Is the Mass Murderer Anders Behring Breivik Insane?
Part 1: The Nordic Mohammed
Anders Behring Breivik in two different attacks on 22 July 2011 became the worst mass murderer in modern Scandinavian history. He killed a total of 77 people, 8 with a car bomb outside a government office building in central Oslo, and the remaining 69 with a massacre of unprecedented scope and brutality when he spent nearly an hour and a half methodically shooting people attending a summer camp of the Workers’ Youth League (AUF) on the island of Utøya outside of Oslo. He also wounded many others, mentally and physically.
ABB has confessed to carrying out these attacks, claiming that his actions were “atrocious but necessary.” There is also plenty of technical evidence, with videos and numerous witnesses. This represents a rather rare case where we can be virtually 100% that the man who is in custody really did commit the crime in question.
Other things remain controversial, however. Due to the great scope of the massacre, many people, myself included, initially wondered whether there were several perpetrators. Norwegian police after conducting months of investigation claim that ABB acted alone and was not part of a wider terror network. Perhaps this made him harder for the security services to detect.
This brings us to the first question: What caused him to carry out these horrible acts? In the long manifesto which he circulated on the Internet to justify his atrocities, he quoted a large number of people — with myself among the most prominent — who are critical of Islam and the current immigration policies supported by Western governments. This triggered a lot of public animosity against this community of writers.
And the second question: Is Breivik sane or insane?
This is the subject I will focus on here.
After careful examination, a panel of experts confirmed in December 2011 that Breivik is to be considered criminally insane. The head of the panel of experts, Karl Heinrik Melle, said there was “no major objection” to the initial report published by the psychiatrists Synne Sørheim og Torgeir Husby. They found that ABB suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and cannot be held accountable for his actions. The panel’s conclusions were submitted to the Oslo district court. In their 243-page report, Sørheim og Husby painted a picture of a person with “grandiose illusions” who is incapable of living peacefully in a modern society in his present state. I will take a closer look a what their report reveals.
In January 2012, an Oslo court ordered a new psychiatric evaluation of ABB after this earlier, contested report found him insane. “Due to the gravity of this case, the criminal responsibility (of Behring Breivik) must be examined again,” Oslo District Court judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen stated. Two new experts, Agnar Aspaas and Terje Tørrisen, were named to evaluate the 32-year-old’s sanity before the beginning of his trial in April. Breivik refused through his lawyer to cooperate with the probe. “He feels the first report was 80-percent wrong,” his main defense lawyer Geir Lippestad said after informing his client of the judges’ decision.
Verdens Gang (VG), Norway’s largest national newspaper, in mid-January 2012 published on its website the full psychiatric report which had concluded that Breivik is insane, leaving out a few pages that were deemed to reveal too-intimate details about Breivik’s family. This report is confidential, but VG have previously proved that they have access to lots of confidential material related to the Breivik case. The 243-page report published by them looks authentic and is consistent with what was publicly known previously. I have also heard no claims to the contrary from the quoted psychiatrists themselves or from anybody else. For the purposes of this analysis, I will treat it as authentic.
Alongside it the newspaper published some comments from the prison where ABB has been held while awaiting trial. Those who work there can see no evidence that Breivik is currently psychotic, as the psychiatrists claim in their report.
I am unhappy with the many media leaks in this case, which combined have reached a point where they undermine the ability of the police to talk to witnesses and conduct a proper investigation. Nevertheless, it is better that the mass media leak a psychiatric report regarding the terrorist himself as opposed to sensitive testimonies from his many victims. I read this report in its entirety, partly out of genuine curiosity and partly due to my own involuntary involvement in this horrible case. The following page references are to the original Norwegian psychiatric evaluation of Breivik as published by VG, with my own English comments and translations.
ABB came off as polite, but emotionally flat, in talks with psychiatrists Synne Sørheim og Torgeir Husby. He cannot properly describe his own emotions. Breivik claims to be a perfect knight worthy of emulation and to have made a lot of money with his many employees, which isn’t factually true. Evidence indicates that he was a failure in his commercial dealings. The psychiatrists interpret this and other factors as enormous psychotic delusions betraying a grossly inflated ego. His extreme narcissism and exceptionally egocentric mental universe with nearly all-encompassing ideas of grandeur dominate his behavior, regardless of context.
ABB is convinced that he is extraordinary, that he leaves a lasting positive impression on everybody around him, that everybody remembers him with awe, that he stands out from the crowd and achieves great success wherever he goes. In real life, he moved back to his mother’s house after his career failed. He did reasonably well in school and is estimated to have at least average and possibly above-average intelligence, yet he still did not complete secondary school. He describes his own actions in intimate, banal and almost embarrassing detail in his manifesto because he believes his personal example will form a template for others to follow and emulate.
He mentions his favorite candy and ranks this as proper rewards for incredibly brave military operators like himself. Breivik is convinced that his personal habits of watching TV, drinking coffee and eating candy are of genuine geopolitical significance due to his own immense importance, and because they strengthen his battle morale as the perfect knight. He is vain, and had plastic surgery on his face.
