Trying to Forget Breivik: One Year After the Norway Massacre

The events in Aurora, Colo., appear to echo the meticulously planned crime that devastated Oslo almost a year before. The Norwegians are still trying to figure out how to deal with the legacy of that mass murder

  • Share
  • Read Later
Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Friends and loved ones gather at the Oslo Cathedral on July 24, 2011 to mourn the victims killed in the bombing in downtown Oslo and mass shooting on Utoya island

The alleged actions of James Eagan Holmes in Aurora, Colo., seem to echo a horror from almost exactly a year ago: when a young Norwegian single-handedly carried out a meticulous operation that led to the deaths of scores. The people of Norway are still figuring out what to do with the legacy of that mass murder.

In Norway, July 22 has been scarred into the calendar by an attack that ranks among the worst peacetime atrocities in modern history. It has been a year since Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik gave up his arsenal to police on the formerly tranquil, wooded island of Utoya, bringing to an end a calculated slaughter that took the lives of 77 people. Exhausted by 12 months of blanket coverage, Norwegians hope to reclaim the date from Breivik by commemorating his victims.

Most were teenagers, members of the Labor Party youth wing (AUF), shot point blank on Utoya hours after the gunman set off a car bomb, killing eight in the center of Oslo. Over the course of a 10-week trial, Breivik told an Olso court at least a dozen times that his victims were complicit in their own fate because they were facilitating the “Islamization of Norway.”

The country has been patiently determined to allow Breivik his mandatory moment in court. But there is a desire now to sideline the killer and possibly even bury his ideals. Two victims’ support groups began that process on the last day of his trial on June 22, filing out of the courtroom in symbolic protest as the gunman was preparing to make his final statement. Meanwhile, the AUF is trying to rehabilitate Utoya, the holiday spot it has used for decades. On the anniversary, it will host a memorial service for its lost members.

AUF leader Eskil Pedersen says no matter how bloody, the island attack was not enough to erase the 60 years of good memories the group has on Utoya. “Being there will be the best way to mark the anniversary,” he says. “We will take it slowly, but we believe that we should one day return it to the use it had before last year.”

Kjell Fredrik Lie, who lost one daughter, Elisabeth, and nearly a second, Cathrine, a year ago, will not go back to the island. Instead, he will likely go to a service in Oslo Cathedral, which became the center for public grief in the days and weeks following the attacks. There will be echoes there of July 25 last year, when the queen cried during the bishop’s speech. The Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, emerged from the church alongside Pedersen to an emotional silence from tens of thousands of Norwegians who had left roses in the courtyard outside.

The roses are back. But the raw disbelief has gone, and many will use the anniversary as a staging post to reclaim their lives. Bjorn Kasper Ilaug, who has suffered sleeplessness and memory loss since he took his boat to rescue terrified kids on Utoya, says he will use July 22 as a milepel, a “milestone” opportunity to change directions and go back to being an ordinary Norwegian.

Peter Svaar, a boyhood friend of the gunman and now a reporter covering the case for NRK, the Norwegian public broadcaster, says the rest of the country is similarly exhausted. “There have been so many facets of the story which have been covered,” he says. “People are tired of hearing about him, and it is very understandable that many people want closure.” July 22 will be the beginning of that, he says, before a public inquiry into what went wrong delivers its conclusion on Aug. 16. Breivik will finally be sentenced on Aug. 24.

The verdict pivots on whether or not Breivik was sane at the time of the attacks. Three quarters of Norwegians, according to a recent poll, and Breivik himself want him to be sentenced to prison rather than compulsory mental health care. But with a purpose-built, one-man hospital already constructed in the middle of the maximum-security Ila prison, Svaar believes the country will swallow either verdict.

“Speak to people who are involved and most of them will say that as long as he is locked away, it doesn’t matter whether the people around him are wearing a white or a light-blue shirt,” he says. “They know he will still spend the rest of his days there.”

