The following is a cross-post from progress:
On the island of Utoeya, the Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (AUF), or youth league of the Norwegian Labour Party, held its annual summer camp. For decades, young minds have gathered to share intellectual dialogue and camaraderie, learning how they might better themselves and our planet. Amongst the alumni of the AUF camp are the Norweigan prime minister and the secretary general of the Council of Europe. Last Friday, Anders Behring Breivik carried out a series of massacres, including at the AUF camp, laying waste to bright young political hopefuls and no doubt future world leaders.
Breivik designed the attacks to try and bring revolution in Norway, viewing the ruling Labour party as too liberal or as soft on immigration. He is a racist and he will fail. Sadly, his actions highlight a worrying trend for radicalisation across borders – anchored online.
It is unsurprising that reports quickly circulated of Breivik’s internet posts, for example, his 12-minute gun-wielding anti-Muslim rant on YouTube. As Dr. Matthew Goodwin of Nottingham University outlined, his 1500 page English document posted online under a pseudonym prior to the attacks suggested ideas influenced by British groups like the English Defence League (EDL). Reports have suggested he is linked to other far right, anti-Islamic organisations and spent years planning the operation – perhaps receiving tips online. Meanwhile far-right fans of Breivik’s have posted in their hundreds, giving frightening messages of support. At the same time conspiracy theorists blamed first the Muslims and then the Jews for his attacks.
It is not only lone wolves that are accessing the internet to conspire for hate attacks. As I have outlined countless times, football hooligans continue to organise in online forums. Whilst this online co-ordination has been the focus for Panorama documentaries, endless numbers of newspaper articles and conferences there has been no big strategic crackdown on the protagonists. We are now very close to the 2012 European Football championships, Polish and Ukrainian thugs continue to organise their activities online unimpeded. In my view, police internet taskforces should be established as standard for all major international tournaments.
Earlier, this month the UK Government hosted a cross-Departmental conference at our urging on combating personal harm on the internet. I know that the Foreign Office also plan to address these matters. It was the start of a process in which we are expecting to have to take baby steps. The Oslo attacks only underline the need to expedite this process.
The murders also highlight the vital importance of recording incidents, with a low threshold, to ensure comprehensive monitoring of hate crime. Earlier this year the European commission gave a substantial grant to the UK Community Security Trust (CST) and three other European NGOs to improve that monitoring process throughout the European Union. Despite increases in hate crime, state-held data is inconsistent at best, save for the UK where the CST and police are examples of best practice. The CST project will help standardise criteria for hate crime data collection and improve training, this is critical if we are to understand the relevant trends in hate activity.
On the island of Utoeya , the AUF met to expand their minds, it is our duty to ensure that the actions of one man with a narrow, racist vision serves only to reinvigorate our fight against his worldview and the tools he used to pursue it.