Norway suspect's diary: What it all means

Jul 25, 2011

Chat with Post reporter Will Englund about the diary of the suspect in Norway?s recent bombing and shooting attacks. Ask Will about the details of planning the attack in the suspect's diary, as well as the mental make-up of the suspect.

Related: Suspect in Norway attacks admits involvement, denies responsibility

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining the chat on Norway. Let's begin

Could the diary be indicating a presence of a mental problem in the suspect?

That would seem to be a question best left to a professional. He certainly comes across as obsessive. But there's often an easy conversational tone. At other places, it's much more formal. Of course, he acknowledges killing 93 people, so many would consider that a mental problem right there.

When will anyone in a major newspaper, magazine, radio or TV program anywhere in the United States connect the dots and say that this shooting in Norway is all part of a long string of right-wing violence against anyone to the left? It's not isolated, it's not just Norway, and it's not just this year. It's so tiresome to have all these horrific right-wing terror attacks and intimidation happen, starting in our country with Tim McVeigh 16 years ago, without any acknowledgement that the people doing this are inspired by, and in support of, right-wing fundamentalist viewpoints and ideologies. Whether it's a Democrat getting shot in Arizona for her views or physical threats to Democrats in Congress or peaceful leftists being physically harrassed by right-wing tea partiers in Oregon or Maryland police spying on Quakers or right-wing shooters assassinating abortion doctors, this crap is never called what it is: right-wing fascism. It's here, and the longer no one in the media calls it like it is makes me think that the media is part of the problem. There is no "other side" here. It's all one way, and it's violent and relentless.

Well in this particular case I don't think anyone is calling it a two-sided problem. He's clearly a right-winger, and it's interesting that his targets were young people associated with the social democratic Labor Party, rather than Muslims themselves.

Thanks for taking questions. This may be a little off-topic, but given some of the reporting that's been done, I've been wondering. Is it possible this man actually is part of an international group? He's a Norwegian nationalist, but some of the things he says sounds like he's against any western European country taking in immigrants. And some of what he says sounds like outright white supremacy. Is it possible that he was getting support from white supremacists or Christian fundamentalists in other nations, such as the US, Canada, Germany, etc.? It's now known that he was "inspired" by Americans who espouse values similar to that of the sovereign citizen movement. Is it possible that he was more than just inspired?

This is a question that a lot of people are asking, not least in Norway itself. French police today visited the suspect's father, but it's not clear if they turned up anything of interest. The prosecution in Oslo asked today for Breivik to be put in detention for at least eight weeks while they investigate the case.

One of the anti-jihadist websites he mentioned in his manifesto, I believe, was called Atlas Shrugged. How does Ayn Rand figure into all this?

OK, this is an American website that I'm not too familiar with, because I was working the Norwegian end of things. But I believe to the extent you could say Breivik has an ideology, it would be compatible with libertarianism. Interestingly, he's very critical of neo-nazis, who you might expect to be on his side. But he thinks Hitler's persecution of the Jews opened the door to Islamic jihad in the Middle East, and, by extension, Europe.

I have read accounts that the suspect had a history of anti-woman/anti-feminist feelings and actions, and that he may have targeted women, especially pretty women, in the first shots on the island. Do you see any evidence of this?

I can't speak to who was targeted when on the island, but there is a revealing passage in his diary where he talks about how attractive he must be to the young women in the little farming village where he had set up his explosives factory. In his imagination he was cultivated, urbane, appealing. I bet the women there didn't see him the same way.

Was his diary meant to be found by the police? It seems as though he wrote it purposely so that the police would find it and word would get out to the public.

He definitely wanted it to be made public. In fact, the police didn't find it. He posted it on a website, from which it was picked up by other websites. It's a real manifesto--a call for revolution, in essence.

How unprecedented is this in Norway? Would you at all speculate on whom the terror cells he claims to be working with are or where they are located? How someone can do this, inflict major harm within young people by using bullets meant to inflict maximum internal damage and then desire his willingness to explain is beyond me. Thank you for your time.

It's entirely unprecedented in Norway. It's worse than any single act the Germans did against Norwegians during World War II, on Norwegian soil. I'm inclined to withhold judgment on the terror cells he says he has been working with: maybe he has, or maybe he's trying to appear a bit grandiose. He's a fan of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb, and talks a fair amount about the Russians. So maybe there's something there. The thing about Norway, though, is that it had a right-wing extremist movement in the late 20th century, but it has fallen into decline. So this really came out of the blue. A threat assessment compiled last winter by the domestic security agency predicted a lessening of right-wing threats.

Here again we have a case of a very disturbed person who managed to get his hands on some high powered fire arms and used them to murder dozens. Is there no end to this sort of violence? I find it interesting that when the news first broke the Post's reader comments were full of anti-Islam rants. Now we know that the perpetrator was actually some one with similar views to those who condemn Islam. This world is one messed up place.

I spoke with a Norwegian woman who was out in Oslo the day after the shooting, and she said that when an Islamic person does something bad, the reaction is always, "Oh, it's the Muslims." But when a white Protestant does something bad like this, everyone says, "He must be crazy."

Here's a question for readers: There's a picture of Breivik in a uniform, and one reader told me it looked as though he had awarded himself some American ribbons, and in fact seemed to be wearing a Marine Corps tunic. Now, it also has Maltese crosses and a death's head on it. Can anyone say for sure what he's wearing in that photo?


"Atlas Shrugs" is the blog of Pam Gellar, the woman who was leading the protest against the Islamic community center near Ground Zero. That's what he was referencing, not the Rand book.

Yes, a better explanation.

Mr Englund: I read this morning that the shooter used particularly deadly ammunition in his rampage on the island and, of course, he evidently had no problem obtaining firearms. How loose is Norway's regulation of firearms and ammo compared to other European countries? Thanks.

I'm not an expert on European laws, but Norway has a very outdoorsy culture and plenty of people do have firearms there. Whether these were licensed is of course going to be one of the first questions to be investigated.

Why is Breivik being denied a public statement by the judge? Since he is a member of a Masonic lodge, does the public have a right to demand investigations - to obtain full disclosure on the lodge's influence regarding the manipulation of local, national, and global business activities?

I believe that the judge doesn't consider a remand hearing the proper time for someone to make his case, and I would speculate that the judge wants this to be about the crimes and not the politics. As for the Masonic lodge, you don't want to paint with too broad a brush.

OK, that's all we have time for today. Thanks for your interest and thanks for taking part.

In This Chat
Will Englund
A Pulitzer Prize winner, Will Englund is on his third tour as a Moscow correspondent -- along with his wife, Kathy Lally. In the 1990s he did two stints in Russia for the Baltimore Sun. He was also co-author of a project on shipbreaking that won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting as well as an Overseas Press Club award and a George Polk award. He joined the Post in October 2010.
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