Based on my expertise on the far-right in Britain and continental Europe it is safe to conclude the following:
1. The distinction between actions and attitudes is an important one. Large majorities of citizens in Europe reject violence, but large numbers are also concerned about the same issues that feature in the ‘Breivik manifesto’: concern over Islam, anxiety over immigration and rising diversity, and dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties. This does not equal a mass of would-be bombers, but it does mean that there is a pool of potential around the European far right.
2. We need to ask ourselves whether we have focused too heavily on one form of religiously-motivated extremism, at the expense of other (in this case political) forms of extremism. For example, in Britain we have spent much of our time talking about how best to counter radicalisation within Muslim communities, and prevent violent extremism. But what about other communities and forms of political action that might not be openly violent, but certainly contain a culture of violence?
3. This is a game-changer in how we approach the far right. This movement was often dismissed as the dog which doesn’t bark. Sadly, over the weekend, it barked. We need to get past the conventional wisdom that says that far right groups and their followers are only a marginal, disorganized and weaker cousin to their al-Qaeda (or AQ) counterparts.
4. We need far more evidence on the far right. It has become pan-European in scope, developing new networks, both online and offline. This is not a problem only for Norway, for Scandinavia or Britain. This is a challenge for Europe and the responses from security services and policy-makers should reflect that.
5. Breivik will almost certainly become a heroic figure among some sections of the ultra right-wing in Europe, much in the same way that Timothy McVeigh was held up by sections of the American militia movement, or David Copeland was praised by British neo-Nazis. These are figures who cross the line that separates ideas from action. In this case, they have also left a detailed blueprint for how to act to any would-be copycat attacker. It is not alarmist or sensationalist to worry about this threat. Both American and British security services have warned about it for some time.