Tuesday 26 July 2011


Utoya Island, Norway, Friday, 22 July 2011: A calculated act of political terror. 

SIXTY-EIGHT idealistic young Norwegians shot to death with chilling efficiency. Eight of their compatriots blown to pieces by a massive car-bomb in the Norwegian capital. What other question can there be but: “Why?”

The answer is frighteningly straight-forward: both the bombing and the shootings were carefully calculated acts of political terror.

The man Norwegian authorities have charged with these atrocities, a 32-year-old businessman named Anders Behring Breivik, is a self-confessed Christian and an ardent Norwegian nationalist. Between 1999 and 2005 he was a “youth member” of the Norwegian Progress Party – a party whose principles and policies closely align with those of America’s “tea partiers” and New Zealand’s Act Party.

Breivik’s resignation from the Progress Party was in reaction to the severe internal stresses brought on by the often bitter debates over how far the party should go to curb the influx of Muslim immigrants to Norway.

Throughout the 1990s the Progress Party was torn apart by splits and divisions over the immigration issue. Breivik was a supporter of those he described as the “idealistic” faction of the party: hardliners who despised the “multiculturalism” preached by the Norwegian Left, and who were committed to restoring the racially homogeneous Norwegian society of the 1950s and 60s.

It was the Progress Party’s radical ideas on race, and the extreme positions adopted by some of the leading protagonists of the anti-immigration faction, which led Norway’s other political parties to declare it persona non grata in that country’s generally tolerant and liberal political culture.

Opposition to the Progress Party’s racial and religious prejudice was most pronounced among the left-leaning Labour and Green parties – both of whom strongly promoted the ideal of multicultural tolerance. But even Norway’s centrist and conservative parties were put off by the Progress Party’s extremism and excluded it from the real and potential governing coalitions of the centre-right.

Essentially, the entire Norwegian political class (aided by the news media) came together to mount an effective political boycott of the Progress Party.

The only problem with this strategy of exclusion was that the Progress Party was not simply an anti-immigration party. In Norway’s still very strong social-democratic political culture the Progress Party stood out as the only mass political movement whole-heartedly committed to introducing the policies of “free market” neo-liberalism.

By bringing together rural and provincial Norwegians antagonistic to the influx of non-white, non-Christian immigrants, with the growing number of young, urban-dwelling Norwegians chafing under the benign collectivism of Norway’s social-democratic institutions, the Progress Party had grown rapidly to become Norway’s second-largest political party after Labour.

The result has given rise to what writer and social-critic, Dr Chris Harris, has aptly described as a “civil cold war or cold civil war” in which upwards of one quarter of the population found its political beliefs and aspirations deliberately excluded from government.

Paradoxically, it may have been the Progress Party’s incremental movements towards the political centre (and thus towards participation in a future centre-right government) which set Breivik on his path towards political terrorism and mass murder.

IN SPITE OF looking like the healthy, blond-haired, blue-eyed young man any Norwegian mother would have been delighted to have as a son-in-law, Breivik had not made a conspicuous success of his life.

Aspiring to be part of Norway’s entrepreneurial elite, he’d tried his hand at several businesses but all had ended in failure. Refusing to abandon his dreams, he’d talked himself into “The Pillars” – one of Oslo’s leading masonic lodges. But even here, among the rich and the powerful, he could find no backers for the right-wing newspaper he’d hoped to launch. Lonely, frustrated and increasingly marginalised, Breivik was reduced to venting his spleen on right-wing social-media sites, and chatting on-line with the dark denizens of Europe’s neo-Nazi underworld.

And after them – who?

What triggered the final descent into practical planning: the amassing of fertiliser; the stockpiling of ammunition; the acquisition of a policeman’s uniform; we’ve yet to discover.

Did he find himself in an Oslo bar one evening, locked in conversation with a pretty young student attracted to his buffed six-foot frame and cute, cupid-bow smile? Did he feel the pangs of sexual yearning? Wonder if this girl might be the one? Only to ruin it all by getting into an argument about politics. Was it before or after she’d called him a racist pig that he noticed the Labour Youth logo on her T-shirt?

