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Radical Online

Thousands of mourners clutching roses filled the square outside Oslo's City Hall to mourn the victims of the July 22, 2011 twin attacks. MICHELLE SHEPHARD/ TORONTO STAR


When there is a tragedy, such as the 2011 massacre in Norway perpetrated by right-wing terrorist Andres Behring Breivik, we search for understanding. Who was Breivik? How could he bomb downtown Oslo and then systematically gun down children at a summer camp for 90-minutes before police could stop him?

Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, went through a 10-week trial and much soul-searching. The country's measured reaction in the wake of terrorism is now held up as a model for how to respond without rhetoric. (Breivik is serving a sentence of 21 years for the deaths of the 77 victims he killed.)

Breivik's path to radicalization is easier to study than that of other terrorists, as he left behind hundreds of pages of a manifesto he wrote, and a rich online trail. As always, there are a variety of factors involved.

But the latest report studying him comes from the Journal Exit-Deutschland, and looks exclusively at Breivik's use of the Internet and social media. The authors also had access to Breivik's private emails. "Not only did Breivik compile his 1516-pages long compendium based exclusively on Internet sources," states the report's abstract. "Before the attacks, he was also an active discussant on a number of mainstream and extremist Internet forums, and a highly dedicated online gaming enthusiast."

Among the report's findings is the fact that Breivik gathered the materials and instructions on how to build the bombs online, while also financing his attack through an online company. He was described as an "online gaming enthusiast." This dominated his life in the years leading to the attacks.

"One cannot dismiss theories that the extreme amount of time spent on playing online games while being isolated from friends and relatives may have had an impact on his disposition to engage in extreme violence," the authors state.

The full report can be found here: http://journals.sfu.ca/jed/index.php/jex/article/view/28

Michelle Shephard is the Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recipient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm


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