On July 22, 2011, Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik detonated a 2,100-pound bomb in the Norwegian Government Quarter in the heart of Oslo, killing eight people, before shooting and killing 69 people at Utøya, a small island 25 miles from the capital. After a trial that began in April 2012, Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison after a court declared he was “criminally sane” and guilty on August 24. The judicial process produced a wealth of new information about the man behind the worst atrocities in Norway since World War II and supports four key conclusions. First, Breivik was no stereotypical loner, and he decided to pursue mass violence much later than previously assumed. Second, through experimentation and dedication, Breivik managed to build a new type of fertilizer bomb never before used in past terrorist attacks. Third, Breivik’s Knights Templar organization likely never existed before his attacks. Fourth, Breivik’s ideology has less in common with the so-called counterjihad movement than with far right violent extremists.[1]

This article will present previously unknown facts about Breivik’s personal background, tactics, and networks.[2] It will also offer new perspectives on Breivik’s extremist ideology in light of texts he wrote before and after the attacks of July 2011. Unless otherwise cited, all of the facts in this article were presented during Breivik’s trial.[3]

Breivik’s Personal Background
The trial offered new insights about Breivik’s personality. The court was presented with two forensic psychiatric evaluations that reached opposite conclusions regarding the question of criminal sanity. Several expert witnesses argued that the decision ultimately rested upon whether or not Breivik suffered from psychosis before the attacks, a question that was never resolved with absolute certainty. In contrast to the first forensic psychiatric evaluation team that diagnosed Breivik with paranoid schizophrenia, a second evaluation team concluded that Breivik was criminally sane, but suffering from one or several personality disorders.[4] During the proceedings, all nine expert witnesses offering testimony on Breivik’s mental health agreed with the findings from the second evaluation.

The court unanimously sentenced Breivik to “preventive detention,” Norway’s strictest form of detention.[5] The practical implication of the sentence is that Breivik will remain in jail for as long as he is considered a danger to society.

The July 22 attacks sparked a renewed focus on the threat from what many call “lone wolf” terrorists. The trial strengthened the impression of Breivik as a lone wolf in the sense that he prepared and executed the attacks on his own. On the other hand, testimony from Breivik’s closest friends suggests he was far from a stereotypical loner with few friends and poor social skills. Not only did Breivik belong to a normal and resourceful group of friends, he was also characterized as one of the caring and sociable members of the group. This challenges the common assumption that he was a loner.

This description of Breivik does not correspond with the remorseless person one could observe in court. Only once did Breivik display strong emotions during the trial; he cried uncontrollably when the prosecutor showed his homemade propaganda video on the trial’s opening day. Apart from this episode, Breivik remained indifferent during the proceedings, even when victims recounted gruesome stories.[6]

The trial also revealed new facts about how Breivik financed the attacks, which are connected to his radicalization process. Breivik was a dedicated financial entrepreneur. He established several companies, and made approximately $150,000-$200,000 between 2002-2003 at the age of 24. Although few of his companies were successful, his last project, called Diploma Service, generated substantial money.[7] Breivik used the surplus from Diploma Service, as well as profit from other investments, to finance his preparations for the July 22 attacks. When he finally depleted his personal savings on April 26, 2011, he started using credit cards, 11 in total.

It is not clear, however, whether Breivik knew he was going down a violent path when he was conducting business between 2002 and 2006. Breivik claimed he attended an inauguration meeting of the Knights Templar organization in London in 2002, and that he decided to become a martyr in 2007. Prosecutors, on the other hand, did not believe such a meeting took place, or that the Knights Templar ever existed. They further argued that Breivik did not decide to become a terrorist until 2009, or possibly as late as 2010. For example, all financial transactions related to the attacks, such as the acquisition of body armor, weapons and bombmaking material, occurred between April 2010 and July 2011.

It is noteworthy that Breivik appeared to have given up his financial activities as early as 2006. Earning money had been a key driver in his life since he dropped out of high school in 2001. Why did he suddenly quit his financial endeavors? Different explanations were discussed in court. One theory was that his companies did not produce much money. This explanation has been dismissed on the grounds that by 2006 he had generated a substantial amount of money through Diploma Service. A second explanation was that he suffered from depression. Several of his friends believed this could be the reason why Breivik began to isolate himself and show little interest in social relations. A final explanation was that he had radicalized and changed focus from money to politics.

