In the aftermath of the tragic attacks that devastated Norway last week, there was one constant thread in the media coverage. Myriad news stories use terms like “isolated incident,” “acted alone,” and “loner” to describe both the attacks and the white, Norwegian attacker himself.
Confusingly, these articles described the confessed attacker, Anders Behring Breivik, as a “loner”; however, those same articles also mention that he was active within far-right extremist groups. Even before that, many media outlets initially speculated that the attacks were carried out by Muslim extremists or Al Qaida, ironically adding fuel to the anti-Muslim bigotry that motivated the Oslo attacks.
Just yesterday news outlets began releasing information indicating that the attacker Behring Breivik was far from a loner, and more likely well-connected and heavily influenced by white nationalist, neo-Nazi, and anti-immigrant organizations. An article in the The New York Times says that Behring Breivik “now maintains that two cells of extremists collaborated with him….”
This should come as no surprise. Far-right extremism is alive and well in the Western world, stoked by rising anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, and is being ignored or utilized by political parties that have risen to prominence on xenophobic platforms. Look no further than the vitriolic immigration debates in France and the United States to see evidence of how fear of foreigners is being used to leverage political power.
And, similarly, Norway’s attacker was informed by political forces far outside his national borders.
In a document that is reported to be Behring Breivik’s manifesto, he refers to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a Washington, DC, based anti-immigrant organization founded by white nationalist John Tanton. CIS is known for its efforts to influence immigration policy by issuing reports containing skewed data that attempts to demonize immigrants. In his manifesto, Mr. Behring Breivik writes, “A new study by the Center for Immigration Studies found that illegal’s cost the taxpayer $10 billion dollars more than they contribute, [sic] each year.”
Behring Breivik also mentions a host of Islamophobic organizations and individuals from both Europe and the US:
- Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch is mentioned by name fifty-five times.
- Hugh Fitzgerald, also of the Jihad Watch website, which is a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, is mentioned a further thirteen times.
- The Jihad Watch website is cited numerous times as a source.
- Also, Pamela Geller of the anti-Islam group Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) is mentioned once, but her personal blog Atlas Shrugs is cited numerous times as another source. SIOA is also mentioned, as is its European partner Stop Islamisation of Europe.
- The far-right English Defence League (EDL) was also listed.
- The noted Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders is mentioned by name fifteen times throughout the manifesto, as well.
- Brigitte Gabriel of the grassroots organization ACT! For America is also cited as a source.
Breivik’s reliance on multiple anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sources to articulate his bigoted beliefs and motivations for violence casts doubt on the assertion by media outlets that this was an “isolated incident.” It is more likely a sign of the closely connected wave of xenophobic hate that is overtaking Europe and the US.
In the US, for example, there are “isolated incidents” every day that take a deadly toll on African Americans, Jews, immigrants, and anyone else who doesn’t fit the narrow defining by racial conservatives of “white” in America.
As Eric Ward, the former publisher of Imagine 2050, writes in a past post:
“The candidacy and ultimate election of Barack Obama touched off a deep and sustained political backlash. Politically motivated hate violence included arson of a predominantly African-American church on election night, the murder of Cape Verdean immigrants, and a few months later, the assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that while overall bias crimes dropped by 2% from 2007 to 2008, incidents of anti-Black bias crimes rose by nearly 5.9%. During the 2008 Democratic National Convention in August, police in Denver, Colorado, detained three individuals after discovering a weapon, drugs, and wigs in their possession. The individuals, eventually released, were described as “white supremacists.”
Two months later, two racist skinheads were arrested in Tennessee after law enforcement uncovered their plans to behead black Americans and assassinate Barack Obama. On the East Coast Ralph Nicoletti pled guilty in Federal Court for three separate incidents of assault on the evening of November 4, 2008. Nicoletti had targeted African Americans who he believed had voted for Barack Obama. Nicoletti’s spree included attacking a teenager with a metal pipe, and using his car to run down a man who he mistakenly believed to be African American.”
The political violence in Arizona alone, most publicly displayed in the assassination attempt of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, attests to the ease in which hateful rhetoric migrates to mainstream political discourse.
In his lumbering 1500 page manifesto, Behring Breivik maintained support for European anti-immigrant and pro-nationalist movements. In reaction to its release, his erstwhile fellow travelers in the United States have ranged their responses from wholesale disavowal to understated approval. Peter Brimelow, founder of the anti-immigrant blog VDARE.com, stated that Behring Breivik’s actions were “an utter catastrophe,” and Steve Sailer, another contributor to that site, has called for the longest possible prison sentence. Even still, VDARE contributor James Fulford lamented that nationalists everywhere would be unfairly scrutinized over an overzealous and misguided adherent.
Similarly, the “radical traditionalists” of Alternative Right have renounced violence and claimed Behring Breivik’s actions to be in no way representative of their own position. Richard Spencer, Alternative Right’s founder, went as far as to call Friday’s events “deranged”; nevertheless, he claims that “we should most definitely study Behring Breivik’s European Declaration of Independence,” going as far as to quote renowned anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald, whom himself dubbed Breivik as “a serious political thinker.”
The openly white-nationalist blog Occidental Dissent (OD) has also written at length on the tragedy. Though Hunter Wallace, the site’s proprietor, gave the obligatory disclaimer that Behring Breivik is “not one of our people.” He goes on to malign Muslim immigration to Europe and asks, “Can you blame him [Breivik]?” Another OD writer, William Rome, takes this thinking one step farther, calling the murdered students “brats,” proclaiming that Behring Breivik fomented the “revolution” for which the far-right pines.
No doubt in the coming days it will become increasingly clear that the deadly attacks in Norway are not just a problem isolated to one man and/or one nation. Rather, these are problems of epic proportions that span multiple borders and continents.