In his speech at this year’s service, Pedersen will avoid uttering Breivik’s name at all, focusing on fallen comrades but also reiterating his pride that in the aftermath of the attacks last year, young survivors took the lead in pledging to combat Breivik’s ideas with more tolerance and a redoubled desire to ensure he will not change Norway’s open society and democratic institutions.

With some exceptions — not least the construction of the Breivik hospital — Norway has adhered to the latter ideal. There will be tinkering with the statute books to ensure he never walks free, but cops are still noticeably absent from city streets, politicians remain accessible, and children play happily on sidewalks.

Tolerance is more difficult to measure. Labor Party secretary, Raymond Johansen, says the AUF and Labor — the organizations Breivik blamed for the multiculturalism he despised — have both enjoyed upsurges in membership since last July. And in September the populist Progress Party, which once counted Breivik among its members, was thrashed in local elections.

Breivik’s own rhetoric long ago passed the lexicon from chilling to banal, even drawing laughter from the court during his last day on trial when he warned against the dangers of watching the sitcom Sex and the City and railed against Norway’s use of a Russian immigrant as a representative in the Europe-wide singing contest, Eurovision. But one does not need to go into many bars to find people who sympathize with his broadly anti-immigrant message. Meanwhile, the reaction among some in Oslo to a group of Roma travelers in the center of town in recent weeks has been virulent, with attacks on their camp from locals bearing fireworks and rocks, and Progress has bounced back in the polls.

38 comments
Aquilagrande
Aquilagrande

Norway is usually depicted as a peaseful and ideal society, and on the surface it looks seems so. But hidden behind a rather thin makeup, this society is saturated with injustice and abuse of every kind, and this society is ridden by acidents of all kind. What breivik did is just one more tragedy in a long array of everyday tragedies people in this societty see happening around, but seldome speak very much about.

Breivik's actions must be understood in this context. They  were basically a revenge against authorities for something that happened to him in his early childhood that he felt extremely frightening, painful and humiliating. He was hospitalized for some time togeather with his mother in a psychiatric ward for an assessment. He might be a true fascist also, but this is still only a secondary aspect in his motivation.

Amit_Atlanta_USA
Amit_Atlanta_USA

The greatest lesson learned from this entire Breivik episode is that European Muslims have clearly failed to adapt as oft repeated by even moderate/very liberal leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany, and Sarkhozy of France and several others.

Here are two eye opening articles in Muslim Pakistan's own #1 newspaper dawn on unadaptability of Europeans Muslims and European response to their rapid Islamization.

"Norway is a wakeup call for the UK" – Dawn 07/29/2011

"Europe’s right focuses on fighting Islam"Dawn 12/07/2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

ReDQLulz
ReDQLulz

Has anyone determined that Holmes was motivated by the same insane, pathetic, irrational right wing fears as Breivek? All this speculation seems to be putting the cart before the horse.

And the whole 'why can't Muslims be nice' commentary is just misleadingly stupid.

Palladia
Palladia

I don't think Holmes' "motivations" have been determined at all, yet.  In fact, they may never really determined.

I have this nasty suspicion that no matter what rationales they put forth, some of these young men just want to be destructive.  They can cobble up some story that seems in their minds to justify it, but it seems just to be an urge to destroy: other people's lives, tranquility, pleasures, whatever.  What's the saying?  Misery loves company, and if they can't attract it, they'll impose it.

Happy people never do things like this.

Juan__Escobar
Juan__Escobar

maybe Holmes isn't speaking because he's going to come out and say that he's part of this new order of Knights Templar... Both stories are extremely sad and heart-wrenchig so i'm curious to see if there is any correlation between the two cases given that they pretty much occurred a year apart.

mrgustav
mrgustav

Worleyoe, as the reply function somehow failed me: "Inability to come to terms with capital punishment"? We came to terms with it a long time ago. And decided that there is no room for the justice system in a civilized society to avenge and kill. I think it is a quite arrogant stand to claim that people who choose differently from you just haven't been able to grasp the point. 

