Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Worst: Margaret Wente

Another day, another gem from national treasure, Margaret Wente who this time sets her sights and in depth knowledge of non-neurotypical behaviour on Norwegian terrorist, Anders Breivik. She begins by addressing the growing concern that the vitriolic rantings of right-wing writers such as Mark Steyn have fed into a culture of Islamophobia and encouraged Breivik. Quoting terrorism expert, Mark Sagement, who said in the New York Times that "this rhetoric (the anti-immigration/multiculturalism/Muslim) not cost-free". But, Margaret Wente knows better than a silly old terrorism expert! She quotes another commentator  who wrote on Al Jazeera's English-language site that Breivik's rampage demonstrates “the extent to which reactionary bigotry has infected mainstream thought”. 

She follows up with her own deep, thought-provoking opinion that because Norway doesn't have an extreme right-wing political party, the constant stream of anti-anti-immigration/multiculturalism/Muslim can't be that pervasive. Good stuff. Wente is never all that in touch with her white, upper-middle class privilege but can she really believe that there hasn't been an increase racialized discrimination against Muslim people (and Arab people in general) since 9/11? Not to mention France's veil ban, talk in the Netherlands about banning the Koran, Switzerland banning  minarets, just to name a few major examples of Islamophobia in Western Europe, countries a stone's throw from Norway. 

OK, great, so far so good, Wente thinks y'all are just overreacting to a bunch of right-wingers who use their platforms to propagate hate. But then, not satisfied with her blatantly wrong assessment of how insidious and dangerous hate propaganda can be (at the risk of going full-Godwin: um, Margaret, open a history book and read about the Holocaust), she had to go full out Ableist and, informed by her vast knowledge of mental illness, suggest that Breivik is simply "crazy". 

My question is, what the fuck does "crazy" mean? Last I checked there was no listing in the DSM for "crazy". I guess Wente means that he suffers from a mental illness. Him and millions of other people in the world, like me. 

And what mental illness are we talking about? Depression? Schizophrenia? ADD? Anxiety? Which one makes a person more likely to murder 76 people? 

It's time to retire the exhausted habit of blaming mental illness for terrible things that people do. It's time to acknowledge that mentally ill people are statistically more likely to self-harm than ever harm someone else. It's time to stop equating violence with mental illness. This line of thinking lets people like Breivik (not to mention people like Steyn which I guess is the whole point) off the hook and it stigmatizes mental illness further.

Even if it is revealed that Breivik suffers from a mental illness, that doesn't excuse or explain why he murdered all those people nor does it explain his 1500 page manifesto. And it certainly doesn't absolve all those right-wing hate-mongers who have so influenced the rampant Islamophobia. 

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