Utöya: Remembering Terror

22 July 2021 
Ten years ago Norway was shattered by terrorist acts that cost the lives of 77 innocent people within the day. Was this the first time in Western Europe? No, it was not. But it was one of those recent such bloody, senseless events around which social media was part of the seedbed upon which the plant of hate could grow to bring such a destructive outcome. 

At a Remembrance ceremony in Oslo today, Utöya-survivor Astrid W.E. Hoem addressed the importance of fighting hate messages and racism in her speech. Not all hateful words lead to terror, but all terror started with hateful words, she said. This is certainly one lesson to draw. Another, more subtle issue to consider is: What brings about this erosion of a basic level of cohesion in the community, allowing for such cancer-like outbursts? And the evident follow-up question is, what builds, or re-builds this basic level of cohesion in the community? 

The Council of Europe grand themes of Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Democracy are worth recalling here and give plenty of room for valuable action. Here we have to ask, what happens to these – especially the last two – themes, if they are repeatedly used as a cloak to serve unchecked personal or group interest instead of the common good? This absence of checks, balances and accountability is one of those areas of erosion. In consequence, it seems, here is a place to re-build: The quality of governance matters a lot. Taking care of that may well be the ingredient in the seedbed that brings about better cohesion in the community. 

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