The last explanation seems the most plausible considering the remaining part of Breivik’s life, although depression could have contributed to his radicalization. Either way, this does not necessarily mean that Breivik had decided to engage in mass violence by 2006. In fact, the first two books in his trilogy compendium hardly mentioned armed revolution, with the exception of a few sections toward the end of the second book. In contrast, texts written by Breivik in these books discussed and evaluated a range of non-violent forms of resistance, suggesting this was Breivik’s preferred option in the beginning.[8]

Yet Breivik’s non-violent campaign did not work. Major newspapers rejected his articles, and counterjihad ideologues he admired, such as Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen (known as Fjordman), refused his proposals for cooperation. At some point, possibly as late as 2009, he apparently gave up his non-violent initiatives, and started writing the third book in his trilogy: A Declaration of Preemptive War.

Breivik’s Tactics
The trial proceedings revealed new information about Breivik’s tactics—such as his mental preparation for the attacks, bomb production process, and target selection. Breivik told the court that he spent a lot of time preparing mentally for the atrocities. He worked systematically to “de-emotionalize” himself to prepare for murder. He compared himself to soldiers going to war in Afghanistan who, according to Breivik, use dehumanization techniques to be able to kill the enemy. In addition, Breivik claimed he practiced Japanese Bushido meditation techniques combined with music to build “contempt for death” and repress his fears.

Breivik also used computer games to prepare for the attacks. In particular, he played the first person shooter game “Call of Duty.”[9]  According to Breivik, it primarily helped him practice the holographic weapon gun sight he used on Utøya. He also used the game to practice a scenario where police forces might attempt to capture him using a “pincer movement.”

Breivik’s most demanding project, both intellectually and physically, was the making of his 2,100-pound fertilizer bomb. He claimed in court that he acquired more than 600 bomb-making manuals online, with recipes involving more than 100 different types of explosives.[10] He also studied al-Qa`ida attacks as well as al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine to obtain knowledge of the types of explosives and techniques to use.

It appears that Breivik, through experimentation and dedication, was the first person to produce a bomb from diluted fertilizer. The measure to dilute the concentration of ammonium nitrate in fertilizer was introduced in Europe after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 to ensure that fertilizer products could no longer be used to manufacture bombs. Breivik was aware of this, and explained that it was the reason why none of the bomb-making recipes he had acquired would work. They either used illegal explosives materials that were too risky to obtain, or they required the old fertilizer concentration. He therefore had to experiment and combine knowledge from different recipes. He also explained that despite extensive research, he could not identify a single terrorist attack using the diluted fertilizer type available on European markets today.

The trial also shed more light on Breivik’s targeting calculations. For example, he said that Utøya was not his initial target. He originally intended to attack a major Norwegian press gathering called the SKUP-conference, or the headquarters of the Norwegian Labor Party.[11]

Breivik said he decided to target Utøya when he realized he would only be able to produce one bomb instead of three. The second target, therefore, had to be a firearms assault operation.[12] Utøya was not only selected because Breivik considered it a “political indoctrination camp” for “cultural Marxists.” He also chose Utøya because prominent Labor Party politicians were scheduled to speak on the island. According to Breivik, former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was his top priority target, and the alleged reason why he chose the date of July 22, the day of her visit.[13]

Breivik further explained how his original plan was to capture Brundtland and videotape her beheading while reading her death sentence. He said that he learned this technique from al-Qa`ida and believed it would have a major psychological effect. Brundtland, however, had already left the island by the time Breivik arrived. Breivik further explained that his goal was to kill everyone on the island by using the surrounding lake as a “weapon of mass destruction”—forcing people to flee into the cold water and drown.

Breivik’s Networks
Before the beginning of the trial, the media identified a series of possible network connections between Breivik and other extremists. During the trial, the prosecution disputed most of these connections, including meetings between Breivik and other members of his alleged Knights Templar organization.

