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The Norway Horror: Nativism Gone Mad

July 28, 2011

Norway's Utoya Island, tranquil site of the terrorist attack

What can you say about a lone gunman who massacred some six dozen young campers on a peaceful green island in a deep-blue lake in picture-perfect Norway? That he was a monster? Certainly. That he was insane? Questionable. That he feared and resented a surging tide of Islam in Western Europe? Absolutely. That he blamed his country’s liberal government for giving those Muslims a free pass to immigrate and procreate? Yes again, unfortunately.

Self-appointed European savior Anders Breivik is a nativist, possibly the most extreme example of the breed since Hitler. His crime was years in the making, as young Breivik tangled with Muslim gang members in Oslo and watched Mohammed’s crescent rise over entire sections of the Norwegian capital. In some Oslo schools, only a minority of students currently speak Norwegian. Such a sweeping demographic shift over just a few decades has to trigger the inner alarm systems of sensitive individuals, and eventually Anders Breivik had all he could take.

Portrait of a terrorist: gunman Anders Behring Breivik

The blond Nordic avenger had read alarmist accounts of the emerging “Eurabia,” the Islamicized Europe that would represent the ultimate triumph of the medieval Caliphate. Europe had turned back the Muslim tide at the gates of Vienna in 1683, but here they were again. In his own land, no less. Breivik’s anger smoldered until he could no longer contain it; he had to act.

Did he venture into Oslo’s Muslim quarter to vent his rage? No, apparently he set off a bomb at a key government building in Oslo, then cleverly masqueraded as a policeman at a camp for the children of liberal Norwegian families — the same liberals who seemed to roll over passively in response to the Muslim incursion. He’d show them.

Am I attempting to justify the wanton massacre of innocent young campers on a summer retreat — an unimaginable, unforgivable rampage that magnifies every parent’s worst nightmare ten times over? Of course not. Am I even trying to justify Breivik’s nativist rage? No, I’m simply exercising my ability to understand where that rage came from. I do understand it, even though I revile the man and his crime.

Unlike the United States, which has long positioned itself as a land of immigrants, European nation-states like Norway grew up around a single ethnic group speaking a single language and practicing a single religion: Christianity. All three of those traditions are eroding now, as Muslim “guest workers” have established permanent colonies throughout Western Europe.

All this demographic change raises a thorny question: should nations be allowed to preserve a modicum of ethnic “purity” that guarantees a future for the genes, language, culture and traditions they’ve nurtured over the centuries? Or does such talk veer too close to the kind of hysterical nationalism championed by a certain  infamous mustachioed dictator back in the 1930s? 

It doesn’t have to be all or none. I believe that nations have a right and even a duty to preserve their singular identity. You don’t preserve it by committing genocide against the aliens in your midst, or by mowing down dozens of innocent young campers at an island retreat. And unless you’re the United States, you don’t do it by permitting unlimited immigration until your urban communities deteriorate into bastions of sullen and penurious outsiders. Most of Western Europe has been erring in the latter direction, and staunch nativists like Anders Breivik have been driven to rage.

But just how extensive is the ethnic shift in Europe? Will we see Eurabia in our lifetimes, or has someone been jiggling the statistical evidence? There’s no question that alarmists have been inflating the Muslim population  trends for dramatic effect. One particularly absurd report claimed that the average Muslim woman in France produced 8.1 children, compared to 1.8 for native French women. In reality, Europe is in no danger of becoming majority-Muslim by mid-century, as commonly feared by the right-wing nativist resistance. Muslim birth rates in Europe are actually dropping, gradually approaching the anemic levels currently mustered by native Europeans.

Still, France is already ten percent Muslim, with larger concentrations in the big cities and a much higher percentage among the young. And there’s no sign of significant assimilation, as the Muslims typically confine themselves to ghettos and preserve their alien ways. When Parisians politely speak of the “youths” in their midst, they’re actually referring to those troublesome Muslim youths.

By contrast, Norway is only three percent Muslim, though the Islamic presence is more visible in and around Oslo. Breivik’s early run-ins with Muslim gangs, coupled with his inflammatory reading and his own florid imagination, combined to produce a monster. Was the man deluded in fearing the rise of an Islamic Europe? Not entirely, but let’s say his fears were greatly exaggerated. Like so many extremists, he apparently confined his reading to sources that fed his prejudices.

