The Conservative Party is incubating the racism behind New Zealand terror
By Nafeez Ahmed: From Republicans to Eurosceptic parties, the ‘Vienna school’ ideology of terrorist Anders Breivik is spreading like a terminal cancer.
The massacre of 49 people including children at a mosque in New Zealand has not come out of the blue — it follows the mainstreaming of the same ideology that inspired the first major far-right terrorist attack of this decade: the 2011 massacre in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik.
Brenton Tarrant, who live-streamed his attack on the Christchurch mosque via Facebook, had published a 74-page manifesto online in which he admitted having been inspired by Breivik. He claimed to have had “brief contact” with Breivik and that the convicted terrorist had given his “blessing” for the mosque attack.
“I have read the writings of Dylann Roof and many others, but only really took true inspiration from Knight Justiciar Breivik,” wrote Tarrant.
Despite his conviction in court, and despite the condemnations and disavowal of politicians, Breivik’s ideology continues to grow from strength to strength.
The Vienna school
Dubbed by Breivik himself as the ‘Vienna school of thought’ after a popular far-right blog called Gates of Vienna, his ideology has been incubated not merely within the bowels of far-right extremist movements, but also by mainstream political parties in the US, Britain and Europe — including the incumbent Conservative Party.
Breivik’s understanding of the so-called ‘Vienna school’ was fairly simple. He believed that Western governments, in particular, European Union institutions, have been complicit in a conspiracy originating from the Islamic world to conquer the West by stealth through a combination of terrorist activity, mass migration, and ‘entryist’ efforts to infiltrate Western politics.
Instead of confronting this threat, Breivik believed that liberal and multicultural institutions were capitulating to this conspiracy, as a result of which predominantly Muslim migrants would overtake the white indigenous populations of Europe, in order to topple democracy and install Shari’ah law.
As settling incoming migrants would grow more emboldened, they would be free to carry out more terror attacks — and Europe would shortly face an inevitable eruption of race wars.
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In short, Breivik saw Muslims and minorities as a social, cultural and biological threat to Western civilisation, being facilitated by Western liberal institutions themselves.
As a consequence, in Breivik’s view, the only recourse is for white indigenous people to prepare themselves for this onslaught by resorting to violent paramilitary activity.
Yet a number of groups with influence on mainstream parties across the US, Britain and Europe have taken inspiration from this ideology.
One of the primary sources that Breivik referred to in his own manifesto as the basis of the so-called ‘Vienna school’ is the Gates of Vienna blog, which he cited 86 times in his manifesto.
One of Gates of Vienna’s most prominent contributors is ‘Fjordman’, the pseudonym for Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen, whose online writings were cited 114 times by Breivik.
Fjordman strongly distanced himself from Breivik in his public writings after the 2011 Norway terrorist attack, but on the Gates of Vienna blog just one month before that attack, he complained that Western politicians were complicit in “a policy of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing targeting the white majority population” and added:
“Yes, the Islamic creed by itself is inherently violent. No, it cannot be reformed, and Islam in any way, shape or form does not belong in the West. Islam, and all those who practice it, must be totally and physically removed from the entire Western world.”
The name of the Gates of Vienna blog comes from the Muslim Ottoman empire’s siege of Vienna in 1683, which the site believes continues today through “Islam’s” efforts to “overrun Christian Europe.”
It puts forward the idea that due to this onslaught, an apocalyptic race war with Europe’s Muslims is inevitable over coming decades, and therefore citizens must prepare themselves now to fight back.
The Conservative Party’s European fascists
Among the Gates of Vienna’s posts are detailed prescriptions for anti-Muslim paramilitary operations during a civil war with European Muslims, and even ‘A guide to amateur bomb-making.’ Fjordmam’s Gates of Vienna posts in particular repeatedly predict an inevitable race war within Europe between Muslims and their neighbours.
But astoundingly the Gates of Vienna ideology has the support of several senior members of the European parliamentary group chaired by Britain’s Conservative Party. And no one in the party cares.
For years, the Conservative Party has knowingly courted and partnered with far-right political parties in Europe. Many of them have direct ties with the Vienna school ideology that continues to inspire far-right terrorist attacks such as the New Zealand mosque massacre.
The Conservative Party chairs the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament. Two long-standing members of the Conservative’s European parliamentary group are convicted racists with affinities toward the Vienna school.
The convicted racist from Denmark
Morton Messerschmidt, a Danish People’s Party MEP, has been a member of the ECR since 2014.
In 2001, Messerschmidt and other DPP members were responsible for putting up an advert that “equated the multi-ethnic community with mass rape, forced marriages, oppression of women and gang wars,” according to University Post, a magazine published by Copenhagen University where Messerschmidt teaches constitutional law:
“This earned him a racism conviction,” reports the university magazine. “Later he was alleged to have sung German songs from the Nazi era in a public restaurant on Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Against this last charge he successfully defended himself, and was cleared in court.”
Messerschmidt’s defence was that he was only singing German war songs.