First, the prosecution investigated Breivik’s alleged meeting with a Serb war hero in Liberia in 2002. Contrary to Breivik’s allegation that his trip to Liberia represented a key event in his radicalization process, the prosecutor introduced evidence suggesting that the trip was in fact a misguided attempt on Breivik’s behalf to set up a blood diamond trading company. To support this argument, the prosecution conducted a video-link interview in court with one of Breivik’s contacts in Liberia, who said Breivik appeared genuinely interested in diamonds.

Second, the prosecutor presented evidence suggesting that Breivik’s alleged trips to attend Knights Templar meetings in London and in the Baltic countries were in fact related to his diamond trade and money laundering, respectively. For example, Breivik’s movements during these trips, traced electronically by the police, suggested that he did not have the time to attend such meetings.

Third, police tried to trace any possible meetings between Breivik and people connected to the English Defense League or similar organizations, but did not find any conclusive evidence.

In sum, the evidence presented strongly suggests that Breivik’s Knights Templar network did not exist before the attacks. There are, however, already examples of groups and individuals trying to establish networks in cooperation with Breivik from jail. For example, Nick Greger, a German former neo-Nazi convicted of terrorism charges, wrote to Breivik and offered him the support of his Order 777 network.[14] There is also letter correspondence published online between Breivik and Russian  extremists suggesting that a support network is being established in Russia.[15] In one letter, Nikola Korolev, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a bomb attack in Moscow in 2006, is referred to as the leader of a Russian prison network that sympathizes with Breivik.[16] In addition, Breivik has received support letters from around the world, and there are numerous blogs supporting him. In the Czech Republic, a man was recently arrested for planning a terrorist attack inspired by Breivik.[17]

While much of the media reporting about Breivik’s ideology has centered on the counterjihad movement, a closer reading of his own texts suggests that his ideology may have more in common with far right extremists.

Breivik’s Ideology
There are two key challenges when studying Breivik’s ideology: the magnitude of the 1,518-page long compendium, and the fact that Breivik only authored half of the content. To decipher Breivik’s ideology, a necessary first step is therefore to isolate his own texts. In addition, Breivik has provided new ideological statements in court and in letters written from inside prison.

By studying Breivik’s own texts and statements, it becomes clear that he attempted to provide a comprehensive ideological framework to unite different factions of the far right.[18] His main thesis is that Western societies are governed by politically-correct elites, the so-called “cultural Marxists,” who since the end of World War II have systematically deconstructed traditional Western values and traditions, and allowed for massive Muslim immigration to Europe.

Cultural Marxism refers to a continuation of core Marxist principles, translated from economic to cultural terms. Whereas classical Marxism was meant to deconstruct economic class differences, cultural Marxism has been used to deconstruct traditional family structures, the roles of men and women, and differences between races.[19] As a result, Western culture has been transformed from being patriarchal and culturally homogenous into being matriarchical and multicultural. This is, according to proponents of the theory, a dangerous development that will lead to a totalitarian society in line with Nazism and communism. One mission of Breivik’s Knights Templar organization is to supposedly fight the three “hate ideologies” of Nazism, communism and Islam.[20]

Breivik believed that it is too late to reverse this development by democratic means, and therefore called for an armed revolution that legitimizes terrorism and the use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.[21] He developed a detailed list of charges against cultural Marxist “traitors,” and has also formed a system of different traitor categories with corresponding penalties.[22] In other words, Breivik’s armed revolution was first and foremost directed against Western elites and regimes, and less toward the Muslim population.

While Breivik has borrowed most of what he has written about cultural Marxism, multiculturalism and armed revolution from other writers, he has also developed his own ideas about how he would organize a future society. In the compendium, he discussed religion, sex, family planning, reprogenetics,[23] international affairs, globalization, development aid, music and the economy. Breivik proposed a peculiar world in these texts.

