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For a certain value of mad…

Is Anders Behring Breivik “mad”?

He is clearly not mad in the raving dolally sense of the word. This is not someone who “snapped” and started an impromptu bullet festival. There was cold calculation and quite frankly extremely impressive planning to his atrocities. To cause one terrorist outrage in a day might be seen as madness but to cause two looks like organisation.

So, if it was madness (we can lose the scare quotes now – I’m bored typing them), there was method in it. What precisely his aim was… God knows. My best guess would be that he hated the left-wing government of his country so he tried to blow it up. He hated them because he hated immigrants but was smart enough to go for the root cause as he saw it. Given that, it then makes perfect sense for him to then kill as many of the next generation of that party. Well, that was his proximate aim, anyway. Wider than that it was to commit n act so vile, so notorious that it will haunt any political debate on multi-culturalism in Norway and further afield for years to come.

Though foul the logical deduction is impeccable if you accept the same axioms. Many err by faulty (sometimes wilfully so) reasoning. He didn’t. His reasoning is not at fault here, it’s only the axioms that are mad. Or wrong or evil or whatever you want to call them.

It is possible to be sane, intelligent, diligent and even moral and do the most atrocious things if your basic underpinning philosophical principles are wrong. I mean “wrong” there in the strongest and widest sense of the word.

I’m sorry if this post offends anyone by being perhaps too analytical about such an appalling crime but it’s all I can do other type, “coat the fucker in honey and tie him down over an ant nest” and that frankly is not very helpful.


  1. Fred says:

    I think you’re right – itäs interesting that he went after what he saw as the “root causes” of his interpretation of the problems of Norway, and indeed Europe. In contrast, AQ etc seem rather to go for headline grabbing and targeting individuals – going after the “symptoms”, maybe.

    Whenever there is an Islamist outrage, the usual suspects go on about “root causes” — and how racist, islamophobic European Society has caused poor put upon plumbers to commit some appalling atrocity. I don’t however foresee the possibility of any similar reasoning being applied by the same people here: they might find the “root causes”, at least in the mind of the perpetrator, are rather closer to home.

    If the usual suspects genuinely believed all of their “root causes” rhetoric (caused, of course, not by themselves but by “society” and nasty right-wingers) and then applied it mutatis mutandis to this outrage, it would require an uncommon degree of introspection on their part to come to terms with it — which is why they won’t do it. For surely all the rhetoric equally applies here — an ideological current outside of the mainstream marginalised by the hegemonic political and media discourse leading to political and social alienation and desperation, and the sense of being put upon and forced to conform to fit in with society’s demands, blah blah blah blah blah etc etc etc.

    But coming back away from planet PoMo for a minute, fundamentally it comes down to the fact that he is cold, calculating, and clearly nucking futs – nothing can possibly ever justify such acts.

  2. Lynne says:

    What you have written is more coherent than the bollocks being bandied about in the media.

  3. RAB says:

    Yes, that John B comment over on Samizdata really nails it. I should be the lead comment here, or QOTD.

    It was kind of what I was groping with in my Manchurian candidate comment. No I wasn’t being all conspiracy freak geeky, I just had the feeling that the bastard is a godsend to the left. If they had wanted to design a Frankenstein Monster to discredit everything that we freedom loving folk believe in, they just couldn’t have done a better job.

    As to his mental health, no he is not mad, too cliched a word, he is perfectly sane in the sense that he planned and executed his evil scheme extremely well. No half assed attempts to set fire to his underpants or shoes for him!

    But he is deranged. Deranged because I think he actually believes that when he explains himself in Court, that a lot of people will see it like he obviously does, that it was a dirty job but somebody had to do it. That his actions were as logical as the Final Solution appeared to the Nazi’s.

    His cut and paste rambling European declaration of Independence has set back so many good causes for decades by association or just mere mention. Hell Melanie Phillips and Jeremy Clarkson are in there somewhere for fucks sake!

    Like JP, I have Norwegian friends, they too are safe as they live in Bergen, but like he said, this will have touched and horrified everyone in that small Nation.

  4. Fred says:


    Quite — the Times yesterday had him “playing world of war craft to hone his shooting skills”, I sh1t ye not. oh, and apparently WoW is racist or something because you choose a “race” for your character. Damn elf racists!

    Another aspect of the whole thing totally missed by the media: he carried out this atrocity in what is essentially a consequence-free environment. He’s what, in his late 30s? He’s clearly mad enough to think that his cause is worthy. What will his penalty be? Maximum 21 years, out after 14 on good behaviour. That’s less than 2 months per murder. He’ll be out in his 50s, even if he serves a full 21, will probably get a new identity for his own protection, and will live the rest of his life with a free meal ticket from the generous Norwegian social welfare system. His father apparently suggested he should have topped himself — why would you? In his terms, the penalty is so piffling in comparison to both the crime in and of itself and his reasoning as he sees it.

  5. JuliaM says:

    “…Quite — the Times yesterday had him “playing world of war craft to hone his shooting skills”…”

    Which shows just how little anyone in the ‘Times’ understands about computer games. To shoot something in ‘WoW’, you click an icon, FFS!

