Anders Behring Breivik Trial — Lessons to be Learned

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.


32 thoughts on “Anders Behring Breivik Trial — Lessons to be Learned

  1. But unfortunately for every Breivik they lock away, another one will be born tomorrow, and then we must sit and wait.
    I’m sure Hitlers parents must have gazed lovingly down at him in his cradle, and thought to themselves, he’s going to be a nice young man someday. I agree totally with the George W, and Tony Blair cock up, and their escape from judgement.

  2. (US) neocon murderers; macrocosm
    (US) stand your ground laws and the trayvon martin case ; microcosm

    the same rightwing ideology of fear and hate

  3. I think its a major stretch to compare Breivik with Bush & Co. Bush wasn’t motivated by hatred/fear of Islam or a “Muslim tide”. Afghanistan was driven by a desire to get Bin Laden, which was a political necessity for Bush, and if I remember right, was supported by a huge majority of Americans. I’m not saying it was the right call, but it was certainly not driven by Islamophobia. Iraq was about a few things, basically US political & economic interests (& Bush’s friends economic interests), but certainly not about Islamophobia. Breivik on the other hand I am sure genuinely believes he is in a war against Islam/muslims.

  4. er, the Legion of Mary a deranged ideological movement? I’ve regarded it as a harmless old maidish, sissy organization, but hardly on a par with some of the governments and the blueshirts that you associate them with. Didn’t they Clean up the Monto (Dublin’s notorious red light district) in the 1930s, and find alternative work and accommodation for some of the girls? Some of my best friends are not members of incidentally. I think you harm your argument by lumping disparate groups together in sweeping rhetoric that way. I gather that members of the Legion in Dublin wanted to start pastoral visits to the inmates of the Artane industrial school in the 1950s, but nasty Arch John Charles rebuffed their request.
    But for all their sissiness, they seem to have made a political impact in communist China in the early 1950s. Mao declared the Legion to be Public Enemy Number One and had the police hound them into the ground. The sorrowful mysteries must have been the predominent themes of those who continued to recite rosaries in the underground during the following three decades.
    Anders Breivik and Edel Quinn – the only connecting link is that each belonged to the erratic human race.

  5. Bock – Norway has its own oil!

    Behring is like a dopey Chigurh.

    Credit to Norway for taking the time to deconstruct what happened in full view of the public. Treating its citizens like adults no matter how painful this must be for the survivors, the victim’s families and the general public.

  6. (Sorry about my english) Difficult to be a Norwegian now, watching this trial, and realising that Breivik is getting what he wants, the worlds attention. Yes, they should lock him up an throw away the key, but at the same time, he is intitled to a fair trial. If we belive in the human rights we cannot say that the human rigths are for just some of the humans, it has to apply for ALL people, also the Breiviks, the terrorists, the Gaddhaffis and the other massmurderers.
    Difficult issues.

    There was a girl who said just after the massacre at Utøya (the islands where the massacre happened) : If one man could show so much hate, think about how much love we can show together.

    (The norwegian)

  7. I’ve heard that he is to be in the witness box for five days.
    If that is so it would be a great chance to use cross-examination
    to rip his defence to shreds and force him to face his crimes and accept
    his guilt.

  8. Breivik is a very strange character. He feels no empathy with the people he killed, and yet he becomes emotional when he sees his own video. I heard someone on the radio describe him as having a narcissistic personality and I think that’s a good way to put it.

    Breivik is obsessed with Breivik.

    If he didn’t have this campaign against Muslims, he’d have something else . I think he’s the kind of person who needs a reason to feel important. We all know these guys, but most of them don’t commit mass murder to boost their self-esteem.

    Punishment is irrelevant. All that matters is making sure that he never again has the slightest chance of harming other people. He has to be locked away for the rest of his life.

  9. If they throw away the key, how are they going to open the door to hose him out of the cell? ;)

    Anyway, I think the maximum sentence he can get is something like 21 years.