For example, he called for a reformation of the church and proposed a militant version of Christianity in which religious leaders once again call for crusades.[24] With regard to family structures, Breivik suggested that fathers should always have custody of children, and that physical punishment should be legal.[25] Marriage should be based on mutual interests rather than feelings, and sexual relations should be practiced with moderation.[26] Yet Breivik proposed establishing “liberal zones” where sex could be practiced more freely for those who cannot control their desires.[27]

Breivik was also concerned about protecting the future of the Nordic race and suggested using reprogenetics to secure future generations.[28] He proposed establishing state-run surrogate clinics where Nordic children could be born and raised.[29] The state would take full responsibility for the upbringing of these children, and there should be a bachelor’s degree for state-employed “guardian parents.”[30]

He further proposed dismantling the European Union and importing cheap labor from abroad—a “future servant class.”[31] These workers would live in segregated communities and only do cleaning, construction work, drive taxis, and farming. They would be granted short 12-month contracts and would have to return to their country of origin at the end of the term.[32]

Breivik summarized his ideology in a one hour and twelve minute court statement. He claimed to speak on behalf of the Norwegian and European indigenous peoples, and attacked what he regarded as a systematic suppression of so-called cultural conservatives by cultural Marxists since the end of World War II. He presented extensive conspiracy theories as well as unfounded assumptions and statistics concerning immigration, and Islam in particular. He claimed brutality is not necessarily evil, and drew parallels to the U.S. nuclear bombings of Japan in 1945.[33]

Recent letter correspondence between Breivik and some of his supporters indicates that Breivik continues to regard himself as a revolutionary leader, and that he is largely unable to accept his compromised position. In one of these letters, he discussed “plans for the coming decade.”[34] He claimed to be planning three books: one dealing with the July 22 operation, a second on ideology, and a third addressing the future. Furthermore, he claimed to be in the process of establishing a pan-European think-tank to be called “The Conservative Revolutionary Movement.” According to Breivik, this think-tank will consist of conservative intellectuals and “keyboard warriors” fighting for a conservative revolution.[35]

Finally, in the same letter, Breivik wrote that he and other patriots are establishing a prison network in Northern Europe for politically-oriented prisoners, focusing on Germany, Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. In the same paragraph, he drew a parallel to Nelson Mandela who a few decades ago headed the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) before he was imprisoned, but continued to lead the armed resistance from prison.

The trial exposed Breivik as a strikingly committed extremist and ideological entrepreneur, who never fully understood the logic of terrorism. Terrorists use violence for political reasons. Yet if the spectacle of violence overshadows the political message, the logic of terrorism has failed. In the case of Breivik, there is no doubt that the level of violence for which he is responsible has drawn far more attention than the political message he is trying to convey.

The trial also demonstrated how someone who felt ignored and misunderstood was able to build an alternative reality online, and educate himself on how to plan and execute a massive and deadly terrorist attack. The case underscores the potential importance of the internet in radicalization processes and indicates that the possibility of obtaining training and operational skills online may have been underestimated.

Finally, the trial revealed that Breivik’s life story and psychological profile involves a number of contradictions and mysteries. He is criminally sane, but mentally ill. He acted alone, but was not a typical loner. He seemed emotionally indifferent in court, but cried when watching his own propaganda video.

What Breivik wanted from the trial was to be sentenced as criminally sane. Anything else would have undermined his project. He wanted to make a statement to the world through extreme violence, and in this he has succeeded. Whether he will succeed in inspiring others to join his armed resistance remains to be seen, but the level of violence could turn out to be his own worst enemy.

Jacob Aasland Ravndal is a research fellow and Ph.D. candidate at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI). He studies far right extremism with an emphasis on counterjihad ideology and movements. Mr. Ravndal holds a master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Oslo.

[1] The term counterjihad refers to a transnational political movement whose main objective is to reverse Muslim immigration and the introduction of Islamic culture to Western societies. See Toby Archer, “Countering the Counter-Jihad,” RUSI Monitor, August 15, 2008.

[2] For a pre-trial summary on Breivik’s personal background, tactics and networks, see Jacob Aasland Ravndal, “A Pre-Trial Profile of Anders Behring Breivik,” CTC Sentinel 5:3 (2012).

[3] The author attended the trial hearings in Norway.

[4] Alternative diagnoses that were discussed in court included dissocial and narcissistic personality disorder as well as Asperger syndrome. Among the experts were representatives from the prison psychiatric team who observed Breivik on a daily basis since his arrest. There were also representatives from a group of 17 experts that monitored Breivik around the clock for two weeks against his own will looking for signs of psychosis. Out of those 17 experts, 16 reported no such signs.