Did he imagine them all on Utoya Island? All those happy little Marxists rutting in their pup tents. Mocking a vengeful god with their easy fornication and treacherous tolerance of the filthy defilers of Norwegian purity.

Did he imagine all their Labour Party mentors, beavering away in their downtown Oslo offices, plotting yet more ruin for the Fatherland?

Well, he had a surprise for them.

And afterwards, Norway would never be the same.

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 26 July 2011.


Geordie said...

Good article Chris, apart from an error the media has jumped upon in general. Brievik is in no way a Christian as you will find in his manifesto:

"I'm not going to pretend I'm a very religious person, as that would be a lie"

"As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings."

Anonymous said...

He was rejected sexually by a Labour Party woman - for god's sake Chris this wierd dramatisation is becoming a feature of your writing. Ditch it.

Matthew Hooton said...

Well Geordie, everyone has at least one good point.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous.

An eyewitness describes Breivik shooting the cutest girl first.

Now, why would someone do that?

What you call "wierd dramatisation" others, of a more generous nature, might describe as "insight" or "imaginative intuition".

I think I'll go on risking it.

Anonymous said...

"Did he find himself in an Oslo bar one evening, locked in conversation with a pretty young student attracted to his buffed six-foot frame..."

One Ian Fleming was more than enough.

Anonymous said...

From Breivik's manifesto:

"If you have a personal relationsh­ip with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessaril­y have a personal relationsh­ip with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christiani­ty as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.­"

It's the juxtaposition that injects the terror: Brievik's calm aryan perfection, the Sound of Music Hitler youth, the mild-mannered clerk, the loving factotum finally exposed as icy killer in a thousand denouments. The smiling assassin.

But especially, the "christians". Those decent, upstanding, right-thinking folk among us now on that same, terror-inducing "moral platform": who relentlessly tilt every fibre of their being to the the transfer of wealth from poor to rich: who employ every sophistry, flattery, guile and lie to grab from the plate of Christ's favourites: who gorge to obscene obesity on the sweat and tears of the least: who thrash, condemn and demonise in the name of love: and who relentlessly spread their poisonous vehicle of misery through every medium at their disposal.

Cursed are the hatemongers. Curse the smug, cowardly scribe who foments evil and labels it "mischief". Curse the adulterous "gentleman" and his deliberate lie of Maori privilege. Curse the insatiable greed and lust for power of the scum who purport to lead. Curse the craven sycophants who disseminate their lies in the name of service. The blood and tears of generations drips from their fat, icy hands, as yet they reach for more.

Pity with full heart their tragic creations and the pain of their victims. And temper that pain into steel for the moneylenders and scribes. Curse without quarter their cruel, cowardly treachery and the fetid fuel they stoke to legions of hapless Anders' daily; kindling the next atrocity.

The media is the message: destination hell until it's radically deciphered, purged, or obviated.


Anonymous said...

My second reaction after the shock was that I'm surprised that it didn't happen in the UK first. There are enough left and right wing extremists who could go this far.

Anonymous said...

This is a sad article Chris, in which you start with some interesting analysis of Norwegian politics, and end with smutty aspersions. For shame.

I note Geordie has already corrected your assumption that Breivik is Christian. It is sad too that you labeled him 'self-confessed Christian'; you of all people should be aware such loaded terminology as 'self-confessed' implies guilt (as in 'self-confessed terrorist').

@ Matthew Hooten - please try to keep your anti-Christian bigotry to yourself.

Finally Chris, your journalistic background should have made you cautious of accepting an (apparently unattributed) claim that 'the cutest girl was shot first'. Really? Who defines the 'cutest'? And isn't it likely she was shot first by coincidence of proximity, rather than some invented sexual fantasy you superimpose on Breivik?

Perhaps you should have ended this article by pondering if the 'mainstream' parties in Norway had acted correctly in excluding and ignoring a party with such widespread public support? It could be perceived as yet more social liberal arrogance towards a big chunk of the public (a claim so familiar to Labour in NZ, hmmm?).

