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Arriving in court, Anders Breivik makes a fascist closed-fist salute © AFP/Getty Images
With blonde hair and striking blue eyes, he looks every inch the stereotypical Norwegian. According to those who have met him, he is well-mannered and articulate. But since killing 77 people in last year’s Utoya massacre, Anders Behring Breivik has numbered among the world’s cruelest murderers.
Yesterday, Breivik’s trial began. In Norway, millions are eager to see justice done. But many have reacted with anger: for ten weeks, they say, the world will listen as a mass murderer preaches violence, hatred and racism.
For the past nine months, Norway has struggled to come to terms with Breivik’s horrifying massacre. On July 22nd 2011, the 33-year-old set off a car bomb in Oslo, before driving to Utoya: an idyllic island, where teenagers were attending a political summer camp. There, he methodically slaughtered everyone he could find.
Since that unimaginable day, the media have relentlessly scrutinised Norway’s deadliest killer. He has prepared well for the attention. Hours before the massacre, Breivik circulated a 1,518 page manifesto. In it, he casts himself as a crusader for a far-right ideology, waging war against immigration and multiculturalism. In this bizarre battle, he says, criminal trials are the perfect ‘platform’ to gain sympathy for the cause.
As it is broadcast live from the courtroom, many fear that is just what this hearing will become. As they try to explain his actions, lawyers will examine Breivik’s manifesto, his blog, and even a propaganda film he made to share his ideas. The 150 witnesses called to testify in the trial include prominent right-wing politicians and bloggers who share Breivik’s far-right views.
Across Europe, these controversial ideas are growing in popularity, supported by neo-fascist groups like the English Defence League. Breivik will use his high-profile court appearances to encourage these dangerous organisations. He hopes to become a martyr for his cause.
Platform to preach?
Many Norwegians are furious that Breivik is being given the chance to speak. With unbelievable cruelty, he killed huge numbers of innocent people. Now, he has got just what he wanted: a stage from which to preach his poisonous views. The justice system, they say, is foolishly letting terror and hatred pay.
The massacre at Utoya, however, has changed Norway completely. And to recover from their grief, many Norwegians want to understand the man behind that terrible day. It may be uncomfortable to listen to the arguments of a murderous fascist, but to get to the bottom of the horror, it is necessary to do so.
1. Should Anders Breivik be given a public trial?
2. Anders Breivik supported anti-immigrant groups like the English Defence League. Does that mean they should bear some of the blame for his murders?
1. Think of three questions you would ask Breivik, if you had the chance to question him in court.
2. In groups, imagine you are journalists at a Norwegian TV station. Have a meeting to discuss how you plan to handle the Breivik story. How do you deal with the possibility that his views could be publicised?
A straightforward breakdown of what to expect from the trial, including information about the possible outcomes and the people involved.
Even before his trial, Breivik’s blog made his strange politics clear to the world.
Although, certain elements will be censored, Breivik’s trial will be live broadcast as it unfolds. An English translation of it is available here.
Breivik’s anti-Islamic worldview is part of a deeper trend in European and American society. One writer provides an excellent – if difficult – analysis of that.
A fascinating infographic that breaks down the influences and ideas of Breivik’s ideology.
Q: Is this far-right stuff just a problem in Norway?
A: Absolutely not. As the recession bites and money becomes more scarce, anti-immigration sentiment is on the rise in many European countries. In France, for example, a far-right party has exploited growing tension with the country’s Muslim community to make big gains in national elections. In the UK, the English Defence League has been gathering support, despite being accused of racism.
Q: And the Breivik trial could make things worse?
A: Perhaps. Prosecutors hope that as well as getting the murderer convicted, they will also be able to comprehensively destroy his reputation – even among fanatics. But Breivik will still get a lot of attention. At worst, he could inspire copycat killings.
Far-right – In politics, the term ‘far right’ can refer to a range of ideologies, or systems of thought. Generally, they are united by a strong nationalist belief that glorifies a particular nation or race, preaching hatred against certain minorities. In Nazi Germany, hatred was directed against Jewish people. For Breivik, it focuses on Muslims. Like many far-right groups he is staunchly anti-immigration, and sees the world as a ‘clash of civilisations’ between the Islamic and Christian worlds.
Multiculturalism – Multiculturalism is the idea that different communities within a country should maintain their cultural distinctness and diversity, rather than uniting to form a culturally homogenous whole.
English Defence League – The EDL is a far right group based in the UK. It is a single issue party, that argues there is a confrontation between different cultures and religions – particularly Islam – and English culture. Despite attempting to appear to be a legitimate and peaceful political party, the EDL has been heavily criticised for using threatening and violent tactics.
‘There’s no need for a trial in a case like this. Just lock Breivik up and throw away the key.’
What do you think?
Sunday, 22 April 2012
luke visser from crawford from Crawford School thinks:
Citizenship, English and Media, Government & Politics