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.
The Norwegian Progress Party at first promised to tone down its rhetoric in wake of the shootings, only to then backtrack a week later when the Danish People’s Party announced that they wouldn’t follow suit, believing that it was wrong to do so. It was a noticeable flip flop, but understandable under the circumstances. The Norwegian Progress Party is conservative libertarian and the second largest party in Norway.
The situation in Sweden is no better, with the Sweden Democratic Party (Sverigedemokraterna, SD) being targeted by the government, media, and political opponents as if it somehow played a role in the radicalization of the Oslo terrorist. The Sweden Democratic Party is a nationalist party with a past connection to fascism, having jettisoned its radical members back in 2001. It has since then continued on a moderate track. They currently have 20 MPs in parliament.
Then there’s the Finnish Social Democratic Party, which has tried to use the shootings to take down a political rival, the True Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset, PS ) member of parliament Jussi Halla-aho, because he was mentioned once in Breivik’s 1500-page manifesto. The fact that the True Finns have a 23 percent approval rating in public opinion polls is no doubt part of the motive for this attack. The True Finns Party is a nationalist, populist political party headed by Timo Soini. The True Finns have 39 seats in parliament; they remain in opposition and are the country’s third largest party.
Currently, Finland’s justice department is deciding how to define “hate speech” to be punished by monetary fines and jail terms.
In short, following the shooting in Oslo, entrenched elites, ruling parties, and left-wing intellectuals are using the tragedy to push policies that brought on social tensions that contributed to the unhinging of the terrorist in the first place.