On page 183 of the psychiatric report, Breivik is asked if he thinks he has any significant weaknesses. “No, I lack nothing, I am a good builder of alliances, I am interesting, have good looks, and no real flaws,” he replies.
Breivik is, according to himself, very modest and a perfect knight. He’s also extremely intelligent and ranks among the intellectual giants of the political Right. ABB calls himself an “attention-seeking whore” (page 162), representing a rare moment of insight.
He also suggests we should take DNA samples of everybody from the political Right in Norway to see who is most closely related to Harald Fairhair, traditionally seen as Norway’s first national king, in order to appoint a new king (page 185). He says that if he promotes himself as the new regent, people will think he is crazy.
Cynical observers might claim that train left the station long ago.
On a darker note, on page 234 the officially appointed psychiatrists conclude that “He thinks he has responsibility for deciding who should live or die in the country.” Breivik claims (page 201) that if nobody wants to work with him or continue his glorious work after his attacks, he has misjudged the overall situation so badly that he may “self-terminate” after the trial. This is among the reasons why the psychiatrists have classified him as potentially suicidal, although he does not presently display any visible signs of depression and is not known to have suffered any episodes of severe depression in the past. Up until now he has never expressed the slightest regret for the many murders he committed, and shows no remorse for what he has done.
Breivik has been widely labeled as “anti-Islamic” in the mass media because, as an excuse for his murderous acts, he quotes writers who warn against Islamic inroads in the West. However, there is another side to that story. As a terrorist himself he actually displays admiration for Islamic militant groups and is even willing to accept a renewed Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East. The latter overlaps directly with the stated goals of large international organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and can hardly be called “anti-Islamic.”
ABB indicates that he wants to glorify death and martyrdom through his words and deeds. Very similar sentiments that have been voiced on countless occasions by Jihadist operatives from Hamas, Hizbollah or other Muslim groups around the world. Breivik says explicitly, as noted on page 163 of the report, that after his terror attacks, what he calls militant cultural conservatives in Europe can now “live in the same way as the Islamists.”
Thomas Hegghammer, a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, wrote in the New York Times that “Breivik goes much further than any counterjihad ideologue has ever done, and his manifesto contains ideas and information that have no precedent in the counterjihad literature. For example, he provides extensive advice on how to build bombs and plan terrorist attacks.” Moreover, “the more belligerent part of Mr. Breivik’s ideology has less in common with counterjihad than with its archenemy, Al Qaeda.”
Breivik believes that he is a perfect example for others to follow, worthy of emulation even down to the most intimate and banal details of his private life. The entire world should revolve around his unique person as a supreme military-political genius and master of life and death. Grandiose delusions of this magnitude are fortunately rare, but not unheard of. If you believe traditional historical sources (not everybody does), an Arab man called Mohammed suffered from comparable delusions in the seventh century of our era.
Author John L. Esposito is widely seen as an apologist for Islam by his critics and ranks as one of the most pro-Islamic writers alive today. In his book Islam: The Straight Path, page 13-14, Esposito reminds his readers that Mohammed serves as the ideal model for Muslim life, providing the pattern that all Islamic believers are to emulate and “guidance in all aspects of life: how to treat friends as well as enemies, what to eat and drink, how to make love and war.” He is the “living Koran” in the sense that practices of the Prophet became a material source of Islamic law alongside the Koran itself:
“His impact on Muslim life cannot be overestimated, since he served as both religious and political head of Medina: prophet of God, ruler, military commander, chief judge, lawgiver. As a result, the practice of the Prophet, his Sunna or example, became the norm for community life. Muslims observed and remembered stories about what the Prophet said and did. These reports or traditions (hadith) were preserved and passed on in oral and written form. The corpus of hadith literature reveals the comprehensive scope of Muhammad’s example; he is the ideal religiopolitical leader as well as the exemplary husband and father. Thus when many Muslims pray five times each day or make the pilgrimage to Mecca, they seek to pray as the Prophet prayed, without adding or subtracting from the way Muhammad is reported to have worshipped. Traditions of the Prophet provide guidance for personal hygiene, dress, eating, marriage, treatment of wives, diplomacy, and warfare.”
Islam is not just a total way of life; it is a totalitarian way of life. Not even Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin, representing the most totalitarian strands of European thought, said that everybody in the entire world should from now on visit the bathroom in the same manner they did. Mohammed did exactly that.
Or, putting it in a more provocative manner, one could say that Islam is a creed stating that those who urinate like Mohammed should wage war against the rest of mankind until they, too, urinate like Mohammed.
Theologically speaking, what I write here is exaggerated, but not incorrect. Muslims are expected to emulate all aspects of Mohammed’s personal example or Sunna, including bathroom etiquette, and spread these manners to the rest of planet by any means necessary.
Based on these examples, one could be tempted to conclude that Anders Behring Breivik, with his extreme narcissism and desire for others to emulate his perfect personal example, represents a Nordic Mohammed.
To be continued…
For a complete archive of Fjordman’s writings, see the multi-index listing in the Fjordman Files.