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Sveinung Sandberg: "The case of Anders Behring Breivik" | Entgrenzter Rechtsextremismus? |

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Sveinung Sandberg: "The case of Anders Behring Breivik"

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Abstract zum Vertiefungsangebot "Rechtsterrorismus als internationales Problem" im Rahmen der Fachtagung "Entgrenzter Rechtsextremismus? Internationale Perspektiven und Gegenstrategien" der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung in München, 09.-10.02.2015.

On 22 July 2011, two sequential terrorist attacks took place in Norway. The first was the detonation of a car bomb in Oslo in the vicinity of government buildings and the office of the Prime Minister. The second attack took place less than two hours later at a summer camp organised for the youth division of the ruling Norwegian Labour Party. Eight people died in the bomb explosion, and 69 people, mostly youths, were shot dead. The terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, was an anti-Islamic critical of the government’s policy of multiculturalism. His apparent targets were the government and the future political leadership of the Social Democratic party.

Only hours before the attacks, Breivik emailed a 1500-page manifesto in English to several thousand people. Here he explained his acts and described their planning in detail. Although misinformed, contradictory, and even dismissed by most of his fellow anti-Islamics, the manifesto reveals Breivik’s symbolic and semiotic universe. It also outlines his life story and self-narratives. The manifesto titled 2083 A European Declaration of Independence, quotes, retells, and reinterprets the rhetoric of an emerging anti-Islamic movement in Europe. It is a collection of texts from different sources. Some parts are written by others, such as 39 essays by a Norwegian blogger (‘Fjordman’). Other parts, most notably the American Unabomber’s manifesto written in 1995, are plagiarised with some minor changes such as replacing the word ‘leftism’ with ‘cultural-Marxism’. Finally, there are parts he has written himself, such as a diary that describes his preparation for the attacks in considerable detail, as well as a self-interview about his preparations and reasons for committing the attacks.

In this presentation I argue that right-wing terrorism draws upon a multitude of cultural sources and should be analysed as a ‘cultural bricolage’ (Levi-Strauss, 1966). He was inspired by anti-Islamic and right-wing ideology, stories of political terrorism, and other non-ideological crimes. There are also many highly different narrative modes in Breivik’s manifesto. Anti-Islamic rhetoric is the dominant, but the narrative repertoire also includes long sections of technical language, religious metaphors, rationale and phrases, pragmatic political discourse and the language style of new social media. The Norwegian terrorist attacks should be seen as being made possible by all of these. Breivik’s inspiration from previous school shootings has been particularly neglected in research so far. This inspiration is not vocalized or made explicit in Breivik’s own story, but apparent in his acts.

Terrorism, mass shootings and violence is a ‘cultural bricolage’, and may be increasingly so. Late modernity has inspired ideological fragmentation made possible and enforced by what can best be described as a technical revolution. Many potential terrorist and political extremists are primarily fascinated by what is shocking, spectacular and exciting. This might have been the case for a long time, but Internet has made access to such cultural inspirations a lot easier. Now they are only ‘a click away’. This has already impacted right-wing extremism and terrorism. It should also have consequences for how we study, detect and try to prevent it.

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