On July 22, 2011, horrific news from Norway shattered the world. In two acts of terror targeting the government building in Oslo and a youth political camp of the Labour party held on the Utoya island, 76 individuals lost their lives. The perpetrator and his motifs are well known by now: it was Anders Breivik, a self-proclaimed modern day Crusader, who went on a rampage against his political opponents, frustrated with what he saw as silent facilitation of the Islamization of Europe.

“DO NOT for the love of God aim your rage and frustration at Muslims. […] ALL our efforts must be aimed at […] traitors. We will focus on the Muslims AFTER we have seized political and military control. At that point, we will start deportation campaigns.”

The quotation above is an excerpt from a document Breivik disseminated shortly before he commenced with the attacks, an 1500-pages-long manuscript titled “”2083: A European Declaration of Independence” in which he thoroughly explained his political beliefs and the motives for the crimes he committed.

One recurring question these days is if it is worth analyzing his “Manifesto” at all? Do we actually need to ponder upon his ideology? Aren’t we doing a bad thing by repeatedly debating his musings, thus reiterating his messages? At the end of the day, isn’t he just another sociopath and a person with troubled childhood, who resorted to violence as a remedy for his personal frustrations (allegedly being dumped by a girl who fell for a Muslim man)? His political views provide many grounds for disqualifying him as irrelevant to the political debate indeed. The Manifesto shows that his Holy War is driven by Breivik’s narcissism and self-righteousness as well as his delusion of historic mission. He adopts a highly selective approach to seeing the world, makes arbitrary assessments of good and bad, and is in fact excessively judgmental, confronting most of the contemporary values of society (for instance, gender equality). When it comes to his acts, on the other hand, he straightforwardly takes mass murder as a problem-solving technique. Such ideas should primarily concern law enforcement. But how should they be addressed in the political debate?


What makes Breivik different from typical mass murderers and terrorists is that his words (and consequently, his actions – a mere frontal attack on the political opponent) are not only political, but astonishingly rooted in the contemporary political debates in Europe and beyond. Reading the direct and semi-formal text of “2083,” one gets the idea that we have heard many of this claims and arguments before. It can easily be a football hooligan, a drunk man yelling in a smoky tavern or some anonymous who replied to our comments online. It can easily be the hosts of a local TV or radio show that scaremonger on the loss of European identity before the invasion of foreigners. It can be indeed, a representative of any far right political association.

The very ideas that Breivik was advocating for  – alarmism regarding the loss of traditional values, vilification of traitors, preaching homogenization through un-mixing (deportation) and curtailing immigration, as well as expressing deep solidarity with non-western nations perceived as struggling with Islamic terror) are the pillars of various ideologies shared by thousands of Europeans (and Americans). Meticulously pointing out his influences and beliefs, the former member of Norway’s second largest political party, the Progress Party, declares himself as “Western Europe patriot,” nationalist/conservative and cultural Christian who fights the Islamization of Europe and especially its enablers (multiculturalism, political correctness, “cultural Marxism”). He builds upon the ideas of the Dutch radical far righter Geert Wilders, the English Defence League and he would like to meet the glorious Vladimir Putin in person. He sees the EU as an “unelected and unaccountable government for nearly half a billion people” and argues that he and his supporters have allies in the US (“a sizable faction of the Republican Party,” presumably the Tea Party). Hence, understanding Breivik and his political beliefs is crucial for understanding the prospects of the far right. The “2083” Manifesto shows that albeit the diffusion and the divergent conceptions among the far right, their beliefs are inter-related and complementary to each other and they share the sense of a common mission. For now, it is their methods that make them different.


Unlike fellow right wingers, Breivik advocates violence. He does that primarily because he is openly disillusioned with the merits of democracy. Unlike his political idols that participate in elections and engage into institutional debates, Breivik saw democracy as an unfair system that suppresses his fellow patriots from having a say in policymaking, a system that is biased towards liberals and the Left. In his words, in such a system “even if a moderate right wing political party […] manages to gain certain influence […] they will not be able to accomplish anything unless they get more than 50% of the votes.” This “injustice” was the very reason why he left mainstream politics. Even though his former party was “the most successful anti-Islamisation party in Europe,” it could not make a significant change because the 22% of support were simply not enough to push their hundreds of bills against radical Islam taking over. Same goes with civic or at least non-violent activism, as Breivik sees “unnacountable NGOs” as part of the cultural Marxist coalition that undermines national sovereignty and the preservation of European culture.

