The car bombing in Oslo and depraved mass murder on Utoya carried out by Anders Behring Breivik represents the most shocking act of political violence seen for many years. It was an act of terrorism and it was an outrage. Particularly the murder of children which was especially heinous.
The media, in its own inimitable style, has dug up any number of angles to explain these joint incidents. But the hacks have alighted on the ‘far right’ angle of an attack by a ‘Christian fundamentalist’ pursuing an agenda of ‘anti immigration bigotry’.
That the musings of Breivik – being taken down from Twitter, Facebook and websites as quickly as the authorities can – display his intolerance for Muslims, ‘cultural Marxists’ and the left wing Labour government in Norway amongst others is indisputable. Breivik’s apparent claims of advising groups such as the English Defence League remain as yet unproven. But what is notable is that the hatred and intolerance visited upon the people of Oslo was not directed against immigrants or people of the Islamic faith, as one would expect given the picture of Breivik that has been painted.
The murderous violence was directed against the government and its activist supporters.
Many commentators are describing this as the act of a madman. That may or may not be the case. But to commit the atrocity Breivik did certainly required him to be at the very least a person devoid of sympathy and any sense of compassion for his victims, and consumed by hatred, rage and frustration. Many of those same commentators argue that in a democracy, where people enjoy freedom of speech and the right to protest peacefully, there is no need to engage in violence.
But what about when those rights are perceived to be hollow? What can one do when the established political parties with their secure positions and consensus views on major issues of concern actually deny a true democratic choice to the electorate? What can one do when the apparent freedom of speech is shut down by shrill accusations of racism, xenophobia or narrow mindedness, which causes people to shy away from setting up a new political opposition, as we have seen across Europe for years? What can one do when all forms of peaceful protest are ignored by the political class because there is no swift consequence for ignoring the people they are supposed to represent? Indeed, what can one do when the accepted media outlets choose to omit stories or ignore valid arguments in order to hold the line for the establishment?
What the mass murder in Norway is telling us is that some people have a breaking point beyond which, in the absence of any other form of recourse against the people who rule over them, they resort to extremism and violence. This argument has been used to justify political (and religious inspired) violence in places as diverse as Gaza, Kashmir, Thailand, Libya and Syria, among others.
Calls for reform in those places swiftly follow – usually led by the political left in Europe which sees any such action as revolutionary and therefore justified – and are sometimes supported by the libertarians who see such uprisings as cries for self determination and freedom. But when such revolutionary type violence breaks out in enlightened western Europe, where the left holds political sway, the acts are immediately labelled as right wing extremism or the actions of madmen, because the left cannot believe that anyone could disagree with their worldview – and if they do they must be inherently selfish and evil. The contradiction is clear. The ignorance is startling.
Where security experts are stating this week that there is a rise of the ‘far right’ in Europe, perhaps they do not realise we might be looking at nothing more than the an increasingly extreme form of rejection of socialist political control and the creeping internationalism that sees the political class seeking to transform European nations while doing everything possible to avoid asking the electorates for their permission to do so.
The antidote to political violence in Europe is simple… the restoration of genuine democracy where the people, not the political class, have the power. In many ways what happened in Norway is made all the more curious because Norway still enjoys self determination outside the EU. But a more forensic examination of domestic politics there might throw up faultlines that could explain what Breivik felt could only be be tackled by killing the current leaders of the Norwegian Labour Party and its next generation of leaders. In other words resorting to the extreme.
There are many issues where the political class across Europe defy the wishes of the people who elect them. Anger and frustration is growing as people realise nothing they can do within the law can sway the politicians from their chosen direction. Protest marches, letter writing, distribution of campaign material… all can be and are routinely ignored by the politicians. There is a sense of detachment from the people that gives the political class a false sense of security from consequences for their actions.
What happened in Norway may now shake the politicians out of their complacency. Sadly it doesn’t appear to be in the way we would hope.
As William Hague’s comments to Andrew Marr today demonstrate the politicians remain wilfully blind to the causes of such extremism and instead they will only focus on looking at ‘the lessons to be learned’ from a security perspective – in other words they will continue as they have done and just seek to learn better techniques in self preservation.
As such they have learned nothing of value. Without a change in approach by the politicians and a willingness to finally do what they are paid to do and listen to the people, at some point another angry person or persons will snap and go on the rampage. These people will direct their ire against the political class, but only hurt others because of the ring of steel, bullet proof glass and bomb resistant vehicles that insulate the politicians from the people they are supposed to serve.
Breivik is not the first, and as we can see from the political class’ response, tragically he won’t be the last. It is all so avoidable.