Here’s the nub of the problem behind virtually all extremist thinking: these people borrow their ideas almost exclusively from thinkers who think the way they think. They read books written by authors who think the way they think. They watch newscasts by journalists and pundits who think the way they think. They even restrict their social contacts to friends and colleagues who think the way they think. When you have an ideology to protect, you can’t consort with infidels.

The Internet makes it easier than ever to screen out opinions that clash with your own; you simply avoid reading articles from the other side of the ideological tracks. It’s no wonder that relatively unbiased news sources like CNN and Newsweek have been struggling for an audience. We don’t want the truth; we want our own thoughts neatly and persuasively packaged for our consumption.

Mourning the dead: the assassin saw them as symbols, not people

In these bewildering times, more and more of us crave certainty so we can feel a little more at home in the cosmos. We crave that certainty even if it means becoming a little untethered from reality. So we see legions of lower-middle class Americans, victims of the worst economic downturn in eighty years, swallowing the conservative Kool-Aid and voicing violent opposition to tax hikes for the rich. They’ve been told that taxation is evil and un-American, they believe it, and they cling to that belief as if it were the Rock of Ages.

In Norway, Anders Breivik convinced himself that his native land was under assault by malevolent conquerors, and he reinforced that belief by immersing himself in the literature of hate. In the end it was all he could see. Borrowed ideas supplanted the sights, sounds, textures and aromas of real life; a tranquil, tree-shaded island retreat became a nest of treacherous collaborators. This homicidal ideologue wasn’t killing individuals with families and youthful aspirations. He was killing symbols of liberal thought, and one target was the same as another.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. AMAC permalink
    July 29, 2011 12:09 am

    I am a father of three and I cannot imagine going through that. I feel terrible for the familes of those victims.

    • lovetheocean permalink
      July 29, 2011 12:16 am

      It is so unthinkable…unbearable to imagine. And, there is nothing that can be done to help those poor families that have lost children.

  2. lovetheocean permalink
    July 29, 2011 12:12 am

    I’ve thought a lot about the idea of trying to preserve native cultures. Those cultures, throughout the world, seem like treasures to me. But, I’ve come to conclude that if a country values the kind of openness that allows in people with different cultural practices, that is the country’s choice. Open countries are always democracies, and the people speak. If that’s their choice, who are we, as outsiders, to criticize?

    • July 29, 2011 9:20 am

      I suppose you’re right, lovetheocean. I feel torn, of course: I love those “pure” ethnic cultures, but when you think about it, not many of them in Europe are more than a thousand years old. That’s a drop in the bucket of time.

      I still think these countries should limit immigration so the change doesn’t take place so rapidly, though. And “liberal” Europeans really aren’t doing democracy a favor by accommodating large Muslim populations, some of whom are clamoring for sharia law.

      I toured Europe pretty extensively back in 1971, and aside from some Pakistanis in London and a handful of North Africans in Paris, there was no evidence of Islam anywhere. That’s a lot of change for Europeans to absorb in one lifetime.

  3. July 29, 2011 9:49 am

    Immigrants are our culture. Even American Indians came here all to recently from somewhere else. For more than half a millenia this has been the land where the streets are paved with gold, the hope and aspiration of people throughout the world.
    We are beaners, micks, wops, chinks, kikes, coons, crackers, dagos, dinks, frogs, gooks, greasers, hebes, honkies, japs, paddies, poloks, ragheads, squareheads, wogs, ….
    Few of our parents had anyone’s permission to come here. And mostly we were not wanted.

    Freedom – the right to make of yourself whatever you can. To be all you can be. The aspiration for a better life – if not for ourselves, then for our children. The American dream. That is our culture.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      July 30, 2011 11:44 am

      God knows I disagree with most of your ideas about economics, but all the same, that was beautiful; you certainly do have a way with words.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        July 30, 2011 11:47 am

        Above comment directed at dhlii, not Rick (I thought I hit reply….).

      • August 1, 2011 2:03 pm

        Thank you for the compliment.

        The root of my views on immigration and those on economics are the same – freedom.

