Breivik the Narcissist
On April 10, a second psychiatric probe into the mind of mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik stated that he was not psychotic at the time of his terror attacks and can thus be held criminally responsible for his actions. This report reopened the debate on whether the self-confessed killer can be sent to prison or be held in a secure psychiatric unit.
“The experts’ main conclusion is that the accused, Anders Behring Breivik, is not considered to have been psychotic at the time of the actions on July 22nd, 2011,” the Oslo district court stated. “That means that he is considered criminally responsible at the time of the crime.” Experts Agnar Aspaas and Terje Tørrissen warned in a court statement that there is a high risk of repeated violent actions from ABB due to his personality and his lack of empathy with other human beings. Their report is based on eleven interviews with the accused plus police interrogation transcripts, but also on three weeks of permanent observation, something which had not been conducted during the first psychiatric evaluation.
Breivik himself was very pleased with the new conclusion. He had felt insulted by being declared insane earlier, and had worked hard together with his lawyers to be declared sane this time. Ironically, the mass media and political establishment were mostly just as pleased with the decision as was the terrorist himself. The second psychiatric evaluation had been ordered following prolonged pressure from the mass media, which intensely disliked the first report and its inconvenient conclusion, but are satisfied with the new one.
The trial of Breivik will begin in Oslo on April 16, with closing arguments on June 21-22. The verdict is expected in mid-July. My testimony is scheduled for early June.
The second pair of forensic psychiatrists, Agnar Aspaas and Terje Tørrissen, state that Breivik is not insane but rather is an extreme narcissist, as should be evident to all those who have heard or read his comments, regardless or whether they think he is insane. Aspaas and Tørrissen suggest that he suffers from a dysfunctional personality disorder that resembles psychopathy, with a total disregard for the well-being of other people around him. They dispute, however, the assertion that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia or was psychotic when he carried out his attacks, which the first pair of forensic psychiatrists Torgeir Husby and Synne Sørheim had concluded in their report from late 2011.
Both of these views have received some professional support, partly because Breivik really is hard to classify. Dr. Michael Welner is an American forensic psychiatrist and chairman of The Forensic Panel. He has acted as a forensic psychiatric examiner or consultant in numerous criminal or civil court proceedings in the USA, particularly in complex cases. He has a good understanding of depraved minds. Welner was interviewed by Michael Kelley on the Canadian television outlet CBC TV News on July 26, shortly after Breivik’s terror attacks.
At that point, Welner rejected the idea that ABB is insane, something which his defense lawyer Geir Lippestad had already indicated might be the case, suggesting rather that he comes off as quite lucid. He even went so far as to suggest that it is an insult to people who suffer from serious psychiatric problems, most of whom never harm other people, to suggest that Breivik is mentally ill.
The above statements were made in 2011. I haven’t heard any more recent comments from Michael Welner about the case. He has also never met Breivik, nor talked to him directly.
Opinions are still deeply divided regarding Breivik’s mental state, and these divisions are likely to remain, even after the trial has been completed. Some of those who have examined him found him to be insane. Others emphasize his ability to plan ahead and cynically assess a situation as an indication that he has a twisted mind, but is rational overall. It is worth emphasizing, however, that both those who think he is insane and those who think he is sane highlight his extreme narcissism and exceptionally self-centered world view.
Welner strongly believes that Breivik is wrapped up in the idea of personal celebrity and fame, and used terror attacks to achieve this. In other words, it’s all about him, not ideology. He believes much the same applied to Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people and injured hundreds more in the Oklahoma City Bombing in the USA on April 19, 1995. McVeigh was sentenced to death and executed in 2001. As Michael Welner comments:
“A person who has a psychotic illness has ideas that are shared by none. A person who is a fanatic has ideas that are shared by only very few. A person who is violent takes an ideology that many have and wraps it around him, so that he can legitimize what’s all about him. This isn’t all about his ideology, it’s about him becoming a person we’re talking about in Canada tonight and people are talking about all over the world. This is how he would have it, but he would have to wrap himself in an ideology to give himself some sense of righteous purpose.”
That’s what this is really about: Making the entire world talk about Breivik. The manifesto itself is just an excuse for his narcissism, and the terror attacks a vehicle to achieve fame and notoriety. He wants to become known and attract attention, and committed an act so spectacular and shocking as to ensure that goal.
