12 Years Since Right-Wing Terror in Norway
The Utøya terror attacks that happened 12 years ago on this day (22 July) affected me in a lot of ways for several reasons:
- I am a Norwegian living in Oslo, who also lived there when it Breivik blew up the government building downtown.
- I am a social democrat and was earlier part of the youth wing, AUF, of the Social Democratic Party. The very organization that got attacked on Utøya.
- I was at summer camp on Utøya as a young social democrat. I knew all the places where people got killed. It could have been me if I were younger.
For many years, I wanted to write about this attack but struggled hard to find the words. Should I describe the feelings pushing my young son threw a stroller the day after through downtown Oslo with shards of glass everywhere? The explosion had created pressure waves which had blown through several building, , knocking out their glass windows on both ends. Much of downtown was boarded up for a long time after the event.
It is about ideology not the person
Many people are really focused on Anders Behring Breivik. The supposed evil and vile terrorist. The mad man. In foreign media, people fret about him getting too humane treatment. Why do I say “supposed evil”? Because I absolutely hate the propensity to reduce terror to simply being about somebody being evil or not. It absolves too many of responsibility for what happened. The terror attack wasn’t the work of one single man. He may have carried it out. He may have been the finger on the trigger, but nobody wakes up a morning and goes, “I think I want to be evil today!”
If we are to believe Breivik himself, he actually found it hard to kill people. He had to take drugs, psych himself up and do all sort of preparations. In other words, he had normal human emotions. It is normal for humans to not want to kill other humans. So why do humans kill, then? One of the primary drivers is ideology. You dehumanize those you kill. I have seen interviews with former gangsters who hurt or killed people. It is something they described as well. To do what they did, they had to learn to stop thinking about the…