Foreign Policy | We hope, and perhaps need, a man who would gun down teenagers in cold blood to be mad. How could a man who is not insane carry out such heinous acts? What possible justification could make anyone act so barbarously? And yet all around the world when others have carried out atrocities of similar horror -- from the genocidaires of Rwanda to the al Qaeda butchers of Baghdad -- those of us lucky enough to live in the safe and comfortable global north have asked -- what made them do it? Their political ideology? Their interpretation of their religion? Calling them mad is not enough.To do so requires an appreciation of a transatlantic movement that often calls itself "the counter-jihad." As his writings indicate, Breivik is clearly a product of this predominantly web-based community of anti-Muslim, anti-government, and anti-immigration bloggers, writers, and activists -- no matter how much the movement's leading lights may deny this and denounce his actions.
In contrast, the counter-jihad movement defines itself in part in opposition to neo-Nazis, indeed taking great pains to attempt to show that the Nazis were "socialists." This is taken to rather silly lengths where modern European social democrats (and even U.S. President Barack Obama and American Democrats) are called "socialists" alongside other "socialists" like Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Marx, and -- of course -- Hitler. Breivik's manifesto reproduces in full an essay by a well-known Norwegian counter-jihad writer called only "Fjordman" that argues that socialists and Nazis are one. This may seem ridiculous to anyone with a grasp of modern world history, but clearly was very important in leading Breivik to target a youth camp of the Norwegian Labour Party.