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The Breivik Bluff

April 21, 2012

The trial of Anders Behring Breivik is taking a rest after five days of testimony from the man who set off a bomb near the government before heading to the island of Utoya and going on a shooting spree which left 69 people dead.

The last few days have focused on hearing his side of what he did, why he did it, and what kind of person he is. Camera has not been allowed in the courtroom so as to not allow Breivik to have a direct platform to air his views, but there have been plenty of reporters in attendance who have been sending out information on what is happening within.

Ostensibly, Breivik’s reasoning for the attacks were that they were in protest against the spread of ‘multiculturalism’ in Europe. The term itself is a little vague, and what exactly that means in Breivik’s head is even less clear, but it seems to be primarily concerned with the increase in Muslim presence in the area. He has stated numerous times that Islam is taking over the area, and that legitimate concerns of the local people are being suppressed in the name of advancing the politically correct agenda of multiculturalism.

In these concerns, Breivik is certainly not alone. In the short time of under a year in which I have been in London, I have noticed it to be a fairly hot topic. There is definitely a strong Muslim presence in the city, and it seems that barely a week or two can go by without some kind of incident or anecdote regarding their inability to fit in. Just this week a friend told me about a group of Muslim preachers on the street he saw who got violent and abusive in their attempts to convert, causing the police to be called. A few weeks ago, a large city university decided to shut down its on-campus bar because it had a large Muslim attendance, and Muslims considered drinking ‘immoral’. Someone else related a story to me about their own university, where an all-hours Muslim prayer room was shut down due to late-night attacks in the area, and replaced with an all-faith ‘prayer room’, which led to outraged outbursts from the Muslims who refused to share any space with other faiths.

I have heard about all those stories just this week. And it’s been a fairly standard week. Although there are many different faiths in the world, the thing that makes the fundamentalists in Islam stick out is their total inability to respect and integrate with their non-believing neighbours. Of course, this is not true of all Muslims, by a long shot. The majority are just as tolerant as anyone else, but they certainly tend have a more vocal and violent minority than other groups. Even one of my coworkers, herself a Muslim who is well-grounded, admits to sometimes being scared of how members in her own extended family speak, and giving a wide berth to people dressed in robes and looking suspicious, lest she get blown up. And there are plenty more stories I could tell.

And their number is escalating. There have been several reports regarding the influx of Muslims and the way they are changing the face of Europe. What is particularly worrying is the fact that second-generation Muslims in Europe seem to feel less at one with the country around them than their parents who moved here. An burgeoning group of separatists who are feeling increasingly uneasy with their situation should definitely be a cause for concern. Yet the governments seem to be quite happy with continuing the trend, while ignoring the effect it is having, under the politically-correct ‘we are all one people’ mantra. The linked articles above were written years before the attacks in Norway, and already mentions the uprise of extreme right-wing political parties in response to the government’s refusal to listen to the concerns of the people. This is what Breivik says caused him to lash out – after trying to fight for change through democratic measures, and getting ignored, he says he decided to cut to the root, and attack the policymakers themselves.

But while there may be many people in Europe who are uneasy at the increase in ‘multiculturalism’, I don’t think there would be many people who would be willing to support his method of change. He says that had the initial bomb worked as planned, and killed a larger number of government officials, he would not have gone to Utoya. He says that he did not particularly want to kill children, and in fact decided to refrain from killing a few whom he thought looked too young, but that he considered any person (18 or over, as he says he aimed for) working for multiculturalism an enemy. The camp on Utoya when he attacked was one by the AUF, or the Norwegian Workers Youth League, a Labour-related group which is the largest political youth organisation in Norway.

Breivik calls himself an ultra-nationalist, and the logic he seems to be appealing to is that, as he could not change the flow of multiculturalism through more democratic means, he had to damage the political source of it, ironically claiming to take much of his methodology from al-Qaeda. His original plan, he has said, was to time his arrival on Utoya with a visit from a former Labour Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland. He wanted to abduct her, and then decapitate her live over the internet while reading a pre-prepared text.

While the man’s actions are reprehensible, he does not seem to be ‘crazy’ in the way that most ‘crazy’ killers seem to be. He has rejected a psychiatrist’s assessment that he is insane, and demands to be tried as sane. His arguments seem to follow a certain kind of logic, it’s just his methods which are messed up. He does, however, seem to be in control of his own thoughts, however unappealing they may be.

But, one has to wonder how true these thoughts are. There has been much made of the apparent inconsistencies in his testimony, for example first stating that he had close connections to the anti-Muslim English Defence League, and being in knowledge of several other cells who wanted to follow his work, and then later denying these connections. I don’t personally find these inconsistencies worrying – it makes sense that he might try to boast about connections when first questioned, only to try to distance himself from others when he realised that would mean they would be taken down with him.

What I find more worrying is that as the trial goes on, it seems more and more that Breivik is coming across as quite simply, a giant geek. A geek with an axe to grind, perhaps, but this whole game seems to perhaps have been set up not so much to fight multiculturalism, but to make himself seen. The press keep referring to the year or so which he spent playing World of Warcraft online, and how this might have shaped his violent tendencies (video games being the sole creator of psychopaths these days). Less is being made about the fact that he was a man who spent a year hidden away at his mum’s house, with nothing much going on. He has also made a point of saying how many Facebook friends he has, and is constantly talking in terms of percentages. His psychiatric report was “80% made up”. The bomb he set off was “30% as effective” as he wanted it to be. He agrees with “95%” of what he wrote in his own manifesto. I’m no psychiatrist, but I have found that people who use (arbitrary) percentages all the time to express things which could otherwise be expressed in words tend to be … kind of geeky.

There is also the matter of how he wants to be ultimately dealt with. He is facing 21 years’ imprisonment, indefinitely extended. However, he has insisted that he be either acquitted or executed. Imprisonment, he says, is ‘pathetic’. The picture that seems to be emerging is one of a socially awkward man, who happens to hate multiculturalism, who has found a radical way to use that hate to propel himself into the spotlight. He may have even decided that this could be his call to fame, as there are plenty of people who also disagree with multiculturalism, and he could probably see himself becoming some kind of martyr if executed. Perhaps he feels that would give his life some greater meaning.

Luckily, Norway does not seem willing to play his game. The newspapers have removed him from the front page, with the exception of one magazine who has run with the following page:

Magazine cover during the Breivik trial

Breivik’s face being replaced with the words, “Look at me!”. In contrast, Western media is at pains to portray him as a madman, yesterday splashing around a picture which makes it look like his face is contorted with rage, while he is more likely in mid-speech. A look at the thousands of other pictures of him will quickly show that his normal facial expression is eerily empty.

The biggest crush for him, the biggest disincentive to any possible followers, may be being treated simply as a normal killer. Norway does not seem to have bloodthirsty rage in response to attacks on their soil, unlike how some other countries may react. Instead, they are treating him almost with understanding, sadness, and a desire to just be rid of the whole deal. A survivor of the Utoya attack yesterday ran a Q&A session where the lack of hate or desire for vengeance was profound. She also criticised the media coverage.

If people like this are born from a desire to be seen, while hiding under the guise of a legitimate concern, then perhaps the best way to deal with them is to call their bluff, hear what they have to say, but then refuse to make them famous because of it.

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