The Trail of Evil: Can Europe's Populists Be Blamed for Anders Breivik's Crusade?
Norway and the world are still struggling to understand the ghastly deeds of Anders Breivik, who was driven to kill by his hatred of Muslims. His confused worldview, which Breivik describes in a 1,500-word manifesto, was influenced by European right-wing populists. Do politicians and writers share some of the blame for his terrible crimes? By SPIEGEL Staff.
Geir Lippestad is sitting on a beige chair. He seems calm and collected, but there is also a tense alertness in his sharply defined features. Is there such a thing as pure evil? Can a human being be intrinsically evil? And if not, what induces him to commit evil acts, such as casually killing people and shooting children?
These are the kinds of questions that preoccupy Lippestad, 46, as well as an entire country, and possibly even the world. But the questions are particularly important for Lippestad. He is an attorney -- Anders Behring Breivik's attorney.
He says he received a call, and was told that Breivik had requested him as his defense attorney.
After receiving the call Lippestad, a member of Norway's center-left Labor Party, asked for time to consider the request. He spoke with his family and thought about what it would mean for him and for them. He also thought about what it would mean for Norway, democracy and the rule of law, whose principles guide his actions. "A legal system must also function in exceptional situations," says Lippestad.
Now he is defending a man who defiled those principles, a man who killed 77 people in half a day. A man who, as Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg put it, was responsible for the worst tragedy to hit Norway since World War II.
A Unique Case
Lippestad told the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten that Breivik had told him he had wanted to kill even more people, and that he had intended to bomb two other buildings. This is supported by the fact that police are still searching for most of the six tons of fertilizer Breivik had ordered over the course of several months, of which he used only a fraction. What happened to the rest?
A category for Breivik's incomprehensible crime doesn't even exist. Is he a terrorist? A madman? A right-wing extremist? Should he be tried for crimes against humanity?
Breivik's case is unique, says Lippestad, as he sits in his office. "Anders Breivik is waging war against our values," he says. "Against our democracy and against our openness." As an attorney, he feels that it is his duty to defend those values by defending a man who seeks to destroy them. At the moment, Lippestad is the person with the closest relationship to Breivik. He visits his client almost every day, sometimes spending as much as two hours with him.
Breivik is now in an isolation cell at Ila Prison west of Oslo. He will spend at least four weeks there, with no access to visitors, books, television or newspapers. Lippestad and the guards are the only people who speak to him. One of the first questions Breivik asked his attorney was whether he could get him a uniform. Breivik also explained to him that this was the beginning of a 60-year war, and that he had to make sacrifices for that war.
Breivik, too, seems to believe that he is performing his duty.
The Worldview of a Killer
He is a Christian and a mass murderer, a man who hates Islam and invokes the Bible, a 32-year-old Norwegian terrorist who claims to be fighting to save the Western world and kills people to do so. He killed eight people with a 500-kilo (1,100-pound) bomb in Oslo, and the other 69, many of them teenagers, by shooting them to death at a Labor Party youth camp on Utøya island.
Breivik's crime, as unexpected as it was horrific, exposes new truths and raises new, unsettling questions. What have we overlooked? Where does this violence come from? Will we see more of it? Were the killer's actions those of a lone psychopath, or was he inspired by right-wing populist, xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric? Did he use violence to put into practice the ideas that people like the late Austrian politician Jörg Haider and the Dutch politician Geert Wilders promoted with words? Should we really be paying attention to his confused ideas and his self-important 1,500-page manifesto?
Now that Breivik is in prison, the police are investigating the case and Norwegian society is forced to confront the horror that emerged from its midst, it is time to examine the worldview of a killer and the question of where his ideas come from and what the consequences of the attacks should be. An anti-Islamic terrorist is a first for Europe.
Was this an isolated case, or does Breivik represent a movement? Is he even a terrorist?
SPIEGEL examines the most important questions surrounding Breivik and his actions.
- Part 1: Can Europe's Populists Be Blamed for Anders Breivik's Crusade?
- Part 2: How Does an Average Citizen Turn into a Mass-Murderer?
- Part 3: Is Breivik a Psychopath?
- Part 4: How Does the Perpetrator Justify His Crimes?
- Part 5: Where Did Breivik Derive His Ideas From?
- Part 6: Who Are the People Who Influenced Breivik Intellectually?
- Part 7: How Do Right-Wing Bloggers Defend Themselves Against Accusations that They Bear Part of the Blame?
- Part 8: Is Breivik Different from Other Terrorists Such as Islamists and Anarchists?
- Part 9: Why Didn't Anyone Notice What Breivik Was Planning?
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