A picture of Anders Behring Breivik taken from a book downloaded from a link posted on the Norwegian discussion website www.freak.no
Shortly before his deadly rampage on July 22, Anders Behring Breivik did something millions of people do today — he checked in one last time with his friends on Facebook. The farewell message he posted was just as much a part of his murderous plan as the carnage he was about to unleash in Oslo and at a tranquil island retreat, which left at least 93 people dead in the bloodiest act of terrorism in Norway since World War II.
Breivik’s final Facebook entry was a massive 1,516-page document and a link to a video on YouTube. He created the manifesto and the video long before the attacks in order to control what would be said about him in the media after he committed his slaughter and was free to post no more. He also encouraged his more than 7,000 Facebook friends to use his manifesto as a blueprint for action. (See Breivik’s interview with himself.)
The document, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, is something of a template for right-wing terrorism, a rambling manifesto that at times rails at “cultural Marxists” and “multiculturalism” and blames them for the destruction of Western culture. Elsewhere he offers detailed instructions on Web-based self-publishing, comments on his TV habits and provides tips for building a successful terrorist cell. With the exception of some highly personal descriptions of growing up and his pain over the divorce of his parents, the document is eerily reminiscent of the jihadist instruction manuals that have been widely distributed over the Internet since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“It is a complete mirroring of al-Qaeda, a cut-and-paste image of a jihadist manifesto,” Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College, tells TIME.com.
As Norway begins the process of mourning the victims of Friday’s attacks and police continue to question Breivik, a picture of the dark, subterranean world of European nationalists that spawned him is emerging. But even as investigators learn more about the milieu out of which Breivik rose, it is unclear whether he represents a first fighter in a Christian jihad or is merely a deranged loner who created a real-world version of his favorite video game, World of Warcraft.
In many places, Breivik’s writings are less a true manifesto than a straight-up diary in which he documents the months of planning that preceded his attacks. He describes being part of a secret society that is getting ready to take control of Europe and expel all Muslims. “The time for dialogue is over. We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come,” he wrote. (See pictures of Norway recovering after the dual tragedies.)
Apparently skilled at public relations, Breivik even interviewed himself. In a series of questions and answers, he reveals that the trigger for his actions was Norway’s involvement in the NATO bombings of Serbia during the Kosovo war in 1999. He also despised Norway’s “cowardly handling of the Muhammad cartoons.”
In another question, Breivik asks how he would describe his ideology; he says he is part of an indigenous-rights movement whose ideology is cultural conservatism. “I am very proud of my Viking heritage. My name, Breivik, is a place name from Northern Norway, dating back to before the Viking era,” he wrote.
The secret society Breivik describes aims to re-create the Knights Templar. Known by their trademark white mantles bearing a red cross, the Knights Templar were skilled fighters during the Crusades who wielded enormous political and economic influence during the Middle Ages. Breivik wrote that there was a secret meeting in London in April 2002 to rebuild the order and that nine people representing eight European countries attended.
Maybe all that happened — or maybe it didn’t. “It could all be in his head,” Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism expert at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, tells TIME.com. “The document mirrors al-Qaeda ideology in a few important ways. The principal aim is to expel Muslims from Europe, just as al-Qaeda wants to expel Westerners from the holy lands.” See the 25 crimes of the past century.
But in one very important respect, Breivik is proving to be a different sort of terrorist suspect than the Islamists he both loathes and emulates: he clearly had no intention of becoming a martyr. Instead of fighting to the death with police on Friday, he surrendered immediately and has since been more than willing to talk about his motives. “He has admitted to the facts of both the bombing and the shooting, although he’s not admitting criminal guilt,” said Sveinung Sponheim, Oslo’s acting police chief, at a news conference, Reuters reported. According to his lawyer Geir Lippestad, Breivik “believed the actions were atrocious but that in his head they were necessary.”
It will take some time before police can determine if Breivik represents the avant-garde of a new right wing in Europe or if his actions are just political theater — deadly, tragic, well rehearsed, yes, but just the one-off act of an unhinged man. Maybe Breivik is simply trying to secure a place in history. In his interview with himself, he urged his followers to “build your network on Facebook. Follow the guidelines in this book and you will succeed!”
Then, dressed to kill and perhaps savoring a last quiet moment, he closed the manifesto with a final, chilling thought: “I believe this will be my last entry. It is now Fri July 22nd, 12.51.”