The terror attacks in Norway on July 22 appear to have been meant partly as a horrific book launch.
In a book that is circulating on the net, Anders Behring Breivik describes how he has spent nine years and 300 000 euro working on the text, and preparing for the terror attacks. But he adds that “all that is barely noticeable compared to the sacrifices made in relation to the distribution of this book, the actual marketing operation.”
The conclusion is grotesque but unavoidable: The terror attacks are part of the book’s marketing plan.
Behring Breivik thus follows in the footsteps of other violent fanatics before him. He uses the power he now has over over attention to force feed us to his fantasy worldview.
It feels sickening to write about his ideas. But we no longer have a choice. The attacks happened. Our job now is to understand.
Few people have had the time to read the entire book, which is 1500 pages long. But a skimming of the text leaves no doubt about its nature: It is a manifesto for a European civil war, where a cultural conservative native Europe are the good guys, and an alliance of politically correct “cultural Marxists” and Muslims are the bad guys.
Large sections of the book are not written by Behring Breivik himself, but are copies of articles from the online counterjihad movement, who fear a Muslim takeover in Europe. Some have labelled him a “right-wing extremist”, but if so, it is not the traditional kind with boots and Nazi symbols, but a new kind: A right-wing extremist for the internet generation.
Earlier right-wing extremists hated Jews and people with different skin color. The counterjihadis consider skin color irrelevant. Their enemy is Islam, and the politically correct traitors who allow Muslims to take power in Europe and turn it into Eurabia.
Behring Breivik uses texts from anti-Islamic writers such as Robert Spencer and Gregory Davis, and he appears to have plagiarized parts of the manifesto of the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. But the one writer he is a particularly great fan of is the pseudonymous Norwegian blogger Fjordman, who he has copied tens of articles from. Fjordman is a central counterjihad-blogger who for years has been predicting a civil war between the real and the Islamized/multicultural Europe.
We should be careful with how we apportion guilt, particularly at this moment, when the adrenaline boils after one of the deadliest terror attacks in history. But it is possible that what we’re looking at here is a relationship between words and actions that we are familiar with from other violent fanatics: Anarchists, Communists, Nazis, Islamists. In all such movements there is a majority who use hard words, but only words, about the Great Conspiracy and the Coming Crisis. And then a true believer comes along and take the ideas to their “logical”, bloody consequence.
It is a task for a later, cooler time to discuss which guilt belongs where, but it can appear that paranoid Islam haters have built with words the ideological foundation Behring Breivik has built upon with bombs and guns. But he has also built this foundation himself, through many years of working on this book. What we safely can say is that Behring Breivik and the counterjihadis to a large extent live in the same world: A world where the Christian and secular Europe stands on the brink of (self-)destruction, and where a non-violent solution appears less and less realistic.
His association with the immigration critics at the blog document.no, where Behring Breivik has posted comments, is weak. It may be hard to tell the difference from the outside, but there is a long distance between immigration critics who have their feet on the ground, and those who live in a civil war fantasy. In the book we learn that Behring Breivik contacted Hans Rustad, the editor of document.no, to initiate a project that would also involve the Progress Party, but that he was rebuffed.
Behring Breivik considers document.no and the Progress Party to be forces it might be useful to cooperate with. But they don’t realize the seriousness of the situation. They haven’t understood that the time for democratic means is over. Behring Breivik appears to feel particularly hurt by the way Rustad has ridiculed his favorite writer, Fjordman.
The book contains a detailed diary over many years, which describes how he has prepared the terror attacks. The diary is intended to make it easier for those who come after him to carry out their own attacks. In the world view of Behring Breivik, it is only a matter of time before the civil war starts. After it has been won, future generations will thank him, and see him as a pioneer.
He claims that the roots of the project were planted in 2002, when he and a group of like-minded people founded a modern variant of the Knights Templars. At their founding meeting, they condemned all European traitors to death. Whether this is real or propaganda is something the police must decide, but what it shows us is how he sees himself: As the judge, executioner and knight protector of Europe.
Ironically, for someone who despises “cultural Marxists”, he expresses admiration for the Marxist organizational strategy, where an elite of ruthless believers would lead the masses towards paradize. And now too the counterjihadi has copied the terror tactics of the jihadis. He has stared too deeply into the enemy, and become one of them, become another of those who believe in the liberating power of violence.
His ideas are irrelevant fantasies, and we only care about them in order to answer a single question: Why? Why government buildings? Why children and youths? What did he hope to achieve?
I will give two speculative answers. One is that, in his world view, the political elite are traitors to the nation of Norway. That’s why the bomb targetted government buildings in central Oslo. And that’s why the Utøya massacre targetted the next generation of our political leaders – the people he believes would be on the wrong side in the coming civil war.
To ask what he “achieves” by doing this is to take his ideas too seriously. We should not read too much into the actions of a violent fanatic. He targetted the “enemy”, and that is all.
Another answer is that he wanted to raise the conflict level in our society, and thus recruit soldiers to his civil war. He writes that he expects the Progress Party to be associated with him, because he used to be a member there. But he considers it a good thing if the Progress Party is sabotaged by this, because it will make their voters lose faith in democracy.
He also encourages attacks on Muslims in order to radicalize them. A central tenet of the counterjihad ideology is that all Muslims have an inner Osama bin Laden. By angering them, they will reveal their true nature. And as the conflict level rises, it is Behring Breivik’s ideas the non-Muslims of Europe will rely on to understand the situation.
Or so he hopes.
Usually after a terrorist attack, we tell ourselves that if we do this or that, the “terrorists will have won”. To think like this can mislead us into reading too much into the motives of fanatics who lost touch with reality a long time ago.
But in the coming days, we should keep in mind that part of what Behring Breivik wants is in fact to radicalize us all, and make us more open for using force and violence against our political opponents, whether they are Muslims, “cultural Marxists”, or immigration critics.
There will be no civil war, but there may be more violence. That’s something the last ten years of terror attacks show us is possible, when paranoid fantasies take root in men of action.