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

@mrgustav:disqus Are you kidding me? Where do you live? Do you live in Norway where this occurred? I can assure you than many a Norwegian's beliefs about the death penalty have been rattled to their core over Brevik's slaughter. Will they do anything it the near term? No, which is very sad.

I've read a couple of excellent articles about how Psychiatry is on trial as much as Brevik is. One group of experts found him insane, while another group found him sane. He even changed his story about an important aspect of the shooting, showing that he is CLEARLY sane.

But in the end, why does one's sanity really matter? If Psychiatry can come to such opposite conclusions, isn't it possible that saying someone can't be held accountable for their actions because of insanity might actually be wrong? So the people of Norway have chosen to protect Brevik from a human death for having murdered 69 innocent people. And so what good comes from this? We live in a world that is not headed for some Utopian state. Rather, we live in a world where liberal thinking has trounced common sense. To me, when you put these two ideas together that I'm talking about, you end up with a very disturbing picture, especially when you parallel that to rationalizing abortion, which I do not support morally but do not wish to see early term abortions made illegal.

In the U.S., we have a system that allows each state to choose, which I'm fine with. In Colorado, the death penalty is legal but it's not used. Now, we're on the verge of have Holmes sit in jail for the rest of his life, because he couldn't do what Harris and Klebold did. I for one will be surprised if the voters of Colorado don't vote a lot of people out of office if the death penalty is not sought for Holmes, assuming he's not found insane.

mrgustav
mrgustav

Yes I do. And there has been very few appeals to revert to a form of penalty that was last used here in 1876. I understand individuals need for revenge, however, I don't think the society at large should play a part in it. 

When it comes to the insanity, we have always held up the view that if you can't grasp the reality of what you are doing, because of insanity, age, or low intelligence, you will not be punished for the deed. I see no reason to change this either.

However, the report from the psychiatrists who claim Breivik's insane isn't very good craftsmanship, if you can put it that way, and the psychiatrist that is treating him in prison doesn't agree. We are actually looking at a possibility that he might be declared insane, but not get treatment, because his own doctor thinks he doesn't need it. And that would be ridiculous. 

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

Brevik went to war with Norway, but you all just don't see it. Just like in America, we're at war with radical Islam, but we're not willing to declare war against what is for the most part a "stateless" enemy. 

The death penalty does not have to be considered revenge. Rather, it's simply the punishment that fits the crime. Don't over think it. Those families who lost loved ones to Brevik understand this a lot better today.

I am not saying that he'll have access to the Internet, but we're talking about him, no? His actions will live on as long as his does, mainly through the power of the Internet, and he doesn't have to be the one directly communicating via it. 

Yes. I honestly think that you're morally superior to me, and I'm not being sarcastic in the least or with any reference to self-righteousness. You're in no way being smug about your beliefs. Rather, you've evolved morally to a point that I haven't in your ability to allow people to do such heinous acts and believe that their death at the hands of democratically elected government officials would be revenge versus due process / punishment.

I literally am unable to fathom living under that sort of moral thinking. It is above, not below me.

Take care!

mrgustav
mrgustav

Skanche  was executed for warcrime, different rules, or at least it used to be. That is why I didn't mention it(Not relevant here). For it to apply, Norway would have to be in a state of war, like ww2. As long as no one has declared war, we are all civilians. And the last time civilians were executed in Norway their heads were chopped off, so that would have been interesting.

When it comes to the society/individual I'm just saying that if my child is killed by a dirtbag, I would probably go out of my mind, and want to kill them. It's natural. But I hope that the system is there to stop me, and punish the perp. Because that is why we don't have parents of the victim as judge and executor. Revenge is personal, the court is not.

When it comes to beeing on the internet, he is denied access 30 years if hees deemed sane, and indefinitely if he is not, so I wouldn't worry to much. So you have noted that I am morally superior? Gee, thanks. I've been working on my self-rightousness, glad to see it pays off;)

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

So in Norway, if Brevik had gotten his hands on sarin gas and killed 1,000 people in the metro subway of Oslo, current law would forbid him from being put in front of a firing squad. OMG!!! Do you understand how INSANE that is?

