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Oslo Shooter Anti-Muslim Christian Extremist

The death toll in Norway’s deadliest day of terrorism is up to 91. The man behind it, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, is a frequent poster of anti-Muslim screeds on Christian fundamentalist websites.

AP (“91 killed in Norway island massacre, capital blast“):

A Norwegian dressed as a police officer gunned down at least 84 people at an island youth retreat before being arrested, police said Saturday. Investigators are still searching the surrounding waters, where people fled the attack, which followed an explosion in nearby Oslo that killed seven.

The mass shootings are among the worst in history. With the blast outside the prime minister’s office, they formed the deadliest day of terror in Western Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings killed 191.

Police official Roger Andresen told reporters that the total death toll was now 91 and that a suspect was in custody being questioned for both assaults and is cooperating with the investigators.

Though police did not release his name, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK identified him as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik and said police searched his Oslo apartment overnight. NRK and other Norwegian media posted pictures of the blond, blue-eyed Norwegian.

“He is clear on the point that he wants to explain himself,” Roger Andresen told reporters Saturday.

National police chief Sveinung Sponheim told NRK that the suspected gunman’s Internet postings “suggest that he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views, but whether that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen.”

Andersen said the suspect posted on websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies. He did not describe the websites in any more details.

A police official said the suspect appears to have acted alone in both attacks, and that “it seems like this is not linked to any international terrorist organizations at all.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because that information had not been officially released by Norway’s police.

“It seems it’s not Islamic-terror related,” the official said. “This seems like a madman’s work.”

Multiple reports say the police believe Breivik is “linked” to the bombing as well as being the perpetrator of the shooting. “The police have every reason to believe there is a connection between the explosions and what happened at Utoya,” the police said. Indeed, he appears to have used the bombing to set up the massacre: “He travelled on the ferry boat from the mainland over to that little inland island posing as a police officer, saying he was there to do research in connection with the bomb blasts,” NRK journalist Ole Torp told the BBC.

While following and passing along bits of information on the breaking story yesterday on Twitter, I was taken to task by some for being too credulous and unwilling to definitively assert that al Qaeda or other Islamist terrorists were behind the attacks. As it turns out, I was actually too forward leaning in defending that as the obvious working assumption.

Breaking news and instant analysis are a bad combination. They’re also an occupational hazard of journalism and punditry.

I still recall the panicked speculation on the live coverage of the aftermath of the assassination attempt of President Reagan 30 years ago, including erroneous report—repeated on all three of the American broadcast networks–that White House press secretary James Brady had died from his wounds.  ABC News anchor Frank Reynolds, a close friend of Brady’s, had to report both the death and the error. Upon getting the welcome news, a visibly upset Reynolds exclaimed, “Let’s get it nailed down…somebody…let’s find out! Let’s get it straight so we can report this thing accurately!”

When tragedies are unfolding and information is scant, however, the incentives are to get as much information out as fast as possible, even if much of it is inaccurate. And as much air time as possible is filled with “experts,” whose expertise is often tangentially related to the crisis and are hamstrung by the need for rampant speculation, to do instant analysis. The inevitable result is that they will fall into their comfort zone, analyzing by drawing analogies with past events that have some similarities.

We’ve now shifted from “this is Norway’s 9/11” to “this is Norway’s Oklahoma City.”

The investigators still don’t have complete information about this monstrous crime and they’re almost certainly not sharing everything they have with us. But, if the Oklahoma City analogy holds up, it would be fitting in one respect: The instant analysis in Oklahoma City was that it was the work of Islamist groups. While a natural assumption two years after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, it was completely wrong.

Photo credit: Reuters Pictures.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Murray says:

    “Breaking news and instant analysis are a bad combination. ”

    Indeed and this tragedy’s coverage shows that “analysis” without facts is just noise.

    The easily verifiable facts were that there was a bombing and a shooting. At no point did the Norwegian police give any indication it could be related to Muslim fundamentalists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. JohnMcC says:

    I recall after the Oklahoma City bombing that initial reports of ‘middle-eastern-appearing men’ were bandied about.

    And for what it’s worth, apparently this Brievik person was an active blogger/commenter on European anti-immigration websites going by the name ‘fjordman’. As seen on Charles Johnson’s ‘littlegreenfootballs’, he commented favorably about posts he had read on the American nut-case site ‘AtlasShrugs’.

