by ignoring the real threats that have nothing to do with Mohammed or the Koran.
David Pakman of Northampton, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program, "The David Pakman Show," writes a monthly column. He can be reached at www.davidpakman.com