But perhaps the most disturbing fact is that Messerschmidt seems to be a loyal subscriber to the same ideology that inspired Breivik. In the same year, 2009, that Messerschmidt won his landslide place in European Parliament, the budding MEP conducted a video interview with the notorious hate blog, Gates of Vienna.
In November that year, just a month after his Gates of Vienna interview, Messerschmidt conducted another interview, this time with a regular Gates of Vienna contributor Nicolai Sennels, who was also a DPP parliamentary candidate.
Messerschmidt told Sennels that in 20 years, the European Union would be overrun by a civil war with Muslims, exactly as articulated by the Gates of Vienna blog:
“There is no understanding [in the European Commission] that you cannot simply replace Europeans with Arabs without ‘Arabizing’ Europe… It is as if the Commission doesn’t even recognise this as a problem originating in Islam… Europe will be increasingly marred by autonomous Islamised areas. The riots we are observing today — in Nørrebro, Vollsmose in Denmark as well as in no-go zones of other EU countries — will no longer be mere riots, but will evolve into genuine insurgencies with demands for independence, complete implementation of Sharia etc. Europe will — perhaps not as soon as 20 years — see a development similar to that in the Balkans, where in Kosovo, for example, the Muslims have succeeded in driving out the Christians and declare an independent republic.”
Messerschmidt then made a direct reference to the ‘Gates of Vienna’:
“I believe the European citizens will come to their senses and throw off the tyranny. Europeans have always woken up to heroism in face of danger. Be it the Turks at the Gates of Vienna or the repressive aristocracy in France, the Europeans have always had faith in progress, fought for their cause and won.”
In 2017, Messerschmidt reiterated this vision in a mainstream Danish newspaper, Berlingsky, warning that by 2050, the number of Muslims in Denmark would triple from 5 to 16 per cent due to mass migration from the Middle East.
He compared Muslim migration to Europe with Islamic army conquests in Spain in the 7th century and the later Muslim invasion, which was first stopped at Vienna’s gates in 1683. Both instances, he emphasised, demanded an enormous pan-European effort to push back the Muslim invasion, including the use of extreme violence.
Messerschmidt’s views are not surprising. In 2015, Kristoffer Hjort Storm, the DPP’s parliamentary candidate for North Jutland, admitted that some in the party were “bad racists”, but claimed that this was ok because not all of them are: “There are some who are, but it is not all of us.”
The racism, however, appears to go all the way to the top. The DPP’s former leader, Pia Kjærsgaard — who in 2013 became the party’s values spokesperson — has routinely disparaged Muslims in general while issuing veiled calls for a mono-ethnic society.
“In the Danish People’s Party we do not hide the fact we are against having Denmark turned into a multi-ethnic society,” she once told a party annual meeting according to Danks Folkeblad.
What is a party like this doing as an ally of Britain’s Conservative Party? Why is a convicted racist who subscribes to the so-called Vienna school ideology a member of the Tory’s parliamentary group in Europe?
The convicted racist from Finland
Messerschmidt is not an aberration within the Tories’ European network, but rather representative of its general demeanour.
Another member of the Conservative Party’s European parliamentary group is Jussi Halla-aho, the current leader of the Finn Party and member of the ECR since 2014.
Like the DPP’s Messerschmidt, he is a convicted racist known in Finland for using his personal blog to wish “rape on ‘green-left’ women,” describe Islam as a “paedophile religion,” and advocate violence as “a very undervalued method of solving problems.”
Halla-aho is also an unrepentant member of the far-right group, Finnish Power (Suomen Sisu).
The group’s original policy statement (deleted after provoking outraged criticism) advocated a white-supremacist ideology comparable to that of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party.
“Peoples of different nationalities shouldn’t be mixed to destroy historically developed cultures by replacing them with a global subculture,” the Finnish Power policy statement said.
Even back then, the association had merely replaced the idea of race with culture to avoid being accused of promoting “racial purity”. As its former chairwoman, Paula Päivike, once helpfully clarified:
“We’re speaking about the purity of nations, not races. We see people as cultures. The fact that different people need to be smeared in the same place, sure that’s nice, but it only lasts a moment. Then people mix and become one culture.”
Frequently admired on the Gates of Vienna blog for his anti-Muslim and anti-migrant views, Halla-aho is a fan of letting refugees drown, having called on the European Commission to penalise civic organisations rescuing migrants when their ships founder in the Mediterranean.
A penchant for Nazis
And this extreme right tendency hardly stops there. The Conservative Party continues to court far-right groups in Europe who openly hate both migrants and Muslims.
In July 2018, two MEPs from the Sweden Democrats joined the Tory-led group. The Sweden Democrats, however, has longstanding white nationalist roots.
As Stockholm-based journalist Mattias Bengtsson points out, the party was “founded in the mid-1980s by a mix of neo-Nazi, neo-fascist, racist and ultra-nationalistic groups”, including a former member of the Nazi Waffen-SS, Gustaf Ekström.
Another of its early senior members, Anders Klarström, who once chaired the party, had previously been a member of the Nordich Reich Party, a Swedish neo-Nazi group.
Regional leaders of the party don’t just hate Muslims. They have also made grotesque anti-Semitic statements, including mocking Ann Frank.
