Norway and after: Populism – handle with care
26 July 2011
Although Anders Breivik was solely responsible for the atrocities in Norway, his far-fetched ideas clearly owe much to a culture of populism. A Dutch historian argues that the events which took place on 22 July ought to be considered in the context of political trends in Europe.
In the aftermath of the horrific attacks perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Norway, there has been heated debate on the issue of his links to ideological circles. Following previous atrocities, like the murder of Theo van Gogh [the Dutch film maker assassinated in 2004 by an Islamic extremist], some commentators had no scruples about attributing blame to the wider Islamic community. By the same token, it is worth wondering to what extent the proponents of the new right – an ideology that clearly influenced Breivik – have been implicated by his actions?
Hardly anyone is willing to share or otherwise legitimate Breivik’s justification for the massacre on 22 July. He was solely responsible for his actions, and only those who share the bulk of his ideas and attempt to justify or explain the attacks from an ideological point of view can be said to support what he has done. This same observation also applied to the assassination of Theo van Gogh by Mohammed Bouyeri, who was largely isolated by his violent ideology. However, we should nonetheless bear in mind the context of this latest phenomenon.
Breivik’s justification of his atrocities is based on the notion that Europe is threatened by multiculturalism and Islam. His 1,500-page manifesto 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence is full of theories that have been widely circulated in the milieu of the new right, which in the Netherlands, is represented by the PVV. Breivik quotes Geert Wilders [the leader of the populist PVV] who has claimed that Moroccans intend to colonise the Netherlands and subjugate the Dutch people. Other members of the PVV have also waxed lyrical about the dangers of “cultural Marxism.”
Those who deform reality should not be taken seriously
Theirs is a deformed vision of reality, which has nothing to do with modern social conditions. And it was on the basis of this vision of the world that Breivik drew his violent conclusions. He is certainly responsible. However, the fact that he has brought together so many fantastic ideas says a lot about the current mentality in Europe – and in particular in the Netherlands, where a political movement that circulates such ideas is associated with the minority government which it has agreed to support in parliament.
Breivik is solely responsible for his violent acts, but many others share his mendacious and fantastic vision of the world. And these people should now be taken to task. The circulation of lies and the creation of false monsters is not without consequences. Those who deform reality should not be taken seriously – as if theirs was just another voice in the debate on the future of society. They must be attacked with rigorous argument. They should be told to stop deceiving people. This is the approach that we must adopt with the Dutch populists who are propagating the ideology of the new right. Politics is not a game. The time has come for a moment of truth.