How the Norwegians Reacted to Terrorism

An antidote to the American cycle of threat, fear, and overspending in response to terrorism is this, about Norway on the first anniversary of its terrorist massacre:

And at the political level, the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg pledged to do everything to ensure the country’s core values were not undermined.

“The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” he said.

A year later it seems the prime minister has kept his word.

There have been no changes to the law to increase the powers of the police and security services, terrorism legislation remains the same and there have been no special provisions made for the trial of suspected terrorists.

On the streets of Oslo, CCTV cameras are still a comparatively rare sight and the police can only carry weapons after getting special permission.

Even the gate leading to the parliament building in the heart of Oslo remains open and unguarded.

Posted on July 23, 2012 at 6:15 AM99 Comments


Brent Longborough July 23, 2012 6:35 AM

What heartening good sense!

In the UK and US, the so-called “authorities” have managed to do precisely what the terrorists wanted them to do.

The only way to beat the terrorists is (a) to absorb any events that we can’t prevent by normal, civilised behaviour and legislation, and (b) beyond that, not allow them to make one iota of difference to our lives.

John July 23, 2012 7:04 AM

I know someone who survived the attack on the island and his dignity is a example to all.
The people of Norway have all seemed to have acted with a lot of dignity and common sense. Their government seems to be reflecting the general view of the population.

Eric TF Bat July 23, 2012 7:40 AM

In fairness to the US, they’re just as resolute. You can bet there’ll be no changes to gun laws in response to the Aurora massacre. After all, the most important piece of the constitution is the second amendment, apparently.

Craig July 23, 2012 7:44 AM

Norway is just as crazy as the US, but in different ways. Norway doesn’t turn itself into a police state in response to a single terrorist act, but on the other hand, the US doesn’t have an official list of authorized names that you are allowed to give your children. While the American police state is awful, in a way the constant petty meddling in people’s personal lives that is characteristic of some European countries strikes me as just as bad.

John2 July 23, 2012 7:46 AM

Well, the situation in Norway may not be as rosy as it may seem from a distance. It takes time to pass new laws, and barely a year has gone by since the attacks.

For example, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security has worked on an expedited bill (dubbed by media as “Lex Breivik”) to account for a given result of the trial against the terrorist, in this case to be able to lock him up even if he is found to be mentally ill:

(June 11, 2012) “Parliament discussed Monday the government’s proposed changes to the law on mental health care. The bill has been treated with lightning speed to be ready in terror trial in Oslo District Court is over.”
(use Google Translate or similar for translation)

Also, the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) has proposed several changes to the law in order to make planning of “solo-terrorism” a punishable offense. For example, being in possession of rubber gloves, pliers and a car may get you in trouble with the law, if this proposal is accepted by politicians. Raw document from November 2011 is available here:

Only time will tell if the politicians will give in to such pressure or not. But so far “knee-jerk reactions” that reduce civil liberties have been rare compared to what is known from countries such as the UK or the US.

Sam Greenfield July 23, 2012 7:53 AM

Norway is approximately the size of Montana with an approximate population of the size of Colorado or Alabama. It’s GDP is around the size of Ohio. Norway’s has a much simpler mix of ethnicity and backgrounds than almost any state in the U.S. Finally, Norway has a smaller military and diplomatic impact on the rest of the world.

I think it’s fair to criticize the overspending based on fear in the U.S., but a direct comparison between Norway and the U.S. is not valid.

Mark in CA July 23, 2012 7:59 AM

Looks to me more like a lack of doing anything rather than any kind of proactive response “to ensure the country’s core values were not undermined.” From John2’s post above, it appears there are some things in the works, and not good ones.

Me July 23, 2012 8:52 AM

@ col:
“The Scandinavian countries seem to be the last sane places on Earth.”

After making ‘not seeing the sun for a few months each year’ just something that you ‘deal with’. I suspect keeping sane in other stressful situations becomes easier.

Stein July 23, 2012 8:58 AM

John2 and Sam Greenfield are both right in some sense. Norway is a small country, and has been much less “enemized” by terrorists compared to the US and UK, but on the other side, it was “our own side” (as portrayed by the Terrorist himself) that attacked, not the supposed threat that the US and UK are fumbling about to stop.

We are blessed in the sense to be a rather homogeneous country, not much more than 10% population are immigrants or of foreign origin (and that includes other Europeans), and 99% of the immigrants behave perfectly fine and is no threat to us in any way. And the remaining 1% is not much bigger than the “native” crime rate anyway.

What we Norwegians are afraid of is actually the situation you have in the US and UK either with Police or prosecutors with way too much power or CCTV cameras everywhere etc. We have been a peaceful society based on trust to each other for a long time, and intend to let that continue. I can only quote FDR: “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”.

Stoltenberg actually had to come with that statement. As doing the “US style fixit” would have backfired on him politically. Popular demand is different here, and that is the true power of Norway.

Victor Engmark July 23, 2012 9:07 AM

@Me: Very few Norwegians don’t see the sun for “a few months each year”. The population is heavily biased towards the south of the arctic circle, and even at Nordkapp (the northernmost part of mainland Norway) the sun is gone for less than two months.

Ben July 23, 2012 9:18 AM

@someone “…US doesn’t have an official list of authorized names that you are allowed to give your children. While the American police state is awful, in a way the constant petty meddling in people’s personal lives that is characteristic of some European countries strikes me as just as bad”

Is the freedom to name your child “JoyceLynn Aryan Nation” (for instance) one that should be protected from meddling?

SnallaBolaget July 23, 2012 9:45 AM

Norway doesn’t have a list of “permitted” names. It does have some restrictions on what you can name your child, but those restrictions are made for the benefit of the child. Seems you’ve misunderstood something.

@John2 & Mark CA:
The problem with prisoners in mental care in Norway is that they’re hardly incarcerated at all, and the percentage of “prisoners” that “escape” is high. This is a pre-existing problem, and this legislation has been discussed for a long time prior to the attack, but the discussion has certainly been accellerated by the events.

In regards to the changes proposed by the PST, there will always be discussions on what could have been done better, when something bad happens. That’s a good thing. The knee-jerk reactions that resulted in the TSA, for example, are not.

@Sam Greenfield:
What does the GDP have to do with anything? According to the CIA, by the way, Norway is one of few net external creditors. Unlike the US… Just an additional, unrelated economic fact, there. Also, the article speaks more about the reaction to cataclysmic events in a society, and the effects on that society. Norway and the US are both modern societies, and are very much comparable.

Kevin July 23, 2012 9:51 AM


It takes time to pass new laws, and barely a year has gone by since the attacks.

The Patriot Act (Ahem, the USA PATRIOT Act) was introduced into the House on October 23, 2001, exactly (and only) six weeks after the September 11 attacks.

The bill passed the House on October 24, passed the Senate on October 25, and was signed into law by President Bush on October 26.

In contrast, it is now a full year after the Norway attacks, and we’re still just talking about the horrible legislation that the Norwegians might consider eventually passing. It’s also apparent that there is at least some intelligent discussion and criticism of the proposed changes.

MeToo July 23, 2012 10:37 AM

“Successful” politicians are not typically the ones who make real change; they are the ones who understand how to appease the people and remain in power.

Sure, the prime minister may be able to appear calm compared to the then Bush administration. However, I’m sure a large factor in that would have been based on his advisors’ and other analysts’ opinions on the best course of action.

The demands of the American public is very different from the demands of the Norwegian public and for a multitude of different reasons why. The American public is accustomed to a system whereby “someone must be accountable”, where “someone must be punished” and where the powers that be have to “do something about the situation”. Inaction is not acceptable to the American public and if a gross incident is allowed to happen again because the government decided they will not allow terrorist acts to change their way of life, there will be serious questions asked and serious consequences.

Perhaps, the Norwegian public is different but don’t knock Americans for doing what they think they need to do. Unlike what SnallaBolaget said, Norway and the USA are not very comparable. This is like saying a Mercedes Benz S class is comparable to a Toyata Prius because they are both modern vehicles.

