At a Monday court appearance, massacre suspect Anders Behring Breivik accepted responsibility for what he considers the “gruesome but necessary” bombing and shooting attacks in Norway that left 76 dead and stunned the world, but denied terrorism charges. While some are comfortable declaring Breivik a deranged nutter, whom it would be unwise to offer the oxygen of publicity, others have spent the past few days trying to decipher what drove Breivik to mass murder, in the hope that future terror attacks can be averted.
“What if [people like Anders Breivik] are not mad? Then you have to deal with the problem in a different way,” Professor Andrew Silke told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
Judge Kim Heger ruled that Monday’s hearing should be held behind closed doors on the grounds Breivik might have used a public setting to send signals to accomplices. After the hearing, the judge revealed that Breivik had argued that he was acting to save Norway and Europe from “Marxist and Muslim colonisation” and said he knew of “two more cells” planning similar attacks. In a show of quiet outrage towards Breivik’s brutality, Norwegians gathered at torchlit processions up and down the country to remember the victims of Friday’s attacks.
Norwegian police lowered the death toll in the attacks from 93 to 76, reported Reuters, citing difficulties in obtaining information from the shooting scene.
- Breivik, product of the post-9/11, online counter-jihad movement. At Foreign Policy, Toby Archer suggested Breivik is a product of the predominently web-based anti-Muslim, anti-government, anti-immigration counterjihad movement. Archer identified British-Swiss author Bat Ye’or as the intellectual inspiration behind the counterjihad movement, which is based on the Eurabia thesis, the belief that a gradual and willfull takeover of Europe by Islam is occuring. “The numerous bloggers and activists of the counter-jihad may not call for direct violence, but they have painted a picture of a world where conflict with both immigrants and Europe’s supposed multicultural elite is inevitable. In that sense, they may not have given Breivik his orders, but they paved the road down which he chose to walk,” suggested Archer.
- Breivik and the US bloggers. Scott Shane in The New York Times argued that Breivik was “deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers” including Jihad Watch blogger Robert Spencer, Atlas Shrugs blogger Pamela Gellar and the pseudonymously-written blog Gates of Vienna. Shane argued that Breivik’s manifesto makes clear he had “closely followed the acrimonious American debate over Islam.”
“The last thing he should have done, instead of killing so many people, is to kill himself,” the killer’s father Jens Breivik told a Norwegian television station. “I’ll never ever have any contact with him again.”
- Driven by hatred of women, feminism. Writing at The Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg suggested that anti-feminism and “hatred of women” drove Breivik: “Breivik’s hatred of women rivals his hatred of Islam, and is intimately linked to it. Some reports have suggested that during his rampage on Utoya, he targeted the most beautiful girl first. This was about sex even more than religion.” Goldberg argued that a “terror of feminization haunts his bizarre” manifesto, suggesting that Breivik picked up the argument that selfish western women have allowed Muslims to outbreed them, and that only a restoration of patriarchy can save European culture, from US and UK anti-immigrant commentators on the right.
- A mainstream right-wing kind of monster. The New York Times’ Ross Douthat put forward the troubling idea that much of Breivik’s sentiment expressed in his manifesto would not be out of place in mainstream cultural conservative comment: “Indeed, stripped of their context, some of his critiques of multiculturalism and immigration resemble arguments that have been advanced, not just by Europe’s far-right parties, but by mainstream conservative leaders such as David Cameron in Britain, Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France.” Douthat insisted that the attacks don’t mean that “conservatives need to surrender their convictions. The horror in Norway no more discredits Merkel’s views on Muslim assimilation than [Unabomber] Ted Kaczynski’s bombs discredited Al Gore’s views on the dark side of industrialization. On the big picture, Europe’s cultural conservatives are right.”
American right-wing radio host and Tea Party idol Glenn Beck prompted outrage yet again when he compared teenage victims of the Norway shooting rampage to Hitler youth. “There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler youth,” said Beck on his show. “I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing.” Actually, the Tea Party, for one.
- Norway’s Timothy McVeigh. BBC Europe Editor Gavin Hewitt said Breivik “reminded” him of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, “and America’s paranoid strain.” Hewitt found that hatred of the Norwegian political establishment drove Breivik to violence: “Like McVeigh, Mr Breivik saw his country’s political establishment as the real enemy. So the target that formed in his mind was not immigrant groups, but the government itself, and young people who were attached to the ruling left-leaning Labour Party.”
- He may be insane. Breivik’s lawyer characterised the gunman as a “possibly” insane drug user who believed himself to be embroiled in a war that only future generations would comprehend, The New York Times reported. “This whole case has indicated that he is insane,” Geir Lippestad, Breivik’s lawyer, told a press conference. No word, however, on whether Breivik will plead insanity in his upcoming trial.
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