    Screwballs of the world unite!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. Nick says:

    They took him alive, even though he had much less intelligence value than OBL. Hmmmm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Nick: That’s what we would likely do, too, if American police were going after an American shooter on American soil.

    The OBL raid was a SEAL mission on foreign soil against a foreign target.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. Bleev K says:

    Muslims, christians, same crap.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6

  6. Mr. Prosser says:

    As I’ve written before, I read this site two to three times a day, not for breaking news and instant analysis but for thoughtful writing and some darn good discussions in comments. I would suggest leaving breaking news and instant analysis alone and keep your credibility as a thought-provoking writer who has examined situations as thoroughly as possible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Tano says:

    “Breaking news and instant analysis are a bad combination. ”

    And the blogosphere responds: “Hey, I resemble that remark!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. JKB says:

    Ann Althouse points out his Facebook page is only a couple days old. We don’t know when he posted his rants on the Christian website, etc.

    I’m with her that some skepticism is warranted that the killer may be trying disinformation until there is a deeper investigation. Such postings, etc., would be a way to play the news cycle since the media and blogs scrape off whatever is on top and even if the official investigation finds something different beneath the surface the initial framing sets the popular myth of the event.

    All this means is even more caution is called for over this tragedy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  9. ken says:

    Liberals the world over differ in many regards, but gun loving conservatives kooks are the same kind of dangerous no matter where they appear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

  10. Richard Gardner says:

    @JohnMcC: Probably a malicious rumor regarding Fjordman being Breivik. Gates of Vienna, where Fjordman has been published, is denying a connection. Charles Johnson (LGF) is off on another wild hare chase.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB: Althouse has already started to walk that back. It was too-clever-by-half, and, since it’s Althouse, too-clever-by-half in a way that deflects from the conclusion that this nut was a right wing nut.

    It seems: a victim has ID’d the Facebook picture. His membership in a right wing, anti-Muslim party is confirmed. He was in a business with access to large quantities of fertilizer. And he’s the registered owner of 3 guns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  12. mantis says:

    If it weren’t for William Jacobson, Althouse would be the dumbest law professor in America.

    Of course, disinformation is a big theme in Orwell’s “1984.” I’m tempted to say that the cues that his statements are lies are so strong that they suggest paradoxically that he is not lying.

    The stupid. It burns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  13. Nick says:

    @James Joyner:

    “That’s what we would likely do, too [capture Osama bin Laden rather than kill him], if American police were going after an American shooter on American soil.

    The OBL raid was a SEAL mission on foreign soil against a foreign target.”

    That the job was on foreign soil and a foreign target isn’t relevant to whether or not deadly force had to be used. Either deadly force had to be used or it didn’t, regardless of location and nationality of target.

    The third variable, that it was a SEAL team rather than a police paramilitary team, should actually argue in favor of an improved chance of taking the target alive, rather than dead. SEAL teams are, presumably, more competent in live fire situations than SWAT teams.

    OBL was a high value intelligence target. His capture live should have been a high priority for the U.S. Instead he was shot in the head at close range.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  14. WR says:

    @Nick: Are you so afraid of a discussion of the fact that this terrorist seems to be a white Christian that you must desperately try to change the subject to something this useless?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  15. PJ says:

    Anders Behring Breivik’s manifest has been released, 1500 pages of islamophobia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. JohnMcC says:

    Mr Gardner, thank you for the update. I make links and references in case of the remote chance that some misinformation might be put up on the internet. Looked about on the links provided @ the CharlesJohnson site but having no Norwegian, quickly was stymied.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Lit3Bolt says:

    Can Western societies discuss homegrown terrorism now? Or is that still verboten?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. PJ says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    Can Western societies discuss homegrown terrorism now? Or is that still verboten?

    Any homegrown terrorist unless he (or she) is a muslim (or left wing) is just a crazy loner.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  19. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: Well, first our police would shoot his dog, but other than that, correct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. Nick says:

    @WR:

    I just think it’s remarkable that the Norwegian police were able to capture this heavily armed, murderous right wing Christian terrorist, but our Navy SEALs didn’t capture the unarmed Osama bin Laden alive.

    With Osama, we’re talking the Hitler of our time. We spent going on $5 trillion invading Iraq, in large part because of perceived or feared connections between al Qaeda and Saddam. But when we have the opportunity to capture the ringleader of this outfit, we shoot him in the head? On whose orders?