I watched a feature on the killings yesterday and I don’t think it takes a genius to conclude the police acted very incompetently in saving many lives on the island. If that is the kind of incompetence Norwegians are happy to put up with, good luck to them.

This attack was very basic compared with the sophistication of the 9/11 attacks. Surely, this cannot be compared. Lastly, this very sane and methodical idiot is likely to get a maximum of 21 years. If you ask me, I’d rather live in a knee-jerk society where killers like that receive wither life in prison, a needle or a rope.

vasiliy pupkin July 23, 2012 10:44 AM

The problem with moving to police state is not about providing additional power to the police and other law enforcement structures but providing them with those additional powers not being checked by the judicial branch based on provisions of Constitution. Level and nature of threat are driving force for new measures with judicial review of day-by-day application of those powers, i.e. powers are within Constitunional provisions (Supreme Court), application is within statute which granted those powers (other courts).
Draconian laws and powers are NOT iron, but caprcious ones.
As usually, extremes (knee jerk reaction or inaction at all) are both counterproductive.

Dirk Praet July 23, 2012 10:56 AM

@ someone

Well, as a European I still prefer petty meddling like restrictions on the names I can give my children over grotesque meddling such as 24/7 ubiquitous surveillance, online censorship, nude scans, freedom fondling, presidential kill lists, secretive interpretations of laws and a corporate run Congress trying to erode civil liberties on an almost daily basis.

It’s countries like Norway and Iceland today that are setting a democratic example of commensurate response to threats like terrorism and banksterism. The former leader of the free world, the UK, Canada and Australia are all moving down the same slippery slope of institutionalised surveillance and secrecy where states are no longer ruled by people, but by corporations and financial markets. Although China and Russia are coming from an entirely different corner, they are actually converging on the same path, combining for their elites the heritage of communist authoritarianism with the newly discovered benefits of unmitigated global capitalism.

Admittedly, it is difficult to compare Norway to the US, but IMHO this has less to do with size and population than it has with foreign policy. If your foreign policy during decades makes you enemies all over the world, than it is inevitable that sooner or later some of them will bring the battlefield to your own front door. As pointed out by @Stein, Norway came under attack from the enemy within, not by foreign agents. But I am not sure if the current response would have been any different if they’d been struck by AQ or any of its affiliates, who – for all practical purposes – would have had little reason to do so in the first place.

But the real difference here is that Norway’s government, parliament and people refused to be terrorised or give in to primal fears and paranoia exploited by special interest groups for their own political and financial gain.

ted July 23, 2012 11:48 AM

Apples and bicycles comparison.

Let me know how Norway responds when they have a border with a nation similar to Mexico with its near civil war, millions of indigent immigrants fleeing there way, cross border violence and influx of illicit narcotics. Add to this is a sizable percentage of the world’s population that would gladly walk into your kitchen with a suicide belt because they think you are the great satan.

Other than that it is similar.

David Williams July 23, 2012 12:04 PM

Very refreshing.

This is the opposite of Raul Emmanuel’s doctrine of “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

Kusk July 23, 2012 12:19 PM

Indeed Apple and Orange debate.

Breivik was domestic terrorism.
9/11 was not.

How many anti-terrorism laws was made after the Oklahoma bombings?

Bruce Schneier July 23, 2012 12:44 PM

“Indeed Apple and Orange debate. Breivik was domestic terrorism. 9/11 was not. How many anti-terrorism laws was made after the Oklahoma bombings?”

Interesting point. So, everyone, what do you think? Can this difference be explained as “us vs. them” and not “us vs. one of us”? It certainly does explain the “war on terrorism” metaphor versus the police metaphor.

Juan A. July 23, 2012 12:59 PM

Kusk, According to Wikipedia, “In the wake of the bombing the U.S. government enacted several pieces of legislation, notably the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. In response to the trials of the conspirators being moved out-of-state, the Victim Allocution Clarification Act of 1997 was signed on March 20, 1997 by President Clinton to allow the victims of the bombing (and the victims of any other future acts of violence) the right to observe trials and to offer impact testimony in sentencing hearings. In response to passing the legislation, Clinton stated that “when someone is a victim, he or she should be at the center of the criminal justice process, not on the outside looking in.

In the years since the bombing, scientists, security experts, and the ATF have called on Congress to develop legislation that would require customers to produce identification when purchasing ammonium nitrate fertilizer, and for sellers to maintain records of its sale. Critics argue that farmers lawfully use large quantities of the fertilizer, and as of 2009, only Nevada and South Carolina require identification from purchasers. In June 1995, Congress enacted legislation requiring chemical taggants to be incorporated into dynamite and other explosives so that a bomb could be traced to its manufacturer. In 2008, Honeywell announced that it had developed a nitrogen-based fertilizer that would not detonate when mixed with fuel oil. The company got assistance from the Department of Homeland Security to develop the fertilizer (Sulf-N 26) for commercial use. It uses ammonium sulfate to make the fertilizer less explosive.”

finid July 23, 2012 1:30 PM

@John said:

The people of Norway have all seemed to have acted with a lot of dignity and common sense. Their government seems to be reflecting the general view of the population.

I hope you realize that their govt is not made up of a bunch of people from an alien, more civilized planet. They are a reflection of the general population.

By logic, then, the reaction of our govt is an indictment of us all. We reflect our govt and our govt reflects us.

Do not forget that at one point, GW’s approval rating on his handling of the war was about 90%. And was he not re-elected?

finid July 23, 2012 1:37 PM

@Kusk says:

Indeed Apple and Orange debate. Breivik was domestic terrorism. 9/11 was not. How many anti-terrorism laws was made after the Oklahoma bombings?

Good point. Even now, lawmakers refuse to use teffofist to describe one of use using a rental truck to intimidate hospitals and their employees from performing critical services that some women need.

Scared July 23, 2012 1:39 PM

A congressman (you know who) commenting on the Colorado shootings:

We should also face the sober reality that government cannot protect us from all possible harm. No matter how many laws we pass, no matter how many police or federal agents we put on the streets, no matter how routinely we monitor internet communications, a determined individual or group can still cause great harm. We as individuals are responsible for our safety and the safety of our families.

Furthermore, it is the role of civil society rather than government to build a culture of responsible, peaceful, productive individuals. Government cannot mandate morality or instill hope in troubled individuals. External controls on our behavior imposed by government through laws, police, and jails usually apply only after a terrible crime has occurred.

SnallaBolaget July 23, 2012 2:32 PM

“A nation similar to Mexico”? Sounds strange. Anyway, while Norway certainly has no borders to Mexico, I’m sure you’ve heard rumors of a country called Russia. Or perhaps you’ve heard vague whisperings of a now defunct Union called the Soviet Union?

In addition to Russia, Norway is a border country for Schengen, and persons wanting to enter the EU/EEC, both for lawful reasons, unlawful reasons and because they’re “indigent”. Jeez. Do some research.

The fact that a large portion of the world see the US as “the great Satan” is something that should, perhaps, make the US take a hard look at itself. There might be a reason for it, you know.

Well… someone else took care of your argument…

I think @Dirk Praet summed the situation up beautifully.

NotAFed July 23, 2012 2:37 PM

The difference is not so much the perpetrators as it is the government’s reaction. President Clinton regarded terrorism as a law enforcement problem as opposed to a national security problem. Even when he ordered military action against terrorists in 1998 it was a limited strike. The World Trade Center bombing in 1993, Khobar Towers, the Beirut barracks bombing and Achilles Laredo (sp?) were all acts of foreign terrorism that didn’t spark the legislative response that 9/11 did. President Reagan didn’t push through massive legislation following the biological attack in Oregon in 1984. The only terror attack I can think of offhand that sparked a lot of legislative response (aside from 9/11) was the Tylenol poisonings in 1982.

Martin July 23, 2012 2:46 PM

Craig – why is it so important to you to be able to name your child “CuntPisser Barfbag Qqnk’q’tttt”? Why is it “crazy” that that name isn’t allowed in Norway? Could you elaborate on why you think so?

NobodySpecial July 23, 2012 2:57 PM

Difficult to see what else they could do.
Perhaps airline staff could racially profile and harass any blue-eyed blonde nordic looking passengers ?