    • July 30, 2011 1:06 pm

      dhlii: That’s a beautiful ode to the American melting pot (Emma Lazarus would approve), but the sensitive issue here is whether the traditional nation-states (e.g., France, Norway, the Netherlands, etc.) have a right to preserve their centuries-old cultural identity from changes introduced by immigrants. I think they do. But here’s the touchy part: do you forcibly assimilate the newcomers into the mainstream culture, restrict immigration in the first place, try to outbreed the immigrants (a losing battle, given Europe’s anemic birth rates), or simply surrender to the inevitable forces of history?

      The issue will be gathering more steam here in the U.S. as we deal with a huge non-assimilating population from a single ethnic group (unlike the polyglot American immigrants of the past). Stay tuned, everyone…

      • August 1, 2011 2:43 pm

        I think I understand your argument. I just disagree.
        I can argue for open immigration, free trade, free markets – because they provide the best outcome, but I would be for these even if that were not true. I believe that individual liberty is a birth right not the munificence of government.
        From that starting point, neither you nor I nor Norway, can dictate who may come and who may not, culture, assimilation, or the color I paint my house.

        Beyond that I would suggest you check your premises. I would support open immigration from central and south American even if they truly were a single huge homogeneous non-assimilating ethnic group – but even NRO backed down on that claim when they looked at the real data. In all of US history there are only two significant ethnic groups with distinctly different patters of assimilation – Blacks, and Asians. Both are set apart by radically different treatment by the law. Asian assimilation has shifted to more normal patterns with the elimination of special laws restricting where they can live and work.

        There are nearly 2 million muslims in the US, yet with a few extremely rare exceptions the eggregious acts are committed by outsiders. We are unsuccessful in altering their religious affiliation, but whether US immigration self selects moderates or whether our cultural influence moderates them – most likely both. We change them and they change us – and both for the better.

        There are approximately 12 million “illegal aliens” mostly from the south in this country. Every aspect of their process of assimilation tracks that of prior waves of immigrants from other cultures. Even our unfounded fears match perfectly with those of the past.

        We are too distant from the Irish and Italian waves of immigration a century ago to recall our fears real and imagined, that they were all criminals diluting our culture and destroying our religion.

        The Irish Mob, La Cosa Nostra, Mafia, these are just some of the ethnic criminal groups of our past.

        Throughout US history the primary impediment to assimilation has been government. Modern immigrants are not only NOT different, but we are repeating exactly the same arguments as we did in the past, with as little substance now as then.

        There is only one major difference between the wave of south and central americans and those of the past. Today we have constructed a government social safety net that is incompatible with open immigration.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        August 2, 2011 11:59 am

        Reply to dhlii: I admire your strength of commitment to the concept of freedom and your idealism.


        We have no freedom that does not bump up against someone else’s and then they have to be balanced, thus limiting all parties’s freedom. A child in what Freud called the ID stage may seem to be looking for his total freedom, but he isn’t, he is looking for the boundaries so he can feel like the world is safe. I have known parents who would not curb their children’s “freedom,” even on a crowded night flight, a pox on those people.

        To be truly free you would have to be either a single semi-naked person living in the woods and eating grubs or the dictator of a nation, say Castro or Saddam Hussein. In the first case no one else has to pay for your unlimited freedom but you can only use to decide things like when you want to eat grubs or whether you are too picky to eat worms, and in the second case your perfect freedom only regards your own nation and may end painfully with the ultimate freedom, via the noose. Not to mention that it comes at the price of oppressing everyone else’s freedom.

        In economic terms, we live in a society and we trade a good measure of our freedom for stability and increased opportunities of the group.

        I don’t mean to have any nasty tone to this, but your statements like “all the serious problems are solved in the end, but never by government” or words to that effect have a nice ring, but if you haven’t accepted the proof to the contrary of this that surrounds you, then I do not know how one can argue with you, you would not feel it if an elephant sat on your head if it did not fit your beliefs to feel it! There can only ever be limited economic freedom, even for a despot. Without government there would not be modern medicine or transportation, life expectancy in the human pre-government era was what, 25? Now that’s freedom!

  4. Kent permalink
    August 1, 2011 6:17 am


    If a country has a made a choice not to assimilate then that is there choice.

