The article I was planning to write on Pride month and gender ideology in Norway was going to go something like this: This year, more than ever before, Norwegians are celebrating Pride with a gusto that I haven’t seen before, even here in the UK, and the focus seems to be increasingly on children, with ‘Mini-Pride’ in Oslo presented by a popular children’s TV character. Trans ideology is now being taught in Norwegian schools, free rainbow backpacks are being handed out to children as young as five, and, on the horizon, yet more liberal laws are on the way that will do away with the two gender-model and introduce a third legal gender, not to mention the forthcoming ban on ‘conversion therapy‘. There’s been a lot going on, and hurtful words have been thrown by both sides in the debate: the wokesters claiming ‘far right’ culture warriors are using children to disguise their own homophobia, and arguing Pride is just about love and acceptance, whereas those of us on the other side have pointed to the intolerance of trans activists (such as when feminist Christina Ellingsen was reported to the police for claiming men can’t become women and had to endure four hours of questioning by police), the denial of biological sex and exposing children to ideas and imagery they’re not ready for.
These are all things I’d like to debate.
But on Friday night, something happened that changed the discourse from contentious to toxic. Instantly, those who have been critical of gender ideology – like me – were complicit in a terrorist attack. Two people were killed and 21 were seriously injured when an Iranian-born man, known to the police from previous convictions and links to an Islamist network, went on a rampage with an automatic gun in downtown Oslo. The first bar he visited, Per på hjørnet (‘Per on the corner’) was a music bar. The second, London, is a gay bar. The two who died were at Per’s, while most of the injured people were in the gay bar. The motives are not yet clear, but it looks very probable that the killer had a particular animus towards gay people, and the police have said that this was an Islamist attack. This is outrageous and horrible and every decent person, regardless of their views on LGBTQ rights or their religious affiliation, has condemned the atrocities. The Pride march the following day was cancelled as a result. And regardless of the identity of the victims, or the motivation – did the terrorist hate the Western lifestyle in general, or did he specifically target LGBTQ people? – this was an attack on our values. Oslo should be a safe city for everyone, and it pains me to see that right now, it isn’t.
But somehow, although the terrorist appears to be a member of an Islamist network, radical Islamism and its views on homosexuality have not received any attention from the commentariat, which, of course, is made up of predominantly left-wing people and, like everywhere else in the West, is pretty woke. Predictably, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has been at pains to stress that the killer’s behaviour is not remotely typical of Muslims in general. “We know that many Muslims are in despair. So then it’s our responsibility to make it clear that none other than those who were behind the attack are responsible,” he told the press. The insinuation is that, although police have confirmed that Zaniar Matapour, the 42-year-old who was detained shortly after the attack, was a radicalised Muslim, he doesn’t represent Islam. The president of the Norwegian parliament, Masud Gharahkhani, told the VG newspaper: “This has nothing to do with religion.”
But if Zaniar acted in a void, why has the Minister for Culture and Equality, Anette Trettebergstuen, who is gay, insinuated that his actions stemmed from something she calls “hate”? “Our inboxes are filled up with hate,“ she said in the aftermath of the tragedy. “Some people think queer people’s lives are worth less than others.” By “some people” we are left to speculate about who she could be referring to. Could it be Islamists like Matapour, or the 352 people who reacted with a laughing emoji on the Al Jazeera English Facebook page after it reported the attack? Obviously not.
Trettebergstuen is the Labour politician who has spent much of her time in office mocking and criticising people who disagree with her views on sex and gender, even taking part in an attempt at comedy, where her political opponents were painted as homophobes and Christian fundamentalists. Tretterbergstuen, like most politicians on the left, believes in the doctrine of intersectionality, whereby victim groups are ranked according to how many intersecting forces of oppression are acting on them. Muslims are high up on this hierarchy, which makes it uncomfortable to acknowledge that a member of this historically oppressed minority can also be a villain. And when a member of one victim group attacks members of another, it becomes even more uncomfortable. When that happens, drawing any conclusions from the villain’s group characteristics is completely taboo. Intersectionality is quietly discarded and the narrative becomes all about a disturbed individual, stripped of his identity group markers.
Obviously, no such discomfort afflicts people like Trettebergstuen when the perpetrator of a mass shooting is a white male. On the contrary, their whiteness and masculinity becomes essential to understanding their crimes. When Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in the 2002 Utøya massacre and Oslo bombings, his ideology, ethnicity and “toxic masculinity” were central to the discourse – and, of course, anyone who shared those some group characteristics was complicit. The collective “we” needed to take a deep, hard look at ourselves – our culture, our way of thinking, our ideals and our values. Although, in hindsight, Breivik may have been psychotic, the focus was in the aftermath was firmly on how society – white, patriarchal, Christian – had contributed to his racist views. It’s the same story here in Britain. Whenever an Islamist attacks, whether it’s the murder of three gay men in Reading, or at the Ariana Grande concert in 2017, there is an immediate outpouring of grief and sympathy for the victims, but almost no discussion of the link between the terrorist’s actions and radical Islam. The most surreal example was perhaps when David Amess was murdered in his constituency office by Isis supporter Ali Harbi Ali last year. The conversation, for some bizarre reason, quickly turned to “online hate” and the need to do away with online anonymity rather than the ideology which fuelled Amess’s murder.
