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Thursday, May 23, 2024

‘More radicals like Breivik in Norway’

An award-winning Norwegian journalist and author who specializes in the right-wing extremist and anti-Jihad movements fears more radicals may resort to terrorist attacks in Norway. He doesn’t think confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik is the “lone wolf” he’s made out to be.

Øyvind Strømmen recently won Norway’s “Freelancer of the Year” journalist prize for his intensive coverage of anti-Islamic communities on the Internet. He’s now come out with a book on right-wing extremism, anti-Jihad movements and terror in Europe, and has been a target of a massive hate-campaign launched by right-wing extremists upset with his work.

Strømmen has said he’s not scared by the campaign and that he “has confidence in the Norwegian police.” He warns, however, that there are many more right-wing, anti-immigration radicals who share Breivik’s ideology, and they may launch terrorist attacks like Breivik did.

“It’s naive to believe that Brevik is a lone wolf,” Strømmen told newspaper Dagsavisen on Thursday. “He’s part of a movement, a milieu, that can be dangerous.” He pointed to the neo-Nazi network that’s emerged in Germany this week, responsible for the murders of several immigrants from Turkey.

“Among the people I’ve been following on the Internet are potential assailants,” Strømmen said. He said some express “violence fantasies” in their online commentaries. “Political events, like terrorist attacks, can prompt them to move from words to action,” he said, noting that many carried on for hours after Norway’s government headquarters was bombed on July 22 about how they’d react, until it became clear that it wasn’t Muslims behind the attacks.”

Power of the Internet
Strømmen said it’s alarming to read all the ultra-right-wing, hateful comments being spread over the Internet, and he chided editors who don’t monitor online debates strictly enough. The debates themselves, Strømmen believes, can further radicalize those involved.

“The Internet is used by extremists to spread their ideological message,” he told Dagsavisen. “The net also makes it easier to make contact with extremists or extremist organizations and networks.”

Tore Bjørgo, a professor at Norway’s police academy (Politihøyskolen), told newspaper Aftenposten that police lack a precise overview of the violence potential within right-wing circles in Norway. “But I agree with Strømmen that there is a real potential for violence here,” Bjørgo said. “There’s a lot of extreme rhetoric, but it’s hard to determine how much of it is just talk.”

PST: ‘Breivik no icon’
Some have said Strømmen has done the research that Norway’s police intelligence unit PST should have done, to hone in on Breivik before he killed 77 persons in the bombing and his subsequent massacre on the island of Utøya. Strømmen agreed that PST hasn’t “followed enough people” but also tempered the criticism of PST, noting that they’re restricted by various aspects of the law regarding surveillance.

PST chief Jon Fitje, meanwhile, told Dagsavisen that Breivik hasn’t become the icon for right-wing extremists that he wanted to be. “Most people in these circles have distanced themselves from Breivik, that’s what they say, anyway,” said Fitje, who led off an annual conference on national security this week.

Fitje conceded, though, that Breivik “moved the borders” by actually taking action instead of simply spouting off in online forums and through his so-called manifesto. PST hasn’t ruled out, though, that Breivik might inspire others to do the same.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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