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One racist's murderous marketing exercise?

Norwegian killer Anders Breivik's online diatribe has been read around the world, while the media, rather than remembering the victims, has spent more time discussing him and his motives

The 1,500-page statement titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence that Anders Breivik posted on the internet before setting off a car bomb in central Oslo and then heading to the island of Utoya to continue his killing spree, ended with the letters "LOL": laughing out loud. Perhaps he's laughing now, pleased at having achieved what he called "the real marketing operation" that also required the death of 76 people. Photographs of the killer in assorted disguises have been published, and his so-called manifesto has been read around the world, with experts and journalists poring over every page.

Breivik raises the long-standing issue of whether to allow terrorists and extremists to spread their message of hate. The question is whether a brutal killing has now become a deranged racist's successful marketing exercise.

Experts and journalists have pored over every page of the manifesto

Photos of Breivik wearing uniforms are a "provocation", says one sociologist

Many of Breivik's ideas are to be found in the mainstream of political discourse

At least the judge hearing the case refused to allow Breivik to wear a uniform to his trial, and has decided that the hearing will take place in camera . "People here are happy that the first hearing took place behind closed doors to avoid this becoming entertainment," says Katrine Fangen by telephone from Oslo. A sociologist and immigration expert at the University of Oslo, Fangen says that Breivik "seems very image conscious - he has built it up very carefully."

She adds that she is very unhappy at the media's decision to publish photographs of him wearing uniforms. "It is a provocation," she says. But Fangen also believes that Breivik's crime was so barbaric that rather than triggering copycat killings, it has provoked outrage. "From what I can see online, bloggers are calling for tolerance and democratic values."

Most experts and analysts are against silencing the kind of racist or anti-immigration ideas put forward by Breivik, especially when they are effectively demolished through debate. They argue that it is better to beat the hatemongers via argument and reason. But as legal expert Carlos Jiménez Villarejo points out, allowing anti-democratic ideas to be disseminated is the first step to them being picked up and then spread further.

But Breivik's ideas are, like it or not, on the internet, and can be read by all. A large part of 2083: A European Declaration of Independence , written in English, for obvious reasons, is little more than a cut-and-paste of far right blogs. Die Zeit journalist Özlem Topcu, along with several other colleagues, has studied the document in some detail. "We have argued at length as to whether we are giving him a platform to air his ideas," she says. "We have published our analysis on the internet, and the aim is to help people understand what he wrote, to unpick this irrational thinking with its political background. What he wrote is not some kind of attack of madness. Many of his ideas are to be found in the mainstream of political discourse."

Topcu is referring to discussion about the supposed Islamic colonization of Europe. Ideas that are to be found, she says, in the book published by a former Bundesbank board member called Thilo Sarrazin, entitled Deutschland schafft sich ab (or, Germany is doing away with itself). Now a bestseller, it has sold more than 1.2 million copies in Germany, and sparked furious debate.

Anetta Kahane, the head of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which was set up in Germany in 1990 to counter neo-Nazi violence following a spate of attacks against migrants, does not think that Sarrazin's book should be banned. "Of course not, but it is important that we have a debate about what he is saying."

"We have been arguing about this forever," says Alejandro Pizarroso, an expert in propaganda who teaches at the Complutense University in Madrid, when asked if extremist views should be silenced in a democratic society. "Freedom of information is essential. When it comes to freedom of expression, there should be no limits, unless we are talking about publishing a book on how to make bombs. Anybody with a minimum of common sense is not going to identify with these kind of ideas. They are going to be horrified when they read them."

He points out that the ideology that governs ETA's strategy of violence is contained in just about every book published about the Basque independence group over the last three decades, but there is no question of trying to control what historians and journalists write.

That said, Pizarroso is more concerned at the attempts to dismiss Breivik as simply a madman. "Many people are saying that he is crazy. This is the key to the whole question; he is certainly insane, but what is important here is to understand where his ideas came from, and what he is trying to achieve with his manifesto."

Pizarroso is concerned that Breivik's ideas are an extension of mainstream thinking: "that current of European racism that takes in Jean-Marie Le Pen, Geert Wilders, or some people right here in Spain," he says, referring to the anti-immigration grouping Platform for Catalonia, which garnered 67 seats on local councils in the May elections.

The Spanish Supreme Court absolved four neo-Nazis in June who had been charged with spreading ideas about genocide. The judges overseeing the case said that the four were entitled to exercise their right to free speech, and that talking about genocide is not the same as "a direct incitation to commit genocide," nor that they had tried to "create a climate of opinion that could lead to the danger" of attacks against ethnic groups.

Three weeks later, a Dutch court absolved anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders of inciting hatred. "Wilders is being denigrated when he calls Islam a dangerous ideology, but his opinions should be seen within the context of a wider debate in society about multiculturalism," said the court's ruling.

Carlos Jiménez Villarejo, a former anti-corruption judge, and now an advisor to anti-racism NGO SOS Racismo, is deeply concerned about the two rulings. "If a political or social organization defines itself in terms of hatred and excluding others for being different, if they launch systematic attacks or promote the physical elimination of certain groups, they should not be allowed, because this leads to fascism, this undermines the foundations of democracy," he says.

