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While nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer, nothing is more difficult than to understand him.
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Many people, both inside and outside of Norway, are now struggling to make sense of the horrific terrorist attack that recently took place on what was once peaceful Norwegian soil and how anyone could so cold-bloodedly slaughter so many people, especially young teenagers.
And while arguments are raging and fingers are pointing regarding the causes and influences concerning the devastating attack, at its base the horrible massacre may not be a political act at all. Like with Communist, Nazi and Islamic terrorists, the psychological motivations behind Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik’s heinous murderous spree are to be found in thanatophilia, or worship of death, rather than in any political or religious dogma.
Some of the personal facts presented so far concerning Breivik are striking in their similarity to those of terrorists involved in the three other great death movements mentioned above despite the eras being decades apart and very different in culture and traditions. Like many of the Communist, Nazi and Islamist terrorists, Breivik was young, intelligent, educated and did not live in poverty. Breivik, according to his own account, also lacked religious feeling and was a nominal Christian, if that.
“I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person as that would be a lie,” Breivik is reported to have written in his manifesto. “I’ve always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment.”
Concerning Breivik’s religious adherence, Asia Times columnist Spengler (a literary pseudonym) rightly states: “It cheapens our grief to identify Breivik …as a Christian. And it denigrates Norway’s terrible loss to instrumentalize the event.”
Another trait Breivik shares with the three death movements is his willingness to die for his stated cause. Breivik expressed his death wish in his manifesto, indicating he fully expected to die during his murderous rampage. He wrote that in the days leading up to the massacre he was going to have a “last martyrdom celebration” with a couple of call girls and some expensive bottles of wine. He also was going to attend a “final martyr’s mass.” The two preparatory events were intended to ease his mind which he imagined would get “tense and very nervous.
“It is easier to face death if you know you are biologically, mentally and spiritually at ease,” Breivik wrote, showing his shooting spree was to be a suicide-terrorist act.
Boston College historian Anna Geifman has analysed this death wish found among terrorists in her book Death Orders: The Vanguard of Modern Terrorism in Revolutionary Russia. Geifman claims modern terrorism has its roots in the radical socialist terrorist movement of pre-revolutionary Russia, starting about 1905, and traces its development to the present day.
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