The World from Berlin 'Open Societies Pay a High Price'

Anders Behring Breivik's trail of murder and destruction has stunned Norway and the rest of the world. German newspapers on Monday mulled over the attack, asking what open societies can do to protect themselves from such brutal outbursts in the future.

A sea of flowers pay tribute to more than 90 killed in an explosion and shooting spree in Norway.
AFP

A sea of flowers pay tribute to more than 90 killed in an explosion and shooting spree in Norway.


*When this article first appeared 85 people had reportedly been killed on the island of Utøya, and another seven in the bomb attack in Oslo, totalling 93. Police have since adjusted this count to 68 on Utøya and eight in Oslo, bringing the total dead to 76.

On Monday Anders Behring Breivik was scheduled to appear in court after confessing to the killing of 93 people during a shooting spree at a Labor Party youth camp and a bomb attack on Oslo's government district last week.

The hearing will take place behind closed doors. The lawyer representing the 32-year-old suspect has said that Breivik, who has contributed to right-wing extremist blogs, will take the opportunity to explain his motives behind an attack he reportedly described as "gruesome but necessary" during police questioning.

German newspapers on Monday reacted to the twin attacks, asking what they could mean for the future of Norway's much-praised open society. While some urge tighter scrutiny of right-wing extremists, others say little can be done to avert such attacks in the future.

Conservative Die Welt writes:

"The massacre in Norway rattles the foundations of an open society. But Prime Minister Stoltenberg's comparison to World War II sounds excessive. Presumably he made the comparison in relation to the devastation and anger of those forced to witness others being killed. These people are dammed to carry on their lives accompanied by indelible images and memories."

"The wounds are hard to heal. Especially for a country like Norway which has such a high estimation of itself. Scandinavia, famed for its powerful social states, has been hit hard. But maybe they can gain strength from this attack. Open societies are stronger than they think -- when they retain a belief in themselves."

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Attacking one's own people is one characteristic of right-wing terrorism, part of a fantasy of purifying one's own people. Typically, as with the 1995 attack in Oklahoma City or the station massacre in Bologna in 1980, and likely the Munich Octoberfest attack in the same year, far-right extremists use one weapon -- a bomb. But Anders Behring Breivik was different. He shot the young people he saw as his enemy, hunting down many of his victims individually. This reflects the extent of his delusion. Following this terrorist's logic any escalation of the attack was a sign of his determination. He used the victims to give his message an urgency which no one can ignore. It is now up to us to respond to this -- after all, the attack was not the work of a confused person."

Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"It is true that attacks by lone perpetrators are very hard to avert. But it is also true that there were indications. In internet comments the murderer explicitly outlined his growing hatred of a multicultural society and his anti-European ideology. But no-one is born a Nazi (...) Societies have to find a way to seriously respond to such internet comments and other signals. The challenge will be that we do not indirectly react in the way that Anders Behring Breivik wants us to. Norway must not batten down the hatches, post armed soldiers around the country and shun all that seems foreign. For this reason the prime minister's words directly after the attack were admirable and far-sighted."

Financial daily Handelsblatt writes:

"Friday's attacks have triggered a lasting trauma for little Norway -- and the shock will probably stay with the country forever. Now Norway is in mourning and the world is stunned. But the horrific attack on the government headquarters and youth holiday camp on the afternoon of July 22 did not affect a 'perfect world.' Such stereotypes have long been a pipedream."

"We would like to cling onto the idyll of Pippi Longstocking children's books rather than the darker world described in crime novels starring Kurt Wallander. The awful attacks on Norway sadly reveal that our images and the reality of the country are two very different things. The work of clearing up Norway's bombed government district is well underway. Now the politicians need to start dealing with the aftermath. They need to respond quickly so that the open society, so oft mentioned by Prime Minister Stoltenberg, is given a real chance."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"Are there any thoughts that go beyond initial reflex reactions to the inconceivable attacks on Oslo and Utoya? Maybe we need tougher weapons' control or educational work to tackle right-wing extremism, is there anything that would make sense? Please. Is there anything that we could do in the future so that we are not confronted with this insanity again? As hard as it sounds, finding solutions is unfortunately very difficult."

"The fact is that this murderer passionately adopted the vocabulary of the extreme right-wing and created his twisted ideology out of the xenophobia which can be found anywhere, anytime, and has recently gained currency in Scandinavia. He spoke of an 'Islamist colonialisation,' a phrase also adopted by some in the center of our liberal society."

"As hard as it seems, there can be no consequences for this attack in the form of stronger laws or more surveillance. We also cannot take away the hostility that comes from the enemies of our freedom. We face one bitter realisation: Open societies pay a high price."

Jess Smee

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