Is Anders Breivik a Terrorist?

On July 22, 2011, Anders Breivik detonated a car bomb in the Government quarter of Oslo, killing eight people. He then went on a shooting spree at a Workers’ Youth League summer camp, killing another 69. Breivik was declared “not criminally insane“, fit to stand trial, and convicted. His stated motive: to oppose “cultural Marxism” and Islam, and to bring attention to his far-right militant political manifesto.

But is Breivik a terrorist? According to Merriam-Webster:

terrorism : the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal

Breivik is back in court and back in the headlines, having just given a Nazi salute at the beginning of a new round of hearings on his lawsuit over the Norwegian government’s use of solitary confinement. And judging by the news reports coming out of Europe in the last few hours, the answer is: well, no.

From the BBC: “Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has given a Nazi salute upon his return to court…” The New York Times (AP): “Mass killer Anders Behring Breivik kicked off his return to court by making a Nazi salute Tuesday…”  The Guardian: “Rightwing extremist serving 21 years for massacre in 2011 has brought lawsuit accusing state of ‘inhuman treatment’”. ABC News (Australia): “Mass killer Anders Breivik sues Norway over ‘inhuman’ prison life”. NBC News: “Mass killer Anders Behring Breivik made a Nazi salute in court…” Reuters: “Mass killer Breivik: Prison is ‘torture'”. Etc. etc.

Out of the 15 or so news reports on Breivik’s new court case that I’ve seen, only one (New York Daily News) identifies his actions as “terrorist attacks”. None of them call him a “terrorist”; the others don’t even use the words “terrorism” or “terror” anywhere. The most widely-used epithet seems to be “mass killer” or “mass murderer”.

Why is this?

Perhaps some answers can be gleaned by searching for “terrorist trial” on Google Images. These are the first photographs to pop up:

Oh, right.

(Photo credit: FREDRIK NAUMANN/PANOS PICTURES)


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