Anders Behring Breivik clenches his fist in a far-right salute as he arrives in court for the second day of his terrorism and murder trial in Oslo April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
Bodø is the last stop on the Norwegian State Railway. This city of 47,000 people lies above the Arctic Circle and is sandwiched between dramatic snow-covered mountains and the cold Norwegian Sea. The winding highways have signs reminding drivers to watch out for moose. This is the kind of slow-paced city where not a lot happens—the last place on earth you would expect the global “counter-jihad” movement to hit home.
But Bodø’s quiet, along with the rest of Norway’s, was destroyed last year on July 22 when Anders Behring Breivik, a self-described “commander in Norway’s resistance movement,” exploded a 2,100-pound homemade car bomb in central Oslo, killing eight people and injuring more than 200 others in a first salvo against his perceived “Islamic colonization of Europe.” Disappointed that the explosion hadn’t caused the government headquarters to collapse (as his trial testimony has made clear), the then 32-year-old Oslo native decided to implement his Plan B, driving twenty-five miles northwest to the island of Utøya, where the youth division of Norway’s ruling Labor Party was holding its annual camp. Heavily armed and wearing a police uniform he had purchased over the Internet, Breivik systematically hunted down, shot and killed sixty-nine people, most of them teenagers, over the course of a harrowing seventy-nine minutes, before surrendering to police. “You shall die today, Marxists!” he cried while executing some of his victims. He killed people from fifty-five municipalities across Norway, including 17-year-old Espen Jørgensen, the newly elected leader of Bodø’s Labor Party youth division, shot three times in the back while protecting another teenager.
Breivik’s trial began on April 16 and is expected to last ten weeks. Days before the trial began, I interviewed Espen’s father, Geir-Arne Jørgensen, in Bodø, and he told me he was dreading the proceedings. “A lot of his political crap will come out, and that will be one of the hardest parts of the trial,” he said. “I have one child left, so I have to keep on going. It’s been hard. There have been many dark days.” Community support has helped enormously. A memorial service in Bodø was attended by more than 15,000 people, a third of the city. Jørgensen, like many Norwegians, struggles to understand what happened and to comprehend Breivik’s war on multiculturalism. “I can’t find any logic in it at all,” he said. He showed me the inside of his left forearm, which was entirely covered by a tattoo of his son’s face, which he had had done in September. Asked what he thinks would be an appropriate punishment for Breivik, he said, “I hope that he gets locked up forever, or at least until he fully understands what he has done. Then he would probably hang himself, because no human being can bear knowing you have done what he has done.”
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Breivik carried out his monstrous actions to glorify himself and to promote his view that Europe is locked in a death match with Islam. He hoped, through an orchestrated use of violence and the calculated use of new media, to launch a bloody civil war in Europe that would last for decades. But the indications coming from Norway are that, at least for now, he has failed completely. Surveys indicate that after July 22, Norwegians reported greater support for immigration than before the attacks (from 72 percent to 82 percent), and many of the loudest right-wing voices in Norway have had to retool their message in the wake of the massacre.