Tag Archive for Utoeya

Life begins again as Breivik goes down

Germany’s foreign minister lays a wreath at Oslo cathedral to remember the 77 people murdered by Anders Behring Breivik.

There is an expression in Norwegian that has always intrigued me.

It’s interjected into sentences, much the same way as Londoners use “innit” or Dubliners “you know what I mean.”

In Norwegian, it’s “ikke sant?”

Literally translated, it means “not true,” but Norwegians use it as a conversational question with the tone rising on the last syllable.

It’s a clever, almost passive-aggressive way of getting people to agree with you.

It is, it seems, a much more effective method of doing so than, say, terrorism.

It wasn’t needed yesterday though, as almost everyone was delighted that Anders Behring Breivik was found to be sane and criminally liable for the deaths of 77 innocent people – many of them children in the eyes of the law – and sentenced to 21 years in prison.

For the record, the chances of him ever coming out of prison are up there with Elvis returning to play 18 holes on the moon.

In their verdict, the five judges sentenced him to 21 years “preventative detention” and said that there was a very strong possibility that he would remain a threat to society even after his tariff is served; if he is, his detention can be extended for five years at a time.

He will never walk the streets of Oslo as a free man again.

The reaction on the streets was a mixture of fatigue and relief.

People are sick of being asked about him. Sick of hearing about him, and what he did. Sick of trying to work out what his actions say about Norway, and themselves.

But the relief now outweighs that. That Anders Behring Breivik wasn’t shot dead in the dirt of Utoya – like so many of his victims – is a good thing for the healing process in Norway.

If he had been, he would have been martyred for the cause of extreme nationalism, and we would never have understood what made him carry out such unspeakable acts.

But over the ten weeks of his trial we have come to understand him better – his callousness, his twisted logic, his hatred.

We have seen a vanity in him that would make Narcissus blush. And we have seen a total lack of empathy with his victims.

At times we have seen behind the facade – the obsessive organising of ┬ápaper and pens before he answered the judge’s question about whether or not he accepted the verdict, quickly followed by the flash of darkness as he attempted to apologise to fellow extreme nationalists for not killing even more innocent children.

Most of all, we saw the smile as the verdict was announced. Breivik welcomed the verdict with something between a grimace and a smirk.

In his own mind, he was victorious yesterday in Court 250 of Oslo’s Tinghus, but it was the people of Norway that won.

And over the next 21 years, Breivik will have plenty of time to reflect over why his actions haven’t launched the war on immigrants he so longed for, and why the people of the blood he was so intent of protecting have rejected him, and all he stands for.

Oslo is a small city, and in the early afternoon I left the courthouse are to walk to the cathedral.

I watched as the German foreign minister laid a wreath at the large red heart that stands in memories of those killed by the hateful, pudgy, vain Breivik.

He, like the rest of the civilised world, rejected Breivik.

And on the way back to the courthouse the ordinary people of Norway spoke of how they wanted to put this behind them and start rebuilding the safe, harmonious society that was blown away by Breivik’s bombs and bullets.

And that is something we can all support them in, ikke sant?

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.