  10. I think like the other comments above while I understand how you could lump a lot of these people together it really isn’t constructive. These things have to be looked at dispassionately but as usual the press throw a few crumbs and we devour them. This a phenomenon we should get used to in Europe as it will happen again. Can we draw similarities with Mohamed Merah here? I think so and it is much more pertinent than one drawn with American politicians. To (in my opinion) lay the blame at the feet of The United States is just too easy. There is a fairly substantial number of people in Europe that believe there is a cultural war being waged on both sides of the cultural divide and whether you agree with them or not they exist. Unfortunately there is more to come as these guys don’t just head off into the Sun.
    I don’t think by the way that they are televising his testimony just the first day.

  11. I could kinda see your point in comparing Anders Behring Breivik to Bush & friends. But at the same time, there are more apt example to be made, like the conservative firebrand, Rush Limbaugh for starters.

  12. Well now, Rob, I never claimed it was constructive, and certainly, I could easily have listed a few Muslim lunatics if Breivik’s obsessions had lain elsewhere, but we can only work with what we find in front of us.

  13. Sorry Bock I don’t understand that? My point was just that the parallels drawn weren’t really parallel! As far as being constructive goes I didn’t mean you should be ( it’s your site afterall), rather it doesn’t serve any purpose to be unconstructive.

  14. Whilst wearing my devil’s advocate cap a thought crossed my mind.
    Just suppose a lone nutter went postal at the 1978 Fianna Fail party conference.
    Would he be a hero or villain today?

  15. “Throughout our history, we’ve been exposed to deranged ideological movements”

    “Some of these ideologues didn’t shy away from murder. We had the Provos.”

    Could you explain cultural insanity to me?
    I supported the Provisional movements right to take up arms against an extremely sectarian state, in defence of those people who were being persecuted simply for wanting to see a united Ireland. Does that make me culturally insane? I don’t want to sidetrack the thread, because the post is a very good one. But to suggest that taking up arms against a state who’s very foundation was steeped in sectarian hatred, is comparable with the savagery carried out by one deluded insane individual, is offensive.
    Maybe you have a definition of what constitutes a “deranged ideological movement” that you would wish to share.

  16. LJS — As any long-term reader will know, this site has covered all sorts of murders, including murders by loyalists, murders by the British army in the North and murders committed by assorted republican groups. I did a piece on the Shankill Butchers. There are items here on mass murder by the Israeli defence forces and by the US military. Only last week, I did a piece on the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. We’ve had posts about Muslim atrocities and Serb atrocities. The Croats and the Bosniaks were also discussed, as were the Germans, so I don’t see why provisional murders should go unmentioned.

    Just as Greysteel and Loughinisland were atrocious murders of innocent people, so were Enniskillen and the La Mon firebombing. Jean McConville was murdered in cold blood as were many others.

    I have never said that republicanism is an illegitimate aim, and neither did I ever say that the desire to bring about a united Ireland is a politicallly illegitimate objective, but I do believe that many of the people who took part in the violence were fanatics. The evidence is there. Even after the Provos went on ceasefire, these people went on to commit the Omagh bombing. If that’s not a deranged ideology, I don’t know what you’d call it.

  17. Bock, If anything good is coming out of this it is how Norway choose to react to the bombing of government buildings and the murders by Brevik at Utöya. Norway choose to keep democracy at the centre of events and Stoltenberg said” It is not less democracy we need it is more , it is not a closed society we need it is a more open society we wish for”. Norway through Stoltenberg showed a way forward that confirmed the open civil society. I shudder to think if this happened in another European country and the consequences it could have had for democracy. The trial itself and its openness demonstrates the core values of that society. Brevik was never part of that civil society, He dwelled in an eerie place which he alone understood. He will live out his days in an insular other world.. He is best left there in the company of himself. Just some thoughts from my mountain cabin.

  18. As an imigrant living in France the Muslim issue ( because it is an issue) here is on its way to being the biggest issue in the next few years. The difference between the Irish heading off to the UK and becoming part of the British culture and the Maghrebens arriving in Europe is one of culture. We DON’T share a common culture we don’t have common ground. It is amusing when I hear the Irish complain about the Poles among us when we share so much but across Europe we bow to the immigration policy ( or lack of) that changes our everyday lives. As far as yer man Breivik’s outlook goes his thought process while flawed ,isn’t out of step with many in Europe. It may not be pretty but it is a fact.