NobodySpecial July 23, 2012 3:05 PM

@ Sam Greenfield you could say the same geopolitically for Northern Ireland, but is has managed to compete in the terrorism game will above it’s weight

John July 23, 2012 4:26 PM

Wait!!! When were two of Norways largest buildings attacked by terrorists flying airplanes?? I dont remember that……You would think maybe they would make a few changed if something like that did happen….

Chris July 23, 2012 5:13 PM

@ John.

You strike me as one of those guys that will cling on to ‘oh my god they used planes on us’ for all it is worth. In my magnificent country (Norway), the largest and most influential building is actually ‘Høyblokka’ – the building he blew up. Seeing as it is not even 70meters tall flying a jet into it would be near impossible.

ABBæs motives for the terror attacks was not to cause terror in the people like Bin Laden did with the twin towers, but to rid Norway of the leadership in the Labor party. He then went on to shoot and kill the kids at Utoya hoping it would leave a lasting scar in the Labor party’s history, scaring people away from supporting them.

I’ll finish off with telling you about the four – 4 – plane hijackings Norway has EVER experienced:

1: 21th of June 1985 -> Braathens SAFE plane going from Trondheim to Oslo was hijacked by a norwegian man. He turned himself in after 4,5 hours when he got the BEER he wanted.

2: 15th of September 1993 -> Aeroflot going to Kiev from Baku was hijacked by 3 Iranians. They made the plane land in Norway and applied for political asylum. 2 of them where granted due to risk of being killed in Iran.

3: 3rd of November 1994 -> SAS from Bardufoss to Oslo was hijacked by a Bosnian national trying to get attention to the ongoing war in Bosnia. He surrendered after 7,5 hours on the tarmac at Gardermoen.

4: 3rd of September 1996 ->Balkan Air plane going to Varna from Beirut was hijacked by a palestinian wich forced the airplane down at Gardermoen and then went on to apply for political asylum.

The red line in all 4 of the stories is that 0 people were injured. So you might get the picture when 3 out of 4 hijacking was executed so that they could land in Norway and apply for asylum.

Andy July 23, 2012 5:19 PM

Being American I wish my country was more like norway. I’m jealous. At least there is a government somewhere that preserves freedoms, not like my country.

jake July 23, 2012 5:29 PM

the US has a long history of successfully using the us-vs-them mentality to mobilize its economy, legislative bodies, etc. per the pattern for the past 100+ years, the US government takes advantage of any opportunity to paint a situation as us-vs-them and uses this to push through any number of questionable laws, regulations or actions. examples: uss maine, rms lusitania, pearl harbor, gulf of tonkin, 9/11, CISPA

the aforementioned pattern is simply absent or much less severe in some first world countries, such as Norway. the populace is not conditioned to having their President or Prime Minister use such an event to selfishly push for some agenda that was planned well in advance of the event.

when you live in an almost entirely racially homogeneous state it is difficult to get traction with us-vs-them. with the constant influx of immigrants to the US, it is very easy for people to segment themselves in an effort to have some “status” over the most recent immigrants. some friends of mine who are first generation immigrants in the US have said some particularly nasty things about other immigrants who are “fresh off the boat”, likely in an attempt to elevate themselves.

Matthew July 23, 2012 5:35 PM

@John Well, one of their largest and most important buildings did get blown up, so it is to some point fair to compare norway to
the states. And maybe you should read the conversation one more time, because no one is saying that it is the exact same situation in Norway as it is in the U.S. You really should try to see it from another perspective for a sec, instead of just going on full defense the second someone criticize your country.

Z.Lozinski July 23, 2012 5:50 PM

Interesting point. So, everyone, what do you think? Can this difference be explained as “us vs. them” and not “us vs. one of us”? It certainly does explain the “war on terrorism” metaphor versus the police metaphor.

I’m sorry Bruce, but I don’t think it is that simple. Compare the reaction of the UK to Irish terrorism in the 1970s-1990s versus its reaction to AQ0inspired terrorism of the 2000s. In terms of the number of bomb attacks on the UK mainland, number of deaths and injuries, and the competence of the adversary .. there is no comparison. And yet, the political reaction had been completely opposite: all the new laws, and police powers are in reaction to AQ, not in response to the P-IRA.

Now one interesting thing, I was working in Winchester in the 1980s and I remember some of the P-IRA trials at the court there. While the security was high, they were criminal trials .. conspiracy, attempted murder, possession of firearms.

And yet now, somehow now it is different, and we need new offences and new powers.

I think you are on to something in identifying that there is a difference … but I am not sure what it is.

fkjddsk July 23, 2012 6:09 PM

I think you are on to something in identifying that there is a difference … but I am not sure what it is.

That the AQ terrorists weren’t white?

Dirk Praet July 23, 2012 6:09 PM

@ Ted

You can’t seriously imply that Mexicans were behind the attacks that sparked the post 9/11 US surveillance state ?


The American public is accustomed to a system whereby someone must be accountable, where someone must be punished

I respectfully beg to differ in the sense that the American public seems to be rather selective for which crimes perpetrators are being held accountable and punished. There is a huge discrepancy in response and budgets allocated to terrorism on one hand, and financial malfeasance on the other. Billions were spent on the war on terrorism and unparalelled legislation pushed through Congress cause nobody wanted to appear weak, nobody involved was gonna get away with it and repitition had to be avoided at all cost. To date, suspects are being detained in Guantanamo in less than humane conditions and the entire public is being subjected to constant scrutiny and surveillance.

The financial crisis arguably caused much more damage than 9/11 both in terms of losses and casualties. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people were affected, still to the best of my knowledge none of the responsible parties either in high finance or politics were ever jailed or even indicted. No draconian legislation came through, and after being bailed out by the taxpayer, the same folks are still running the show, pleading for self-regulation. Where is the outrage of the American people over this ?

Not so in a country like Iceland: they were one of the first victims but unlike many other countries they are today holding both politicians and bankers involved in the financial crisis fully accountable. Several of them are now in jail and they even have a special team in place to track and hunt down those trying to escape justice.

Joe July 23, 2012 6:22 PM


He nailed it out of the park with that one. I wish more people would listen.

Neil July 23, 2012 6:32 PM

Just pointing out that, in my opinion, it is not entirely inaccurate to draw comparisions between the US and Norway. Norway is part of a suite of nations (Sweeden, iceland, etc) that employ a similar sensibility to policy and society. I think questions of GDP, population, and racial mix compared to North America become redundant when viewed through a pan-Scandanavian lens.

tomcpp July 23, 2012 6:41 PM

Funny how this forum – in English – focuses 99% on American politics.

Guess what’s different about Norsk fora … not too much mention of the US and regular crying for incarcerating anyone suspected of “far right”, if not shooting them on sight. And please keep in mind that in Norway, every single American is considered to be on the far right, just for being American.

If there is anything progressive about Norway, it’s that it’s parliament is failing to actually pass any laws, not the wishes of it’s citizens.

There’s also the issue that the chance of repitition of Breivik are minimal, cause there are believed to be almost no individuals like that (which is not true, and you know -but deny- this if you’re living there outside of the rich neighborhoods – there’s lots of them, and Breivik is right – muslims are a big problem in a few cities making life completely impossible for their neighbors, which of course does not justify his actions).

The chance of repitition of 9/11 is “maximal”. There’s a “small subgroup” of 1 billion people working everyday to make it happen. A small subgroup of 1 billion people is a hell of a lot of people. They are not likely to stop, even if they get what they want (historically, muslims did not exactly refrain from using terrorism against their neighbors, no matter how muslim they were, for example in the ottoman empire).

While I don’t agree with the US response, I don’t think comparing to Norway is in any way a valid comparison. It’s a different threat, with a different target, on a vastly different scale. The only thing vaguely similar about them is the method.

In my humble opinion, by making sure that “grievances are heard” as a result of terrorism, you’re causing terrorism. If members of groups are shown to commit terrorist acts, there should be an appropriate response, like outlawing any muslim worship/education/book selling for 10 years in response to 9/11 for example. Of course, such a policy is bound to be abused … which I don’t pretend to have an answer to.

