The brutal massacre of young Norwegians attending a political youth camp on the island of Utøya near Oslo has shaken Scandinavian politics. And while much of this change has come in a seemingly paradoxical form of governments’ confirming existing policies, it is no less significant in rejecting pressures for change that had been building before the terrorist attack.
In Norway itself, the immediate response was what could be expected. The nation — and especially the political establishment and its media — understandably rallied behind both its prime minister and government, with calls for a full investigation into the shooting as well as international cooperation to search for possible outside terrorist links to the shooter, Anders Breivik.
On a regional basis, the main response was a joint declaration by the three “conservative” prime ministers — the Danish Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Sweden’s Fredrik Reinfeldt, and Finland’s Jyrki Katainen — in support of Norway’s government and people. It was widely published in all four countries.
The content, however, went beyond a generalized expression of sympathy and became a political manifesto, seemingly in answer to that written by Breivik. Its main theme was to laud their achievement in producing and maintaining the Scandinavian version of the welfare state and being such excellent examples to the world in general .
For example, they wrote:
The Nordic countries are the world’s most open and deregulated countries. We are firmly rooted in democracy and in the values we cherish, that being freedom of speech and exchange of opinions. Our countries are characterized by a highly developed welfare model, extensive individual freedom and a high degree of gender equality. We stand in solidarity with rest of the world and we share our wealth, as well as open our doors to people fleeing war and oppression.
Some aspects of this approach ring with irony. Take, for example, Norway itself, a state that has been openly aggressive against those daring to speak out against multiculturalism. In the post-Breivik era this is becoming something of a witch hunt.
For example, “Document.no,” one of the best-known independent Norwegian web sites, has been relatively respected in the past despite taking a critical stance on multiculturalism, mass immigration, the country’s policy toward Israel, and Islam. It was never considered “extremist” outside of the extreme left wing. But now it is being vilified in the media as if it has poisoned the debate and led to the killings. A common theme has been, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, that “freedom of speech and exchange of opinions” has produced terrorism and that people must be intimidated from taking certain political stances.