By C.M. | COPENHAGEN
EVER since Anders Behring Breivik fired the opening volley of the shooting spree that took the lives of at least 85 youngsters on the small Norwegian island of Utøya on Friday, every few hours has brought some new shock.
The latest revelation is that the 32-year-old Norwegian appears to have spent nine years planning the massacre. This, at least, is the claim in an extraordinary 1,500-page document Mr Breivik published on the internet a few hours before the first part of his two-pronged attack—the bombing of a government complex in Oslo.
Mr Breivik’s manifesto exposes his preparations as meticulous and obsessive. According to his own testimony he spent several years earning money to finance the attacks. He moved into his mother’s apartment to save money on rent and gradually distanced himself from friends and relatives in order to avoid suspicion.
During this time he read and contributed to far-right and Islamophobic websites, and spent many hours learning how to build a bomb.
He stage-managed his own image, taking dozens of self-portraits in which he appears in a variety of uniforms—police, paramilitary and traditional Norwegian costume—and publishing them online. His preparations for these photos included visits to tanning salons and beauty parlours.
The final phase involved leasing an isolated farmhouse. This gave him solitude, an excuse for buying the huge amount of fertiliser he needed for the bomb, and a barn big enough to store it.
Mr Breivik went to elaborate lengths to conceal his purpose. People who wanted to visit were told he was busy with the summer harvest, though he knew nothing of farming. He was apparently content to let a rumour circulate that he had dropped out of circulation in shame over a homosexual affair.
Mr Breivik's manifesto—“2083. A European Declaration of Independence”—also provides some insight into his motivations. His ideology appears to be a form of reactionary Christian fundamentalism, fuelled by hatred of Islam, Marxism and non-whites.
Page after page detail his thoughts on politics and society. He rails against the European Union, the United Nations and other transnational organisations. Norwegian politicians are castigated: the right-wing Progress Party (to which he once belonged) is condemned as too tame and the ruling Labour Party comes in for particularly vicious attack.
Mr Breivik’s hatred has stunned Norwegians. The country has a proud reputation as an international peace-broker, is home to the Nobel peace prize and has scant appetite for rightist radicalism. Even during its heyday under the Nazi occupation, Vidkun Quisling’s fascist Nasjonal Samling Party mustered no more than 2.5% of the vote. In 2009's general election, the neo-Nazi party Vigrid won just 179 votes.
The only serious far-right violent incident in recent years was the murder, in 2001, of Benjamin Hermansen, the 15-year-old son of a Norwegian mother and Ghanaian father. Two members of BootBoys, a neo-Nazi group, were convicted of the killing.
Following the murder anti-racism rallies took place throughout Norway, with some 40,000 people joining a candlelit procession through Oslo’s streets. This year, on the tenth anniversary of the murder, 5,000 people gathered for a vigil.
Far-right extremists have kept a low profile in recent years. Norway’s intelligence services have warned of a potential threat, but the population and the media were more focused on the possibility of Islamist violence.
What far-right activity there was seems to have occurred online. And although these were monitored by intelligence agencies, Mr Breivik's determined attempts to conceal his plans appear to have ensured he stayed under the radar until it was too late.