But one thing is for sure, if there is to be a future including muslims in modern societies, islam has to die. That much is painfully obvious. Fortunately, it is dying, much faster than other religions, and due to hollywood* (and bollywood, and …), the question is, is it fast enough ?

  • and that is one of the reasons America will remain the target of attacks, no matter the military action, or lack thereof. As long as hollywood is perceived to “corrupt youth” in SA/Iran/India/… there will be attacks.

Markus July 23, 2012 6:59 PM

Norway used to be second to sweden regarding progressive politics, not so anymore – as a swede i can tell you as far as i know Norway is one of the few countries that arent dismantling their universal institutions under the economic pressure that two countries put through debt on most of the world.

By increasing/improving laws, regulation, institutions, infrastructure for all they are creating and as such they are progressive.

While liberals/conservative de-regulate, privatise peoples hard earned wealth for sub-par payment, decrease investments into infrastructure creating laws such as “ramlagar” – laws that has a broader interpretation and create disparity between people/organisations. As such i deem it regressive in those aspects.

*Especially if you take a look on how it affects the domestic market (less pay/higher unemployment = less purchasepower = less profit and the spiral goes on…)

I can agree to some degree that immigration and how it’s been handles with the “multicultral society” (a term derived, atleast in the swedish discourse, from the right wing) derailing society and its ability to “force” norms by majority onto the people.

Suggesting the creation of law that punish those not guilty until otherwise proven is something i wouldn’t propose in any forum if you want to be deemed sound of mind tbh.

After all this typing i can’t other than call troll on this, cba not posting though so i hope you enjoyed the read ;(

salami July 23, 2012 7:24 PM

Here is our president explaining why we need to spend billions on security theater:


He is afraid that we might be unhappy that our government cannot protect us against terrorist threats. He perceives the government as the purveyor of our ‘security’. Yet it is our government’s policies that are the great attractor of these malicious acts. Our government’s activity to thwart terrorism is the greatest confession of its guilt and complicity in policies that spawn it.

We still hurt from Pearl Harbor. Our preemptive aggressive posture since then has only aggravated the pendulum of violence. In the same way that the militant muslims echo the violence of the crusaders, there are those in the middle east who echo our preemptive aggressive posture with the only tools at their disposal. Add to this our guilt in loosing the nuclear genie on this planet. Who will love us if a Pakistani nuke ignites a war ‘over there’? Who will try to pin it on us? Clearly, our presence there is out of a sense of responsibility for weapons that were born in our labs.

But are more laws a solution? Instead, would a quid pro quo work? If we offerred ‘their scientists’ visit to a nuclear installation on our soil for a reciprocal visit to one of theirs? Could we each work to make each others sites safer? Is that too naive? Would such visits be bait for an assassin like the one who ignited WW1?

Laws and regulations are like a meta-analysis. They are deterministic and static. In a world that is increasingly fluid, changing, developing and growing, our methods of self government are an anachronism. They are ineffective, slow and too expensive.

So what is the solution? We should begin with transparency. It is the brightest light that sterilizes the grossest activities. Perhaps we should rejoice in the loss of privacy. Perhaps we should all know what is being said everywhere and all the time.

NobodySpecial July 23, 2012 7:25 PM

@tomcpp – I don’t think a billion muslims are planning everyday to overthrow America, anymore than 900Million catholics are plotting to overthrow the Queen of England.

ps Historically if all muslims started now, with a few nukes, then in a couple of decades they could perhaps make a dent in the record of christians killing other christians.

And on behalf of the other inhabitants of a small corner of the UK, I would like to thank all Americans whose support made it possible for me to grow up in a British city with bombs going off and the army on the street outside my school

Kristinn July 23, 2012 8:56 PM

I just wanted to throw one fact out there.

Relatively more people were killed in the Norway massacre than in the 9/11 attacks, when compared with how many people live in the Norway vs. USA.

Some people here are saying you can’t compare the two nations because Norway is so much smaller than the USA. Norway lost relatively more people in the Breivik massacre than the US lost in the 9/11 attacks. When things are put in that perspective, you can surely say the two nations are comparable regarding this these attacks, their losses and how they should react in the aftermath.

RonL July 23, 2012 9:36 PM

Spend less time reading state proclamations and more time looking at actual results oversees.

The Norwegians did the opposite of their claims. There is no more security, which presumable means that this year a woman can be raped on the steps of parliament and the guards will do nothing to interfere.
The police will grab the computers and clothing of people who have nothing to do with terrorist events, people dumb enough to turn themselves in as persons of interest. The Norwegian police and state-funded media will run campaigns to harrass people that they presume terrorists agree with and to fire them from their jobs. They will knowingly leak lies to the state press.They will have “more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” by ensuring that one side of a debate is called crazy and deemed not fit to print in the state funded press. They will monitor and harrass samizdat websites for speaking the truth.

Norway is a semi-totalitarian society. Step out of the norms defined by the elites and the state media and state culture, and you will suffer. Instead of going after those who wish to subjugate or destroy Norway and those who preach this, the Norwegians terrorize ethnic Norwegians who want to protect their culture and liberties.

RonL July 23, 2012 9:41 PM

I forgot to add something important. In the trial of Anders Breivik, the defense and prosecution conspired to persecute Breivik’s enemies (the non-violent opponents of Islamists). The state did so to protect their new state religion of multiculturalism and to embarrass the opposition Progress Party. Breivik did this because he wants to discredit non-violent anti-Islamists, to leave revolution and terror as the only recourse. And his lawyer went along with the state persecution to give Breivik an obscenely nice jail and even people paid to be his friends.

satz July 23, 2012 11:28 PM

Lol! Talk about terrorism in the US and Norway. One attack and so much babble. When your countries undergoes regular terrorist bombings (some that go on for days on end), threats to citizens, forcible evictions from homes and all out wars, then talk about policies and war on terror.

First world problems. Meh!

Jørgen July 24, 2012 12:24 AM

It was mentioned here that Norway has a list or authorized names that you can call your children. This is actually a good thing, as it makes it illegal to call your kid DICK, or BUSH etc.

tensor July 24, 2012 12:30 AM

Can this difference be explained as “us vs. them” and not “us vs. one of us”? It certainly does explain the “war on terrorism” metaphor versus the police metaphor.

Mr. McVeigh and Mr. Brevik were natural-born citizens of their countries, who turned terrorist to ignite a civil war, and (as noted above) to eliminate future political leaders, respectively. These are acts of domestic terrorism, and suggest a law-enforcement response.

AQ suicide pilots flew a ‘guided missile’ into the Pentagon, the worldwide headquarters of the American military machine. We Americans, to this day, casually and with familiarity, use the words “Banzai” and “Kamikaze,” recalling the suicide pilots who made ‘guided missile’ attacks upon our warships near Japan near the end of the biggest war in history. This suggested a military response.

There are other reasons, of course. President Clinton had a law-enforcement ideology, which preferred a law-enforcement response. President G.W. Bush knew full well he’d ignored a clear warning, the Presidential Daily Briefing of 6 August 2001, and needed to move attention away from that failure. A large foreign military adventure is a proven way of marginalizing domestic critics. However, I believe the nature of each attack itself suggests the response it has received. (I am not arguing any such response was superior to another; that’s an argument for another occasion.)

Wintermute July 24, 2012 3:08 AM

I think it is remarkable how, each time I read a slightly US-critical article, the comment section overflows with statements that try to legitimize the adressed point. The world would be a much more peaceful place if there was at least some tendency to self criticism in the land of the free, especially among their leaders (whoever that may be).

martinr July 24, 2012 3:18 AM

plain terrorits have to perform terror themselves, “lucky” terrorists find a proxy who terrorizes for them, and the real lottery winners among the terrorists find an “persitent amplification proxy” to do their job for them, who will continue to terrorize long beyond the deaths of the original terrorists.

Seems strange to see a country create such willful persitent amplification proxies for terror as the US has done with DHS, TSA and ilk.

