November 21st, 2011
09:28 AM ET

Zakaria: The young face of Europe's far right

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

It remains one of the most shocking mass murders in recent memory.  Last week Anders Behring Breivik appeared in a public court in Oslo and admitted to killing 77 people last July. He wasn't repentant. Instead, Breivik pleaded not guilty to terror charges, claiming he was in a state of war to protect Europe from being taken over by Muslim immigrants.

How could the culture of Northern Europe, known for social welfare states and generous foreign aid budgets, create a killing machine like Breivik?

An important new survey sheds some light. The think tank Demos conducted the first-ever quantitative investigation of far-right groups in Europe online. This is especially important because the Internet following of these parties dwarfs its formal membership. Remember, the likes of Breivik are created and radicalized online.

So Demos reached out to more than 400,000 Facebook followers of 14 far-right groups across Europe. More than a quarter of the respondents said that violence is acceptable if it leads to the right ends. And if you thought the far-right's members are aging and disconnected, think again. A third of those surveyed were under 21; two thirds were under 30. Compare that with the average age of Facebook users - only half are under 30. 

So it turns out that supporters of Europe's far-right groups are increasingly young and connected. They're also mostly male, deeply cynical about the European Union, and deeply worried about immigration and a perceived spread of Islamic influence in Europe.

They are extreme versions of a growing reality in Europe. The European Union does seem dysfunctional; jobs are scarce; and at least three major European leaders - Germany's Angela Merkel, France's Nicolas Sarkozy, and Britain's David Cameron - have recently admitted that Europe's experiment with multiculturalism has failed.

Whoever's fault it is - society's for not offering enough opportunities to integrate or the immigrants for clinging to their own practices - the reality is the immigrant experience in Europe has been complicated and has produced a backlash. And now, with youth unemployment skyrocketing in some countries, could rage against immigrants be the escape valve?

Maybe, though please note: Norway has not really had an economic downturn. This leads to a key point: It's important to understand that Breivik is a complete outlier. He does not represent most of the far right. He represents evil - unrepentant to this day for slaughtering dozens of young Norwegians.

But having said that, it's clear to me that Europe needs to take a serious look at its policies toward immigrants. It needs to offer more integration and opportunities, and it should ask immigrants for much more assimilation.

A final thought - since 9/11, the world has focused almost exclusively on Islamic terror in the form of al Qaeda and other groups. But the European Union's latest terror report shows that of the 249 terror attacks committed in Europe in 2010, only three were by Islamic terrorists. The rest were by separatist groups, the far right, or the far left.

For all the attention that has been paid to Islamic terrorism, there are likely more Breiviks out there, and we need to examine that danger as well.

The irony is that Breivik has become a mirror image for the very thing he seems to be against. He's young, disaffected and a mass murderer.  And when he is taken to court to answer for his crimes, he says he's fighting a kind of holy war. Sound familiar?


soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Aryan

    The number of terrorist acts in Europe in a year are outnumbered by the terrorist acts in Muslim nations in a day. Survival of the fittest will always prevail... it is the "law" of natural selection. Strongest gene pool, best weapons, most dexterity with opposable thumbs, .... gunpowder, nuclear ballistic missiles, ... the list of "bests" goes on. It is only my guess who will survive the upcoming risings: I am betting on an Eurasian America, guarded by Swiss guards.... as has always been the case.......

    November 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  2. John Gault 2

    Governments grow, become more liberal and place the responsibility of providing for those who cannot provide for themselves on those who are the workhorses.

    It's a tough world out there and I have to provide my honest assessment. Fundamental Islamists and Fundamental Christians cannot co-exist when living in an integrated environment. America did not bomb the Kenyan embassy. Islamic fundamentalist did. America did nothing to precipitate the 911 bombings by young educated Saudi and other Arab Islamists. They are not terrorist. They just see the world in terms of Islam vs Infidels and they acted upon that.

    I do not want anymore Islamic immigrants. Period. Stay put. You cannot talk out of both sides of your mouth. Christians are not allowed to exist with freedoms and security in arabic muslim nations. They are killed and persecuted. So we have a case here where a crazy person acted wrongly. I'm sure he does not feel he is evil, just as the highjackers on 911 would not consider themselves evil.

