As the trial of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is about to go into its second week, some have asked why he has been given a public platform to air his grievances for almost a week, and to describe, in excruciatingly horrible detail, precisely how he murdered 77 people last July 22.
The much-discussed question of his sanity is paramount to determine what to do with him, whether to imprison him — the maximum penalty for his crimes is a surprisingly short 21 years — or institutionalize him. But while practically important, it depends on the Norwegian legal system’s conception of what is a legitimate insanity defense and is not interesting from a moral or political standpoint.
Mass murder to draw attention to a political issue — this is what Breivik himself claims to have been doing — is not common in Western society. And the effects of his actions — at which he ‘succeeded’ far beyond his own expectations — will be the exact opposite of his objective. Rather than mobilizing opposition to multiculturalism and unrestricted immigration, his point of view is discredited by association with his terrible crime.
Breivik is a social deviant, and highly irrational to boot. And if ‘evil’ has any meaning, it certainly includes causing pointless death and suffering to the degree that he did. Insane or not, it’s easy to characterize him: he is a monster.
So why was a monster allowed to speak at length? Here are some explanations:
Norwegian legal experts say it’s crucial that every part of the proceedings is conducted by the book so that Breivik cannot claim he didn’t get a fair trial. Many say it’s also important that the gruesome details are documented to make sure that Breivik is kept away from society for a long time, maybe for the rest of his life.
“When Behring Breivik at some point in the future goes to court and demands to be released — whether from a prison or from a psychiatric hospital — the judgment will the be most central document in that evaluation,” Inge D. Hanssen, one of Norway’s most experienced crime reporters wrote in newspaper Aftenposten.
But certainly his crime is well documented in the words of the police, etc. Wouldn’t a simple confession have been enough? Couldn’t he have signed a written statement?
To some foreign observers, Norway’s desire to do right has gone overboard, allowing the confessed mass killer just what he wants: a platform to promote his extreme political ideology. Print media can cover all parts of the trial. Norwegian TV broadcasts much of it live, including when he enters court, but isn’t allowed to show his testimony.
Unfortunately, I suspect that the answer lies here. Breivik is a monster, but he is a right-wing monster. And although he is a social deviant and ‘crazy’ in some sense, some are taking the opportunity to place the blame for his actions on those who oppose multiculturalism or worry about the effect of mass immigration of Muslims to European countries. For example,
BRUSSELS — Security services in Europe have neglected the kind of right-wing extremism which inspired Norway’s Anders Behring Breivik to commit mass murder, a UK-based rights group has warned.
“Post-911, all major authorities have themselves in the EU focused on the direct threat of Islamic terrorism while they took their eye off the ball on the radicalisation of Europeans,” Daniel Hodges, a campaigner for Hope Not Hate, a London-based NGO, told EUobserver on Monday (16 April).
“EU authorities have been lagging on radicalisation in Europe. They’ve been slow to grasp the power of the Internet and social media that encourages and helps co-ordinate the activities of the groups,” he added.
Hope Not Hate in a report out on Sunday said the ‘counter-jihad’ movement has become the new face of the far right in Europe and North America. The survey identifies some 300 disparate groups and individuals behind the trend.
Many of them say Muslims are a threat to Western cultural identity or values because old-fashioned racist language is no longer acceptable in mainstream politics and media. They also profess sympathy toward gay people and Jews…
Breivik – who is today standing trial in Oslo for killing 77 people on 22 July 2011 in two separate attacks — drew inspiration from some of the people cited in the Hope Not Hate study for his own 1,500-page manifesto. [my emphasis]
The article goes on to name names, including the David Horowitz Freedom Center, cited as financing counter-jihad groups, and various right-wing bloggers. The “Hope not Hate” website has a list of dangerous organizations, websites and individuals; the USA section includes such ‘extremists’ as Daniel Pipes, Brigitte Gabriel, M. Zuhdi Jasser, etc.
Of course no one in the Norwegian establishment, which is committed to multiculturalism, will admit that Breivik did them a favor by associating right-wing positions with vicious mass murder. But I believe that they are not letting the monster go to waste, and that is why he is allowed to speak so freely. This, they wish to imply, is the true face of the Right.
I am sure there are right-wing extremists that are capable of murder, although the only incident that I can think of that compares to Breivik’s act is the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. But murderousness does not characterize right-wing culture in general any more than it does the moderate Left, and far less than radical Islam. And it certainly is not legitimate to use Breivik to smear anyone who is not pro-Islam.
Need I add that there is one culture in which people like Breivik are considered heroes, in which they enjoy the approval of a majority of the population, and in which the leadership pays stipends to imprisoned Breiviks?
Of course that would be the Palestinian Arabs, whom Norway proudly supports!