  19. Bock, a very important question and not easily answered. What worries me is the answers could be sought way back in time prior to Utöya. It was not a one off happening with no relation to historical factors relative to Scandinavien and indeed Norwegian pre war and post war developments. Utöya seemed to come out of the blue but did not, and now we have a painful journey in confronting these aspects. All was not well in the valley and there were blind spots made blind by our concious blindness. The ground work for Utöya was laid but ignored long ago, There were strong indicators over time in several Scandinavien countries that the climate for Utöya was slowly forming itself. The mental landscape produced by this climate was an inviting place for Brevik. Here he received confirmation and nourishment as to the rightousness of his feelings of grandeur. It was the perfect marriage between a political climate and a Messianic calling . I feel the psykiatric aspects although of importance are subject to these areas. Just my observations from a cold mountain top.

  20. Bock, So in short what you are saying that any Ideology can become a deranged Ideology, if a few mavericks carry out an atrocity in the name of the said same ideology?
    I would imagine that if this is the case, then we do not have an untainted ideology on the entire planet.
    Again I dont want to away from the thrust of this debate as its a very good one.

  21. I tend to be a bit suspicious of ideologies all right. More often than not they’re a substitute for clear thinking.

  22. Charles O’Rourke makes a good point. Arguments over the sanity of Breivik will move towards making him out to be a freakish, one-off monster whereas there should be some consideration given to the political mindset, which while extreme in his case, he is not alone in possessing.

  23. Bock, Inevitably the name Quisling will appear in Breviks defence. It must be remembered that Norway had a vibrant national socialist movement and remnants of it survived and morphed into society. it has manifested itself in the post war years in a poliitcal party led by Carl I Hage. This party had a strong etnocentric profile and gained political traction in the 1980’s. This is what I mean by a “climate”. A similar development has occured in Finland “Sann Finnländare” and in Sweden “Sverige Demokraterna” and in Denmark “Dansk Folkepartiet”.All of these parties have immigration as a main theme. All of these parties are in parliament . This can not have gone unoticed by Brevik who decided that it was all talk and no action. In his world it was time for the coming of the Messias. His sanity is subserviant to that general background. Utöya was suggested to him by the steady drumbeat of fear carefully launched by these parties. He was merley the missing link who willingly swallowed the bait. These people should be in the court house in Oslo too.

  24. I wouldn’t agree with ethnocentric parties, as there’s no such thing as a pure, one-gene template race. All societies have expanded their gene pools by means of intermarriage. Those preindustrial societies that didn’t eventually perished through inbreeding. Nevertheless, there can be nonracial concerns about the socioerconomic repercussions of unregulated immigration. Wasn’t it a longterm female British Labour Party member in the north of England who confronted PM Gordon Brown on the matter of unregulated immigration during the general election campaign a couple of years back? And he was heard to call her a bigot when getting back into the prime ministerial car?

    What I’m saying is that people who criticise unregulated immigration should not be equated with racist ideology and the front parties, some with members in skandanavian parliaments, who promote ethnocentric racial policies/ideology.

    I would question the implication in Charles O’Rourke’s post that the right-leaning parties mentioned are the theory, as has been said about pornography and rape, while Breivik murdering 76 people in a camping park represents the practice. Breivik conceived, planned and carried out the horrifying mass murder alone; he didn’t get the diabolical idea from those parties.

    Racist parties capitalise on the absence of public debate caused by political correctness. When pc curtails freedom of discussion it is insidious censorship, even if it is imposed for ostensibly liberal reasons. Liberalism is then used to contradict itself.

    I agree with a poster above that the Norwegian authorities and the general public are standing up well and in a dignified manner to the horror that has afflicted their society. Norwegians are not more and not less chauvinistic than other west Europeans. Breivik is facing a fair system of justice and Norway will be seen as a fairminded society.

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