Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norway, Nationalism and the Consequences of Terror

By now everyone who reads this blog has heard of the tragic events in Norway. A radical, right-wing populist blew up a car bomb in front of the office building containing the Prime Minister's office, killing seven, then drove to a summer camp for the youth organization of the Norwegian Labor Party where he killed another 85 or so innocent people. The murderer was eventually caught alive and has confessed to the mass murder.

He targeted members of the Labor Party because he associates them with the generally welcoming attitude towards immigrants that has typified Scandinavian politics for most of the post WWII era. I strongly suspect his goal in murdering so many of the party's youth organization was to sabotage that party's future. I strongly suspect he may only have succeeded in radicalizing the Labor Party (the largest party in Norway) and encourage them to lead the charge against right wing populism.

He was a former member of the youth organization of a rival party in Norway, the Progress Party. The Progress Party is a far right wing populist party known for its antipathy to taxes, the welfare state and multiculturalism and immigration. The Progress Party is part of a cluster of right wing populist parties that emerged in Denmark, Norway and Sweden in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, these parties include the Norwegian Progress Party, the Danish Peoples Party (formerly the Progress Party) and the Swedish Democrats. Despite their progressive sounding names, these parties are typically nationalist, socially conservative, xenophobic and fiscally populist. In short, if an American were trying to figure out who these parties are, thinking of them as the Scandinavian answer to the "Tea Party" wouldn't be a bad start. Like the Tea Party, they often oppose the welfare state in the general rhetorical stance but just as often support aspects of it that can be restricted to those members of society they deem to be deserving (a status often implicitly or explicitly dependent on ethnicity). Also like the Tea Party they are vehemently opposed to immigration. In Scandinavia the most visible immigrant population comes from Turkey and the Middle East. Slogans like "Danmark for Danskerne" (Denmark for the Danes) and "Bevara Sverige Svenskt" (Keep Sweden Swedish) are typical of the kind of rhetoric these parties like to use. As are patently absurd claims such as Norwegian Progress Party's leader, Siv Jensen's claim that Sharia law had replaced Swedish law in Sweden.

The popularity of these parties has been rising for some time. In Denmark, the mainstream conservative coalition of the Liberal Party and the Conservative People's Party depends on votes from the Danish People's Party to pass legislation. In Norway the social democratic Labor Party governs but the Progress Party is probably the fastest growing party in the country. That said, these parties usually represent between 15% and 30% of the voters and usually closer to 15% than 30%.

The fact that the worst case of political violence in Scandinavia since the liberation of Denmark and Norway from Nazi Occupation was perpetrated by a long time supporter/member of such a party may prove to be a major development not just in Norway but in Denmark as well. Denmark's government is constitutionally required to hold an election no later than November of this year. Danish voters will know the Norwegian Progress Party very well and they will understand the issues involved and the inflammatory rhetoric in play very well. The Danish People's Party will have to be careful to distance themselves from the violence without alienating their populist base of support. Many Danes will see a direct connection between the over the top xenophobia and populism of these parties and their leaders. One consequence of these tragic murders could be the decline of the electoral success of these parties and a policy backlash against their views.

This is not to say that these countries will open up to unrestricted immigration, but the increasingly aggressive escalation of policy attacks on immigrants and immigration may stop for a time.


uswest said...

I feel very saddened by these events. I know that for Norwegians, this will change them in ways similar to what we have experienced here. I only spent a brief 3 months in Norway. What I found is that few people seemed willing to really discuss Norwegian politics or society much. They seemed content that their nation was a little socialist paradise of reason, moderation, and respect for privacy. This maybe why this man managed to plot undetected.

The one exception to my observation was a young woman who was a social worker. She worked in the immigrant communities, communities that from my time in Oslo seemed hidden, and she told me of the poor conditions in these communities. This was in 1998. I am not sure if what I observed was typical of Norway, of just that I was an outsider. But if it was typical, than this event will have come as a serious blow to Norwegians who tend, in my experience, to brush the unattractive parts of their world under the rug rather than openly discuss them. They smile, and go to their cabins on the weekends, and don't worry too much about the rest. Politics in Norway seemed very provincial to me. I also find it interesting that the political parties actually run summer camps. But then I guess we have our own youth movements that are attached to politics as well.

Germany has long had right wing parties and, as we know, has kept a close eye on them. They made some arrests last week of some right wing radicals. They said it had no connection to the Norway attack.

The French have their own right-wingers as well. Le Pen comes to mind. And last week, French papers were talking about the difficulty that the Front National has in maintaining its right wing stance while holding back any violence their more radical members might commit.

This should be a lesson for the US was well. Home grown terrorists used to come from the far left (1970s). Now they are from the far right. When Tea partiers are happy to carry weapons to Presidential speeches, I think we need to be very worried.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think you're on target with the comment that Norwegians (and Scandinavians in general) like to sweep unpleasant aspects of their societies under the rug. There is a strong tendency to think that they have perfect societies and that things like political violence and gun crazy mad men are problems that barbaric Americans have and they don't.

I had not heard about a Europe wide crack down on the far right but it doesn't surprise me. The success of far right in the last 20 years or so is something that makes most mainstream Europeans embarrassed and uncomfortable. Many people in positions of power would readily take the chance to crack down on them.

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