‘Fear of foreigners’ breeds extremists

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Anders Behring Breivik is by no means Norway’s first home-grown right-wing extremist. Concerns are rising that the country, with its relatively small population, has produced what some experts call a disproportionate amount of internationally known extremists, and some link it to a history of fremmedfrykt (fear of foreigners).

While Norwegian society generally has grown more tolerant and internationally oriented in recent decades, there’s long been a tradition of wariness among Norwegians regarding people they don’t know. While Norway has produced record numbers of its own emigrants, many haven’t been particularly welcoming towards immigrants who’ve arrived in Norway during the past few decades.

That’s given rise to criticism of asylum and immigration laws that some view as too liberal, and in turn a rise in some hateful rhetoric against foreigners in online debates. Fear of being branded a racist for criticizing immigration policies, however, has shut some out of the debate, leading to frustration when they can’t have their say.

Rational debaters withdraw
Author and journalist Øyvind Strømmen has followed the types of websites where Breivik, who has confessed to terrorist attacks that left 77 persons dead, was active in online debate. The extreme and hateful rhetoric found on many of the sites, Strømmen told newspaper Aftenposten this week, “is so uncomfortable that those wanting a factual and rational debate pull out. That leaves the debate to more and more extremists on the left and the right.”

Only a few resort to violence, and most of it nowhere near as massive as Breivik’s. But Norway has produced extremists long before the Internet age. The most famous, Vikdun Quisling, embraced Nazi ideology prior to World War II, and he wasn’t the last. Several white Norwegian men have sprung to some form of international fame, or landed in prison for violence against minorities that has included murder. Quisling was executed after the war and his name became synonymous with the word “traitor,” but Norway later dropped its death penalty so the others have served prison terms and been released.

Among then is Varg Vikernes, who led a neo-Nazi group called Hvit Arisk Motstand (White Aryan Resistance) and was convicted of murdering a colleague from the Black Metal milieu in Oslo and setting fire to many churches in Norway. He served his prison term and went back to making music but re-emerged this week after the attacks, criticizing Breivik on his own website for being part of a so-called Jewish conspiracy.

His posting was quickly picked up by a journalist in the Netherlands who, according to Aftenposten, sent out a Twitter message questioning what’s in the drinking water of a country that’s produced both Vikernes and Breivik.

‘Fjordman’ in focus
Norway has also spawned Erik Blücher, who led the Nazi party Norsk Front in 1975 but moved to Sweden in 1983. Joe Erling Jahr was considered the leader of the “Boot Boys” group in Oslo and reportedly may soon be released from a 16-year prison term he received for the murder of African-Norwegian Benjamin Hermansen in 2001. Although Jahr’s 16 years are far from over, he may be let out on probation.

Now police want to question the so-called “Fjordman,” who Breivik viewed as a mentor in the anti-Islamic movement. The Fjordman is believed to live in Trøndelag, central Norway, and operates only online, according to local media. “We’re working on gaining his identity,” Pål-Fredrik Hjort Kraby of the Oslo Police District told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

The Fjordman himself, meanwhile, has tried to distance himself from Breivik and indicated he’d be willing to help police, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Fjordman has, however, claimed he never met Breivik and doesn’t think he’d have much information for the police.

He remains nonetheless what one follower called a “prophet” among the new right-wing extremists who admire his anti-Islamic views. He’s contributed to many websites critical of Islam, and is often quoted on “anti-Jihad” blogs in the US.

Strømmen stressed to Aftenposten that he has no theory as to what’s really created the right-wing extremists in Norway like Vikernes, Breivik and Fjordman, while Anders Jupskås at the University of Oslo thinks the issue should be researched. Strømmen does think Fjordman spreads a dangerous ideology, though, because he indirectly inspires violence by indicating that armed resistance is the only alternative against Islam, and that western leaders have betrayed their people.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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  • Just a guy

    Finally an article that shows the truth: breivik only put into action what many Think about but do not dare doing!

  • John Palmer (USA)

    Extremists exist in all societies. And this one happened to be particularly extreme and good at killing. Beware such extremists whether they lean left or right.

  • Just a guy

    They only exist as an expression of a deeper cultural problem. They are never isolated cases, dont underestimate them!