According to Sweden’s Expo Foundation, the Swedish Democrats had developed connections with other neo-Nazi movements early on, including the National Democratic Party (NDP) of Germany and the American National Association for the Advancement of White People founded by white supremacist David Duke. As Daniel Poohl, head of the Foundation, observes:
“The racism of the Sweden Democrats is not something pertaining to the past. It is part of the party’s whole idea.”
In December 2018, the ECR went on to welcome the membership of an MEP from the far-right Brothers of Italy party, a descendant of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI). MSI’s leader, Giorgia Meloni, espouses “Italian first” rhetoric and has few qualms about violence against migrants.
She opposes granting citizenship to children born in Italy to migrant parents, and when an extreme right MSI supporter shot and injured migrants in Macerata over a year ago, her only response was to say: “Uncontrolled immigration must be regulated.”
To add insult to injury, a week before the New Zealand attack, the ECR invited Javier Ortega Smith, Secretary-General of the Spanish far-right Vox Party, to address the European Parliament.
He took the opportunity, courtesy of Britain’s Conservative Party, to denounce the “globalism” and “multiculturalism” of “Merkel, Macron, Soros” who want to “rip off Europe’s soul” by opening the doors to the “migratory invasion.”
Like other far-right parties, Vox wants to shut down mosques, build walls, and deport immigrants en masse. The party is also homophobic and anti-women.
The Trump connection
The Conservative Party has been happy to partner with and elevate racist, xenophobic parties in Europe which have acted as amplifiers of the Vienna school ideology which inspires the likes of Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant.
But the same individuals have direct ties to groups that have radicalised the extreme right of the Republican Party and directly influenced Donald Trump’s own hostility toward migrants and Muslims.
When ECR member Morten Messerschmidt was interviewed in October 2009 after winning his MEP seat, the interview was conducted at a Washington DC conference co-sponsored by two organisations: the International Free Press Society (IFPS) and Center for Security Policy (CSP).
The CSP is a Washington think-tank run by former Reagan administration defence official Frank Gaffney, classified as an “anti-Muslim hate” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
SPLC also describes IFPS as “an anti-Muslim coalition” run by a “European racist”. IFPS’ founder and head is Lars Hedegaard, who was convicted and later acquitted by the Danish Supreme Court of hate speech for telling a private gathering in 2009 that Muslims “rape their own children. It is heard of all the time. Girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins or their fathers.”
The 2009 IFPS-CSP conference which Messerschmidt spoke at was a hotbed of far-right bigotry. Its speakers included key figures in the self-styled ‘counter-jihad’ movement within the far-right spectrum, including several far-right luminaries frequently cited in Anders Breivik’s manifesto, such as Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Pamella Geller of Atlas Shrugs (both banned from Britain by Theresa May in 2013 when she was Home Secretary).
Spencer, Geller and Gaffney are all cited copiously in Breivik’s manifesto.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump famously quoted a fraudulent opinion poll commissioned by Gaffney through the CSP, claiming that most American Muslims are extremists. The Gaffney poll was used by Trump to justify his call to ban all Muslim immigration to the US.
Gaffney later had two of his own colleagues appointed to the Trump campaign’s national security advisory team — namely Walid Phares, a long-time CSP contributor, and former senior Pentagon official Joseph Schmitz, a CSP senior fellow.
Trump himself would later go on to justify the possibility of using extreme violence against migrants, when he warned that migrants throwing rocks on the US-Mexican border could potentially by shot at by US troops.
A trans-Atlantic network
Brenton Tarrant’s atrocity demonstrates once again that what politicians say, and who they work with, matters.
Through a series of partnerships that cut across the US, Britain and Europe, the Conservative Party has established a nexus of intersecting political networks which harbour an ideology that sees minorities, migrants and Muslims as a mortal threat to Western civilisation.
This plays a pivotal role in the fatal mood music that makes people like Brenton Tarrant believe they are doing the ‘right thing’.
And so it is time to accept the grim reality that within this echo chamber of hate, an attack like what has just happened in New Zealand was to be expected.
The ideology that laid the exclusionary belief-system and moral groundwork for terrorists like Brenton Tarrant to carry out his shocking violence festers not in some murky far away corner hidden from view, but to the contrary, is harboured within the corridors of power in Washington, London and Brussels.
The New Zealand attack, and others like it, do not emerge out of the blue.
They are the foreseeable, and predicted, result of the normalisation of hatred and violence toward refugees, migrants and minorities, which in turn has been enabled by the impunity with which racists, xenophobes and anti-Semites continue to operate within the very arteries of our democracies.
And the Conservative Party should be forced to answer some serious questions about its role, to this day, in deliberately establishing that impunity.
Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is the founding editor of the 100% reader-funded investigative journalism project INSURGE intelligence. His latest book is Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence (Springer, 2017). He is an 18-year investigative journalist, formerly of The Guardian where he reported on the geopolitics of social, economic and environmental crises. He now reports on ‘global system change’ for VICE’s Motherboard. He has bylines in The Times, Sunday Times, The Independent on Sunday, The Independent, The Scotsman, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, New York Observer, The New Statesman, Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, among other places.