    One last thing Fareed, being a far left liberal like you are, it is easy for you under the liberal bedrock of CNN to call anyone who attacks muslims as the "far right". How deceitful, manipulative and arrogant you are.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Reply
  3. Gary

    Some Paki like Zakria thinks Europe should just open their doors and give away everything they have. Violence is always acceptable.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Reply
  4. bob

    europe is going right because the far left ideologues are incapable of dealing with reality, it is now becoming clear just how disingenuous, narcissistic sanctimonious the far left mentality has become, the champions of the repressed the phoney grandstanding & hypocritical – willing to tolerate, pander, appease, placate an ideology & dogma that is entirely contrary to everything about being a liberal tolerant progressive, and a liberal free democracy.. it is grotesquely ironic...

    this video is what the far left have done to the uk.. a major mosque and typical through out the uk, given huge amounts e tax $ for "cohesion" cultural understanding bla bla totted as a huge success ... the where charged with "spreading hate" but handed over a year of film & were soon cleared & subsequently won a 6 digit law suit

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2515587181120245843#

    November 22, 2011 at 3:40 am | Reply
  5. bob

    europe is going right because the far left ideologues are incapable of dealing with reality, it is now becoming clear just how disingenuous, narcissistic sanctimonious the far left mentality has become, the champions of the repressed the phoney grandstanding & hypocritical – willing to tolerate, pander, appease, placate an ideology & dogma that is entirely contrary to everything about being a liberal tolerant progressive, and a liberal free democracy.. it is grotesquely ironic...

    this video is what the far left have done to the uk.. a major mosque and typical through out the uk, given huge amounts e tax $ for "cohesion" cultural understanding bla bla touted as a huge success ... the film makers were charged with "spreading hate" but handed over a year of film & were soon cleared & subsequently won a 6 digit law suit

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2515587181120245843#

    November 22, 2011 at 3:58 am | Reply
  6. Marcus

    I am scared that once things get really bad in Eurpe, those same people who are against immigration in their countries will try to come to mine, as they did in the millions at the end of the 19th century. They are only against immigration of "others" to their country, but count the number of Germans, Dutch, Italians, Spanish, etc... who will leave Europe to come to South America for refuge. It happened before, and it is about to happen again. The Americas will be flooded with immigrants from those "conservative, anty immigrant nations". Maybe, we should treat them the same way that they treat immigrants in Europe today!

    November 22, 2011 at 7:17 am | Reply
  7. A Pat

    It is true that the there is no difference when we compare the act of Anders Behring Breivik with Muslim terrorists. Although, Breivik's hatred towards the Muslims is crystal clear I would like to point out the fact that he did not attack a mosque or a Muslim establishment. The method of sending a message which Breivik chose is wrong - he should have written a letter to the mayor instead stating that Muslim terrorists are a threat. Now in your report you tried to link the two Breivik and Muslim terrorists. Mr. Zakaria failed to mention that Muslim terrorists target non-muslims and their Jihad is against anyone who is not muslim. Here is one case of targeting non-muslims among others http://tinyurl.com/74wpps7. The question is "what in the world" it should be "when will the world wake up and realize the threat Muslim ideology is.

    November 22, 2011 at 8:11 am | Reply
  8. Jamal

    These 240 terrorist acts in Europe, how come we did not here of them? Are they comparing a bank robbery with a jihadist who is blowing himself up killing innocent people for no reason? Fareed, you are an excellent reporter but when it comes to Islamic issues you seem to distort the facts in favor of the Muslims.

    November 22, 2011 at 11:08 am | Reply
  9. Mike

    Zero is zero Fareed. Check out the middle column labeled "Right-Wing." ALL ZEROS!!! ZERO RIGHT-WING TERRORISTS!!! http://www.mrctv.org/videos/fareed-invents-right-wing-terror-eu

    November 23, 2011 at 10:35 am | Reply
  10. J Ruse

    "For all the attention that has been paid to Islamic terrorism, there are likely more Breiviks out there, and we need to examine that danger as well." - Zakaria has outdone himself with this item. The courts found this Nordic mad man legally insane. So, by Zarkaria's estimation, not only are there more right-wing terrorists in Europe, but the far right is literally insane. Yeah, that's journalism. Blog, commentary, whatever - foolish. What about, aside from Islamic extremism, the LEFTIST EXTREMISM that is highly pervasive throughout Europe, greatly evident in recent riots? You are irresponsible, Fareed. When you create biased pieces like this, you are an embarrassment to journalism. All who do so are an embarrassment.

    November 29, 2011 at 10:47 am | Reply
    • J Ruse

      CORRECTION: He does mention that the Nordic killer does NOT represent the far right. That he was pure evil. Well, in fact, he was purely mad. Evil is madness of another kind; I believe this fellow was out of his mind. And Zakaria seems to blame the Internet. People are free to be stupid, that's how Nancy Pelosi keeps being elected and given credence as a leader. Har har. But hardly a mention of leftists, which are a clear problem right now. We do need to pay attention to all extremism, Fareed, obviously. Are you suggesting that Europe ignores these other terrorists? They have been dealing with overt actions from extremists there for a very long time. The failure is in trying to create a multicultural utopia, which is where the EU had been stumbling to, for decades. People aren't projects to work on, and the EU seems to think civilization is more experiment to toy with than reality to address.

      November 29, 2011 at 10:56 am | Reply
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