Four days with the ‘perfect Knight’

After the last four days, many people will probably have had about as much as they can stomach of Anders Behring Breivik.   Even the sight of him is disturbing.  Seen close up on television, he has the grotesque physical presence of a horror film villain or a Hollywood serial killer, with his narrow black eyes, his neat little beard and shark-like smile, his old-world formality and his puffed-up sense of his own importance.

Yesterday Breivik told the court that it was ‘contrary to human nature’ to do what he did, and that it was necessary to ‘hammer away at your emotions’ to come up with the desired product.  Watching him is indeed like watching  a simulacrum of a human being rather than a real person,  who uses words and makes recognizably human gestures, but in whom it is impossible to detect any trace of empathy, compassion or any of the meaningful bonds that connect human beings to each other.

The more he talks, the more disgusting he reveals himself to be, and the more glaring the discrepancy between his grandiose ’cause’ and the obscenity of his actions and ideas.  Believing himself to be heroic and noble, he comes over as vain, deluded, and self-pitying.

One minute he is bragging to the court about having carried out ‘  the most spectacular operation conducted by a militant nationalist this century’.  Then he is weeping, not for the lives that he snuffed out so brutally, but because he is ‘moved’ by the sight of his own propaganda video.

This tacky combination of racial paranoia, half-baked intellectualism and historical references, anti-Muslim hatred, and sentimentality,  culminates in heroic sword wielding crusader imagery that might have been borrowed from a computer game or a Game of Thrones script.

For Breivik, the first-person shooter and self-styled ‘perfect Knight’ who spent 16 hours a day playing computer games and engaging in combat training by playing Modern Warfare: Call of Duty, fantasy and reality merged into a single heroic narrative with himself in the starring role as the exterminating avenger, slaughtering the sons and daughters of the party that he blamed for turning Norway into a ‘multicultural hell’.

Whether comparing his youthful victims to the Hitler Youth or revealing his plans to kill journalists or decapitate the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland,  he comes over as a shockingly callous and ultimately hollow individual,  fatally corrupted by his hatreds and monomaniacal obsessions.

Despite his attempts to distance himself from Nazism, Breivik has also revealed himself to be an out-and-out racist, whether decrying Norway’s transformation into the ‘  dumping ground for the surplus births of the Third Worldor  telling the court  of his desire ‘  for racial purity and to change the direction of multi-cultural drift, to avoid greater confrontation and civil war. The only way I could protect the white native Norwegian was through violence.’

All this has been a disturbing and depressing spectacle,  and no doubt deeply painful for the relatives of his victims.  But the fears about Breivik being given a propaganda platform that would inspire others to follow his example would appear to have been misplaced.   Breivik is so obviously repellent, that only those who already think like him are likely to be inspired by his actions and engage in further acts of ‘resistance’.

But such forces do exist.   And the last four days have revealed a contradiction that has yet to be resolved.  The prosecution wants to prove that Breivik is insane, whereas he wants to prove the opposite – the better to glorify his acts of ‘resistance’.

Breivik frequently uses the first person plural, presenting himself as part of a Norwegian and European-wide resistance, and referring to obscure meetings with influential like-minded people who formed his ‘Knights Templar’ movement.

The prosecution argues that these claims are fantasies.  If Breivik wants to prove that these contacts with individuals and organizations were not invented,  then he may have to give names and dates.

To prove his sanity,  his defence lawyer may also be obliged to demonstrate how many of his delusions and obsessions about immigration, Islam and multiculturalism, were shared, by a very wide spectrum that spans anti-Muslim websites and bloggers, established far-right parties, the more recent counter-jihad movement and the various ‘defence leagues’.

This should not be difficult.  As Breivik’s Internet ‘manifesto’ makes clear, many of his ideas, references and sources of inspiration were drawn from an ongoing discourse about Muslims and Islam which can be found in any daily paper.

The next nine weeks will reveal how this contradiction is resolved.    But if this horrendous episode is to have any positive outcome, beyond the immediate aim of finding some kind of justice and closure for the relatives of his victims, we must hope that the court does not limit its focus to Breivik himself.

Because the paranoia, hatred and delusion that he has expressed during the past week are not unique to him.   Those who propagate conspiracy theories and fantasies of an Islamic take over of Europe shouldn’t be surprised when some people take their fantasies literally.

And unless Europeans can reject these dank and toxic politics, and face up to the bigotry and racism that so often underpins them, Breivik may not be the last of his kind.




Bano Rashid RIP

Bano Rashid, the 18-year-old Kurdish refugee and Labour party youth activist was the first of the ‘Marxist Hunter ‘ Anders Breivik’s victims on Utoeya island to be buried in Norway yesterday.  The funeral service was presided over by an imam and a Christian pastor and attended by her Kurdish family, her Norwegian friends and Labour party political comrades, and her coffin was draped in the Kurdish and Norwegian flags.

Bano Rashid’s family came to Norway from Iraq in 1996, where they were given refugee status, and the New York Times has described how ‘Ms. Rashid wanted to stretch the limits of the country”s blond and blue-eyed identity, to help redefine what it means to be Norwegian.’     Last summer she saved up money to buy the expensive Norwegian national costume, the bunad.  She wanted to be a lawyer and a politician and dreamed of becoming prime minister like her political idol, Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.

In an article last year for the newspaper Aftenposten,  the 17-year-old youth activist criticized the populist Progress Party, Norway’s second largest political party,  and the anti-immigrant message of its leader Siv Jensen:

[stextbox id=”alert”]She knows  well that  people have  immigrated  for thousands of  years,  and that  it  has  gone very well.  It always turns out that people  who move  to a country  adapt to its culture  and its  way of life.  It  just takes  some time.  If  Jensen is really  afraid of  Muslims, she can  see  the  birth  rate of  Muslim women in  Norway.  It has  fallen  significantly.  It  is  an example of the way people  who live  in Norway have adapted to Norway.  We integrate ourselves….There  is  no  doubt that  Oslo would grind to a halt if it went one day without the work of immigrants.    Would it not be better to view immigrants  as a  tremendous  resource?  Let  Norway use the resources of its immigrants.   Give us time to integrate, preferably without discrimination.[/stextbox]

Bano Rashid embodied that capacity for integration.  Kurdish, Muslim, Norwegian, and a Labour party activist, she was also an anti-racist and a strong critic of discrimination of all kinds.    Such transformations  are anathema – and are in fact incomprehensible – to the Breiviks of this world and all the other bigots and racists who warn of the evils of multiculturalism and the threat to European and national identity from Europe’s Muslim communities.

Today, these forces are on the ascendancy all over Europe.  And as Norway prepares to bury its ‘lost generation’ it is to be hoped that Europeans across the continent can learn from the savage and senseless death of this talented young woman who was clearly a gift to her adopted country and whose country was a gift to her – and also from the bright hopes and aspirations that inspired her.

As young as she was, Bano Rashid was clearly capable of being many different people at the same time.   In these dark times we need to remember that such things are possible, and perhaps to hold onto these words from  her childhood friend Siva Jagdar, another Kurdish Norwegian, who told the BBC

[stextbox id=”alert”]Her death won’t scare Muslims like me away from politics.  If anything she has been an inspiration in life, and I hope she will be an inspiration still, to show Norway what we can be… I hope Bano can be a symbol for Norway’s youth, for Christian youth, for Muslim youth, for Kurdish youth. To show everyone that they can follow their dreams.[/stextbox]