[5] Preventive detention is an indefinite sentence that may be given to dangerous, accountable offenders with the purpose of protecting the community against new serious criminality. For more details, see “Factsheet Preventive Detention,” Norwegian Correctional Services, August 22, 2012.

[6] Although Breivik came across as soft-spoken and polite throughout most of the trial, he also behaved inappropriately on several occasions. For example, he did a closed fist salute on the first and last days of the trial, and made several rude remarks to the first psychiatric evaluation team.

[7] This company produced fake diplomas and appears to have operated legally.

[8] Among other topics, Breivik discussed strategic communication, education reform, rhetoric and how to deal with the media. For more details, see Breivik’s compendium: Anders Behring Breivik, “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” sections 2.73–2.80. The compendium is available in different versions. This article therefore refers to its numerical sections, rather than page numbers.

[9] Breivik registered an account for this game on January 18, 2010, and had an average playing time of 10 hours per month for one year and four months. This is not necessarily an unusual amount of time compared to other computer game enthusiasts. Breivik spent considerable more time playing World of Warcraft during the same period. He also practiced shooting at a pistol club.

[10] Breivik’s use of numbers should not always be interpreted literally as he has shown a tendency to exaggerate.

[11] Breivik also considered striking the parliament, the worker’s parade on May 1, the Blitz house which belongs to Norwegian left-wing radicals, the offices of the Norwegian Socialist Party, the offices of the Norwegian newspapers Aftenposten and Dagsavisen, and the royal palace.

[12] Originally, Breivik planned to carry out his shooting spree at the SKUP-conference, but the bomb was not ready in time and he missed the April 1-2, 2011, event date. He also missed the annual meeting of the Labor Party on April 7-10, 2011.

[13] Other speakers included Jens Stoltenberg (prime minister), Jonas Gahr Støre (then minister of foreign affairs) and Marte Michelet (journalist and former leader of the political party Red Youth).

[14] “Ekstremist har sendt Breivik brev – vil stifte Knights Templar,” Dagbladet, June 19, 2012.

[15] “Russian Branch of Breivik’s Organization Headed by Nikola Korolev,” Spas History’s Journal, June 9, 2012.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “Czech Police Charge Man over ‘Breivik-Style’ Plot,” BBC, August 18, 2012.

[18] He combined elements from traditional far right, anti-Islamism, American paleoconservatism, anti-feminism, revolutionary theory and a range of other “isms,” including well-known conspiracy theories.

[19] Ideas about cultural Marxism, which are first presented in the introductory chapter of Breivik’s compendium, are in fact a copy of the anthology Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology, published in 2004. This collection of short essays was originally written for an American audience, but Breivik simply replaced “America” with “Europe,” and inserted “Muslims” instead of other minority groups described in the essays.

[20] Breivik, 3.13.

[21] Ibid., 3.35–3.59.

[22] Ibid., 3.2, 3.44.

[23] Reprogenetics is a term referring to the merging of reproductive and genetic technologies expected to happen in the near future. The term was coined by Lee M. Silver, a professor of molecular biology at Princeton University, in his book Remaking Eden (New York: Avon Books, 1997).

[24] Breivik, 3.80–3.81.

[25] Ibid., 3.83.

[26] Ibid., 3.88.

[27] Ibid., 3.85.

[28] Ibid., 3.92–3-93.

[29] Ibid., 3.90.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid., 3.94.

[32] Ibid.

[33] In the same statement, Breivik idealized states such as Japan and South Korea for being high-tech nations that rejected multiculturalism and embraced ethnic protectionism and values such as discipline, codes of honor and national pride. He argued it is unfair that most indigenous peoples are praised for conserving their cultures and traditions, while his own indigenous people are labeled racist when doing the same thing.

[34] “Letter to Angus,” The Commander Breivik Report, accessed October 4, 2012.

[35] When describing his think-tank plans, Breivik characterized the current counterjihad network in Western Europe as quite successful and effective, but criticized it for fighting against Islam only, and not for European indigenous, cultural and religious rights.

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