Breivik shakes, but does not defeat Norway

By Sipho Hlongwane 26 July 2011

Anders Behring Breivik, the man now fingered as the rightwing terrorist responsible for at least 90 deaths in Norway at the weekend, seems to have a lot more in common with another right-wing terrorist, Timothy McVeigh. As the US did in 1995, Norway – and indeed Europe – is coming to terms with the threats, within and without, at both extremes of the political and religious spectrums. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.

In the first few minutes after happening initial reaction from certain pundits and papers was that the attacks carried out in Oslo and the island of Utøya must be the work of an Islamic terrorist cell with links to al Qaeda. Immediately following the news of a bomb blast in the capital of Norway, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other eminent papers alluded to Islamic extremists as being the perpetrators. Even when the attacker was revealed to be a white far-right Fundamentalist Christian man in his early 30s, retractions weren’t fast in coming.

In one of his typically world-weary columns, Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker bemoaned the coverage of the Norway terror attack. “On Friday night’s news, they were calling him [the attacker] something else,” he wrote. “He was a suspected terror cell with probable links to al Qaeda. Countless security experts queued up to tell me so. This has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda attack, they said.

“Watching at home, my gut feeling was that that didn’t add up. Why Norway? And why was it aimed so specifically at one political party? But hey, they’re the experts. They’re sitting there behind a caption with the word ‘EXPERT’ on it. Every few minutes the anchor would ask, ‘What kind of picture is emerging?’ or ‘What sense are you getting of who might be responsible?’ and every few minutes they explained this was ‘almost certainly’ the work of a highly-organised Islamist cell,” Brooker wrote.

This was complete bollocks, of course. The man arrested in connection with the attacks is Anders Behring Breivik. He has admitted to being responsible for the bomb in Oslo which killed eight people and for the shooting spree on Utøya which left 78 people dead.

The motive for the attack, according to Breivik’s lawyer, was some sort of warning to Norway’s ruling Labour Party (the island was hosting a summer youth camp organised by the party). Speaking to the Verdens Gang newspaper, Geir Lippestad said his client’s attacks were meant to “radically change Norwegian society”. Using words with a very familiar ring, Breivik said he had wanted to signal to the ruling Labour Party that “doomsday was imminent”. On his first court appearance since Friday, Breivik stated he wanted the media present presumably so he could preach. The judge ruled to bar the media from the hearing, and ruled that the terrorist must be remanded for eight weeks after he claimed that there were two other cells working with him. “He has said that he believed the actions were atrocious, but that in his head they were necessary,” his lawyer explained.

His words are almost identical to those spoken by Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber who killed 168 people in 1995, when he explained his actions to a journalist from his prison cell. He explained that he bombed the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as retaliation for the 1993 Waco siege, in which FBI agents stormed a compound housing members of David Koresh’s Branch Davidian cult in Texas after a 51-day standoff, something he saw as vindication for his anti-government views.

The Oklahoma bombing, America’s most devastating incident of domestic terrorism was perpetrated by a decorated Desert Storm veteran who, by his own account, believed the government was attacking its own people.

Much still needs to be learnt about Breivik, but his hatred of the Labour Party seems to have stemmed from its perceived tolerance towards multiculturalism. In Reason.com, Jesse Walker wrote, “Many people have been asking why a man driven by a hatred of Islamic immigrants would aim his fire at native Norwegian teens. The short answer is that Anders Behring Breivik’s animosity wasn’t limited to Muslims; the demonology he embraced gave just as prominent a role to those westerners he saw as enabling and abetting jihad. And in Breivik’s belief system, that group included the Labour Party.”

The article goes on to quote Breivik’s own writing, in which he equates judges he sees as soft towards multiculturalism with Nazi sympathisers and muses that they must be considered “traitors to their people”.

Breivik moved among Scandinavia’s rightwing and virulently anti-immigrant groups. The stuff he fed himself on intellectually seems to be the standard, poisonous fare of rightwing, racist nationalists. The difference between him and the thousands of others is that he chose to act on his beliefs in the most extreme way possible. Europe’s resurgent extreme right would do well to consider that the next time they get on a public platform.

Photo: A sign of love for Oslo is seen inside of a sea of flowers and lit candles placed in memory of those killed in Friday’s bomb and shooting attack in front of Oslo Cathedral July 25, 2011. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

At a memorial service on Sunday, Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said Norway would not be cowed. “Our answer is more democracy, more openness, more humanity, but never naïveté,” he told the crowd gathered in the cathedral. For a country that has always prided itself for its safe and unguarded society, Friday’s attack will come as a huge emotional blow. But already the country has rallied around the victims in comfort, and around the stirring words of Stoltenberg. Breivik’s attempts to cow his fellow Norwegians have already failed. DM

Read more:

  • Christopher Hitchens column: A Ridiculous Rapid Response: Why did so many “experts” declare the Oslo attacks to be the work of Islamic terrorists? in Slate;
  • Glenn Greenwald’s column: the omnipotence of al Qaeda and the meaninglessness of “terrorism” in Salon;
  • Charlie Brooker’s column: The news coverage of the Norway mass-killings was fact-free conjecture in the Guardian;
  • Inside the mind of Anders Behring Breivik in Reason.com;
  • Suspect wanted to ‘change Norwegian society’ in Al Jazeera.

Photo: Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik sits in the rear of a vehicle as he is transported in a police convoy as he is leaving the courthouse in Oslo July 25, 2011. REUTERS/Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Aftenposten via Scanpix


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