Makes one wonder if the terrorist were really original, or just wilful proxies themselves. Al Quaeda and the asymmetric warfare in Afghanistan are a genuine CIA product, originally created to fight the better armed russian troops. Surprise, surprise, the same techniques also can be applied against troops of other countries…

Used Car Salesman July 24, 2012 3:45 AM

“This is like saying a Mercedes Benz S class is comparable to a Toyata Prius because they are both modern vehicles.”

Dear MeeToo, as a used car salesman, I assure you they are verily comparable indeed, unless you are one of those silly people who believe “prestige class” is an actual thing and not gobbledygook invented by car salesmen (both used and new) to goad you into paying more money than a thing is worth.

“This attack was very basic compared with the sophistication of the 9/11 attacks.”

Dear MeeToo, are you on drugs?

If you are on any prescription medicines, ask your doctor to readjust your dose.

Brevik’s operation was a complex plan involving a distraction, actual (technically successful) execution, and a fairly sophisticated press release.

Admittedly, 9/11 was also a fairly complex attack, but it is definitely comparable in complexity, especially if you consider how limited was Brevik in terms of funding.

neuromancer July 24, 2012 3:55 AM

Single “nutters” are not “Terorists” which is where Bruces argument falls down here.

Norway has not had any real “terrorist attacks” in the way the UK and Other european contries have

For exmple in the UK the Hungerford gun attacks and the IRA and laterly the PIRA campaigns are quite diferent.

El Diablo Blanco July 24, 2012 5:13 AM

This is absurd, first of all, I can tell many of you are not from the US, so you are getting your information completely skewed. The US in not in a police state. There have been no changed and there will be no changes, this is all conspiracy nonsense and typical jump on the bandwagon and hate on America. If you don’t live here, you don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about. There is one state that could classify as living in a police state and that is Arizona, and the rest of America hates the leadership in Arizona, and no one wants to be associated with them because of their draconian laws, In other words, stop speaking on matters that don’t concern you, and that you know nothing about.

GordonS July 24, 2012 5:17 AM


“Let me know how Norway responds when they have a border with a nation similar to Mexico”

I fail to see the relevance of Mexico with the US response to terrorism?

“a sizable percentage of the world’s population that would gladly walk into your kitchen with a suicide belt”
“a sizable percentage of the world’s population”?

What utter nonsense! I take it you’ve never travelled outside of the USA?

GordonS July 24, 2012 5:30 AM

“The chance of repitition of 9/11 is “maximal”. There’s a “small subgroup” of 1 billion people working everyday to make it happen”

A tiny subgroup of those billions people. Miniscule – no, microscopic!

“But one thing is for sure, if there is to be a future including muslims in modern societies, islam has to die”

Honestly, I find attitutes like that truely frightening. Some might call it terror…

Dirk Praet July 24, 2012 5:49 AM

@ neuromancer

Single nutters are not terrorists

Says who ? To the best of my knowledge, membership of a known or unknown terrorist group is not a prerequisite for being one. In general, individuals acting on their own are referred to as lone wolves. In the US, the best known examples thereof are Timothy McVeigh, Theodore Kaczynski and Eric Robert Rudolph.

Breivik executed a well-prepared, low-budget, but highly successful attack with a very clear political agenda as documented in his 1,500 page manifesto. He may be nuts to our standards, but his acts, motivations and intentions were as terrorist as terrorism can get.

vasiliy pupkin July 24, 2012 8:38 AM

@ Scared;
“External controls on our behavior imposed by government through laws, police, and jails usually apply only after a terrible crime has occurred”.
Very good point! Like in security: technical measures could prevent (yeah, not 100%) working “before” crime occurred (proactive), laws are working only after (reactive). For determined criminal/terrosist external controls are not deterrent, but technical controls are.

MBY July 24, 2012 9:57 AM

Here in Sweden neighboring Norway we had a “toy scale” terror attack in 2010 from an “islamist”. Only the terrorist died thanks to his incompetence but the picture painted of the event is that many would have been killed, had the bomb worked properly.

I’m very satisfied with the governments response. About nothing. No new legislations, no new polices. That’s exactly how you counter terrorism, refuse to get terrorised. It not an existential threat as all terrorists in the world hardly can kill as many as road accidents, diseases and stupidness.

One problem though, the Swedish government has been “responding” for a decade or so, basically after 911, with legislation and new laws with feature creep, actually threatening our civil liberties and security. Giving police and security agencies more power and lesser transparency.

So, the good news is that the Scandinavan countries has responded well (by doing basically nothing) to specific events, but the bad news is that we get those idiotic laws anyway in a slow and dumb process. To slow to wake any real opposition.

Norwegian July 24, 2012 10:42 AM

Neuromancer : How dare you say that Norway has not had a terrorist-attack. Wasn’t the 77 people who got killed a proof of that, isn’t the nearly 700 kids that have to suffer through nightmares and deep psycological problems because a man shoot at them proof of that? We are a very small country and 77 people killed is 77 too many! It doesn’t matter if is 3 people or 3000, if anyone shows up and start shooting people or/ and setting of a bomb, it IS a terrorist-attack, no matter the scale or casualties.

neuromancer July 24, 2012 11:53 AM

@norwiegian it was a single tragic event carried out by a single deranged individual.

It was Terrible not Terrorisiam which has a specific meaning and Bruce realy should know better.

For example I know 5/6 people who live in NI it truns out that 2 are going through the truth and reconcialition commision process ie the IRA/UDA killed a close familly member.

And they where some of the lucky ones it was a clean kills and not one of the dissapeared ones.

Fact July 25, 2012 3:02 AM

Two facts about Norway:

There is no list of approved names. There is a law that says you can’t give your child a name that burdens your child (God, Hitler, Satan) etc. You can name your child almost anything else. This is for the child’s protection from idiot parents.

While Norway as a whole has a low number of people of non Scandinavian ethnicity, most of them are concentrated in the large cities. In some schools in Oslo, over 90% of the students are either first or second generation immigrants, mostly from countries outside Europe.

MBY July 25, 2012 3:45 AM


What on earth are you talking about? First, there is no all agreed upon definition of terrorism. Second, the usual definition is political violence in order to change the governments (etc) mind. The Oklahoma bombing and the Olso bombing (and the shooting at Utöja) is clearly terrorism. Yes, its even the terrorism we are used to, the common form of terrorism. People in the west may find Islamist terrorism more scary and hence feel more terrorized, but this is only a prejudiced state of mind. Breiviks political act, bombing and murdering as a show and tell event to “promote” a ridiculous and hateful, unintelligent and ignorant agenda is classic terrorism alright.

PeterF July 25, 2012 5:16 AM

You can name your child almost anything else. This is for the child’s protection from idiot parents.

…and also from sub-optimal database designs. Obligatory XKCD-reference:


grumpy July 25, 2012 6:33 AM

One of the interesting differences is the role of the press. Do a little reading on the battleship Maine and you’ll see the similarities to current affairs.

renoX July 25, 2012 7:18 AM

Well, I hope that they do something on their emergency reaction time which was really poor.

Norwegian July 25, 2012 7:49 AM

Neuromancer: a single tragic event?? It seems you have got your facts wrong. It was first a bomb in the centre of Oslo that killed 8 people and then it was a shooting at the island of Utøya that killed 69 people. Yes, it was done by one individual person, but it was still two different attacks. Just because he might be deranged and alone in his attacks, he’s not a terrorist, is that what you’re saying? If the man ( who’s name I would prefer not to mention) is not a terrorist, than what is he? A serial killer? Because then it’s the first serial killer I’ve heard of that’s killed 77 people using a bomb and a gun.
And how would you know so much about the definition of terrorism when you can’t even spell it right! What you’re saying makes no sense at all! I think everyone has already established that it was infact a terrorist attack, that wasn’t even what bruce was writing about, so stop acting like you know everything about this when you clearly don’t.

Midiar July 25, 2012 10:45 AM

Just a comment on the digression of the Norwegian banned names list:
Just before we got our daughter, I read that our planned name had been banned.

Hah, of course we used it anyway, because our combination sounded real good. There are now 4 women with that name in Norway.