The Oslo and Utoya attacks were part of Breivik’s master plan to bully his opponents and through shock and blood to affect the status quo of Norwegian and European politics; eventually to outrage Muslims and to cause a religious war. The Norwegian scholar on nationalism, Thomas Hylland  Eriksen argues that the very nature of the radical act of terror committed by Breivik resembles a natural disaster – we could not anticipate it and therefore, were unable to protect ourselves from it, and we can not protect ourselves from similar acts in the future. Yet, this is only partially true.

In the post – 23 July debates, authors seem to forget one very important fact regarding political terror: resorting to violence is not uncommon when radicals are in question. Terror is part of European history, and moreover, part of Europe’s present. The politics of the violent direct action that marked a whole era of European and global politics (one such act was the casus belli for the outbreak of the First World War). Today, even though terror has significantly decreased, it still persists. In 2009, out of 294 terrorists attacks in Europe, only one was carried by Islamists, and the rest by European radicals, especially by extreme nationalists and separatists. Therefore, Breivik’s acts should remind us that violence of this kind, unthinkable before July 23 and unthinkable for Norweigans, might just happen very soon again. Breivik knew that radicals and his fellow “Western European Patriots” can and will opt for violence – and that is what made him say that he is optimistic of the future of his “Holy War.”

The questions we need to answer

The question that can hardly be answered, of course is, how can European governments respond to the ferocious attack, both in terms of security and discursively? How can they protect their people from future attacks carried  by extreme far righters and how can they combat the burgeoning hateful rhetoric that stimulates that type of actions? Introducing frequent check ups on blonde guys wearing branded polo shirts who exhibit high level of etiquette is certainly not an alternative to be considered (part of Breivik’s suggestions are to dress neatly and behave accordingly in order to trick authorities). As Prime Minister Stoltenberg said, the response must follow the ideals of the open and tolerant society. The outrage, the fear and the anguish of this moment have to be overcome.

One powerful mechanism democratic societies of today have is deliberation. And before contemplating any possible solutions, we need to take a step back and reflect on ourselves for a moment. In that respect, there are topics that we will need to discuss in order to maintain the pillars of openness and tolerance.

In Breivik’s case, we have an obvious example of how anti-Islam, far right rhetoric inspires terror (the same goes for any extremist rhetoric). To paraphrase Karl Frisch, while it would be senseless to blame a whole political movement for the acts of an individual, his enablers and idols should be held accountable. “There is a high bar between […] religious extremist and a religious extremist capable of killing someone […]. But [far right ideologues] lower that bar when they paint the Islamic faith with a broad brush and give anti-Muslim bigotry an audience of millions.”  In fact, while his far right heroes condemn Breivik’s methods in the aftermath of the Oslo and Utoya bloodbaths, they did not miss the opportunity to repeat their views that the alleged threat from radical Islam persists and the debate should not be deflected because this individual act. That is the politically correct way (the way Breivik despised) to say that the motives behind the July 23 attacks were in fact justified.

Not only anti-Islam discourse should be tackled on formal grounds, there needs to be a persistent effort to diffuse prejudices, through, for instance, reframing “Muslim questions” as questions of social exclusion/inclusion, while maintaining the secular and liberal-democratic perspective. Same goes with migration – we need to facilitate a shift of the focus of the debate from security issues to the challenges of integration and social cohesion (and target both the immigrants and the native population). Moreover, we need individualization of the discourse – meaning departure from debating religions, cultures and communities as if they were strictly bound and homogenous actors (a self-critical remark is that this should be applied when discussing the far right as well). Finally, we need to agree with Breivik’s assessment that the current political order is ideologically colored, and moreover, that it is tailored to discourage hatred towards individuals and whole categories of the population. In order to make this less outrageous and more plausible for far right extremists, we need to repeat the fact that it is in order to protect their comfort as well.

Anastas Vangeli is a Research Analyst at the Center for Research and Policy Making, Skopje