I know you didn't mean this, but being kept in jail against your will is punishment. Unfortunately, it's not the right one, especially since they're are clear signs that this guy IS SANE. He's just a Nordic Bin Laden with really, really strong beliefs against multiculturalism. He knew exactly what he was doing. And fortunately for him, he's living in the right era, whereby he can live for decades to come being a sounding voice for his movement across the Internet.

Your revenge / society comment is hard to understand to say the least. Are you sanctioning revenge, so long as it's not carried out by public law enforcement?

As for your assertion that 1876 was the last time it was used in Norway, a quick fact check suggests that is not true: 1948 - Ragnar Skanche. And exactly how was Brevik's actions different from his? Oh yea, he actually killed 69 fellow citizens, which by any standard has to fit the treason litmus test.

Be that as it may, enjoy paying all those taxes to keep Brevik alive another 50 years or so. Your moral superiority is duly noted.

swift2010
swift2010

they keep on so much about B having his say well make him PM 

see how his ideas pan out

hey he has his human rights and was just exercising his opinion to sort of blow away people in a cause 

in such a liberal society we have to let him exercise his point of view 

Palladia
Palladia

This is an absurdity.  Civilized discourse, the sort that people engage in all the time, has nothing to do with threats, much less murder.  Civilized discourse is possible no matter what someone's political leanings, UNTIL he gets to thinking that his way is the ONLY way.  That seems to be pretty much what Breivik was thinking: he attacked because he disapproved of diversity, of the "Islamization of Norway."

He attacked people who were pretty much sitting ducks, and he was espousing ideas on the "conservative" side of the spectrum.  So, his name is going to be alongside that of Vidkun Quisling in Norwegian memory, except evidently, Breivik won't be hanged.

Demi Xu
Demi Xu

Age is just a number. Love is equal. We all deserve best. Meet unique featured member in "AgelessHookUp" which is the world's first, largest and most effective age-gap dating site. Give your life a new try. Join it free now! 

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

If we forget these tragic events, can we learn anything from them? Apparently not, because we keep forgetting and they keep happening.

obamadrone81
obamadrone81

Kind of like the tragic event called abortion, isn't  it?

Palladia
Palladia

It's nothing like abortion.  The vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester, when there's only the merest beginning of a central nervous system in the conceptus: nothing like the sophistication of a baby, even less of the system in place in even the most average adult.  There is no "personality" present to destroy.  But to go into a darkened theatre, and randomly fire into a group of people is an entirely different thing.  When these obituaries are written, read them: see the accomplishments, the interests, the ambitions that are represented: real people. 

Even the six-year-old girl had a fully-formed personality: and she was going to learn to swim.  An embryo has none of that.  It's a potential.  A maybe.  About half of all conceptions never get to delivery, (with no human intervention) and in a fair number, the pregnancy is never really known, unless the mother is being carefully monitored for some reason.

There's a reason why we celebrate birthdays, and not "conception days."  There's a reason why we shouldn't "count our chickens before they're hatched."

obamadrone81
obamadrone81

And there is a reason chickens like you should not hatch

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

I've sat holding my dog being humanely euthanized. It was the most peaceful death I could imagine coming to one of God's creatures. She quickly slipped away and went totally limp. For a moment, she may have been afraid, but it would have been very fleeting. Brevik, Laughner, Holmes, or anyone for that matter can be humanely put to sleep, which is exactly what happens. You fall asleep, loosing consciousness with little if any awareness that your body / mind is dying.

Compare that to what these savages, sane or insane, have done. Mercilessly shooting people at point blank range. These were thinking, fearful people looking down the end of a barrel before they were shot to death, often suffering great pain and fear before they die. So contrary to your asinine beliefs, the parallels are nearly identical, with one huge difference, my idiot, fellow human: that developing embryo has done nothing wrong. It's pure life and its potential for good is unlimited but is "snuffed" out because of bad human choices.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not wanting early term abortions to be ended, but what I do want ended is the hypocrisy, acting as if there's a HUGE difference, when there really isn't. It is utterly inconceivable that some people believe in allowing abortions while protecting someone from a humane death just because they have greater sympathy for someone who's insane versus that developing embryo.

