The ideological struggle over the Oslo atrocities has already begun and threatens quickly to overshadow the hideous and murderous events themselves. The race is on for Islamist and left-wing political groups and their supporters in politics and the media to exploit this appalling tragedy to discredit and delegitimize their opponents.
Even before all the bodies of the deceased have been recovered and the grieving even starts, the media are carrying reports labeling Anders Behring Breivik, the self-proclaimed mass murderer, as a Christian fundamentalist who espouses far-right, anti-Islamic views, as if this explains his vile rampage. Simultaneously, Europol, the European police agency, has announced that it will set up a special taskforce of over 50 counter-terrorism experts to investigate non-Islamist terrorist threats.
The speed of Europol’s response is breath-taking compared with the 90 minutes that it took security forces to finally confront Behring Breivik after he had begun his killing spree, allowing him ample time to expend all his ammunition, killing and wounding some 180 people, before meekly surrendering to police. It was also a step taken despite a recent Europol report conceding that there had been no right-wing terrorist attacks this year, while Jihadi, left-wing and anarchist attacks had all increased in frequency.
There are many questions about this attack that must be answered before an accurate picture can be formed of Behring Breivik’s motives and intentions, and some of the answers will emerge as the investigations and legal processes proceed. However, the vital first impression is what counts in the ideological struggle, as the image of Behring Breivik that can be communicated at the outset will last a lot longer in the collective consciousness than will peoples’ attention to the details as they emerge.
For example, the public will notice the description of Behring Breivik as of ‘Aryan’ appearance, and the ubiquitous photograph of him aiming an automatic weapon equipped with lights, sensors and a telescopic sight. They will also notice that he is wearing a commando-style wet suit with a shoulder insignia, proclaiming, in English, that he is a ‘Marxist Hunter’.
Similarly, much is being made of a manifesto posted on what is apparently Behring Breivik’s Facebook page, allegedly by him on the day of the attack, as well as a video posted on YouTube. These contain tirades against Muslim immigration, multiculturalism, and against the governing Labour Party, denouncing its political correctness, and blaming it for selling out the heritage of Western Civilization by allowing massive Muslim immigration. Behring Breivik also claims to be a member of a shadowy new order of the Knights Templar, established to counter this colonization of Europe by Islam. Other images of Behring Breivik show him apparently wearing Masonic robes, while he insisted on wearing a uniform to his first court appearance.
Taken together, the image of Behring Breivik emerging and coalescing in the media is quite coherent, predictable, and easily assimilated to the media’s general representation of the politics of Islam and terrorism in Europe and the West generally, i.e., that opposition to Islamism, Jihadi terrorism, and wide-scale Muslim immigration is an extremist position.
Consequently, Behring Breivik is presented as an extremist with an irrational animosity towards Islam and its left-wing supporters who he falsely identified as ‘Marxists’; that he is a Christian of a hate-filled ‘fundamentalist’ type; that his politics are of a far-right, indeed, ‘Neo-Nazi’, variety; that he is a militarist with weapons training; that he was capable of planning and executing a complex terrorist attack; and that he is a sociopath bent on massacring hundreds of innocent young people simply because they held political views that were different to his own.
If this view prevails it will represent a significant propaganda victory for the left, Islamism, Jihadism, and their supporters, who have been on retreat throughout Europe over the past two years. It is unforgivable that this monstrous massacre should be exploited by these groups in this fashion to consolidate their position.
Indeed, it would represent such a propaganda coup for them that questions will inevitably arise about Behring Breivik’s motivations, as is already occurring on the Internet. After all, if he was intelligent enough to plan and execute this complex attack, then surely he was astute enough to know that it would be used to discredit the very causes he is allegedly supporting.
At this stage, little can be said with any certainty. However, some possible scenarios must be considered. Firstly, the most obvious one is that Behring Breivik is a lone-wolf terrorist as he claimed, and that he conceived, planned, organized, financed, equipped, and executed a very complex plan that precisely and successfully targeted the real and symbolic core of the Norwegian government. If so, he can be compared to other very effective lone-wolf terrorists, like the Unabomber, who also prepared and published a lengthy manifesto detailing the ideological rationale for his terrorist acts. He can also be compared to Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, who also used a massive car-bomb, but who had at least one accomplice. Where he differs from these predecessors is in his desire to murder hundreds of young people at close-range with gunfire.
The second scenario is that he acted as part of a broader conspiracy, implementing key parts of the plan himself but shielding those who assisted, supported, and perhaps directed him. Here the question that arises concerns the nature of this conspiracy – was it carried out by an organization really committed to the ideology Behring Breivik espouses (e.g., was it really some sort of anti-Muslim secret society, with links to Neo-Nazis, the Knights Templars, or the Masons)? If so, is it conceivable that this organization failed to possess the collective intelligence needed to recognize the tremendous propaganda victory that such an attack would hand to its enemies.
Or was the entire Oslo atrocity a covert, ‘false-flag’ operation, carried out to give just this impression that it was conducted by anti-Muslim, right-wing extremists, but actually conceived and directed by other forces? In other words, was Behring Breivik actually just a dupe, a sociopath manipulated by forces seeking to discredit the very causes that he believed he was defending? It wouldn’t be the first time that terrorists have served the wrong master.
Indeed, there are two vital lessons that a careful study of the history of terrorism teaches in this area. Firstly, it reveals that nothing is ever necessarily as it seems, and that nothing can be taken for granted or at face value. Secondly, it shows that most of those involved in the actual execution of terrorist attacks are unaware of the broader strategy of which their actions form only a part. Anders Behring Breivik may well be what he appears to be – a lone-wolf terrorist acting out a murderous fantasy that he is a modern-day member of the Knights Templar. Alternatively, he may be a very effective pawn in a much bigger and far more sinister game, in which there are still many more moves to be made.