Demonising ACT in NZ to such an extent that even National would not form coalitions with them or work on joint policies could see one of our ACT nutters follow a similar path to Breivik (God forbid). It is the demonisation of people that is dangerous - especially our enemies. Not because we fear them, but because demonising people de-humanises them, which always ends in destructive behaviour of some form.

I hope your future posts don't take such weird dramatisations.

Mad Marxist.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Mad Marxist.

Morbid psychological states are often the product of repressed sexual memories, urges and longings - something we have known since Freud.

A 32-year-old man, highly intelligent and possessed of conventional good looks, yet unpartnered and living at home with his mother, raises (at least in my mind) a great many questions about his relationships with the opposite (or, indeed, his own) sex.

The young jihadis, with whom Breivik has so much in common, evince similar signs of sexual repression and have similar difficulties relating to women. Their exaggerated scorn for "Western sluts" speaks volumes in this regard.

I was not attempting to demonise Breivik, merely to set forth one possible explanatory scenario. The use of question marks clearly indicates to the reader that I am indulging in speculation - not stating fact.

Readers strong reactions to the idea that repressed sexual impulses may lead to neurotic, or even psychotic, behaviour say as much about their own frailties as they do about by own authorial shortcomings.

Anonymous said...

Mad Marxist, you have no appreciation of fine art.
Who, apart from Chris, would have been able to take this unpromising material and meld it into the scenario of a country song video?
With, say, a young Jerry Lee Lewis cast as the lonesome loser and and even younger Helen Clark in the Labour logo t shirt?

Anonymous said...

The more I learn about the shooter the less I believe he was genuinely motivated by political aims in any conventional way as we would understand them. Politics seems to have been a device to justify his actions and alienation from Norwegian society.

Most telling was not in what he said but in what he did. He attacked people who had not so much as even voted. By shooting youths he would secure the highest level of infamy and the widest level of revilement possible. Even most of the far-right will strongly reject what he did. His number of victims was lower than it could have been because he seems to have been more interested in pursuing them one by one than inflicting the highest level of casualties possible. He clearly liked uniforms associated with positions of power and violated the trust of one to deceive. All these factors point to a disordered person seeking personal gratuity in a warped way more than one trying to secure wider political goals.

Norway has the reputation for being a nice country but Norway is far from being an environment without potential for alienation. The Progress and Right parties won a combined vote of 40.1% in the last elections. Yet European journalists have sought to make political hay from demonising those who disagree with the status quo, "the right", as being in league with the shooter, i.e. "you're either with us or with the terrorists".

Political debate on social issues in Europe has been poisoned and this atrocity will make it more so. When topics become off-limits for discussion and all opposition labled illegitimate, civil society no longer confronts them and the tangle of institutionalised hypocrisy and untruths, whether they be "right" or "left", can only become more tightly wound.

Adze said...

Freudian psychoanalysis doesn't enjoy the same currency within clinical psychology circles, Chris; this is a man who, after all, felt that colonic irrigation was a serious psychiatric tool. Your casual ad hominem against those who have a problem with armchair psychosexual analyses was disappointing also.

While Brievik's actions were appalling, it's ironic that some leap upon the fact he was nominally Christian while even as they condemning his anti-Muslim bigotry. Sadly this "well meaning" hypocrisy is all too common these days.

Victor said...

If Breivik is indeed part of a broader tendency, then it is a worrying one.

There are signs that the traditional 20th century European hard right (neo-pagan, pseudo-Darwinian, totalitarian and fanatically Antisemitic)is morphing into something more similar to the US hard right of recent years (pseudo-Christian, pseudo-individualist and fanatically Islamophobe).

Why is this so worrying? Because this new set of obsessions dove-tails neatly with the world view of increasing numbers in Europe and beyond.

Chris Trotter said...

Indeed, Adze, Freud was a member of the same profession that still considers the pumping of electricity through a person's temples to be a "serious pyschiatric tool".

I am well aware of Freudian psychology's shortcomings. Those shortcomings do not, however, detract from Freud's singular contribution to Western science - the idea of the unconscious mind, and the role repression plays in generating psychopathology.

