It’s hard to know where to begin with a character like Anders Behring Breivik.
Is he mad? Maybe.
Is he evil? Perhaps he is, if we could find a working definition for the term.
Should he be locked away forever? Certainly.
Breivik has a unique plea in his trial for the murder of 77 people. When he planted a bomb in Oslo that killed eight people, and then shot dead 69 teenagers in cold blood on the island of Utøya, he claims he was acting in self-defence. He believes he was a soldier in a war against the Muslim Tide.
Now, despite what the doctors say, I think Breivik is a lunatic, but that isn’t in any way to absolve him of responsibility for what he did. He’s a dangerous maniac, motivated by a deep-seated hatred of other cultures, and yet he’s entirely rational, at one and the same time. What are we to make of such a thing? Do we need a new word for people who are insane but at the same time delusional?
We already have it, thanks to the United States after 9-11. We call them NeoCons.
I think Breivik is an example of someone who exhibits cultural insanity, a phenomenon that we in Ireland are no strangers to. Throughout our history, we’ve been exposed to deranged ideological movements, in recent years most notably the likes of Family Solidarity, SPUC, Youth Defence and Cóir. Going back earlier in the 20th century, we put up with demented ideologues like the Legion of Mary and the utterly insane Maria Duce. We had the Blueshirts.
Some of these ideologues didn’t shy away from murder. We had the Provos. We had the UVF and the UDA. We had sadistic fringe killers like the Shankill Butchers, but Ireland is a small place, so maybe we should look beyond our narrow shores and return to Breivik’s obsession: Islam. He murdered 77 people in cold blood and for that he quite properly stands trial, but something is niggling away at the back of my mind. Am I right in thinking that GW Bush, for example, started a war in Afghanistan that killed tens of thousands in the name of self-defence against militant Islam? And didn’t he start another war, destroying the ancient cradle of western civilisation, on the pretext that the non-Islamic dictator, Saddam Hussein, had something to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center?
Neither George W Bush nor Tony Blair faced charges for killing all these people in the name of self defence. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld walked away untouched. So did Wolfowitz. So did Bremer. All the so-called neocons are still safe in their secure academic jobs having acted as cheerleaders for the destruction of Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States.
Did you see any Israeli general or politician dragged before a court for the bombardment of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead? Their justification for the killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians was self defence.
How many Serb, Croat and Bosniak warlords were prosecuted in the Hague for ethnic cleansing on the grounds of self defence?
Ironically, even Hitler’s ludicrous justification for his programme of genocide was self defence against what he claimed was an international Jewish conspiracy.
Everywhere you look, killers are using self defence to justify their crimes, so really, Anders Behring Breivik is nothing new. If he had been a soldier in the German army that occupied Norway between 1940 and 1945, he wouldn’t have stood out as anything particularly unusual, and yet I know what people will say. That was wartime.
Yes it was, but in Breivik’s head, just as GW Bush believes, this is also wartime, and the enemy is Islam. I wouldn’t for one moment try to defend Breivik’s insane ideology, but I would say this much. It’s no surprise that his poisonous views can flourish given the much wider climate of hatred against those we don’t understand, promoted by immensely powerful forces like the United States and its proxies.
As for Breivik? Lock him up. Throw away the key. Don’t feed him. Hose him out of the cell after six months.