In his opinion, Europe must respond vigorously against extremist ideas. "What happened in Norway didn't just occur from one day to the next, and can happen anywhere," he believes.

But in the age of the internet, it is almost impossible to impose silence. Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf is still banned in Germany, but it can be bought for less than 8 euroson the Amazon website. The Turner Diaries , which inspired Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, is the bible of the far right, according to the FBI. Die Zeit 's Topcu highlights the anti-Islamic aspects of Breivik's manifesto. "I think that anti-Islamism is part of our society already. We can measure it, but our politicians and many others trivialize it."

As a Muslim herself, she is concerned that people believe she is overreacting. "One thing is to say that there are problems with immigration, and another is to blame immigrants because of who they are," she insists.

Last year the Casa Sefarad-Israel, set up by the foreign ministry to promote better understanding of Jewish culture in Spain, carried out a survey to measure anti-Semitism in Spain. This followed what appears to be evidence from other surveys of an alarming increase in hatred against Jews. The survey showed that a third of those polled felt that Jews created problems, and half said the same about Muslims. Just 17 percent felt the same about Catholics.

Carlos Feixa, a social anthropologist and lecturer at the University of Lleida, and an expert on youth movements, believes that Breivik has achieved his goals. "I don't think we should ignore this: we have to talk about it without turning violence into a kind of pornography, which may encourage others to imitate, seeing what has happened as a kind of movie," he says.

"The copycat effect usually takes place in individuals who are already psychologically predisposed to do so and particularly in societies where they are able to feed hatred of foreigners."

Anetta Kahane of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation defines Breivik's killing spree in Norway as "the classic racist attack" and blames the media for talking about Breivik rather than focusing on his many victims. She says the best way to fight others like Breivik is to follow the example of Italy in its combating of the Mafia. "The opposite of a Mafioso is not to be anti-Mafia, and the opposite of far right is not far left. We have to be good democrats and defend our multicultural societies."

Which is why she believes it is more important to tell the stories of the young people killed in Utoya. "From what I have seen on the television they were not all blond and blue-eyed," she points out, adding that if Breivik were really interested in attacking Islam, he would have "blown up a mosque, but instead he decided to attack young, open-minded people, liberals, representatives of a multi-cultural society."

Andrea Böhm, another journalist at Die Zeit who also works with the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, believes that following his arrest, Breivik "has tried to control the debate, and sadly, he has been quite successful."

Böhm says that she is concerned the debate has now been turned in a different and wrong direction. "There are those who say that we should now have a debate about immigration, about multiculturalism. But that is far from what we should be talking about - that is simply converting the victim into the aggressor."

The oxygen of publicity

One of the strangest measures taken to silence terrorist propaganda was Margaret Thatcher's decision to ban members of the IRA from speaking in the British media. "We should try to find ways to deprive the terrorist and the kidnapper of the oxygen of publicity upon which they depend," said the Iron Lady 26 years ago on July 15, 1985.

The previous month, the Shiite militia Hezbollah had seized a TWA passenger jet with 148 people aboard. Several US television stations had broadcast the hostage taking live. It is likely that this influenced Thatcher's decision three years later to impose the ban on allowing IRA members to be interviewed in the media. The British media, and particularly the BBC, protested the move, and reached a compromise whereby IRA leader Gerry Adams' voice would be replaced with that of a journalist. The ban was lifted in 1994 after the IRA declared a full ceasefire.

Spain did not need to copy the move. ETA was never allowed to publish anything in the mainstream media, nor were its members interviewed, but its actions were written about and discussed.

EL PAÍS published the first interview in the national media with Arnaldo Otegi, the spokesman for ETA's political wing, Batasuna, in October 2010, seven months after ETA's last killing. "The independence movement's strategy is incompatible with armed violence," ran the headline.

Otegi, who called on ETA to declare a "unilateral, permanent, and verifiable ceasefire," gave a written answer to 52 questions from jail, where he was serving a sentence for trying to reorganize Batasuna's leadership (the party had been banned for its links to ETA). He refused to answer questions that would have allowed him to condemn ETA's campaign of violence over the last four decades.

The page following the interview contained an article that put Otegi's comments into perspective: "Renouncing violence also implies renouncing the political advantages that go with it, and this is a step Otegi is refusing to take."

In 2007, British daily The Times interviewed hunger-striking ETA activist Iñaki de Juana Chaos from his hospital bed. He was about to be released from prison after serving just 17 years for killing 25 people. The story, complete with a photograph of a skeletal-looking Juana de Chaos in bed, was offensive to many Spaniards, angered that the unrepentant killer would soon be free.

The Murdoch-owned daily answered charges that it was providing "the oxygen of publicity" to terrorists with an editorial entitled "Madrid's Dilemma," which defined ETA as a terrorist organization and pointed out that it had killed more than 800 people, adding: "We believe that reporting that questions and probes terrorist thinking strengthens society's ability to deal with the enemy within. The Times interview revealed a man devoid of remorse."

More than a decade earlier, in 1995, The New York Times and The Washington Post both published a lengthy statement by Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, at the request of the police. Kaczynski was later captured.

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