  • This was the first I had read of “fremmedfrykt,” and been musing on it since. At the time of the constitution back in 1814 and for 37 years, Jews and Jesuits were not even permitted to enter the country, and that pair would seem innocuous enough. Apparently, the former, even now, do not seem to feel as welcomed as Moslems by Norwegian society. Fremmedfrykt seems to fit.

  • Hiver (Hungary)

    Youre all making a simple but important mistake.
    You’re believing what he is saying.
    And as any other serial killer – ever- Breivik is nothing more than a coward and a incredibly pathetic loser that wanted a sense of power and fame more than anything else.
    That was his real goal.
    All his talk about Islam, his political views and supposed “Christianity” is a fairy tale that he, in his idiotic disturbed mind, spinned for himself over a long period of time.

    His political views serve to provide a “reason” and some sort of “reasonable justification” for his acts.
    His supposed Christianity is there only to provide him with a sense of absolution, and or a sense of “serving a higher purpose” – just another elaborate excuse he made for himself.
    Whether he believes it is absolutely beside the point.
    Of course he does. It makes him feel better.
    His actions though, clearly show what he actually is.
    Of all the possible targets he chose the one where he was relatively alone against a lot of people weaker than him in every way, unarmed and unable to escape.

    That tells you all you need to know about that despicable coward (I wont even call him a human being since he lost any right to it) and i would bet that you wont find that anywhere in his pathetic manifesto.

    He did not kill Norwegian kids because of politics or to harm the Labour party. As anyone can see he provoked a totally opposite reaction in reality, and any sane man could have anticipated it.
    He caused the country to answer with unity, because all affected, whether directly or indirectly, realized very profoundly that there is no difference between race and creed and it actually strengthened the ties between people who shared the grief and the loss.
    At the same time he seriously damaged any party or individuals that share his political and racial views or anything even close to them.
    Even other radicals are distancing themselves from him and he provided the government or the police with undeniable reason and justification to take any necessary measure or action against such parties or individuals.

    Not to mention how incredibly stupid was the idea to kill Norwegian youth (they all were Norwegian) as a part of the “struggle against Islam”.

    He killed all those young people to get a sense of power and to be famous.
    His actions after the shooting (quick surrender to the police without firing a single bullet at them) and his stupid pathetic demands in the prison confirm this.

    It may sound harsh in some ways but, imposing any sort of relevance to or believing in his mentally disturbed incredibly stupid stories is aggrandizing something that has no higher “value” whatsoever.

    He should be treated and thought of as he is. A cowardly mass murderer who, like any other serial killer ever, attacked those weaker than him.
    And that was the main purpose.
    Charlie Manson killed several people and a pregnant woman while pretending it was about some kind of race war.
    David Berkowitz “Son of Sam” shot six people from an ambush, while they were completely defenseless, unarmed and unable to escape.
    He later told that a “black dog told him to do it”.
    Many others killed too and each and every one had some theory or a story that served to excuse him or provide a seemingly rationale motive.

    The list goes on and on and each and every one always attacked people clearly weaker than him. Children, women, prostitutes, young girls and boys or older people, patients in hospitals and generally people that were helpless against them.
    They are all pathetic cowards – just as Breivik is, in addition of being embarrassingly and incredibly stupid.

    Fear of foreigners does not breed extremists and serial killers.
    Extremists breed fear and hatred of foreigners,… or other religions, or other political parties or actually, … anything that comes across their pathetic minds that can serve as some sort of justification and people like that turn to anything that aggrandizes themselves at the expense of some other group – preferably and almost always weaker than them.

    • NotSoFast

      Hiver (Hungary)
      Tend to agree with a lot of your assessment, but think that Anders had a bad overall strategy, excellent tactician, bad strategist and did think he was working toward his greater purpose. Delusions of granduer, God complex and that sort of thing. I actually think he thought people would cower and have an epiphany when he ‘showed them the way’. Of course, the exact opposite has happened and now he has given the left leaning parties he is against something so valuable, not that they would have wanted it, but they will be exploiting it as long as possible for sure.

      WRT the left leaning labor party, they can be a bit smug and sort of shut down any dissenting view. I have actually clocked shows like Debatt and find that they give the left side more time than the right and moderates are viewed as poor little things, you don’t understand.