True to form, the same is happening in Norway. The most egregious example is from professional fact-checker (I’m not being ironic) Gunnar Tjomlid. In a blog post with the surreal headline “Last night we again witnessed terror in Oslo. But the fight against woke is also low grade terrorism”, Tjomlid went where you cannot even imagine the Guardian would go. In a wild rant, everyone and everything from the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, to “extremists like Tucker Carlson” and “all the Norwegian ‘intellectual’ culture warriors who for several years have used Facebook, Twitter and newspaper columns to promote their ‘worry’ over all the progress in the world” get blamed for what Matapour did. But wait, there’s more. He’s also “angry with those who for several years have swallowed the rhetoric of pathetic ideologues like Jordan Peterson”. Yes, that’s right. The attack in downtown Oslo on Friday night was nothing to do with radical Islam. Jordan Peterson was to blame.
Peterson has had, and continues to enjoy, a tremendous reach among all sorts of people (and no, not just frustrated young men). But to assume that radical Islamists are taking inspiration from a psychologist and thinker who advocates for personal responsibility and the pursuit of meaning, and who promotes self-discipline and responsible behaviour – how is that even possible? I wish I could conclude that this is just one man’s deranged views, hastily scribbled down in the heat of the moment. But Tjomlid is not alone. Twitter, Facebook and, yes, newspaper columns, are already filled with similar, if not quite as strongly worded, attacks.
We ‘culture warriors’ are used to being blamed for everything, but this is taking it one step too far. Surely criticism of children receiving life-changing medical treatment that they may come to regret has no connection with the homophobia spewed by organisations such as “Norsk Dawah”, a group with 55,000 followers on TikTok? Run by a Norwegian convert to Islam, Yousef Dawah, it publishes verses from the Koran about stoning gay people to death.
The double standards are astounding. This public shaming of anyone – apart from radical Muslims – who doesn’t agree with gender ideology, i.e., lesbians, evolutionary biologists, conservative Christian politicians, etc., will not result in more viewpoint diversity, which is vital for a functioning democracy. How would you like to be compared to the worst examples of human kind – cold-blooded killers – for having a different view on a political topic?
My prediction is this: after an intense debate this month on the ever-increasing exposure of children to all things Pride, there will be at least a temporary chilling effect. Teacher Anders Noreng who spoke out against schools participating in Pride (not an unreasonable stance, I would argue) has already been subjected to one cancellation attempt after a liberal politician called for his resignation (so much for freedom of speech) – and that was before the shooting happened. Now only someone wishing to commit social and political suicide would raise their head above the parapet on this topic for the rest of Pride month.
In the meantime, we’ll have to suffer opinion pieces blaming the “war on woke“ Donald Trump, American abortion laws, gender critical feminists and conservatism in general. Even the editor of Subjekt, an online, right-of-centre magazine that focuses on culture and politics, is to blame, apparently. Danby Choi, who is himself gay and has criticised elements of the Pride movement, was subjected to a Twitter storm in the aftermath of the attacks. “You didn’t encourage violence, but your words have accommodated people who want to commit violence. Because of your words, these people thought that people would forgive them when they commit violence,” one Twitter user wrote. Choi’s magazine is “helping to promote the ideology behind the attack”, another Twitter user added. “Subjekt is dedicated to promoting diversity of ideas and perspectives, but we have never printed religious Islamic fundamentalism,” Choi responded in Nettavisen, a Norwegian newspaper. “We should be careful before blaming free debate… It’s important to distinguish between words and actions. An act of terror cannot change our relationship with criticism, debate and freedom of speech.” Kudos to Choi for not staying quiet when most prefer to keep their heads down.
While the debate on gender issues is sure to continue once the dust has settled and the keyboard warriors have moved on, the elephant in the room remains radical Islam. It‘s easier to focus on targets that are up for mockery – those old-fashioned reactionaries who don’t like progress – than exploring the intolerance and brutality of an ideology that doesn’t welcome scrutiny, to put it mildly. The woke deploy cancel culture, but the Islamists want to physically cancel people. So instead, the Woke left, in alliance with Muslim organisations, pretends the real issue is “islamophobia”, and that the real victims are Muslims who may feel “unsafe” after Friday’s rampage. Norwegians will continue to tolerate the intolerant, while accusing each other of causing murderous havoc.