Is Norway killer Anders Behring Breivik the tip of the iceberg?

The diffusion of racist violence in the Netherlands: Discourse and distance

From Journal of Peace Research

Currently images and reports are circulating around the globe of the televised court trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the man arrested for the July 22 2011 killing spree in Norway where he claimed 77 victims. The incident executed in the killer’s mind to save Europe from destruction at the hands of radical Islam, has devastated the country and shocked the world. Is this case the actions of a lone extremist or does it reflect the unanticipated but intense waves of xenophobia that have swept through Western Europe over the last decade? Could it prompt more incidents by like minded people? This article uses data to simultaneously investigate the geographical and temporal development of waves of racist violence specifically in the Netherlands during the turbulent period 2001–03, when the country lost its reputation as a multicultural paradise. The results provide evidence for the fact that previous riots enhance the legitimacy of violence elsewhere, especially if they are visible in the mass media, resonate with public debates on immigration and take place in nearby regions. This study demonstrates that the outbreak of violence is related to city size. It highlights that European cities are characterized by an explosive combination of sociocultural segregation and economic interdependence. This dual process activates cultural cleavages while at the same time increasing the number of between-group interactions, both of which are necessary conditions for the outbreak of ethnic conflict.

 

Abstract

This article illuminates the unanticipated but intense waves of xenophobia that have swept through Western Europe over the last decade. The author makes use of a unique dataset and diffusion models to simultaneously investigate the geographical and temporal development of waves of racist violence in the Netherlands during the turbulent period 2001–03, when the country lost its reputation as a multicultural paradise. The results provide evidence for the fact that previous riots enhance the legitimacy of violence elsewhere, especially if they are visible in the mass media, resonate with public debates on immigration and take place in nearby regions. Opposing previous research on mobilization, the analysis suggests that proxies for ethnic competition, deprivation and political opportunity structures are not significantly related to the outbreak of violence; only population size adequately predicts where violence starts. Together these findings suggest that waves of xenophobia develop in two steps: they start in large cities and subsequently spread to nearby places through geographically clustered networks and to more distant counties once they become visible and resonate in the mass media, turning violence from local deviance into a supra-local phenomenon. This process sheds light on how scales of protest shift and explains why seemingly tolerant regions can suddenly become xenophobic hotbeds.

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Article details
Braun, R. (2011). The diffusion of racist violence in the Netherlands: Discourse and distance Journal of Peace Research, 48 (6), 753-766 DOI: 10.1177/0022343311419238

     
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