    The planet is not expanding and the population is….what do you expect? Everyone isn’t going to think, or think wisely…neither all the time.

    Especially when people want to hold on to the territory, culture, items, etc. forever and not accept change happens.

    • August 2, 2011 12:26 pm

      Kent (and Dave, and Ian): Here’s an example from history. England has undergone a number of major ethnic shifts in the past. The Celts (aka Britons) immigrated from the mainland and gradually replaced the indigenous population (the mysterious folks who built Stonehenge). Then, around 600 AD, the Anglo-Saxons invaded from Germany and drove the Celts to the fringes of the island. Danes invaded a few hundred years later and overwhelmed northern England. In 1066 the Normans invaded under William the Conqueror. The Normans didn’t become the majority, but they imposed their rule and their culture over the land.

      It’s true that England became a great nation after all these invasions. But with each successive wave of newcomers, the native culture was irrevocably changed by the conqueror’s culture. Celtic England essentially became history after the Anglo-Saxon invasion, and Anglo-Saxon England lost its special character after the Norman invasion.

      The same thing will happen to Europe if Muslims ever become the majority — and the change would be a lot more far-reaching because of the tremendous power of Islam over the lives of the people. Most of us would agree that Europe wouldn’t be a better place for this change. Instead of the kind of positive change that took place in England, we’d probably see the dawn of a new Dark Age. (We can make similar assumptions about a future Hispanic USA, though the changes here wouldn’t be as dire as in Europe. We’d simply become a big third-world country; Europe would be enslaved by an inflexible and oppressive religious culture.)

      I don’t think Europe should just roll over and accept irreversible cultural change while they have the power to prevent it. Change is natural, yes… it’s part of history. But for God’s sake, if two millennia of European history are hanging in the balance, Europe needs to be a little more concerned about the direction it’s taking. I’d tell them, Don’t let the decision-making fall to fanatics like Anders Breivik.

      • valdobiade permalink
        August 2, 2011 3:16 pm

        Thanks for underlying the difference between Europe and North America.

        Can you make your case of “multi-culturalism/ religion” for South America?
        I guess it would be very hard for mostly Catholic South America to “invite” Muslims to live together… hmm?

      • Kent permalink
        August 3, 2011 9:23 am

        I would think Europe would question whether they want to change by acceptance of new beliefs in their own life’s than to be oppressed by one they didn’t invite.

  5. August 1, 2011 3:09 pm

    There is no special right to be an “american” (or norwegian or russian, or ..) these are all accidents of our birth. For those of us born as affluent white males of european descent in the united states there are tremendous benefits to that accident. But that is all it is an accident. It creates no obligation to share those benefits – to “spread the wealth”, but it also does not entitle us to deprive others of the same opportunity.

    What I call the american dream – the right to aspire to make of yourself whatever you wish, is universal. People come here to follow it, because it is possible here more so than anywhere else. That is “american exceptionalism”. It alone places us at the pinnacle of the world. It is why we are (still) the worlds largest producer, and consumer. We remain exceptional only to the extent the rest of the world chooses to be less free.

    That we will not accept the best and brightest of the rest of the world who willingly choose to come here is ludicrous, still we should be happy to have anyone willing to work hard and looking to better themselves and their children, even if that is the only value they bring with them.

    • valdobiade permalink
      August 2, 2011 3:29 pm

      dhlii wrote: That we will not accept the best and brightest of the rest of the world who willingly choose to come here is ludicrous,

      Actually this is the problem, the US wants to accept *only* the best and brightest of the rest of the world… up until recently when the best and brightest of the US don’t need anymore cheap labor or as you call them: beaners, micks, wops, chinks, kikes, coons, crackers, dagos, dinks, frogs, gooks, greasers, hebes, honkies, japs, paddies, poloks, ragheads, squareheads, wogs, ….

  6. Scottie-Mama permalink
    August 1, 2011 3:54 pm

    Excellent article, Rick. I am becoming a regular visitor to your website.

    • August 2, 2011 12:31 pm

      Thanks, Scottie-Mama! Glad you’re becoming one of our New Moderate Regulars.

