Terror and the danger of the wrong reaction….
Of course, it should go without saying that the attacks on the Norwegian capital Oslo and a political event held by the youth wing of the Norwegian Labour Party is a disgusting outrage. Hopefully, the perpetrators will be found and stopped as soon as possible; however, there is a danger that in our rush to judgement we make things unintentionally worse; especially if we draw political lessons too soon.
Part of any terrorists modus operandi is not just to kill and maim. In fact, the destruction of human life is almost incidental to the true purpose which is to spread fear and confusion through the general populace and inflict terror on them. It is to make society ungovernable and to encourage the state to constrict society to the point where society itself turns on the state. State’s and politicians usually unconsciously assist in this process by ramping-up the threat posed to justify the extension of state power and levels of state control over people’s lives.
It is far too early to tell who was responsible for the attacks in Norway. Personally, I find it unlikely to have been with Al Qaeda this time because rather than try to cause as high a body count as possible, which crudely has been exactly what AQ has done in Madrid, Bali and London etc these targets were all very specifically selected for their political role in Norwegian politics. Sure, groups change their MO’s and target selection criteria but not without good reason and there is nothing to my mind that singles out Norway’s government as being especially central to NATO deployment’s.
By all accounts though, Norway does have an active and armed far-right and the political pluses to the attacks for it are obvious in the fact that almost across the board media outlets rushed to pin the attacks on ‘jihadists’ and first impressions often define people’s reactions. The far-right would stand to gain from a mass revulsion at attack of this nature from that source and it would stand to gain a wider hearing for its politics as well as increased support. Furthermore, the removal of the Norwegian Prime Minister, which seems to have been the goal of these attacks, would have led to a period of extreme unrest and social chaos. Of course, this by no means proves anything, BUT it has to be said that two things combined (a departure by AQ from its previous pattern of behaviour if it’s responsible and the obvious gains for the far-right) make a compelling circumstantial case.
We can see the dangers of the wrong reaction in the fact that hours after the attacks it was reported the English Defence League attacked a mosque in ‘retaliation’ for the Oslo attacks in Luton. Even if the likes of Al Qaeda do turn out to be responsible we still have to ensure we do not slip into lazy and ignorant generalisations about a entire body of faith and an entire body of people. What has happened in Oslo is a tragedy; let’s not compound that tragedy by encouraging the destruction of more innocent peoples lives by knee-jerk reactions and sloppy generalisations.