If I were processing name changes, I would keep a list of fishy names, a smoke test. The law doesn’t mention such a list. It’s a tool.

Erik July 25, 2012 2:05 PM

As a Norwegian I just want to comment on this idea Norway is supposed to be this completly homogenous society with just blonde people.

In the course of a year I have never seen a blonde ethnic Norwegian kid when I look out the balcony of where I live. My son goes to a preschool with a whole wall full of flags of the different nationalities of the kids that go there. 15-20 different parhaps.

The last years as I have passed numerious costruction sites, I have yet to hear Norwegian being spoken. It is always polish. When I go to a restaurant they speak Swedish. 30 % of school children in Oslo have parents born abroad. That doesn’t count those minorities with parents already born here.

Norway of just 5 million people accepts as many asylum seekers as the whole of US (300 million). That is people in the most desperate situation, often with no education, mental problems etc and here they get a house, free health care and a new start.

People from almost anywhere in Europe are free to go to Norway because EU is essentially borderless. That includes people from poor countries such as Romania. Oslo is currently having huge crowds of gypsy begging in the streets of Oslo. You find them far out in the suburbs as well. Statistically speaking they are overrepresented in theft and pick pocketing.

I see more ethnic blonde homegenous population in Salt Lake City than I do in Oslo 😉 I guess my point is not all of the US is a melting pot and not all of Norway is ethnically homogenous.

Ben July 25, 2012 11:52 PM

Comparing Norway to the US is idiotic. Compare their wiki pages. Completely different in multiple core aspects. Norway is simple in a lot of ways from the get-go, so of course they are able to employ some very simple solutions that actually work. In almost all of these areas the US is on the opposite end of the spectrum of complexity. Don’t you think that probably matters a lot?

It is funny when people criticize US “fear”. You are the target of organized, consistent, large scale indiscriminate mass murder which threatens the stability of your country, the lives of your people… but why so afraid? I mean these terrorist threats never actually come true right? They are just words meant to scare you right?

GordonS July 26, 2012 4:38 AM


“You are the target of organized, consistent, large scale indiscriminate mass murder which threatens the stability of your country, the lives of your people…”

“consistent” – really?! I also think you need to put that in perspective. From Bruce:

“The risk of dying in the U.S. from terrorism is substantially less than the risk of drowning in your bathtub, the risk of a home appliance killing you, or the risk of dying in an accident caused by a deer. Remember that more people die every month in automobile crashes than died in 9/11.”


“It is funny when people criticize US “fear””

Actually, no – just about anything you can think of is more likely to kill you than terrorism!

bob July 26, 2012 8:27 AM

I am always baffled by people who compare the US to other countries and say “presto! this proves my point because [whatever] is the only variable.”

Its the culture that counts most, and there are infinite variables. Heck, most US States dont even compare to each other all that well; comparing US [or any large country] against another country other isnt even comparing apples to oranges; its more like comparing oranges to a fast Fourier transform.

Contemporary US culture is a dichotomy. Originally everyone came here from another land [stipulated for some it was so long ago that they walked, and now call themselves “native”]. But basically the people here are descendants of [the survivors of] people who were in a another land, didnt like it, and took direct action; ie they went someplace empty[ish] and formed it to be the way they wanted. They were quick or they got dead.

But now, enough people have been static here long enough that “cultural drift” has brought about a large population of people who want “someone else” to “fix it” when something isnt “right”.

So we now have a government built of people who get elected because they convinced voters that we had a crisis [BOTH sides of the aisle: “terrorism”, “health care”, “unions”, “tea party” – any number can play] that only they could solve. And the longer that crisis stays on the front page the longer they stay in power, so they are motivated to spend maximal resources, but accomplish minimal change.

And it stays this way because about half of the population is the new passive category that wants government to hold their hand from cradle to grave and thusly are willing to surrender all their rights and treasure [and more importantly everybody else’s as well] to make this happen; while the remainder are whats left of the self-sufficient group who think government is the problem, not the solution and want to minimize its funding, power and authority to keep it relatively harmless.

Thus, Congress is in perpetual doldrums only shifted briefly by the magnetic field of a particularly charismatic president to deviate one way or another and then drift back over time. So the end result is no actual change, but a LOT of energy is consumed getting there.

Anon July 26, 2012 6:12 PM

The US government officially defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents” in 22 USC 2656 for purposes of reporting on terrorism. So at least one of the US government’s definitions of terrorism would appear to exclude purely lone wolf terrorists who don’t receive guidance or support from any group. It’s perfectly reasonable to argue that Norway didn’t actually experience a terrorist attack, but it’s perfectly reasonable to use other definitions of terrorism as well.

Norwegian July 27, 2012 7:29 AM

@Anon: Just because the US government say something doesn’t automatically mean that it’s the ultimate truth or even the definite answer. Please dont argue on the fact that Norway did experience a terrorist attack based on something ONE government tell you, when it’s clear that so many others disagree with what they’re saying.

vasiliy pupkin July 27, 2012 9:19 AM

It is nothing wrong to compare how other countries attempt to resolve similar problems. That let to accept (or at least evaluate with open mind) good ideas and practicies regardless of source (not like our is always the best and the only possible without facts confirming such statement).
Comparison to be valid shoud be based on facts (e.g. trusted statistics), not opinions of persons regardless how high their rank, political status or wealth are. Same applies to the media. Yeah, size matter, but that is just one factor.

Anon July 27, 2012 6:14 PM


Given that terrorism is an English language word and the United States is the largest English speaking country in the world, the US government’s definition of terrorism is probably about as close as anything else to an official definition of terrorism.

Beyond the issue of definition, I can see a couple of reasons why the US reacted differently than Norway to an incident.
1) The US was attacked by a group. If you’re attacked by a lone wolf suicide bomber, then there’s no one left to target.
2) The 9/11 terrorists used a far more sophisticated method of attack. However, Norway’s population is so small that even a dumb perpetrator using simple methods can eliminate a significant percentage of the population.

MBY July 28, 2012 6:48 PM

@Anon – “Given that terrorism is an English language word and the United States is the largest English”

Whaaat? First, the word “terror” is Latin, loaned via French. The ending “ism” is by no means English either. Terrorism in French is “terrorisme”. In Swedish we say terror and terrorism as anybody else.

Second, India, not US, are the largest English speaking country in the world. More, English in India is by de jure. In US English is by de facto.

Third, I cannot see in your definition that either the “clandestine agents” nor the “subnational group” must be a coherent, official group containing more than one person.

Please don’t use the ambiguity in any definition or lack of definition to home in on a special case definition that is cherry picked. Terrorism existed long before 911 and never has it been certain that it must be executed by a well defined group. It is simply not the case. Al Queda is also not a well defined group by any means but rather a loose assembly of ideas and ideology. Breivik acted in a context very much like al Queda – a loose subculture of neo fascists, Christian extremists, conservative extremists and such. Some who advocate violence, some who advocate politics, some who is just batshit insane.

Extraparlamentarian political violence in the 1900s and 2000s is what we typically call “terrorism” when the attacks reach a sufficient scale. A mean terrorist attack kills very few people, less than 10. 911 is not nearly a typical terror attack, nor are Breiviks attack. Germany, England, France, Sweden and Spain (and all other states you wish) has different kind of terror attacks. England has IRA, Spain has ETA. Germany and Sweden had much left wing extremism in the 1970s, especially Germany (RAF). Sweden had the first cases of mail bombs (I’m told that it is a “Swedish invention”). Israel deal with terrorism each day from a multitude of different sub-groups under a umbrella of islamism (political Islam). These attacks typically kills less than 10 people. It is still terrorism.

To argue that the Oslo/Utöja attacks was not “real terrorism” is to define terrorism so no true Scotsman exists. Actually, the Oslo attacks was way bigger than your typically terror attack executed by a small disgruntled group or individual with a nutcase agenda. There is literally thousands of people in Norway, Sweden and rest of Europe that hails the attack and silently or outspokenly agrees with Breviks agenda. The networks of those people are not necessarily lesser organized than say al Queda. In fact, as you always will find a al Queda advocate or apologist on random forums on the Internet together with your typically US-hating or West-hating retard you have already found Breviks supporters in this very thread!

