Tag Archive for Oslo

Believe it. It happened.

Just one of the hundreds of thousands of roses at the Oslo gathering on July 25.

The discussion about what happened in Oslo and Utoya will continue for days and months and years, but already at this point change needs to happen.

When we talk about it, we need to stop saying “it’s unbelievable”, “it’s without reason” and “who would do such a thing?”.

Believe it. It happened.

We know who did it.

And however twisted, there were reasons.

Though it’s a term I’ve used myself, we need to stop characterising Anders Behring Breivik as a madman.

That’s not because he wasn’t, but because every time we describe him as one we are absolving ourselves of our responsibility to understand why he did what he did.

No more than Mohammed Atta, Bin Laden or Timothy McVeigh, Breivik didn’t just fall out of the sky.

He is the product of a family, a school, a church, a university. He had friends, he likes soccer and he worked out.

But he went a little further than the rest of us. He went further than the vast majority of people could in their worst nightmares imagine.

Somewhere along the line, something awakened a hatred of his fellow man in him – not just a hatred of Muslims.

He hated all of those whose politics differed from his, even if they were mere children. He sentenced them to death.

He executed them.

What is unique about Breivik is that he wants us to understand what he did. Unlike many mass murderers, especially those who have gone on shooting sprees, he did not take his own life, but instead surrendered to police.

He can now be interviewed, studied, analysed. He can explain his motivation to us.

And in his staggering arrogance, he has even given us a 1500-page explanation of his entire ideology and method – meant to inspire others to follow in his footsteps, it is vital ammunition in the fight against all violent extremists, and not just those of the anti-Islamic far right.

He will give us even more. What he longs for most of all is to speak from the dock, with the world’s press present, to put forward his ideology to the world.

He sees himself as a martyr to his cause, yet somehow he remains blind to the remarkable similarities between himself and the radical Islamists and “cultural Marxist” bogeymen he claims he wants to destroy.

Breivik claims in his writing that he has spent the last nine years planning this attack.

Nine and a half years ago, in September 2001, two planes struck the Twin Towers in Manhattan.

Anders Behring Breivik was probably sitting in front of his television, listening to the pundits telling him that what he was seeing was “unbelievable”, “without reason” and “impossible to understand”.

“Who would do such a thing?” they asked.

When Anders found out that it was radical Islamists, he believed it. He found a reason.

Then he sent out on a path that led him to Utoeya.

To stop others – on both sides – following his path, we need to understand.

We need to believe it. We need to accept that there are people who do such things.

We need to realise that, even though they are madmen, they are someone’s father or son or husband.

And we need to find a way to stop them coming to the same extreme convictions that Breivik has.

The beginning or the end?

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg

Having spent most of the night reading Anders Behring Breivik’s monocultural manifesto, everything is much clearer.

And much as 9/11 was a defining moment for radical Islam, this is a defining moment for what Breivik calls “cultural conservatism” and the far right in Europe.

It is both easy and lazy to dismiss his actions of those of a madman – and many media outlets have already done so – but this only serves to further his cause.

Breivik’s actions in Oslo and Utoeya may be those of a madman, but they also amount to a bold play for dominance of the doctrine and dogma of the European far right.

In doing so, he is sending two messages – one to the vast majority of us, and the other to those who share his beliefs.

For those of us that recoil in horror from his actions, his racism, his fascist tendencies and his violence, his message is fear. He wants us to be afraid of the consequences of not following his path.

For those who agree with him, his message is inspiration and hope – he hopes that they will see his example and note that it can be done, if they follow his 1500-page manifesto that was nine years in the making.

But like Bin Laden, that is where he is wrong.

9/11 may have been the greatest “victory” in the history of radical Islam, but it also marked the beginning of the end.

For in poking the hornets’ nest, Al Quaeda provoked a retaliation that has been both comprehensive and brutal. Radical Islam as envisioned by Bin Laden is all but over.

So too with Breivik. What he hopes will be the first shots in the final battle with multiculturalism could well prove to be the first nail in the coffin of the hard-right ideology embodied by the likes of the Progress Party, the True Finns and the Sweden Democrats.

Whether he meant to or not, he has now become the focus point for Scandinavia’s hard right, and his actions will poison the waters for those who share some, if not all, of his ideas.

His writings betray his madness, his vanity and arrogance, but also an immense intelligence.

He has clearly thought about and planned this for a very long time, and the courage of his convictions is not in doubt.

But as with those he seeks to inspire, his problem is a democratic one. We do not recognise the picture of “Muslim occupation in Europe” that they try to paint, and we simply do not agree with what it is that they want to achieve.

After the massacre there is no doubt we are afraid. But we are not cowed. We will not be silenced.

We should not try to surpress his ideas or his writings, just as we have not banned “Mein Kampf” and other radical anti-democratic texts.

The only way to stop ideologies like the hatred preached by Breivik is to bring them out into the light, analyse them and try to understand where they come from. Only then can we show them up for what they are.

Only then can we begin to meet their baseless arguments and groundless fears head-on.

Only then can we teach our children that history’s biggest lesson for mankind is that hatred never produced anything worth having.

Despite the horrors of the last few days the Nobel Peace Price should be staying in Norway this year, and it should be given to prime minister Jens Stoltenberg.

For it was he that, amidst the sobs at the memorial service in Oslo’s Domkyrke this morning, showed us a glimpse of the future as he echoed the words of one of the survivors of Breivik’s massacre at Utoeya.

“If one man can show so much hate, imagine how much love we can show together”.

Amen.

Terror comes to the quietest town

The first thing you think of at times like this is your friends and colleagues.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the pissing rain marvelling at the enthusiasm of my Norwegian colleagues as the Diamond League came to town.

We were in the press room, and I and everyone else not born with gills was complaining about the incessant rain. Not the Norwegians.

Even Usain Bolt was non-plussed by the weather- “I’m a sunshine boy,” he said, answering a question about the rain with a look of distaste.

But the natives are used to working in adversity and I was hopeful that my friends and colleagues were uninjured.

That Diamond League night I was working with Kurt, and it was with great relief that I heard his voice asking a question at a press conference in the aftermath of what appears to have been a car bomb in the heart of the government district in Oslo this afternoon.

A check on the Reuters wire showed that Alister was alive and well and tapping away on his keyboard just a couple of blocks from where the city was torn in two.

Micke and Siri will show up too – pros that they are, they won’t be answering anything that is not from their producers or their families. For all I know it’s their pictures I’m seeing on the screen.

An offer to go and help out on the ground has been politely turned down so far- this is a big story, and already the big guns (for want of a better word) are being sent in to cover it.

It’s too early to say who is behind what appears to be the most pointless terrorist attack to date, but it won’t be long before the mud is thrown.

I’m not sure I care who is behind it just yet either.

What is more important is that the authorities get the situation sorted out and that the people don’t shut down their open, democratic society in the wake of this atrocity.

This is, after all, the country that sponsors the Nobel Peace Prize, a country well-respected in it’s efforts to bring peace to the Middle East (not least via the Oslo Accords) and to Sri Lanka.

As I watch the footage – hopefully shot by my friends and colleagues in Norwegian media – of debris and damage on the streets which I walked a couple of weeks ago, I hope that whoever did this is watching too.

And I hope they realise the futility of what they did.

Because if you feel that you have to blow up bombs on the streets of the quietest, most peaceful capital in the world to make your point, then your cause is not worth fighting for.