  7. lovetheocean permalink
    August 3, 2011 3:31 am

    Sometimes a country or a region gets on an unstoppable trajectory. That may be what’s happening in Europe now because most European countries are allowing in members of a culture who, for the most part, will not assimilate and who plan to hold firm to their own religious culture. And, there’s the anemic birth rate of the non-Muslim Europeans. Denmark has taken some steps to tighten immigration laws for all non-Danes. One must wait 7 years to become a citizen. Forced marriages (apparently a Muslim practice) are discouraged by not letting anyone already in Denmark to bring in a spouse if either spouse is under 24. These types of measures are tepid because Denmark is an open society, and I can’t see that that will change. So, really, aren’t the Danes and other Europeans on an unstoppable trajectory? I think the US of A is on a different kind of unstoppable trajectory…a trajectory towards becoming a Third World country. I am floored by the following statistic in my state of California: 46% of newborns in CA are covered by California’s version of Medicaid, the health care program for the poorest of the poor. That means that half of the future generations of California will live in poverty because poor children rarely make it out of poverty. I’m sure there are some other states not far behind CA. I call this an unstoppable trajectory. I think unstoppable trajectories are just the way of cultural, political, social, and probably every other kind of evolution.

    • August 3, 2011 10:07 am

      lovetheocean: Ideally those trajectories should be stopped before they become unstoppable (easy for me to say now, of course). Europe should have noticed the growing ranks of sullen outsiders in their cities and done something to restrict or curtail their guest-worker programs. And the U.S. should have clamped down on illegal immigrants long before there were 12-20 million of them scattered throughout the country. Too late now.

      And who determines how open a society should be? The Department of Commerce? The people? (And if so, which people?) You could end up with a situation comparable to what we see in the Netherlands, with a right-wing faction violently opposed to the lax immigration policies of the government.

      In the end, it really seems that Western Civilization is going into an irreversible decline, and that we’ll soon be eclipsed by the rising Asian juggernauts. Even if our chapter is drawing to a close, I’d still resolve to do what I can (moderately, of course) to prolong that chapter. It seems weak-willed to let the forces of history have their way with us. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for just living in the moment and loving the ocean. Especially the Pacific. 😉

      • Kent permalink
        August 3, 2011 10:40 am


        It is obvious that the Asian powers with their size of land and population would eventually catch up to speed and use more resources than any other nation.

        The question is: Whether their is enough resources for the Asian nations to grow exponentially? Answer: Just enough, but for how long?

        While this happens I will expect Americans to outsource due to our high Corporate Taxes and Union contracts.

        Asian nations need the resources so they will also ask for skilled workers, teachers.

        If they have a need and there are few resources….I would start thinking about higher prices eventually and speaking Chinese if you want keep up.

    • Kent permalink
      August 3, 2011 10:16 am


      I think that it is a choice to what trajectory you wish to pursue. Each individual, state, and/or nation has that ability to stand up and change. Without change you are continuing an evolution based on past choices. In other words things just keep happening…like a “snowball effect”.

      Population expansion…more poverty, more wealth. Question what percentile will it be for both? Answer: What ever the Power hungry owners of the World’s banks dictate is the way it will be.

      The Power hungry owners of these National Reserve banks in each nation dictate the interest rate. Win/Lose a war…no problem….the one who owns the money at the bank still wins via financing the war loans.

      Where else can you finance both sides? rich (loans) and poor (check cashing) and come out ahead.

      You throw in Karl Marx(Democrats) and Adam Smith(Rep.) and now you have a mission statement to manipulate people’s minds. It is all about the money.

      This is where Centrist philosophy separates and deals strictly with logic, common sense, and reality. Money should not be anything but a tool and not an obsession. In fact, if money was eliminated into a new form of bartering such as “Work Credit’s”. Then it would eliminate such greed at the top. Still individuals would be responsible on how they live and spend their credits, but no one would own them in a hierarchy Adam Smith bank scheme.

      Happiness may take more of a front seat that personal vendettas. I would rather be happy and comfortable than wealthy and comfortable.

      But then attraction for the greed of money is what a majority seems to want from my perception…and death and poverty will follow.

      Get out of debt…don’t be a slave to “money changers” the same people that dismayed Jesus. Apparently, he saw the “big picture” of the future.

