Jon Bingen: What can we learn from the events in Oslo and Utøya?

Guest Speaker: Jon Bingen, head of analysis and research, SEFOSS In cooperation with the Royal Norwegian Embassy to Italy and the Norwegian Institute in Rome.

On Monday, September 5th President of John Cabot University, Franco Pavoncello, and Professor Federigo Argentieri introduced the evening’s speaker Jon Bingen to the audience which included representatives from the Norwegian Embassy and the Norwegian Institute. President Pavoncello expressed his sadness and called for a political and philosophical reflection on this “absurd act” of terrorism in Oslo and Utøya. Professor Argentieri contested to Jon Bingen’s credibility on the events in Norway, along with his puzzlement over the question, “Why Norway?” How could a country that is known for giving the Nobel Peace Prize experience the biggest slaughter during peacetime in Northern Europe since WWII? Bingen’s presentation answered Professor Argentieri’s questions, beginning with a debriefing of the events that occurred on July 22nd.

In the first attack, a car bomb killed eight people and wounded 30, while completely destroying a government building where the Prime Minister works. Bingen says that the damage could have been much worse if the bomb had not gone off late on a Friday afternoon. The death toll at the summer camp in Utøya was much worse with 69 murdered and 69 wounded. Bingen explains the connection between the two events as a deliberate attack on Norway’s ruling Labour Party by Anders Behring Breivik.

Bingen illustrates Breivik’s character as a very intelligent but solitary person with “excessively high self-esteem” who is fascinated by video war games and conspiracy theories. One of the surprising details about his life was that his parents were active members of the Labour Party. Bingen has read Breivik’s 1,582-page manifesto, 2083, which describes his political philosophies of a dying Europe because of Islamic expansion. For him, July 22nd was a wakeup call for the European war of liberation and unification. Bingen’s interpretation is that it reads like something from a Dan Brown novel. His main theme is anti-Islam but in fact the text reveals that he knows very little about it. His education is most likely self-taught with a great reliance on non-credible internet sites. Bingen believes that there is a lesson to be learned from this.

Even though the Breivik incident is a rare but extreme case of terrorism, he is a warning and his acts are not inconceivable. Bingen believes the best solution to preventing another attack is to decrease youth unemployment. Unemployment is an important factor because it can promote youth and minority segregation and thus increase the danger of gang formation. Employment would get the youth away from the internet and expose them to multiculturalism. He explains that unions and the workplace forces them to communicate and work together, making it less likely to have such blind hatred that could result in another terrorist attack.

The lecture was followed by an intense discussion during which, among others, the main speaker was told that he nurtures views in which the possible remedies are too optimistic. Bingen replied that the inspiring principles of the Norwegian state have certainly been seriously challenged, but not proven wrong by the July 22nd tragedy, and to stand strong abiding by those principles in times of need is the most natural and effective reaction.