The Oslo Terror Bombing and the Utøya Shootings: Where Is the ‘Man’ in the ‘Gunman’?

22 July 2011 was black day for Norway and for the whole mankind. According to police reports, at least 85 youths have been killed by a gunman that opened fire at an youth camp of the Norwegian Social Democratic Youth (AUF/ Arbeidernes ungdomsfylking) on Utøya – an island close to the Norwegian capital Oslo, just hours after a bomb was detonated in downtown Oslo, in the vicinity of the Norwegian Prime Minister’s offices, killing 7 and wounding dozens. The two attacks are the worst to occur in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings in which 191 people missed their lives. The terror attack in downtown Oslo was first assumed by an Islamist terrorist organization, and some European medias had hurried to collectively condemn Islam, such as the Italian Il Giornale that read ‘It is always them who attack us’ (‘Sono sempre loro ci attaccano’) only to alter its main page hours later as new information uncovered that the Norwegian police has apprehended a man whom they suspected was the perpetrator of both attacks (see, in Italian ecco qui).

The main suspect, Anders Behring Breivik (32) is a native Norwegian, residing in a wealthy neighborhood in Western Oslo. A first insight into the main suspect’s background was that he was a lone man that lived together with his mother, who during the past few years has had several companies. His latest enterprise (Breivik Geofarm in Rena) founded in 2009 apparently activated in agriculture, through which he apparently purchased around 6 tons of fertilizers, which seems to have been used to manufacture the explosives in the two bombs (the one detonated in downtown Oslo, and the other one found on Utøya) (in Swedish här; in Norwegian, her). The manner the bombs were made has a strong ressemblance to that used in the attack in Oklahoma City in the USA in 1995 when 168 people were killed. There are speculations that Breivik might have been assisted in his shooting spree by a second person, not yet apprehended by the Norwegian police (in Swedish, här).

As more information continued to be gathered, it was revealed that Breivik had been active in the Oslo western district of the main radical right populist party in Norway the Progress Party (FrP/ Fremskrittspartiet/ Framstegspartiet) since 1999, but disagreed with what he regarded too appeasing an attitude in immigration questions (in Norwegian, her), and was expelled from the party in 2006 for not paying his membership fee. On this regard he was very active on radical right forums where he unveiled his uncompromising stance against what he called the dominating ‘cultural Marxism’ of the Norwegian elites and their constant ‘bashing’ of the nationalist conservative right. Even more so he unleashed a vivid critique against PM Stoltenberg and his Social Democratic Party, talking about ‘Stoltenberg’s jugend’ thus comparing the Norwegian Social Democratic Youth organization to the Nazi ‘Hitler jugend’ (in Swedish, här). A collection of his internet comments on various political issues has been put together and is available on document. no (in Norwegian, her); illustrative are his comments with regard to whom is entitled to be considered a full-fledged Norwegian and his opposition to the inclusive definition of citizenship:

“Everyone who are holders of a Norwegian passport are ‘authentic/full-fledged’ ‘Norwegians’ … Which in other words means that even those Somalis (with a Norwegian passport) who all day (do nothing but) chew khat, do their wives and send half of the social benefits to al-Shabaab should be viewed as fully Norwegian. If anyone in this country DARES to look at these Somalis as something other than full-fledged Norwegians, then they are racists and should be stygmatized publicly. And they say that everyone who disagrees with their extreme cultural-Marxist worldview – the utopian, global citizen definition – are racists?” (my translation, in original in Norwegian, her).

Perplexing, the gender dimension shines with its absence from any media analyzes. It is puzzling that a man in his prime designs such a terror attack on such a scale, not only literally besieging the Norwegian center of power, but also killing a whole generation of future political activists animated by Social Democratic ideals. The questions that flood in on this issue concerns the gendered nature of violence, and the perceived ‘cowardice’ (read unmanliness) of the Norwegian radical right populists that have sold their souls to be accepted by the political mainstream and turned themselves into the puppets of PR firms. Is Breivik the representative of an extreme masculinity that resorts to violence to ascertain its traditional patriarchal masculine values and purify the national body through the physical extermination of those threatening it with a multicultural accommodative project? What sort of parallels can be drawn with the shooting incidents in Finland that I have addressed in earlier blog entries, such as in here? Why was the gender dimension silenced in the media reporting? How far is the ‘far right’, or ‘extreme right’ as the media reported from ‘radical right populism’ that I also wroteabout in here, and here?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 Research No Comments

Obsessing about the Other in Finland: mandatory study of Swedish may turn you into a killer, welcoming refugees spells the end of Finnish nation

Being preoccupied with the Other appears as a multifaceted process in Finland, and it stretches to encompass attitudes against Swedish-speaking Finns and mandatory Swedish-language education in Finnish schools, to fears of national dilution with the apparent increase of asylum seekers and other refugees in the country, a consequence of the clandestine activities of the same Swedish-speakers. However, what they have in common is the danger they posit to the Finnish masculinity, or better said to the typology of Finnish conservative heteropatriachal masculinity heralded by the Finnish radical right populists- the True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna).