    • Matt

      Well said!

    • Ingrid (Canada)

      Hiver….thank you for your insightful comments.

  • MBC

    The Red Army Faction were inspired by Marxist ideology to spread terrorism in Germany in the 60s and 70s. Should Marxist views be outlawed and be held responsible for the terrorism of the left? What about the political violence that inspired by Marxist-Leninism that has found supporters amongst leading intellectuals in Norway, like Lars Gule?

    Has everyone forgotton that Gule is a convicted terrorist who was jailed in Beirut in 1977 when he attempted to smuggle explosives intended to blow up Israelis in Lebanon?

    The Palestinian group he was a member of,the DFLP,were responsible for the Maalot Massacre of Jewish children in a school. Not a million miles away from Breivik’s horrible actions!

    Gule later became a leader in the AUF.

    In the UK animal rights activists firebomb and intimidate research institutes involved in using animals in laboratory testing.

    Should we therefore ban those championing the rights of animals?

    The point I am making is that it is one thing to hold a strongly dissenting view, and another thing to commit violence in its name.

    Most Marxist-Leninists are not terrorists. And neither are people like Fjordman.

    We all have to live with frustration. 99.999% of us manage to do that without turning to violence.

    It’s called growing up. And getting a life.

    • ST

      You missed another big one that shows the sometimes incomprehensible state of denial here (from wikipedia): From 2000 to 2005 he was the Secretary General of the Norwegian Humanist Association.

      It’s the kind of hypocrisy that I am used to in my native Africa, where convicts become police chiefs and you have to blink twice when reading it.

  • Brooks R

    Norway, the land of censorship and denial.

    • Martin

      @Brooks: That`s totally silly and shows that you don`t know much about the country.
      and as far as the extremists are concerned: they are existing in each and every country.
      In fact: there was a party called “Norgespratriotene”. They took part in the last election. They got 120 votes – too much indeed, but just compare it to Sweden: the Nazis got 8% there and a place in the Parliament.
      Of cause there is extremism in Norway – but the nation fight`s it as well as all the demonstrations showed.

  • Just a guy

    Its amazing to hear that this fjordman is not a terrorist. Isnt any supporter of al qaeda a terrorist? Whats the difference? 77 people have died victims of intolerance. How many more must die before we understand that racism leads to violence? I am dissapointed

  • Mert Akin

    Reality check: Let us just assume that ABB is a freak of nature badly inspired by violent computer games, or the steroids he took when he pumped iron, but not a right wing psycho . How many moderate to extreme right wingers to you need in one place, for one of them to “click” and knock out some government buildings and wipe out a generation of moderates?

    Which one is your convenient truth: the right-wing extremist, or just a bad, sick boy?

  • Stribog

    This ABB is a sick psychopathic mind.
    However, he is in control of his acts (as most psychopaths), hence he should be sentenced to life-long imprisonment for his crimes – and preferably not in the luxurious kind they have in Norway.
    His ideology, however, is irrelevant, and many similar cases are known of equally sick minds doing similar horrible things in the name of left-winged ideologies, “green” ecological visions or Islam.
    It’s absurd and obscene to make decent debaters and politicians like Fjordman, Robert Spencer, Richard Pipes, Bat Y’or, Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders, Thilo Sarazzin etc. responsible for the crimes of a sick mind.
    None of them ever called to the use of violence!
    It is (rightly) considered unjust and indecent to make f.ex. Karl Marx and normal communists responsible for the crimes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, to make Marcuse, Adorno and normal left-winged activists responsible for the RAF terror, or to make Mohammed and all muslims responsible for islamist terror.
    Why can’t “the Left” keep up the same standard of decency that they almost automatically expect from their political opponents?
    Already before the victims were identified, even counted, many left-winged reporters and politicians already seemed to have THE “explanation” of this horrible crime.
    This ABB was not only a horrible killer, but also a stupid idiot, because he gave his opponents exactly what they needed, and they – almost gratefully, if the event itself weren’t so horrible- accepted this bitter “gift” (in German thus is called “gefundenes Fressen”, meaning a rather vulgar expression from the animal world for “found food”). While expressing genuine feelings of shock and horror, they also insinuated a statement that their opponents (who naturally felt the same shock and horror about this crime) were not equally genuine in expressing this.
    What a disgusting tactics!
    However, I have a great admiration for the Norwegians, who were the real victims of this assault, but where politicians and other public speakers, irrespective of their political colour, clearly refused to join this childish and – in this given context – rather evil blame-game.
    Instead they showed compassion with the victims and solidarity – which is the only suitable reaction to an event like this!
    After the Norwegians reaction to the mayhem that jumped down upon them, I came to the impression that they maybe present a future model for the world.

