Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik

On July 22, 2011, two carefully choreographed attacks shattered the prototypically Scandinavian calm of Norway in the country's worst single spasm of violence since World War II. First, a bomb in central Oslo damaged several government buildings and killed eight people. The news, however, was about to get far grislier: at a youth summer camp on the nearby island of Utoya run by Norway's ruling center-left Labour Party, a gunman mowed down 69 people, mostly teens, chasing some of them down and firing at others as they attempted to swim to safety. While some commentators leaped to pin the attacks on Islamist terrorists, authorities eventually found one culprit: Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian and far-right fanatic and white supremacist who shortly before the attacks posted online a manifesto filled with hate for immigrants, multiculturalists and leftists. Breivik, who has admitted his guilt, was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic by a panel of psychiatrists who ruled he was "insane" during the attacks. The ruling could see him eventually be committed to a psychiatric institution rather than prison at the conclusion of his trial, set to resume in April 2012. Breivik's hideous deeds prompted a moment of introspection in Norway — whose government has played such a prominent role in trying to author peace in other parts of the world — regarding the rise of far-right extremism there and elsewhere in Europe.