A first example is the incident which was mainly discussed on the Finnish Broadcast company’s Swedish language web-pages (här). It is an opinion piece published by Kirkkonummen Sanomat (KS) authored by Voitto Mäkipää (in Finnish, tässä, p. 15). Kirkkonummen Sanomat is, as the name suggests, the local newspaper in Kirkkonummi/ Kyrkslätt, a commune some 30 km away from the Finnish capital. Mäkipää is a local non-affiliated commune councilor on educational matters, who works closely with PS. In his article, Mäkipää argued against the teaching of mandatory Swedish in Finnish schools, the so-called pakkoruotsi/tvångssvenska.  What is surprising, however, is the way Mäkipää claimed in his piece that based on his personal experience of being forced to study a “completely useless” language like pakkoruotsi he has come to understand the frustration of young men that eventually shoot innocent people around them. In this light, he recommended researching which language had to study those who engaged in violent shootings in Finland in the recent past. He then continued unabated that pakkoruotsi is “a relic of the past” and that the Swedish-speaking Finns are the fifth column, which clandestinely undermines the Finnish nation from within.

From a gender-informed perspective, Mäkipää‘s take on the issue of violence in Finnish society obscures completely the widespread gun ownership across the country and focus on stereotypical images of Swedish masculinity (and by means of the common language, transferred over to the Swedish-speaking Finns), as emasculated and weak in comparison to the Finnish heteropatriarchal masculinity in its conservative translation as heralded by the radical right populism of PS. In other words being exposed to Swedish inflicts irreversible damage to Finnish heteropatriachal masculinity and reveals its extreme vulnerability, since violence is the only means to release the frustration of forced-learning and symbolically erase the signs of the less-than-masculine (read Swedish-language exposed). Apparently this is how real Finnish men are crafted: complete resistance to Swedish and everything the Swedish language represents in Finland, and if this is not possible then the only manly solution is indiscriminate violence against innocent bystanders.

In a parallel development that echoes the references to the fifth column of Swedish-speaking Finns, PS has lashed out at the  Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (SFP/ Ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ Svenska folkpartiet) and demanded her resignation. PS accused her for the allegedly too liberal take on Finnish migration policy, which apparently has resulted in a surge in the numbers of asylum seekers in Finland (tässä, här, here). PS reacted to the 6000 or so family reunification applications received by the ministry, which are considered to be the direct effect of the overly lax immigration policy in the past years. What PS did not mention was the extremely high rejection rate of such applications, but in turn focused on the generous financial support offered by the Finnish state to those very few who are granted asylum and allowed to bring their families to Finland. It is not the first time when PS criticized Minister Thors for her work. At times of economic hardship, their accusations may sound very comforting to the disenchanted jobless and economically struggling Finns across the country. The PS implicit critique is that such an attitude risks to undermine the Finnish national being, since the newcomers, mainly from Somalia and Iraq represent an extreme embodiment of the Other, both religiously (i.e. non-Christian) and racially (non-European). The large non-Finnish families would thus change the population dynamic in the country, and undermine the hegemonic position of the Finnish man by exposing him to competition from the Other men.

One may wonder if learning Swedish, even when it is a mandatory discipline, leads to such frustration that justifies violent manifestations against innocent people around (like in the tragic school shootings in Jokela and Kauhajoki; or in the shooting spree in Espoo/ Esbo)? Is Finnish conservative heteropatriarchal masculinity really threatened by Swedish language abilities? Even more worryingly, is the Swedish-speaking Minister of Migration preparing quietly for an invasion of the country of True Finns (the name of the party after all) by cohorts of asylum seekers and their families from Somalia and Iraq? Is this yet another case of thinly veiled anti-Muslim sentiments against the incoming asylum seekers, or a real concern with an explosive immigration in Finland?

After all, in 2008 there were 467 favorable decisions for family reunification , and some 2 170 people were received by Finnish municipalities; one can imagine their impact on the overall Finnish population of 5 326 314 (the numbers are taken from the Finnish statistical public authority, for different language versions: tässä, här, here).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, February 7th, 2010 Miscellaneous No Comments

Violent Masculinities and School Shootings in Finland

Johanna Kantola, Jemima Repo and I are currently working on a paper investigating violent masculinities and school shootings in Finland. Having the feminist research on domestic violence in Finland and critical studies of masculinities as starting points, we analyze the media construction of Finnish masculinities and femininities related to the school shootings. We particularly focus our discussion on the emerging dichotomy between the rational and responsible violence of men that the Finnish army embodies and the irrational, hatred based violence of the perpetrators of school shootings. This dichotomy effectively silences any substantial problematization of violence in the Finnish culture.

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 Research No Comments