Attention turns to online extremists

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Justice Minister Grete Faremo is promising to boost resources for police investigators trying to monitor online extremists who are active on radical right-wing websites. She admits police haven’t done a good enough job in following the kind of online discussion groups in which confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik has said he was active.

“We must intensify the research, so that police can better understand what’s happening on the Internet,” Faremo said after a conference this week on radical and violent extremism. She promised more support for surveillance of open sources on the Internet, where forms of hateful ideology spread freely.

Various government ministries have also proposed a long list of measures to monitor radicals and prevent violence, from establishment of a resource group for researchers to new means of international cooperation.

Holding extremists responsible
Breivik’s defense attorney Geir Lippestad, meanwhile, has demanded that some of the main online anti-immigration activists whom Breivik followed and admired be held accountable for the influence Lippestad claims they had on Breivik.

Lippestad told newspaper VG that he especially wanted to summon the blogger Peder Jensen, better known as “Fjordman,” to testify at Breivik’s trial next spring. Lippestad believes Jensen and others like him must share responsibility that a man now declared criminally insane went on the attack July 22 and killed 77 persons.

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported Wednesday that another Norwegian website, vepsen.org (external link, mostly in Norwegian), has a goal of revealing extremist circles and that police apparently were unaware of much of what Jensen has published when they questioned him shortly after the attacks.

Fjordman’s inspiration, and defense
Vepsen, which itself states that its goal is to fight violent and racist movements, has now revealed an entry by Fjordman/Jensen published on the anti-Islamic website Gates of Vienna two months before Breivik bombed Norway’s government headquarters and set off a massacre on the island of Utøya. In it, Jensen wrote about “preparing for Ragnarök (mayhem).” Jensen also has written that Norwegian politicians and cultural officials have allied themselves with Islamic forces to wipe out Norwegian culture, spoken highly of ethnic cleansing and warned that Europe was heading for a “bloody civil war” over multi-culturalism.

Breivik was so taken by Jensen’s rhetoric that he published 38 of Fjordman/Jensen’s essays in full in his own so-called manifesto, released just before he launched his attacks. Breivik hailed Fjordman as “probably the most talented essay writer on the European right.” He referred to Fjordman 111 times in the manifesto.

Police did raid Jensen’s home and seized his computer shortly after the July attacks, but he was not arrested. Lippestad agrees that Jensen can’t be criminally liable for Breivik’s attacks, but adds: “It’s too easy to raise your hands and say ‘I didn’t know that someone could do what Anders Behring Breivik did.’ You have a responsibility when you express yourself in extreme ways.”

Dagsavisen reported that Jensen/Fjordman has mostly gone underground because he feels persecuted. In a commentary published in newspaper Aftenposten in October, though, he complained about the police raid on his home, distanced himself from Breivik and claimed he couldn’t be responsible for what a “disturbed” person did. He sent an e-mail to VG this week saying he didn’t see any reason at all to blame Breivik’s attacks on others.

“He has moreover been declared insane by professionals,” Jensen/Fjordman wrote. “You can’t hold others responsible for what insane persons do, persons you never have met.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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