    Playing ‘Call of Duty’ or any of the deer/trophy hunting games will do more for your shooting skills than poor old WoW…

  6. permanentexpat says:

    No condoning.
    I only have to say that when national gumments consistently ignore the genuine concerns of their indigenous peoples they do so at their ultimate peril. Untold thousands of us are unheard, ridiculed & labelled as racist/fascist because we wish to lose neither our identity nor our country.
    What that says of the rest of us can be left to the imagination.

  7. NickM says:

    I have not even attempted to read it but my understanding of Breivik’s apologia is that it is so rambling and just enormous that almost everything put a hornet down his underpants. The BBC are of course going “route one” and having it as an “Islamophobic manifesto”. Alas this means it will be studied for decades.

    But this is nothing new. Shehzad Tanweer’s 45 minute video recorded to explain the 7/7 attacks only has the end bit shown normally. Only about 5 minutes of it concerns British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The rest is a whole laundry list of complaints. A primary one being about British imams having become too complacent with their nice houses and cars. Even old Osama bin Laden’s statement concerning 9/11 lists a bewildering number of crimes of the USA including not signing the Kyoto protocols.

    If you really can stick it Harry’s Place has a precis of Breivik’s “philosophy”:

  8. NickM says:

    You know how many RTAs would be prevented if they banned “Mario Cart”?


    Given your screen-name…

  9. Sam Duncan says:

    A raving loony? Maybe not; he doesn’t appear to have been following the voices in the TV or the goblins at the bottom of his garden. But mad, certainly.

    Put it this way: what would you say if someone came to you and said that, having thought things over, taking it by and large, he’d decided that it would probably be for the best if he set off a car bomb in Westminster while he went off and shot a few kids?


  10. NickM says:

    Not precisely my point.

    Let’s say you sincerely believe Esther Rantzen is the devil incarnate and only you can save the world. You therefore concoct a cunning plan, lure her onto consecrated ground and off her. There is no madness in your activities after the sincerely believe bit. That bit is barking – we all know Eamonn Holmes is the anti-Christ after all – but the subsequent activities logically follow and are indeed commendable given the initial assumption.

  11. Sam Duncan says:

    Thanks for the link to Harry’s precis, Nick.

    The list of Principles is interesting. While there are certainly plenty of things in his “anti-” list which we would agree with, there’s almost nothing, aside from Israel, in the “pro-” one. Nationalism, Europeanism, “Crusaderism”, Christian identity, cultural conservatism, monoculturalism*, patriarchy… er, no thanks.

    And his “controversial principles” certainly are. When someone starts talking about “excessive” this or that, you can be fairly sure you’re dealing with a twat. What’s “excessive”? Who decides? I want all the US cultural influence I can get, personally.

    *Interesting one that. Like multiculturalism, it’s the “ism” bit that’s the killer. Culture is what it is. It just kind of happens. It’s when you start deliberately monkeying with it – separating off different ethnicities, or forcing them together – that you run into evil.

  12. permanentexpat says:

    Given your screen-name…

    Quite what that means, Nick, I can only surmise…and conclude it is a thinly veiled reprimand. Even folk within the UK relocate if it leads to a better life.
    As successive gumments have sidelined those who don’t agree with them, I, like thousands of others, simply voted with my feet. Again, like thousands of others, I served my country in 39-45…but not for this.
    My father has been dead these many years but I still love him; he was my Dad.
    Get the picture, Nick?

  13. Sam Duncan says:

    Point taken. But that still makes him mad.

    It reminds me of the incident a while back when Will Smith pointed out that Hitler thought he was doing the right thing. “Fresh Prince says Hitler did Good Shocka!” If you set out, however calmly and sanely, to do something as drastic as mass murder on an insane premise, then, no matter how lucid you may be, you’re insane.

    I think it’s one of those occasions when language gets in the way. There’s mad and there’s mad.

  14. NickM says:

    Sorry permanentexpat – a cheap shot.

    Sam, I think we’re getting into dangerously semantic waters. I am not arguing moral relativism – indeed quite he reverse – but that madness can lie in one’s principles or application of those (or both). In the case of Breivik it is the principles and not the application of them that is mad/wrong/evil/whatever. The truly sane have done terrible things because their goal was vile. Vice versa people have done insane things in the pursuit of the good.

  15. permanentexpat says:

    “Sorry permanentexpat – a cheap shot”

    No problem, Nick…You are not the first by any means but you made your point in a civilised manner…you would not believe (yes,you probably would) the vilification I have received for expressing MY views about MY country…mostly from folk who missed their opportunity to do the same as me….and,of course, envy….we are very good at that.

  16. Sam Duncan says:

    Fair enough, Nick. I think we’re essentially saying the same thing with slightly different emphasis.

  17. mike says:

    I’ll go with Sam’s characterization of madness against Nick’s:

    “…having thought things over, taking it by and large, he’d decided that it would probably be for the best if he set off a car bomb in Westminster while he went off and shot a few kids?”

    And I think that’s probably the best way I’ve seen it put yet. The madness lay in the nature of the act itself, not the utilitarian calculus or even the objectives behind it. What were his objectives? To stop the “cultural marxists” (i.e. the Left)? Well I happen to think that they (or rather their ideas) ought to be, not “stopped” but defeated.

    Breivik’s madness was in thinking that mass murder could ever be a justifiable means to an end. His “madness” lay in his complete abandonment of an individualist ethical outlook.

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