Jonas Gahr Store, the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs shares his thoughts on the value of open democracy as a response to extremism from both the Left and the Right.
The last decade has shown us that ideology can never fully explain why specific groups or individuals commit unimaginable acts. Social, psychological and individual factors always play crucial roles. Yet political extremism does not grow in a vacuum. Ideas are the oxygen that allows it to flourish and spread. Extremist perspectives win sympathy and recruits because they offer narratives that claim to identify deep injustices and enemies.
Without this fuel, the blaze of extremism is quickly extinguished. Al Qaeda networks were nourished by the ideas of Islamic fundamentalists just as Breivik invoked and may have drawn sustenance from the ideas and stories of other Western extremists.
In the light of horrific acts and harping campaigns, it’s worth remembering that extremists are not born, but taught.
Open debate is our strongest tool in standing up to extremism. The far more dangerous avenue is to force extremist ideas underground, where they can fester without competition.