The U.S. is reaping the consequences of a decade of largely ignoring white supremacist terrorists — beginning with a racist far-right extremist's murder of 77 people in Oslo, Norway, 10 years ago today, according to MSNBC columnist Cynthia Miller-Idriss.
On July 22, 2011, a 32-year-old Norwegian man detonated a bomb killing eight people at a government building. then traveled to a political youth conference, before gunning down another 69 people — including dozens of children and young adults — before being apprehended.
"The attacks marked the start of an era in far-right extremism that would be all but ignored by U.S. and global counterterrorism authorities for years to come. We are reaping the consequences of that inattention now," Miller-Idriss writes.
In a 1,500-page manifesto, the Oslo terrorist cited extreme anti-Islam and anti-immigrant beliefs. The attack directly inspired similar ones in six other countries, and indirectly resulted in the Oslo terrorist becoming a "hero," a "martyr," and a "saint" in the global white supremacist movement, which his "disciples" still listing him at the top of scoreboards that celebrate mass shooters' "kill counts."
"The idea of an existential threat to Western, Christian civilization so clearly articulated in the terrorist's manifesto spread into memes and satirical videos and eventually morphed into a broader spectrum of supremacist thinking that dehumanizes groups deemed 'inferior' and mobilizes violent extremism against them," Miller-Idriss writes. "This includes the male supremacism evidenced in mass attacks against women by 'incels' (involuntary celibates) and the self-described 'Western chauvinism' of the Proud Boys. Rapid growth in QAnon conspiracy theories was driven in part by their appeal to Christian nationalists."
Unfortunately, security and intelligence officials largely dismissed the Oslo attack as a fringe incident, and it wasn't until last year that the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that white supremacist extremism is the most persistent threat facing the United States.
"The question now is whether these efforts are too little, too late to put the genie back in the bottle," Miller-Idriss writes. "We will never know whether things would have been different if the vast counterterrorism machinery had seen the Oslo attack for the turning point it was a decade ago. But it is hard not to wonder where we would be now if we had treated those horrific attacks — and everything they set in motion — as the global threat to democracy that they were."