Written by Tammy Mehdi, Web Manager/Designer
Last week, Anders Behring Breivik’s trial began on charges of voluntary homicide and committing acts of terror. He gave an account of what went through his head as he set off a bomb outside the government headquarters in Oslo, Norway, before slipping away and gunning down teenagers on Utoya Island. In total, 77 people lost their lives on July 22, 2011.
This was not your typical spur- of- the- moment massacre – this had been in the works for many years – and Breivik said that he had been learning to “desensitize” himself for about 5 years. Some methods of “training” included playing videogames to improve his marksmanship, studying Al-Qaeda, and watching documentaries about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, all the while figuring out what had been done right and what had been done wrong.
His account is nerve-wracking, to say the least. He admitted to having second thoughts, but justified his actions by telling himself, “It is now or never.” It might be a little comforting to know that he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and to be criminally insane. However, Breivik denies this and said that he would do anything to not be sent to a mental hospital. At the same time, he called Norway’s maximum prison sentence of 21 years “pathetic” and said he would “respect” the death penalty more.
As an anti-Islamic fanatic, this massacre was his way of attempting to ethnically cleanse Norway, which he fears has grown too multicultural. To him, these were not innocent children, they were “a political youth movement similar to the Hitler youth” and Utoya was “an indoctrination camp.”
His story is a complex one, but this case brings to light the harsh realities of nationalism, racism and xenophobia. It also highlights the dangerous influence that media may have on an individual.
Some may argue that it is not our job as public diplomacy students or practitioners to combat xenophobia that takes place in other countries. I would argue that it is exactly our job – whether their hate is directed at the US or not, we have a duty to try to understand and combat racist, discriminatory and outright bigoted sentiments that cause bodily harm to both our allies and foes. We all are human, after all, and no life is worth more than another.