Far-right 'internet warrior' is armed with online hate
ANALYSIS:‘GOVERNMENTS HAVE a tendency to dismiss extreme-right terrorists as crazed loners.”
The words ring as true in the aftermath of the Oslo attacks as in 1999 when they were penned by Stieg Larsson. The Swedish crime writer would gain worldwide fame after his untimely death in 2004, but at that time he was a passionate journalist at the Swedish anti-racist magazine Expo.
The year 1999 was to be forever remembered in Sweden as a brutal awakening to the violent capacity of the extreme right.
On May 28th, neo-Nazi bank robbers murdered two police officers by shooting them at close range. Sweden was still reeling from these Malexander murders when, exactly a month later, an investigative anti-racist journalist and his 8-year-old son narrowly escaped being killed by a car bomb.
Then, on October 12th, a union representative – an outspoken anti-racist – was shot and killed outside his front door.
In a unique move four leading Swedish newspapers published the same investigation mapping 62 neo-Nazis and criminals considered an acute threat to Sweden’s democracy. The powerful reaction from Swedish society, including the government, temporarily forced the country’s extreme right into hiding.
But it wasn’t long until they found a new, much safer arena to continue their activities: the internet.
The Scandinavian extreme right is now flourishing online.
On blogs, forums and other social media, they have found ways of maximising the net’s boundless opportunities. Never mind if an extremist march or demonstration only attracts a handful of die-hard activists; add a dramatic Lord of the Rings-style soundtrack and some Photoshop magic, and, hey presto, you have a powerful recruitment and propaganda video.
What’s more, it’s available to thousands of potential recruits, as opposed to the amateurish, photocopied fanzines of the 1990s.
Two separate camps, that admittedly often cross paths, have developed within the Scandinavian and European far-right scene.
The “classic” Nazi groups, adhering to a slightly updated National Socialism where anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are central to their ideology, are still present.
They obsess over which politician or journalist is Jewish or not, and could find signs of Jewish attempts at world domination in the local weather report.
They’re not averse to co-operating with individuals who, from an outsider perspective, would seem like potential targets.
In Scandinavia the security services report that several neo-Nazis have made contact with Jihadists as they seek to unite against their mutual enemy, the Jews.
Then there’s the new, pan-European Islamophobic movement where activists exchange must-read lists on the latest Eurabia literature and (like the Oslo suspect) prepare for a coming holy war of “pure” Europeans versus invading Muslims.
The anti-Muslim conspiracy theories are as deranged as ever the anti-Jewish ones.
Ordinary Muslims are believed to be waging demographic warfare by giving birth to as many Muslim children as possible with the explicit goal of taking over our continent by the mid-2000s.
Poignantly, these Islamophobic views are shared by leading members of the right-wing populist parties now present in all Scandinavian countries.
It is little wonder the Sweden Democrats (born out of the white-power movement) and Norway’s Progress Party, where the suspected Oslo bomber was an active member for 10 years, are busy doing intense damage control at the moment.
We now know that 32-year old Anders Behring Breivik, who has admitted responsibility for the Oslo bombing and the lake island mass shooting of young people, was very much an active participant in this poisonous world of online hatred.
Governments, security services and journalists have been too preoccupied with the (genuine) threat of Islamist extremists to pay attention to this most dangerous development. Behring Breivik was one of the “internet warriors” whose appetite for destruction was no longer satisfied with posting hateful comments and spreading intolerant propaganda.
The majority of these web activists will, of course, keep waging their battle online. But we don’t know how many more could snap.
What we do know, from interviews with extreme right activists who have left the movement, is that the internet has become a fertile recruitment ground.
What starts out with tentative, curious e-mailing or chatting has in many instances led to meetings in real life.
If we want to stop the growth of anti-democratic movements, where militant plans are hatched and even executed, we must not look solely at criminal records, formal memberships with extreme organisations or the number of activists who turn up at neo-Nazi demonstrations, willing to show their faces in broad daylight.
Another Anders Behring Breivik could be lurking under the radar.
Lisa Bjurwald is a journalist and author based in Stockholm. She is author of Europas skam – Rasister på Marsch(Europe’s Shame – Racists on the Rise) published by Natur and Kultur of Stockholm, 2011