Today the German government is hosting an emergency summit to consider an alleged neo-Nazi threat. Federal and state police, prosecutors, intelligence agencies and others are gathering in Berlin to share information and, perhaps, undo the perception of lax attention to radical German nationalists. (Der Spiegel has aggregated several stories.)
A three-member cell of the “National Socialist Underground” was recently uncovered by German authorities. At least ten murders have been traced to the cell. Nine of those murdered were of Turkish or Greek descent. Eighty-eight political and civic leaders were apparently targeted for assassination. (88 is a bit of neo-Nazi numerology.) Two of the cell members have committed suicide. The third is in custody.
But according to Deutsche Welle, the chairman of the German parliament’s oversight committee, Thomas Oppermann, said that “there is evidence of more helpers.” A report in the daily Berliner Zeitung on Wednesday said investigators had a handful of suspects.
Earlier this week Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer appeared in court and made his first public statement. “I am a military commander in the Norwegian resistance movement and Knights Templar Norway,” Breivik told the court. “I acknowledge the acts, but I do not plead guilty,” Breivik said, adding that he rejected the jurisdiction of the court because it “supports multiculturalism.”
In a manifesto released coincident with his deadly bombing of central Oslo and massacre of 69 on Utoeya Island, Breivik claimed to be part of a pan-European movement to save Western Civilization from Islam. Norwegian police have been criticized for underestimating the threat of nationalist violence.
Brevik has been denounced by every major European political party, left, center, right, and even ultra-right. But many of his belief’s — if not his behavior — are more widely held. Several neo-Nazi (difficult to define) and ultra-nationalist (ditto) movements show signs of attracting more support. According to Sarah Webb writing for Reuters, “As the euro zone shudders, Europe’s populist politicians from the Netherlands to Austria and Finland are exploiting its woes to build up support and even threaten some governments.”
Early this month Demos, the British think-tank, released a new study of “online populism” in Europe. The study was conducted by reaching out to the Facebook communities associated with fourteen widely recognized – and often self-defined – right-wing political movements. (See brief profiles of each group compiled by The Guardian.)
Based on volunteer answers to a series of questions, Demos found:
- Online supporters are primarily young men: an average of 63 per cent are under 30, and 75 per cent are male.
- Those responding are motivated by positive identification with the party’s values and the desire to protect national and cultural identity.
- Younger supporters are more likely to cite immigration than older supporters as a reason for joining.
- Supporters display low levels of trust in both national and European political institutions compared with national population averages.
- Online supporters are disgruntled democrats: they overwhelmingly believe that voting matters, and disavow violence, but do not believe that politics is an effective way to respond to their concerns.
- A shift by the respondents from online activism to voting is motivated by concerns over immigration, and Islamic extremism.
- The right-wing European respondents are not more inclined to violence than other elements of the general population
Meanwhile in North Georgia (USA), on Wednesday a federal magistrate denied bond to four elderly men accused in a plot to bomb federal buildings and disperse the toxin ricin. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Federal authorities, who began infiltrating the group’s meetings in March with the help of an informant, said the men discussed dispersing ricin throughout Atlanta and other major U.S. cities. In Atlanta, the documents said, the plan was to unleash the powdery substance on I-285, I-75 and U.S. 41. They also talked about assassinating state and federal officials, blowing up federal buildings and buying enough explosives to do it, FBI affidavits said. Some of the men said in secretly recorded conversations that they were willing to die for their cause, the affidavits said.
According to court documents filed following their arrest on November 1, one of those charged, Frederick Thomas, age 73, of Cleveland, Georgia told the informant, “There is no way for us, as militiamen, to save this country, to save Georgia, without doing something that’s highly, highly illegal: murder… When it comes time to saving the Constitution, that means some people have got to die.”
These are only a few of several similar stories that made it to my web browser this week. Coincidences happen. Three proximate angles do not necessarily share any particular point. But the proliferation did catch my attention.