    Look, I expect right wing fundamentalists (please don’t call them Christians–it’s defamatory to Christ) to perpetrate violence, whether they’re Norwegian, American, whatever. That doesn’t surprise me. I’m not trying to derail that conversation. The disparate outcomes were just the first thing that came to mind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  21. Nick says:

    “He was described as a religious, gun-loving Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as the threat of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to the cultural and patriotic values of his country. ”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/world/europe/24oslo.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

    Sounds oddly familiar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I was listening to Dianne Rheem when the first reports came thru…

    She and all her guests went from “Explosions in Oslo” to “Islamic extremists” in 2.2 seconds…. While I was still at, “Was there a bomb?”

    To be fair, I was like every one else in assuming the worst, but a part of me was still saying, “Natural gas???? Shipload of fertilizer????”

    I am still a little bit taken aback that one man can cause so much death and destruction.

    Save the children.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. Doubter4444 says:

    @Nick: @Nick:
    They took timothy mcveighy alive too, you fucking hack.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Doubter4444 says:

    @Richard Gardner:
    Another?
    What was the first?
    Johnson has been relentless in the VDARE and American Power crowd, and exposing relative “mainstream” people like Pamela Geller for the race baiting bigots that they are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. Doubter4444 says:

    @Nick:
    Again don’t be a concern troll.
    Piss off

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. NoBurqa says:

    @JohnMcC http://www.gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/ As for smearing Fjordman, check out this website for the truth about Fjordman–he’s NOT the shooter. PLEASE in a time of terrible slaughter and rampant emotion that tends to run with the first ‘breaking news tidbit’, take the time to get your facts straight. (Not that our media necessarily sets an example for that, unfortunately…)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  27. matt says:

    I wonder where Jan and crew were… Not only did they disapear from the Herman Cain thread but they never showed up here.. I’ll have to add this dude to my list of Christian terrorists..

    (please don’t call them Christians–it’s defamatory to Christ)

    That’s funny because I know quite a few Muslims that think the same thing about OBL and such…You have no room to make such a demand as long as you continue to make such statements yourself..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. D Paul says:

    All of the information is not yet in. Mehmet Ali Agca was seen as a right wing fundamentalist who was working to overthrow the moderate government in Turkey. He killed a journalist to set up a cover story. An Italian woman journalist dug until she found a KGB connection with the Bulgarian Secret Service as a cover. Several Bulgarian agents were photographed in St. Peter’s Square immediately before shots were fired. Evidently, one was supposed to shoot Acga. Therefore, let’s wait until all of the information is in before we make a judgment. There is no doubt that he had military training. He did not use video games for training as alleged. He did not back pack in 6 tons of explosive. There were two cars which were filled with explosives. He stated that he acted along. Now, there is an eye witness if I have even heard of one. “The Closer” would “eat his testimony for lunch”. Pictures have been found which show him in a Masonic celebration uniform. There is also the matter of a second gunman. Forensic tests on the bodies should clear up that one. Also, a dead body pattern would show from whence the bullets came. Let’s wait and see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. An Interested Party says:

    Funny how whenever one of these incidents happens, if the alleged perpetrator is a swarthy looking person, we hear cries of “Islamoterrorist!!!!!!” but if the perp is someone like who they found in this case, the response is “Let’s wait! Don’t jump to any conclusions yet!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Rob in CT says:

    I find it be entirely plausible that he’s a deranged right-winger, given that he went and slaughtered 84 people at a “Labour Party summer camp.” “Kill the socialist multiculturalists” fits.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  31. Rob in CT says:

    I got a down vote for that? Simply noting that it is highly plausible that this particular killer is a Right winger, based on the fact that he slaughtered a bunch of Lefties?

    Woah.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. Eric Florack says:

    Well, let’s see here.

    When Muslim zealots kill, Muslims celebrate and conservative Christians are angry. Leftists spend most of their time trying to disassociate the religion and the attached culture, from the killer.

    When Christian zealots kill, leftists tend to gloat, and go to some lengths to attach the religion and traditional American culture to the killer.

    Funny old world, ain’t it?. .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  33. matt says:

    Well, let’s see here.

    When Christian zealots kill, Christians celebrate and normal people are angry. Righties spend most of their time trying to disassociate the religion and the attached culture, from the killer.

    When Muslims zealots kill, Righties tend to gloat, and go to some lengths to attach the religion and traditional American culture to the killer.

    Funny old world, ain’t it?. .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. matt says:

    Your assumption that all Muslims are celebrating when a “Muslim” kills someone is so patently stupid/wrong/offensive that you’re pretty much beyond hope as a human being..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1