  8. peterkiernan permalink
    August 6, 2011 3:12 am

    Very interesting indeed – has resonance with my own experience in Ireland. There the vision of a Gaelic Ireland untouched by the centuries of political entanglement with Britain has fueled a century long revival which has been successful in renewing interest in traditional Gaelic sports and considerably less successful in doing the same for the Gaelic language. Despite this however a student of Irish History must recognise that it is precisely that entanglement with the UK which has been the principle drive behind the evolution of a distinct ‘Irish’ identity over the past two hundred years. It is true to say that certain unique traditions like that of the Gaelic poets have died out entirely, but in return Ireland has made major contributions to modern English poetry by drawing on the equally unique ‘Hiberno-English’ created by the interaction of both cultures. I don’t think it is possible to make a moral judgement here, the loss of some aspects of Gaelic culture is lamentable but natural, and an equally vibrant culture (that of Yeats, Joyce, Shaw etc) has taken its place. I think Europe will cope with the influx of immigrants (consider how positive the Indian presence has been in the UK, for my generation there is no conception of London that does not include the alluring mix of Indian and British culture). These cultures will be altered in the process but if they were to cease to undergo growth and change they would ossify and die.

    I myself have known many Irish-Muslims, and though the Islamic sense of self-identity is strong those who grow up in Ireland cannot help but develop an instantly recognisable Irish sensibility – the only danger (which you do discuss) is the emergence of communities that largely ‘stick to themselves’ and avoid integration. From this comes the possibility of discrimination, prejudice even violence but I don’t think it is possible for these communities to persist in the long term without undergoing eventual assimilation – likewise those who hold out against the change that is inevitable with immigration will find themselves left behind as the culture begins to evolve. Assimilation of course must indicate not that the immigrant populations give up their native culture in favour of that of the host nation (I don’t see how this is even possible in the first place!) but that there is a genuine interaction between both the immigrant and native populations such that both are changed in the process.

    For a slightly more sceptical view of the situation in the US with regards to immigration though it is true that there are more immediate issues with regards to integration in Europe (BNP, the tragic shooting in Norway, le Pen) that are the result of the strong sense of national identity that has developed over the centuries here – I do think that in the long run integration will proceed with success. In the US however it seems that a sense of national identity is based more on a shared set of principles than on a shared culture or history – this has its benefits in that it does make it possible for those of any creed to make the US their home (as long as they assent to that shared set of principles) but ultimately it seems like the various cultural groups are just left to interact as they wish without any cohesive drive to encourage a genuine meeting of cultures. The results can be strikingly negative. This is purely from the position of an outside observer but when I look to the UK where there is a significant British-African presence there isn’t any sense of a distinction between ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ as cultural groupings. Whereas there is an overwhelming sense of racial tension coming from the American media which reaches Ireland. The recently released film ‘The Guard’ is an excellent example of an alternative perspective on the ‘melting pot’ – many I expect will interpret the humour (the scenario thrusts a rural Irish police officer in with an African-American FBI agent) as relating to Irish naivety and unfamiliarity with foreign cultures (an example would be ‘but I thought only black people dealt drugs’ a question asked by said rural police officer) but in fact we are well aware of racial history of the US and the humour is intended to point back at the image generated by the American media of the racial dynamic there. Satirizing it.

  9. permalink
    August 29, 2011 12:33 pm

    My comments are aside from the tragic event in Norway.

    Why do Muslims have ANY “right” to be anywhere in Europe? I will take just one good answer.

    Muslims need to improve their own lands. By immigrating to / invading Europe they are living off of the back of the society that Europeans built for themselves. What gives them the right? There is certainly no need for increased population density. Why should Europeans give their lands, their jobs, and their culture to individuals who are not of that land, whose ancestors have no right nor relation to it, and to a people who do not remotely share the same culture? They do not integrate into the European culture, as a group ( Sharia Law), even when given the chance.

    This is group politics, pure and simple. It is a weakening of the majority group. It is communism propagated through policy instead of war. There is NO rational good reason, demographically or culturally, for this immigration.

    I’ll take one GOOD rational answer behind the immigration policy. It makes zero sense other than in the context of small group politics.

  10. March 9, 2015 9:45 am

    His goals were fantasy, so there’s no doubt he’s a few bricks short of a load, but types of mental illness have tell-tail traits, and psychosis just doesn’t fit the bill.

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