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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