Andrew Stergiou
Andrew Stergiou

What sort of gets lost in the discussion between Europe and America is the death penalty which has not actually served as a deterent, as America (USA) is the murder capitol of the western industrial world, as the US is hell bent on the backward frustrating policies of punitive retribution of biblical sectarianism (as in an eye for an eye) rather than as a parent who does not correct (as in correction) their child despises them.

America sort of remembers Breivik in Colorado (but not really) , as a neighbor told me she didn't care what happened to him as they can execute him:

In that she ignored the facts that these people did not kill one person but many and sentencing does not seem actually fair when as in Brevik's case you can not execute him 78 times there seems a lack of logic.

Though you can pretend you are executing him 78 or even 79 times nor as in the Colorado case for those corresponding numbers of people. 

Rehabilitation seems the only way society can get even. By requiring that such people are cured re- educated and conform so as to properly reflect what society requires (an end to this insane madness) so that those rehabilitated can in part truy at least to make up for such crimes. By requiring these people to act in part as their victims may have maybe they make up for it all.

Perhaps that is too much to ask for.

Imaging Breivik to become rehabilitated and to become constructive seems to much to ask for  but it does seem in that instance that society may at least seem to win something , rather than as this bug petty vindictive statist abuser getting a cheap thrill by sadisticly punishing the accused merely because they can, its easy, politically popular in what reminds me of throwing Roman criminals to the lions.

Shame on you Caesar the death penalty seems just like a cheap political thrill.

Palladia
Palladia

I understand that Colorado has the death penalty, but doesn't use it.  Perhaps an exception could be made in this case.

There will be a trial; there will be a verdict; there will be a sentence, if he is found guilty, and I don't see how he could miss, taken as he was.  The insanity defense may be offered, but the overwhelming evidence of premeditation and preparation will weigh against him.

What is the point in keeping someone like this, or the others of his ilk, alive?  Some actions are so egregious that the perpetrator could never, ever, be trusted again.

CrimsonA
CrimsonA

 Pre-meditation has nothing to do with the man's mental capacity.  John Hinckley Jr. is just like the Colorado shooter and he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The death penalty doesn't work and should never be used. Execution is just another word for murder.

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

Dude, you might want to change your profile. You certainly are perpetuating a potential oxymoron there, bro! Put some flowers up or something.

Palladia
Palladia

I disagree that "execution is just another word for murder."

Pre-meditation is indicative of someone's "mental capacity," particularly when it involves meticulous planning and long-term intent.  Someone's "mental capacity," in the sense of "knowing right from wrong," the usual litmus for determining sanity for legal purposes in the case of something like this, doesn't have anything to do, really, with the results.

When you say, "the death penalty doesn't work," what do you mean?  It works to remove a killer from society, permanently.  If you mean, it doesn't deter others. . . it's hard to say.  For one thing, its application is pretty hit-or-miss.  For another thing, some of the mass murderers go into their design intending that they shall not survive it.

The men who hijacked the planes and flew them into buildings on 9-11 knew they wouldn't survive.  The Columbine shooters didn't intend to survive.   The guy in Aurora was wearing body armor.  And yet, when accosted by police, he didn't resist.  Why, we do not yet know.

Society, just as an individual,  has every right, as an entity, to protect itself against predation.  If the predator is another human, by the act of doing that, he gives up certain rights: perhaps his freedom, perhaps his own life itself.  But the execution of a murderer is simple redress: neither he nor the society can restore what he destroyed, but the destroyer can, himself, be destroyed.

