Anders Behring Breivik, the far-far-right-wing monster charged in Norway with the biggest mass murder by a single gunman in modern memory, reminds me of how often delusional minds hate others for what they really see in themselves.
"The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman," wrote historian Richard Hofstadter in his often-quoted 1964 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." "[T]his enemy is, on many counts, the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him."
Thus the Ku Klux Klan, for example, imitated Catholicism to the point of priestly robes, elaborate rituals and elaborate hierarchy, Hofstadter wrote. The John Birch Society, the leading anti-communist zealot at the time, organized its own version of Communist Party cells and quasi-secret "front" groups.
Today we see a similarly sly envy revealed in Breivik's 1,500-page manifesto against Muslims, immigrants, "multiculturalists" and "cultural Marxists," according to news reports. Breivik wrote and released the manifesto on the Internet before he went on his truck-bombing, gun-wielding rampage.
By his warped reasoning, he had to protest the dangers of al-Qaida-style Muslim terrorists by committing al-Qaida-style terror against his fellow Norwegians.
He joined a Knights Templar organization and, judging by his document, thinks he still is engaged in the Christian crusades against Muslims.
Deep down, Breivik's root problem appears to be a mirror-kissing narcissism so fierce and fanatical that it would drive a man to kill his fellow citizens in order to "save" them, in this case, from immigrants.
In the end, he has achieved quite the opposite of his stated goals. He reveals his delusional anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-multiculturalism hatreds to be no less of a menace than the Islamic extremists he claims to oppose.
In fact, both the political left and right have mischaracterized Europe's version of multiculturalism. For one thing, America's version of multiculturalism tends to be geared toward cultural sharing, but on the way to assimilating into our great legendary American "melting pot," which many prefer to call a "salad bowl" or "mulligan stew," depending on how much melting they want to do.
Europe, by contrast, tends to view multiculturalism as the recognition of different enclaves of "foreign" cultures within their own cities and borders. The result is a lot less assimilation and more isolation, resentments and suspicions of racism and "reverse racism."
But multiculturalism in Europe has been less of an ideology than a weak patchwork of policy initiatives and hopeful-sounding rhetoric aimed at filling labor shortages with as few culture clashes as possible.
Worse, Europe's hate-speech laws criminalize the freewheeling discussions of immigration problems, discussions that we in the United States consider to be rather routine, even when infuriating. Such censorship pushes people to more extreme ways to express their thoughts, just as it does in Islamic countries. We can't blame Breivik on hate-speech laws, but such censorship only helps build tensions, not ease them.
Cultural conservatives often fret about the rise of multicultural studies here crowding out the classic work of Dead White Males and other classics of Euro-American history. But compared with our European cousins who find Enlightenment freedoms easier to praise than to practice, I think we're doing things about right.