  • MBC

    Not sure what your point is Mert, but I’d answer ‘both’ ‘and’. I’m not one for taking chances.

    I don’t think there will be any more Breiviks,thankfully, because he was so extraordinarily dedicated as to be unique, and most right wing extremists don’t have that amount of patience, frankly. Nine years?

    In the UK the EDL are a bunch of losers. Intellect isn’t their strong point. Head-butting is more their style. (But they have disavowed violence in any case).

    But there will be more copy cat mini-Breiviks, attention seekers with grudges against multiculturalism. They won’t do as much damage, but any damage is bad enough. Which will mean that valid debate on difficult subjects will be stifled. Which will in turn ratchet up further the tensions on the right, and further polarise society.

    I really hope and pray it doesn’t come to that. And that debate on difficult subjects can be allowed to come to some kind of democratic consensus. A wise leader tries to reconcile dissenters – not shut them up, rubbish them or remove them. In medieval Scotland it was said the ideal king Alexander led his people ‘in love and law’. Meaning that he tried first of all to heal breaches between his subjects, get them to see each other’s point of view – come to a compromise, like a father would do between two warring sons. Then both could win. But if that failed, then the king led them in law, in which case only one would win. Law being an adversarial process. But if they chose law, both had to solemnly agree that they would abide by the outcome.

    I hope Stoltenberg is the wise king, who tries reconciliation first to heal the rupture in his people. Many who are appalled by Breivik’s actions would share some of his concerns. Are these good Norwegians to be shut up? Don’t they have some kind of valid point and right to be heard?

    But I was really, really, shocked to find out about Gule. Quite honestly, a society which regards Gule as some kind of moral arbiter has lost its moral compass.

    In the UK nobody with that kind of record (and unrepentent) would ever get a job in a university or be allowed a platform as a ‘public intellectual’.

    It has taken us four and a half centuries in the UK to reconcile Catholics with Protestants in Northern Ireland. Believe me, we know all about how difficult it is to reconcile opposing identities. How resilient and self-sustaining identities are, especially where there is historical depth and competition for scarce resources.

    Ethnic tensions flare up across the world, Rwanda, Kenya, Sudan. You can’t just wish them away. They are far, far more resilient than those who drive multiculturalism think.

    The brotherhood of man remains a goal but we will not see it in our lifetimes. We have a lot to learn about how to live together in harmony. It will not be achieved by simply shutting people on the right up or sidelining them.

    • Qwerty

      MBC – I once pointed out to somebody (an avowed leftwing Labour party member) that if English/Scottish Protestants had never settled in Ireland at least part of the British/Irish conflict would have been avoided, most obviously the situation in Northern Ireland.

      That, I thought, was beyond debate.

      His response:

      “Its people like you who start wars.”


      Apparently forcing groups to share terrotory and compete for political, economic power etc is enlightened. Not allowing the conflict to arise in the first place is evil. That seemed to be the takeaway message.

  • Qwerty

    Since the moderates on this thread are all feeling very pleased with themselves perhaps they could clear up a minor point for me. It concerns the nature of Norwegian democracy and how it relates to ABB.

    Can anyony direct us to information regarding the referendum where the Norwegian state asked the people if they would like a continuous stream of 3rd world immigrants to settle in Norway? What year was that, which party was in power? Its funny, I cant seem to find anythingabout it at all.

    Failing that perhaps someone could explain which party promised to allow a continuous stream of 3rd world immigrants to settle in Norway, as part of their election platform. Its hard to find that either. Thats odd because as the moderates seem to believe that this is an incredibly popular policy, one which only a few insane people or malcontents would disagree with. So popular in fact that one would expect the party promising the most immigration to win any election easily.

    And they must have promised, its a democracy is it not?