Perhaps the most disturbing phenomenon in the 21st century European politics has been the emergence of various far-right populist movements. These extremist movements are driven by fears that open borders, globalization and immigration will result in a change towards worse; to the destruction of old, traditional communities and the loss of national identity, perhaps even to the demise of the European civilization. While these fears may be exaggerated and even irrational, for many people who hold them, they’re real fears. In this weekend, this was manifested concretely when Anders Behring Breivik decided to blow up a bomb in downtown Oslo and attack the Norwegian Labour Party Youth camp in Utøya , massacring over 90 members of the Labour Youth Organization.
Breivik was involved in this same political dynamic which has swept across the European Continent in recent years. He had a background in the Norwegian Progress Party (FrP), the second-largest political party in Norway, which has adjusted its anti-tax populist ideology more and more towards the direction of an openly anti-immigration platform. Eventually, Breivik resigned from the party, convinced that democratic methods could not yield the results he hoped for, and began hatching a plot for outright political violence.
Following the modus operandi of all publicity-seeking mass murderers, Breivik wrote a manifesto where he openly stated his motives and clarified his political opinions in detail. Published in the internet, the “European Declaration of Independence” – which can be downloaded from here – is essentially a grotesque compendium of blog posts and columns, tied together with Breivik’s own narrative. The quoted writings all have in common an openly islamophobic, anti-immigration theme. According to Breivik’s twisted, but coherent logic, the “multiculturalist Marxist establishment” is attempting to convert the European Union into a “Marxist superstate, the EUSSR”; these “cultural Marxists” are also responsible for the “mass Muslim immigration” and “islamization” of Europe. Breivik is, in other words, a true believer in the so-called “Eurabia”-predictions previously discussed also on this blog, and he also believes that an open discussion of these threats was impossible due to the pervasive European “political correctness”. In his own words, Breivik was using the mass murder as means to “send a message” to the “Marxist, multiculturalist elites”. His chosen method was to wipe out the next generation of the left-wing politicians whom he saw as the culprits of the immigration policy and the destruction of his cherished European civilization.
What’s important to remember is that Breivik’s ideology was not original, and his sick ideas were not of his own making. In essence, he was a product of the internet age, a dedicated consumer of the radical anti-Muslim political propaganda which has circulated around the websites and weblogs ever since the 9/11 attacks and the controversial Muhammad cartoon episode. Breivik maintained a lively interest in the most notable anti-Islam bloggers, such as “Fjordman”, with whom he occasionally seems to have corresponded, advertising his book project; one example of their dialogue can be found here, in the comment section. The title of Breivik’s book, “Declaration of European Independence”, is actually borrowed from a column which “Fjordman” wrote for the cultural-conservative “Brussels Journal”-blog. Breivik describes his ideology by the name “Vienna School of Thought”, which is a reference to another well-known paranoid anti-Islam blog, “Gates of Vienna”.
This internet sub-culture where Breivik spent his pastime has not been without political significance. The very same post-modern, radical, fanatic cultural-fundamentalist atmosphere which produced Breivik has made serious inroads to the mainstream politics in the Western World, basing its success on populism and fear. The writers who inspired Breivik included known Muslim-baiting hate-mongers such as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes, and he was fascinated by the Tea Party movement. Geert Wilders, the head of the Dutch PVV and the producer of Fitna, was among Breivik’s heroes, and his book even mentions – in one of the quoted posts from “Fjordman” – Jussi Halla-aho, a Finnish anti-Islam blogger who was elected as an MP of the populist “True Finns” party in the last elections and became the chairman of the parliamentary committee in charge of police, border guard and the immigration affairs. Breivik’s book endorses several “anti-immigration, cultural conservative organizations”, ranging from the Sweden-Democrats to the Polish PiS, all of which he saw as the possible salvation of the Continent from the supposed evils of multiculturalism and immigration. The only thing which made Breivik special was his conviction that this parliamentary political activity needed to be supplemented with direct action, and he saw himself as the man who could provide it.
The links between his sources of inspiration are clear enough; indeed, the anti-Islam bloggers habitually cross-reference each others, as testified by the above-mentioned hat tip given by Fjordman to Halla-aho. Breivik may be considered as a fanatical psychopath, but judging by his own writings, there was nothing unusual in his political opinions, which have infested the Web for several years. The online propagation of hatred, fear, paranoia and pessimism merely reached its final, logical end in the actions of one dedicated adherent.
Not surprisingly, those who have ideologically most in common with Breivik have already decided to adopt denial tactics, showing no self-criticism whatsoever. In Finland, the chairman of the youth organization of the “True Finns”, Simon Elo, merely commented that Breivik’s manifesto was “very confused” – this in spite of the fact that the contents of Breivik’s manifesto and Elo’s own blog which he hosts as a youth politician clearly represent the same exact paranoid variety of “criticism of multi-culturalism”, tainted by fears of Islam and suspicions towards the Left. Elo has also uncritically praised Professor Timo Vihavainen’s controversial work “Fall of the West”, which certainly had a very similar tone to Breivik’s writings and was, unsurprisingly, also favourably referenced at Breivik’s favorite hangout in the blogosphere. So, in spite of the denials, it is very difficult not to see the ideological connection.
What is more worrisome is that similar statements which pushed Breivik over the brink are today not only passively tolerated in the European mainstream politics, but sometimes even echoed by the traditional political parties and supposedly moderate politicians. It should be noted that Breivik and his actions were a result of the very same political dynamic which has been manifested in the hyper-strict immigration policies in Denmark, dismantling of the Roma settlements in France and comments on the “failure of multiculturalism” in Germany. All that Breivik did was simply to pursue this dynamic to its ultimate, most extreme conclusion.
Thus, although the actions of Breivik may be considered unique, a pessimist might also state that they are symptomatic of the present-day atmosphere in Europe. The historical precedents are ominous enough. Just as in the inter-war era, the 21st century Europe has already witnessed a massive economic crisis, together with the new rise of racism and xenophobia. Today, the equation is complete with random, full-scale massacres of people who are considered as political opponents.
Facilis descensus Averni.