Was the unabomber a terrorist? Oklahoma bomber? The Washington shooting spree after 911? The funny thing is that we have seen a shift in what government call “terrorism” and we have expressed fear that the various “terror laws” is been used too easy. Bruce Schneier has wrote about it a few times, we risk to call things that is not terrorism for “terrorism” just because we are afraid. But now, somebody want to do the opposite, naming only spectacular one offs as 911 for “terrorism”. But of course the Oslo attacks was terrorism. As real as it gets. Classic and typical terrorism, but on a scale BIGGER than we are used to – not smaller. Again, the big majority of terror attacks hardly even make it to the evening news – killing anything from zero to a very few individual in a “remote” corner of the world. Terror attacks in the west (US, Norway, whatever) is rare and when it happens it gets in the news.

Make no mistake. I have seen the ugly face of neo fascists in this very thread as I commonly see the ugly face of left wing nutbags, right wing nutbags, islamophobias, antisemitic people, creationists, doomsday-advocates, US-haters, and so on. Someone linked to gates of Vienna. Well, there is something that has about the same level or organization as the islamists they are afraid of.

Actually, I find the definitions issue as a pretty brainless pseudo-discussion. The interesting things (and the topic for this thread) is government (and maybe public) response. It may be very important indeed if the attack is executed by a normal looking citizen or a foreign attack, but the discussion of whatever a attack is “real” terrorism or if countries can be compared are not the point.

(I find it particularly interesting that some want to address the “fact” that US is subject to international, foreign and/or organized attacks as compared with Norway. I don’t think this is true but only a state of mind. Also, this is not at all unique to the US. US citizens probably has no objection if I also point to the UK as a target. But that is also true for every country joining US and UK in the “war on terrorism” as many NATO or ISAF countries [like Sweden, Norway and Denmark]. But, still, its only a state of mind. If you have the idea that a big Muslim coherent world is out there plotting against you, you have been terrorized in the Schneiers sens of the world. Just refuse to be terrorized. Its simply not true, you are being prejudiced. But my point is this is noting unique of US [or UK]. Plenty of people here in peaceful Sweden feel and think the same. And they are wrong. I’m not saying we are not going to experience another attacks. Sooner or later, we will experience just that. But it is not an existential threat!)

Anon July 28, 2012 9:50 PM


Hindi is the primary language of India by usage, so I don’t accept that India is primarily an English speaking country. Even you wanted to call India, the world’s largest English speaking country, you still haven’t shown that India’s government has adopted an official definition of terrorism that is more expansive than the US one. I’m not cherry picking some random person’s definition, but rather using the US legal code. If you think that Al Qaeda had zero organization and interaction between members or that Brevik had funding, training, and orders from some vast conspiracy, you’re beyond delusional. As for the Unabomber, he was in almost every sense a lone wolf and thus not a terrorist. OKC involved at least four plotters, so it can be considered a terrorist act as it involved a group. There’s circumstantial evidence linking Terry Nichols to Ramzi Youseh, so it’s at least possible that OKC was in fact supported by some larger Islamic terrorist group.

MBY July 29, 2012 2:18 AM


The comment about India was an answer to your silly argumentum ad populum that if US government has a definition of terrorism, it is a correct one since “English is a world language and US is the biggest English speaking country”.

And please don’t pretend I have said things I haven’t. Al Queda is not “zero organisation”, nor have I said something that even remotely can be interpreted as “Brevik had funding and organisation”.

May I ask why you have this idea of using some US legal code for a definition of terrorism – a code I cannot see completely rule out lone wolf-terrorism? If I want to know what terrorism is I’m asking scholars and academics first, and using the common conceptualisation of the term, not (mis?)interpret legal code.

Terrorism has been carried out by anything from lone wolfs to big organisations as IRA to loose ideological and financial contraptions as al Queda and anything in between. So I wonder what your point really is? Do you actually have something interesting to say about the topics in this thread? Can’t you hear the sillyness of your own argumentation when you want to shoehorn in the Oklahoma bombing as terrorism by asserting three or four people but want to exclude the Oslo bombin/Utöja shooting because of Breivik acting on his own? Timothy McVeigh is usually the so called perfect example of a lone wolf terrorist although he was a sympathiser of paramilitary groups and had an convicted accomplice. Totally unproven islamist connections is way besides the point. Conspiracy nuts has already made similar “connections” with Breivik. The Unabomber is named a terrorist (domestic terrorist/lone wolf) by the FBI and contemporary books on terrorism discuss Ted Kaczynski. Why is this so important for you to propose a non consensus view of what a terrorist is? The fact that no universally prevailing definition exists is no argument to cherry pick (even if it is from legal code [is it even ALL what the legal system in US has to say about it?]) a specific definition aimed not at understanding terror as a concept, but aimed at the juridical system. And the language, what was that all about? Its a non sequitur.

I hope I’m wrong and I apologise beforehand if I am, but my experience with this tells me I’m smelling a rat here. It seems to me that “real” terrorism is islamist terror. Other forms – even if consensus says it is terrorism – are either not terrorism or has a hidden connection to islamists.

MBY July 29, 2012 2:34 AM

…more (@Anon)

Few definitions proposed requires that the act is planned and/or executed by a well defined group or organization. The group can be vague or non-existent. The least common denominator of contemporary definitions is an act of violence targeting “non combatants” or civilian people that the adversary has no personal connection to (a school shooting is seldom labeled as terrorism outside media, but even that is not obvious) and where the agenda is to hurt a range of peoples, a state or community extending from the victims. The motivation is political, ethical, ethnicity, religious or something similar. The definition must separate between terrorism and “common” violence and crime such as serial killing (not so common in fact) and such.

Regardless of which definition we want to use, a legal statement aimed at policy making or ruling is not appropriate. That kind of definition is constructed for different purposes than aftermath labeling of single events. It is nothing wrong with legal codes, but they should not substituting a more suitable definitions in academics and in understanding the phenomena.

Albert July 29, 2012 7:29 AM

How dishonest!

Comparing the multi-pronged, multi-decade campaign of Islamic terrorism against the United States with a nutcase loner acting out his fantasies…

Anon July 29, 2012 11:30 AM


Even if you want to use academics and scholars, the only academic consensus about the definition of terrorism is that there is not an academic consensus on the definition of terrorism. Even from the wiki article, Lutz says that “the violence is conducted by an identifiable organization.” Bockstette says “such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization.” Hoffman says: terrorism must be “conducted by an organization with an identifiable chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure.” Khan says “Terrorism sprouts from the existence of aggrieved groups.” It’s not clear that an academic consensus, if such actually existed, would include a lone nutcase.

MBY July 29, 2012 1:50 PM


So? This was my very point. In common terminology Breivik is a terrorist. So was the Oklahoma bomber. The unabomber is called a terrorist by some, not technically a terrorist by others. As I said, besides the organization thing (lone wolf, small group or international terror organizations, etc) there is the scale, motive and agenda. Scale in combination with motive alone should be sufficient to call something terrorism.

I wonder what you are fishing for really? We have always called political violence of sufficient scale and/or level of organization for “terrorism” given that the victims is indirect selected. Either general public or people from a given political, religious or ethnicity group. Why stop now? What are you winning by selecting a specific and by no means consensus definition? Actually I wonder why organization matters at all?

@Albert: The comparing is government and public response. As a “multi decade campaign of Islamic terrorism” against the US is very special, non typical terrorism the comparison should be response to lone wolf terrorism or some ratio, say level of fear over level of government response. The typical terror act is a native or neighborhoodin citizens/organisations driven by political agendas. Also, mind you, the “multi decade campaign” is against the west, not the US specific. At least, that is the mindset of many citizens of European and USA. I’m not so sure that it is really meaningful to speak about “multi decade campaigns” as there is no “control room”, no “base” (actually, “al Queda” means “the base”, but this is an ideological base, not a physical top-down organized one). Some terror is in “response” to the “war on terror”. I’m not trying to be an apologist, I hate the terrorism as the next guy and I’m a supporter of the idea to use any means to get rid of terror, including force, but I thing these things should be evidence based, not “we must do something, this is something”-based.