Breivik is a rebel without a cause, or perhaps we could say a rebel searching for a cause to hide behind. Yet the cause he champions is mainly himself, his vanity and his grossly inflated ego; everything else is secondary.
Welner sensibly points out that if Breivik had actually cared about ideology, he wouldn’t have committed an act so horrible as to scare off and alienate people who might otherwise be interested in certain aspects of an ideology. This is not about saving Europe, it’s all about promoting himself and his ego. That makes Breivik an extremely selfish individual.
He hurts not only the victims of his terror attacks and their families, but also all of those individuals who one way or the other are mentioned in his manifesto and therefore get dragged into this horrible case against their will. Having finished reading through the manifesto in full — which I finally did on April 9 2012 — it seems likely that this result could be deliberate on Breivik’s part. Whether he is insane or not is hard for a layman to determine, but he clearly betrays a powerful sadistic element of his personality.
The very last page of his manifesto contains a photo of Breivik together with what appears to be his mother and sister, whom he had accused previously in the same text of having venereal diseases because they’re “sluts”. One can only imagine how Breivik’s family must feel because of this. The same goes for his friends, who apparently had no idea of what he was up to regarding terrorism. Breivik himself indicates that they have been kind to him personally, but he nevertheless doesn’t hesitate to drag their names through the mud.
The fact that he shows such cruelty or indifference even to his closest friends and family strongly indicates that he may have wanted to deliberately hurt those individuals whose texts he cited in his manifesto, myself included. Author Daniel Pipes, who is mentioned in the manifesto several times, suggested this possibility just a few days after the terror attacks had taken place. This hypothesis is greatly strengthened by a highly revealing quote on page 1399 of Breivik’s manifesto, where he states openly that his brief and quite limited association with the Progress Party in Oslo may now hurt that party in the public opinion. He derives great satisfaction from this thought.
In remarks made to Jerry Gordon at the New English Review, Michael Welner stresses that legitimate causes must be differentiated from illegitimate means of pursuing those causes. For example, Joseph Stack claimed to be partly inspired by opposition to high taxes when he crashed a small plane into the IRS tax building in Austin, Texas in 2010. Obviously, that attack in no way delegitimized those who are peacefully critical of high taxes.
By the same standard, Anders Behring Breivik’s claim to be inspired by certain anti-Islamic writers and European political activists does not delegitimize those who peacefully resist the spread of sharia law in their countries or are deeply concerned about the negative impact of mass immigration to Western countries.
Michael Welner warns that “For public officials to target political ideologies as responsible does a great disservice to the victims and their families. They were killed by a criminal who wants us to think others would do as he would, and there is no evidence to date that he even acted in a conspiracy.” In his professional experience, it is healthier for victims and their families to focus solely on the perpetrator because they can more readily separate him from the rest of benevolent society. “If politicians and the press broad brush segments of society as responsible, then victims and their families look at their neighbors with suspicion and resentment, and the fabric of society unravels. Those who use political finger-pointing in the aftermath of such tragedy score political points and manipulate public opinion, but because they pit people against one another, they devolve their communities into insecurity and the inability to see things differently. It polarizes communities and those who do it should not be in positions of responsibility.”
Unfortunately, the authorities and mass media haven’t always heeded this wise warning. Judging from the list of witnesses that is now being presented, the Breivik trial has ample potential to turn into a political show trial against any individuals and groups who have voiced substantial criticism of Multiculturalism, mass immigration, the EU and above all the doctrines of the Holy Koran or the Holy Labor Party.
This is deeply regrettable. It is not just that I dislike being dragged into this personally, but this process also risks becoming an additional national trauma on top of the one that this tiny nation has already suffered, and will inflict new wounds instead of healing old ones.
What is most disheartening, however, is that Anders Behring Breivik probably did all of this to gain personal attention, which he will now get in spades. He will be at the center of attention and the name on everybody’s lips, a dream come true for a narcissist.
If the ruling from this trial is appealed, the next one is scheduled to begin in early 2013. Worst case scenario: this is just the beginning of Circus Breivik, with Circus Breivik — Season Two, continuing next year.
For a complete archive of Fjordman’s writings, see the multi-index listing in the Fjordman Files.