Jami
Jami

my friend's sister makes $62 an hour on the internet. She has been without work for five months but last month her paycheck was $20504 just working on the internet for a few hours. Go to this web site and read morex CashLazy.*com(remove the *)

Christopher Fisher
Christopher Fisher

Nice to see that you at least called Breivik what he is: a terrorist. God knows it took the media forever to comprehend that just because he isn't a Muslim doesn't mean he can't be a terrorist. 

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Both are terrorist acts, for sure, but the terrorism of Islamic fanatics with a worldwide political agenda are almost an everyday occurance somewhere in the world, whereas the non-Muslim incidents are far fewer and usually not associated with an international political agenda and usually not done in the name of god. So, over time, the words "Muslim" and "terrorist" have sort of merged in the public mind. The silence, and sometimes even the show of approval by Muslims for terrorism (remember the Palestinian cheers and dancing in the streets after 9/11?) also feed the perception. Muslims and their advocates who resent the association of the words "Muslim" and "terrorist" need to create a vigorous counter image that shows the peaceful side of Islam. In recent years, the fanatics have been appropriating the image of Islam seemingly without much protest from peaceful Muslims (who, admittedly, may be terrorized into silence by their more fanatical Muslim co-religionists).

Katie
Katie

If we forget these tragic events, can we learn anything from them? Apparently not, because we keep forgetting and they keep happening.By the way My friend gets more than $2500/Month working few hours on his personal computer , Read his Article =>  dai1ynews.blogspot.com

Katie
Katie

If we forget these tragic events, can we learn anything from them? Apparently not, because we keep forgetting and they keep happening.By the way My friend gets more than $2500/Month  working few hours on his personal computer , Read his Article =>  dai1ynews.blogspot.com

happydayfortennis
happydayfortennis

There was a TLC show recently called "All-American Muslim" in which Muslims did try to show the world that most Muslims are normal human beings. But of course some people complained that they were trying to cover up "the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties." Sixty-five advertisers then withdrew from the show, and it was eventually cancelled. 

It's so unfair that the extremists are the face of Islam, and that Americans are actually promoting this distorted view of the religion.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

The effort of Muslims to oppose Islamic terrorism does not need to start with a PR campaign here, but it needs to be applied to the root, in the Muslims countries where the Islamic terrorists originate. When Muslim leaders and peaceful Muslims in Muslim countries start speaking out in their Muslim countries against terrorists claiming to represnt Islam by waging jihad against the West, perhaps things will begin to change.

austin87j
austin87j

Do you suppose the media is mostly responsible for this? Good Muslims  don't make good TV, so how should they go about creating this peaceful  counter-image?  Millions of Muslims around the world are living peaceful lives, and to say that Muslims on a whole are silent towards or approving of terrorism is a pretty big reach.

Glarx McFloob
Glarx McFloob

There are countless peaceful Muslims, but to say Muslims as a whole are silent towards or approving of terrorism is hardly an over-reaching statement - read Pew surveys of Muslim attitudes towards terrorist leaders or groups. They've dropped of late but are still often sickeningly high.

Not that I believe this reflects on the nature of Islam, of course, but clearly the West is just not doing enough to reach the average Muslim.

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

Ah! But the question still remains in the case of Breivik. Is he sane? From what I've read, he's been declared sane by one group of experts but insane by another. Personally, I don't get the insanity plea as it relates to the death penalty. I really don't. I've read articles that speak about how Psychiatry is on trial as much as Breivik, which makes complete sense. Yet, I would take it a step further and say Norway's inability to come to terms with capital punishment is also on trial.

Jared Laughner has been declared incompetent to stand trial. And for more than a year, legal wrangling over his medical condition has held up his trial. Should he be given drugs to assist with his defense? What defense? He's clearly guilty, insane and will never be released from jail under any circumstances, EVER!!! And most importantly, what good does it do him or society to keep this man alive? And the same goes for Breivik.

Humanely put these men in the ground and move on, providing the families much needed and faster closure.

Juan__Escobar
Juan__Escobar

i absolutely agree that there is no point in keeping an offender alive for the remainder of their life if there is no chance of rehabilitation.