Lars Erik Berntzen
Dr. Lars Erik Berntzen is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bergen, and previously a researcher at the Center for Research on Extremism, University of Oslo. He received his doctoral degree in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy in 2018 on the basis of his dissertation titled “The Anti-Islamic Movement: Far Right and Liberal?”. The thesis offers an overview of anti-Islamic activism in the United States and Western Europe between 2001 and 2017, covering the background of their leaders, their ideology, online organizational networks, views expressed by their online members as well as which emotions and messages continue to drive their mobilization.
It demonstrates that the anti-Islamic turn and expansion of the far right is a simultaneous liberal turn and expansion. Rather than being interchangeable and inconsequential, the anti-Islamic expansion of the far right shows who the enemy is matters in a fundamental manner. This conclusion is reached using a range of methodological approaches, such as network analysis, semi-automated sentiment analysis and multilevel regression analysis based on online data from several hundred anti-Islamic activist groups containing approximately five million members.
Before venturing to Florence for his PhD, Berntzen studied sociology at the University of Bergen (2006-2011), and subsequently worked as a research assistant at the Department of Comparative Politics (2012-2013) where he compiled a database on political violence in Norway between 1946 and 2012 in collaboration with Associate Professor Jan Oskar Engene. Berntzen’s Master’s thesis titled “Den eksistensielle trusselen En sosiologisk studie av politisk motstand mot islam, muslimsk kultur og innvandring til Norge” (2011) was the first study of anti-Islamic political mobilization in Norway.
Berntzen has written and co-authored several peer reviewed articles, book chapters and popular publications on the far right, anti-Islamic mobilization and political violence, such as “The Collective Nature of Lone Wolf Terrorism: Anders Behring Breivik and the Anti-Islamic Social Movement” in Terrorism and Political Violence (2014). He is currently engaged in several projects, for instance leveraging natural experiments to identify the causal effect of Islamist terror attacks on attitudes toward Muslims in Western Europe and studying the societal acceptance of far right initiatives in Europe using survey experiments.
Berntzen also runs the social science podcast Politikk og Røvere with Jonas Bergan Dræge (Harvard).