NORWAY: Political massacre demands new research

The killing last month of 77 people in Norway, most of them young members of the Labour Party attending a summer camp at Utøya outside the capital Oslo, shocked the country and the world. More research into political extremism is needed, Junior Minister of Higher Education Kyrre Lekve (pictured) told University World News.

Lekve said that while the government had not discussed the matter, it was obvious that there was a need to undertake more research into political extremism generally, and right-wing views particularly.

"I am sure that these issues will find their way into existing research at universities and research institutes, and in programmes administered by the Norwegian Research Council," the junior minister said.

"We have to see if there is a need for the government to make separate interventions to reinforce such moves at research institutions," he told University World News.

Many Norwegians have asked questions about the relevance of research supported by the government since 22 July, the day Anders Behring Breivik chose extreme violence - a bomb in Oslo and the slaughter of youngsters at Utøya - to express his extreme right-wing views.

The programme Security in Society and Risks had its final conference in spring, head of the Norwegian Research Council (NRC) Arvid Hallén said in a press release. He said the actions of Breivik raised questions for individuals and Norwegian society - how such an attack could happen, why and how to prevent similar incidents in future.

"Even if knowledge can give us no guarantee that such actions shall not happen again, it is legitimate and necessary to see where research can give us better and more relevant answers to our questions", Hallén said.

"The Research Council has a special responsibility to gather knowledge, create an overview, identify new research needs and make such knowledge of use to society. The RCN will now take the initiative for a process to gather such information, together with the government and the Norwegian research environment," Hallén stated.

World-renowned Norwegian sociologist and founder of peace research Johan Galtung, who had a granddaughter among the 535 youths gathered at Utøya when the Breivik struck, told the national newspaper Dagbladet that the secret police, the PST, should have identified Breivik as a political threat based on his blog articles posted to the internet over a long time.

Breivik sent a 1,508-page 'manifesto' on his political views in an e-mail to nearly 5,000 people just hours before the terror attacks. Galtung advocated dialogue with political extremists, to challenge their views in public.

This work, together with observational data on Breivik in the years to come, will probably lead to one of the most studied mass murders ever. It remains to be seen whether this can cast new light on the difficult question of why he murdered so many young people, many of them teenagers.