After Oslo and Utøya

[T]here are among us rage-hardened, powerless people who resort to the gun and the bomb. […T]here are powerful people who deplore the gun and the bomb, but who do not hesitate to profit from their use. And when the gun goes off or the bomb explodes, the powerful will deplore the actions of the powerless, and they will reassure the rest of us that We are not like Them, who are violent and crazy and whose acts have no reason beyond unfathomable madness.

»The bomb that didn’t go off«, Charles P. Peirce’s angry essay about public indifference to right-wing terrorism in the United States, was published only one day before a gun and a bomb did go off, with a right-wing terrorist killing more than 90 people in Oslo and on Utøya Island in Norway.

Peirce suggests a link between the (flawed) attacks of right-wing terrorists in the U.S. and a public debate that fails to regulate its passions, allowing for hatred not only to be sown but in some cases even to be tolerated. The diagnosis sounds familiar. And while we must be careful about hasty generalizations, it does give food for thought.

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