November 05, 2019
Greg Johnson, a white nationalist writer, was deported from Norway on Monday. In 2012, he expressed “respect” for Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right extremist who killed 77 people in 2011.
Greg Johnson, center, at Oslo Airport in Norway on Monday. Mr. Johnson was deported from the country on the grounds of national security, according to authorities. Credit…Stian Lysberg Solum/NTB scanpix, via Associated Press
By Liam Stack | The New York Times
A well-known American white nationalist was arrested in Norway over the weekend on his way to a far-right conference in Oslo, where the authorities reacted with alarm to past writings in which he had expressed “respect” for Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist who killed 77 people there in a 2011 terrorist attack.
The white nationalist, Greg Johnson, was scheduled to speak at a conference organized by the Scandza Forum when he was arrested on Saturday morning, his lawyer in Norway, John Christian Elden, said in an email. Mr. Elden said Mr. Johnson was deported on Monday.
Counter-Currents Publishing, a white nationalist publisher run by Mr. Johnson, said he had been arrested on national security grounds. In a statement, Mr. Johnson said the authorities had tried to connect him to the 2011 attack by Mr. Breivik, who used a car bomb and a firearm to kill dozens in Oslo and at a summer camp on an island outside the city.
“I have never supported Breivik’s crimes,” Mr. Johnson said in the statement.
“I have always consistently condemned violence and terrorism,” he added. “In fact, I do not know of anyone else who has so clearly and unequivocally spoken against right-wing terrorism as me.”
[On Monday, the F.B.I. accused a white supremacist of plotting to blow up a synagogue in Colorado.]
Mr. Johnson is a prolific white nationalist writer who has published dozens of books through his publishing house, whose website attracts well over 100,000 unique visitors a month, according to The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups in the United States.
In his statement, Mr. Johnson said efforts to link him to Mr. Breivik’s attack were based on a willful misreading of his past writings.
“These stories take quotes from my writings out of context, from an article in which I in no way defended Breivik’s crimes,” he said. “In fact, it was a text that discussed Breivik’s own rationale for the crime.”
During Mr. Breivik’s trial in 2012, Mr. Johnson wrote a blog post expressing admiration for the man who would later be sentenced to 21 years in prison for the murder of 77 people, many of them children. The blog post was titled, “Breivik: A Strange New Respect.”
In the post, Mr. Johnson wrote that his initial reaction to Mr. Breivik’s killing spree was “largely anger, because I feared that his actions would harm not just Norwegian ethnonationalism but white nationalism around the world.”
That began to change, he said, when Mr. Breivik argued that the killings had been an act of ethnic self-defense meant to save the white race from multiculturalism and Muslim immigration.
“Since Breivik went on trial last month, I have found a strange new respect for him,” Mr. Johnson wrote. “He has comported himself in a dignified manner and made a forceful, intelligent, well-argued case for his views and actions.”
A spokesman for the Norwegian Police Security Service, which arrested Mr. Johnson, did not respond to a message seeking comment. But Martin Bernsen, a senior adviser to the agency, told NBC News that Mr. Johnson had been arrested pursuant to a section of the country’s Immigration Act as a “preventive measure.”
Mr. Bernsen told NBC that Mr. Johnson had been taken into custody to “prevent him from encouraging right-wing groups and individuals in Norway” and “stop him from contributing to new recruitment” for far-right groups.
“We wanted him out of the country as soon as possible,” Mr. Bernsen said.
Mr. Elden said in an email Monday that Mr. Johnson had entered Norway on Friday and had been arrested near the conference site the next day.
“He got released today and left Norway for Portugal to give a speech tonight,” Mr. Elden wrote. He said Mr. Johnson had not been charged with a crime but would appeal his deportation based on “free speech laws,” and hoped to return to Norway to give his remarks.
“He thought he came to a country world-renowned for harboring free speech ideas, and didn’t expect to be censored and have his freedom taken away,” Mr. Elden wrote. “But he will return after the appeal has been treated by the department of justice, and give his speech.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Mr. Johnson as a secretive figure whose writings divulge little about his personal life. He also avoids having his picture taken, but was photographed at Oslo Airport on Monday by a Norwegian news agency.
Despite Mr. Johnson’s efforts to avoid public attention, the law center says he has become “one of the leading voices of the far-right” through his writings, which are frequently racist and anti-Semitic, and endorse the “white genocide” conspiracy theory.
He is also frequently invited to speak at white nationalist conferences in Europe, like the one he was scheduled to address at the time of his arrest, the law center said. Norway’s public broadcaster, NRK, described the Scandza Forum conference on Monday as “anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant.”