And, I'm sorry, but the peculiar way readers of this posting have fixated on a paragraph-or-two of clearly-signaled speculation strongly suggests that my imagined scenario has well-and-truly struck a number of nerves.

Or, to paraphrase Shakespeare: "Methinks some of my readers doth protest too much!"

Anonymous said...

Nobody seems to want to define anything except the personal and political viewpoint of the perpetrator.

How about this one then - Evil? The propensity to willingly obey the inclination to sin. To become a tool of a malevolent spiritual force that hates mankind and all that is loved by God.


Anonymous said...

Actually all that rejection of outdated Freudian psychology says about people who reject it is that it's outdated, and completely unscientific. It isn't, as I said before falsifiable, and as someone else said, the man had some absolutely weird ideas. Plus you made the assessment about his state of mind without knowing anything about the young man in question. For all you know, he was getting laid a lot. Or he could quite easily be gay, and therefore not susceptible to rejection by beautiful left-wing women :-). I'm also surprised that you pullled my comment about the over dramatisation. But I guess it's your blog. Just seems a bit precious. Plus it's one of the few things I dislike about the blog.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@4:21.

Your original comment was deleted because it was crude and abusive. Follow the Bowalley Road Rules and you'll have no further problems.

Apropos of your comment above, I would simply say that Newtonian physics has also been superceded, and yet no one disputes Newton's genius, or rejects wholesale his huge contribution to science.

The same applies to Freud.

Anonymous said...

'Rubbish' is abusive? I must have been brought up in a more robust debating tradition than you.

Chris Trotter said...

Very probably, Anonymous, very probably.

Anonymous said...

"And, I'm sorry, but the peculiar way readers of this posting have fixated on a paragraph-or-two of clearly-signaled speculation strongly suggests that my imagined scenario has well-and-truly struck a number of nerves."

Ah but you ambushed us with it you see in the middle of a perfectly normal column, whereas normally you write whole columns of this sort of thing which in the normal course of events I, and I'm quite pleased to see others avoid like the plague :-).

Chris Trotter said...

Goddness me, Anonymous@1:37, what a grey old world you must inhabit.

If the imagination is not permitted to run free every now and again it grows weak and sickly.

You really ought to let yours get out more.

All work and no play ... etc.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, my world is technicolour :-), but it doesn't involve jejune dramatisations, or for that matter exceptance of weird nonscientific theories. You would no doubt ascribed Hitler's rise to power as a result of his only having one testicle :-). You should just accept the fact that more than one person doesn't like the way you do that sort of thing – take it for what it is, criticism meant constructively. After all, if we didn't read your blog we wouldn't be here.

Barry said...

I think the comments by May Chen (sp?) are closer to the mark than anyone else. ie; if you stiffle or try to close down open discussion then the discontent that some may have will show itself in some other way.
Norway's government has been a strong proponent of multiculturalism and all sorts of other liberal and politically correct views - and they dont like anyone who comments openly to the contrary. The youth section of the Labour Party is called the Workers Youth League - thats straight out of the Marxist hand book!!

If a government tries to suppress ideas and thougts - expecially in a community that has tasted freedom of expression - then its like a ballon - squeze it in one place and it pops out in another.

This doesnt explain all about the shooting - but Ill bet its at the heart of the reason why this guy went down this pathway.

Michael said...

I wish, belatedly, to offer support for Chris's speculative personal analysis of Breivik's crime and motives. Ideology, politics, and religion are always personal. It is human nature to crave labels; they simplify and make sense of our complex, and in this case tragic world. They rarely fit as we like to think they do. The real reasons for Breivik's ideology and actions are probably far more personal than he himself would like to admit. His actions and reported reasons show he had lost touch with the personal. To prevent ourselves, and others, from thinking and acting destructively, we need to understand why we hold the ideas we do. Otherwise the real cause is hidden and beyond reach of help or change. I was saddened by the outcry against Macsyna King's book about the tragic deaths of her twins. I haven't read it. But a blanket condemnation which says she should have no voice does not show concern for victims such as the Kahui twins and others like them who are at risk today. We need to understand the truth. Not some 'labelised' version which makes us comfortable with our anger.