It looks like Andreas Behring Breivik got what he always wanted. Like John Ausonius, David Copeland and others, he has ensured that his name will forever be recorded in the annals of history. The bombing in Oslo, followed by a shooting spree on Utoya Island leave nearly 100 dead and join the list of massacres that have earned an unwelcome place in the memory recall of thousands of others. Breivik refers to himself as a Christian fundamantalist, an ultra-conservative and a revolutionary, and bizarrely, quotes John Stuart Mill on his Twitter page, "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests". Sometimes it's fascinating to find out who read the same books that you did...
Breivik may or may not sincerely hold all of the beliefs that he claims to, but like Ausonius and Copeland, he is first and foremost a lunatic with an overwhelming urge to leave a permanent mark somewhere. Naturally, this is a combination that rarely ends well, but usually has the protagonist's desired effect of buying himself the fifteen minute's of fame that he sought after. I managed a look at his 'manifesto' - 2083 - a Declaration of European Independence, and though I clearly couldn't get through the entirety of its 1500 pages, there seemed to be an odd cocktail in there of anti-Islamic sentiment, revolutionary tales and some useful tips for anyone interested in crop rotation. It may be a substantial body of work, but that does not make it coherent, and the claim that the whole of Europe will be overrun by Muslims inside two generations does not seem to be that of a man whose thought process contains a great deal of structure.
Still, written under the name Andrew Berwick, the manifesto seems on face value to have been the motivation for the atrocities, which have given its content the publicity that he craved. I often wonder in these cases whether it is the political/religious belief that drives the killing or maiming of others, or alternatively if the protagonist's 'ideology' is adopted as a form of self-justification for predisposed tendencies. John Ausonius (aka the Laser Man) is a good example in this regard because as well as being a (pretty useless it should be said) shooter of immigrants he was also a serial armed robber who managed to escape the police by mere bicycle on numerous occasions.
Criminality and playing games with the authorities was in his DNA and Ausonius was clearly not a well man - groovy liberal Sweden may have been experiencing rare signs of racial tension in the early 1990s, but having watched a couple of documentaries about his crimes I never quite understood why a loner like Ausonius might feel as strongly about the subject as he claimed to. The conclusion I reached was that if say, homophobia had been the line of prejudice doing the rounds, at the time, then Ausonius would probably have fired his bullets at eleven gay people instead of Iranians or Brazilians. Astonishingly, a combination of misfiring laser sight followed by a terrible handgun that he modified himself meant that all but one of his victims survived.
The relevance to the Breivik case is this:- a survey conducted only a few weeks ago found that 53.7% of Norweigians wanted a complete halt to immigration from overseas. Now having never been to Norway and knowing little about the country that is not sports-related, I would not be qualified to offer an insight into precisely why that is. Nor would it be wise for a groovy pro-immigration liberal like myself to dismiss more than half of the population of a foreign land as narrow-minded fools. For that sort of figure to appear in any poll, something must have gone terribly wrong in the way that immigration is managed, and there is clearly a genuine sense of disgruntlement on the subject in what has historically been a very tolerant and liberal society. Those who support immigration and the positive benefits that it brings would do well to take such sentiment on board, dispel any myths as and when they occur, but at least engage with the decent people in that 53.7% who are not naturally inclined towards hatred (ie most of them), and will be as horrified by what Breivik did as anyone else.
This is another of those instances where it would appear that very little could have been done to prevent it from happening. Meanwhile viewing the massacre as a reflection of where anti-immigration sentiment leads us both gives Breivik's psychotic rampage an unjustified veil of validity, and does a great disservice to those who are anti-immigration but have no intention of killing anybody. Listening to the radio last night, I heard a couple of journalists interviewing each other on the subject of 'xenophobia in Norway' as if a single deranged madman was some sort of poster boy for the subject. Then while researching this piece I stumbled across a predictable line of guff online where someone had attached Breivik's anti-Islamic video from 2003, "I am deeply saddened and angry because of what he did. I make this video available not to propagate his crazy ideas, but to help us think and analyze what we can do to be more tolerant and keep this from happening again.".
This sentiment is no doubt well-intentioned, but the suggestion that a lunatic hell bent on violence would refrain from his killing spree 'if only we were more tolerant' could politely be described as deeply flawed. Attaching the atrocities of such individuals to general 'intolerance' is the first step towards the muzzling of any discourse deemed 'unacceptable' by the state. Breivik and the Malmo shooter are no more a representation of 'anti-immigrant' sentiments in Scandinavia than Copeland was the face of British 'anti-gay' feeling twelve years ago, and it does no good to the discussion of either topic to suggest that they ever were. Men of this ilk are reflections of the contents of their own sick minds, and nothing else.
We'll do something on immigration in the week but in the meantime take it easy and I'll catch you soon...