Often you hear “the suspect was inspired by al Queda” and that is about it. Al Queda is a ideological movement with some resources (at least, they had resources), mostly financial.

Defining this (mostly imagined I would say) “multi decade campaign” as the only “real terrorism” and maybe letting in some other well known actors as IRA, ETA, LTTE/Tamil Tigers, etc is a strange slippery slope shifting the meaning of the word.

And, to be clear, I’m agree that we cannot automatically compare US response to 911 and such with Norway’s response to Brevik, but that is not because only on of them is “terrorism” but because terrorism as a whole is not automatically comparable. But, as I’m trying to stress here: Breviks Oslo/Utöja attacks is probably much more typical terrorism than 911, the only atypical thing is the sheer scale (mind you, a terror attack typically kills less than 10 people. I have a vague recollection of 4 people as the mean or average when you exclude non-killing terrorism (either failures or other form of terror). Sheer scale alone is sufficient in most minds for calling something “terrorism” if the target is selected as is typical.

But, I think we should return to the topic. Government response was good in the Brevik case. It could have been rather different. The response to the 2010 pathetic attack in Stockholm, Sweden was also good even when this actually was a islamist act and “organized” as such (read: a couple of moron hotheads maybe getting some money and motive from some lose group as al Queda).

I hope Bruce Schneier returns to this thread. He may have some sensible comment on the whole compare issue. A comparison between the Oklahoma bomber and the Olso bomber is pretty straight forward I think. Both are on a pretty big scale, both is some sort of “lone wolf” terrorism with a few inspirations from vaguely defined groups or sub cultures. The 911 was something different. But if the government had kept their heads cold they would have seen that pretty much of the “terror laws” and “terror alerts” and such is uncalled for. Even when the adversary is some dark, ill-defined and lose group from long abroad whose motives are very hard to understand to a western mind as you and me.

MBY July 29, 2012 1:57 PM

@Albert again.

I just want to add that Brevik are a nutcase alright. But so are pretty much all terrorists. They are driven by an agenda beyond anything a sensible person with working temporal lobes can fathom. I actually hope that Brevik is declared insane. It could be interpreted as a non acknowledgement of the very ideas, the pseudoscientific world view.

Anon July 29, 2012 3:21 PM


I don’t see why you insist on referring to OKC as an act of lone wolf terrorism, when it has been proven that Mcveigh has two accomplishes.

MBY July 30, 2012 7:42 AM


I won’t insist really. As you say he acted not alone. But you can say there is a continuum between “lone wolf” terrorism and terrorism performed by a small group. FBI calls it lone wolf terrorism and so do other sources. But I you think I really insist that the Oklahoma bomber was alone and and therefore “by definition” is a lone wolf I must have been unclear or misunderstood. Some “define” the Oklahoma event as lone wolf terrorism, some other don’t. But, that aside I think Breiviks terror and McVeigh ditto is more alike than say any of them and WTC. Not only because of the size of the group but also how the act affect us western citizens and government response.

But still, I think that there is a latent difference between pre- and post-WTC terror events as 911 actualized the topic more than ever. So, even if a particular act is not islamist terrorism or al Queda, there is a risk that event are interpreted as the need for responses, if you understand what I mean. 911 lowered the threshold for implementing both sensible and draconian responses as new laws, polices, agencies and such. In this context, both the Swedish and Norwegian governments responded well. But, as I said before, at least Sweden has followed many of the other western states after 911 and gradually implemented new laws and policies after 911.

As you probably hear, this is the topic I want to discuss, and my interpretation of what the thread and blog post is about. If Breivik is a terrorist or not is only interesting if a hypothetical organized attack similar as Breivik’s where performed instead (from attackers with Breiviks mindset – as we tend to fear terror under the Islam label more) and the response was different.

It’s not about if the perpetrator was completely alone in a totally delusional world view or have a few supporters or are heavily organized and disciplined that matters, it is how we interpret things. Maybe, if Breivik’s self-proclaimed network where to exists (very few thinks so), the response would be totally different. This is the interesting stuff I think is worth discussing. As for now, I call him a terrorist and this is actually the first time I hear somebody oppose that description (the opposite – to call whatever random small scale violence, threat or act for “terrorism” seems more frequent).

Scared July 31, 2012 12:01 PM

You just can’t make up this stuff:

Security at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo forgot to remove the fake bomb they used for a security drill:

“It was a bomb drill that worked all too well.

The U.S. Embassy and an area of central Oslo were evacuated on Tuesday when a fake explosive device was mistakenly left beneath a vehicle trying to enter the compound, police said.

The discovery of the device by security guards also led to the evacuation of the royal palace, the halting of subway traffic in the area, and the cancellation of an international children’s soccer game at nearby Voldslokka Stadium so police could use the field for helicopters.

The bomb scare and police search closed the entire area for several hours.

“The Oslo police bomb squad has removed the object and can confirm that it was a dummy bomb,” police said in a statement. “The car has been used for an internal drill at the embassy, and the find can be connected to this.”

The U.S. Embassy did not immediately comment about how the mistake had been made.”

Norway’s monarch was not at the palace at the time, but people visiting it were evacuated during the security check.

Willy T. Koch August 15, 2012 3:52 AM

Regarding the fifth paragraph quoted from the article: “On the streets of Oslo, CCTV cameras are still a comparatively rare sight”

This is not true, there are tons off CCTV cameras in Oslo, only topped by London in Europe. Read Google Translated article here:
NRK news from nov-2011

It seems all the cameras have no deterring effect, but that is nothing new.

Ferdinand August 15, 2012 9:15 AM

My wife used to work in the Parliament Buildings here in Ottawa. I was able to park right at the front door next to the Peace Tower waiting to pick her up after work. Seems like the RCMP who patrolled the grounds spent most of their time simply ensuring tourists drove in the proper direction around the one-way square in front of the buildings.

While I was sitting idling in my mini-van waiting for my wife, a friendly RCMP officer came over and started asking me questions about our new Toyota Previa van. He said he was considering buying one for his family. I demonstrated for him how easily the rear seats fold up out the way, a novelty at the time. Really nice guy. We chatted for a while, then he moved on to pose for photos with some tourists.

It was only later that I realized he probably had no interest whatsoever in buying a van. He was just being friendly while checking me out, making sure I had nothing threatening stored in the back of the van. That’s the civilized way things were done back then.

Nowadays, we’re no longer allowed to drive onto Parliament Hill at all. Authorized vehicles only, and even then only after passing through an inspection station, with mirrors under the car etc. sigh.

GSo August 15, 2012 3:04 PM

First a response to Bruce:
Yes, it makes a big difference. Several not so nice episodes were reported by muslim origin individuals after the bomb but before it became clear that ABB was the terrorist. Living in Oslo, I am sure that a muslim terrorist would have made a difference.

Second, take part in the brilliant logic of the official commission in their report:
“The bomb in Grubbegata (street name) could have been avoided.”
This was of course shortened in the headlines to “the bomb could have been avoided”. The statement is based on the fact that there were plans to close the access to this street, which had been delayed. The fact is that being a Friday afternoon during the summer holiday, there was no other place in central Oslo where the number of deaths would not have been at least twice as high.

nnnc August 16, 2012 2:33 PM

MBY there are no “thousands of people in Norway, Sweden and rest of Europe that hails the attack”.

Extreme groups tends to strive against “ideological purity” and there’s enough of a mixture of liberalism, socialism, konservatism, neo-nazis and zionism in his texts to expel him from more or less every extreme group you can find in Norway.

But feel free to post some examples of those norwegian or swedish groups who has given him there full support.

This is BTW an important point when looking at how Norway have reacted on the attack. Most terrorist attacks executed by a single person have still had sympathizers. Like the oklahomabomber.

Breidvik got none. There is no “next one in line”-terrorist from some movement fore government to act against.

The entire debate has been about whether the political groups that criticize Islam and emigration might have inspired him, not whether they might plane new attacks.

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