Anders Breivik’s manifesto reveals a subculture of nationalistic and Islamophobic websites that link the European and American far right in a paranoid alliance against Islam and is also rooted in some democratically elected parties.
The Guardian has analysed the webpages he links to, and the pages that these in turn link to, in order to expose a spider web of hatred based around three “counter-jihad” sites, two run by American rightwingers, and one by an eccentric Norwegian. All of these draw some of their inspiration from the Egyptian Jewish exile Gisele Littman, who writes under the name of Bat Ye’or, and who believes that the European elites have conspired against their people to hand the continent over to Muslims.
As well as his very long manifesto, Breivik also laid out some of his thoughts on the Norwegian nationalist site Document.no. In his postings there, Breivik referred to something he called “the Vienna school of thought”, which consists of the people who had worked out the ideology that inspired him to commit mass murder. He named three people in particular: Littman; the Norwegian Peder Jensen who wrote under the pseudonym of Fjordman; and the American Robert Spencer, who maintains a site called Jihad Watch, and agitates against “the Islamisation of America”.
But the name also alludes to a blog called Gates of Vienna, run by an American named Edward “Ned” May, on which Fjordman posted regularly and which claims that Europe is now as much under threat from a Muslim invasion as it was in 1683, when a Turkish army besieged Vienna.
All of these paranoid fantasists share a vision articulated by the Danish far-right activist Anders Gravers, who has links with the EDL in Britain and with Spencer and his co-conspiracist Pamela Geller in the US. Gravers told a conference in Washington last year:
“The European Union acts secretly, with the European people being deceived about its development. Democracy is being deliberately removed, and the latest example being the Lisbon Treaty. However the plan goes much further with an ultimate goal of being a Eurabian superstate, incorporating Muslim countries of north Africa and the Middle East in the European Union. This was already initiated with the signing of the Barcelona treaty in 1995 by the EU and nine north African states and Israel, which became effective on the 1st of January, 2010. It is also known as the Euro-Mediterranean co-operation. In return for some European control of oil resources, Muslim countries will have unfettered access to technology and movement of people into Europe. The price Europeans will have to pay is the introduction of sharia law and removal of democracy.”
Spencer’s jihadwatch.org is linked to 116 times from Breivik’s manifesto; May’s Gates of Vienna 86 times; and Fjordman 114 times.
Spencer and Geller were the organisers of the protest against the so-called 9/11 mosque in New York City. They also took over Stop Islamisation of America, a movement with links to the EDL and to a variety of far-right movements across Europe. Of the two, Spencer is less of a fringe figure. He has been fulsomely interviewed by the Catholic Herald in this country and praised by Douglas Murray of the Centre for Social Cohesion, who called him “a profound and subtle thinker”. Damian Thompson, a leader writer on the Telegraph, once urged his readers to buy Spencer’s works, especially if they believed that Islam was “a religion of peace”. Last week, Spencer’s blog re-ran a piece from Geller’s Atlas Shrugged website claiming that Governor Rick Perry, the creationist rightwinger from Texas, is actually linked to Islamists via Grover Norquist, the far-right tax cutter whom Geller claims is “a front for the Muslim Brotherhood”. Geller also once republished a blogpost speculating that President Obama is the love child of Malcolm X.
As well as the “counter-jihad” websites such as Spencer’s and May’s, analysis of Breivik’s web reveals a dense network of 104 European nationalist sites and political parties. Some of these are represented in parliaments: Geert Wilders’s Dutch Freedom party; the French National Front; the Danish People’s party, the Norwegian Progress party (of which Breivik was briefly a member before he left, disgusted with its moderation); the Sweden Democrats. Others, like the EDL, are fringe groupings. Then there are those in between, such as the Hungarian far-right party Jobbik. But they range all across Europe. They are united by hostility to Muslims and to the EU.
One place where these strands intertwine is the Brussels Journal, a website run by the Belgian Catholic MEP Paul Belien, a member of the far-right Vlaams Belang party. The British Europhobic Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan appeared for three years on the Brussels Journal’s masthead. Hannan has since denounced the European neo-fascist parties as not really rightwing at all.
To appear on this list is not to be complicit in Breivik’s crime. Peder “Fjordman” Jensen was so shocked by it that he gave himself up to the police and gave an interview to a Norwegian paper in which he appeared genuinely bewildered that his predictions of a European civil war should have led anyone to such violence.
It is still more unfair to blame Melanie Phillips. Although she was cited by Breivik at length for an article claiming that the British elite had deliberately encouraged immigration in order to break down traditional society and she has written that “Bat Ye’or’s scholarship is awesome and her analysis is as persuasive as it is terrifying“, she has also argued, with nearly equal ferocity, against the “counter-jihad” belief that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim.
The world view of the counter-jihadis echoes that of the jihadis they feel threatened by. The psychological world of the jihadis has been described by the British psychiatrist Russell Razzaque, who rejected recruitment by Hizb ut-Tahrir when he was a medical student. It is not just a matter of a black-and-white world view, he says, though that is part of it. “It’s a very warm embrace. You felt a sense of self-esteem, a sense of real embrace. Then it gives you a sense of purpose, which is also something you’ve never had so much. The purpose is a huge one. Part of a cosmic struggle when you’re on the right side: you’re another generation in the huge fight that goes back to the crusades.”
This clearly mirrors Breivik’s self-image. What makes him particularly frightening is that he seems to have radicalised himself, just as jihadis do, before he went looking for advice and guidance on the internet. But he was able to take the last few steps into mass murder all alone, so far as we know. Jihadi groups also withdraw from the world into a cramped and paranoid universe of their own. Suicide bombers such as the 9/11 and 7/7 groups spent months psyching each other up before the crime, talking obsessively for hours every day. But Breivik, though he withdrew from society to his farm, seems to have spent his time alone with the internet. It allowed him to hear his own choir of imaginary friends, and hear inside his head their voices cheering him on to murder and martyrdom. Here they are, mapped.