Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Narcissism Trumps Ideology

Anders Behring Breivik

The article below from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten discusses the evidence that pathological narcissism, rather than political ideology, was the primary motivation for the atrocities committed by Anders Behring Breivik. This analysis highlights the absurdity of calling critics of mass immigration to testify as “expert” witnesses at the killer’s trial.

Fjordman has this to say on the issue:

Ideology is very much secondary for the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. He’s first of all a mentally disturbed person who has no conscience, but a great fascination with violence. His “ideology” was summed up in court when he himself indicated that he admires all those who use violence, regardless of their political views.

He also professes contempt for those who don’t use violence. In Breivik’s case, violence is not a means to achieve an end; it is an end in itself.

Ideology is just a cloak he uses to wrap around himself to hide his naked thirst for murder. One could argue that it is therefore an abuse to discuss Breivik’s “ideology,” in the courtroom or anywhere else, since he doesn’t have any.

Many thanks to Henrik Ræder Clausen for translating the relevant sections of the article:


Were the crimes of Anders Behring Breivik on July 22nd 2011 an expression of his extremist views on immigration, or rather an attempt of an offended man to restore his ego? While Norwegian court psychiatrists disagree, a group of psychologists tries to figure out why Breivik killed 77 of his countrymen.

By Jakob Binderup

At roughly 6:30 PM on July 22nd, Anders Behring Breivik let go of his rifle and surrendered to the police, who had scrambled to the island Utøya, after he had killed 77 of his fellow countrymen in the preceding hours.

It wasn’t long after the smoke had cleared from the Norwegian government quarters and the sun had set over Utøya before a discussion began that has not only occupied a divided team of Norwegian psychiatrists, but also been a major issue in everyday discussion inside and outside the borders of Norway.

And the question that has occupied everyone in the roughly nine months since, and which the Norwegian court is to resolve in the pending court case, is whether the 33-year-old Norwegian can be considered sane and fit for punishment, or if he really from suffers paranoid schizophrenia and should be institutionalized.

Breivik in black #2

While the Norwegian court psychiatrists quarrel over the riddle, in search of a fitting diagnosis for the first mass murderer in Norwegian history, psychology actually does have several adequate labels for mass murderers of the Breivik type.

“Pseudo-command”, “Violent believer” and “Ultimate warrior” are all labels applied by psychologists to mass murderers, ever since the American Andrew Kehoe detonated three bombs killing 45 (most victims being children) in the village of Bath in 1927. The attack was supposedly a protest against high taxation levels, after he had given up paying off his mortgage. It is still considered the most dramatic attack on a school in US history.

A deliberate attack

What is held in common among Andrew Kehoe, Anders Behring Breivik and other mass murderers, who have planned their attacks after long deliberations, is a combination of destructive personality disorders and repeated violations of a twisted self-perception.

That is the opinion of Inge-Arne Teigset, a psychologist at the Centre of Competence for security, prisons and court psychiatry at the Hospital of Gaustad, Norway.

He has worked with the criminally insane for two decades, and in a team with two colleagues, he has used Breivik as a case to examine what creates and motivates a particular category of mass murderers.

“These mass murderers frequently kill random persons in the public sphere, but may also kill family members or particular groups of people they believe have treated them poorly. The killings take place without emotional influence. In this way the mass murderer comes across as a predator hunting, not a madman out of control,” explains Inge-Arne Teigset.

But in order to understand a — to most people incomprehensible — act, one has to analyse the background and psychological development of the mass murderer. And since Breivik not only survived his attack on Utøya, but also described his upbringing in his 1,500 page compendium, he offers a unique insight in the universe of a mass murderer, making it possible to analyse why he killed 77 persons on the 22nd of July, says Inge-Arne Teigset.

Socially excluded

In his “Manifesto”, Anders Breivik offers his own justification for his attacks on the government buildings in Oslo and the AUF summer camp on Utøya on July 22nd.

The attack was supposedly Breivik’s brutal protest against the liberal immigration policy in Norway, and an attempt to raise awareness of what is claimed to be a war between Europe and Islam.

Breivik emphaticBut according to Inge-Arne Teigset, Breivik’s “ideology” was not the driving force behind the attacks.

On the contrary, a series of trigger events, traceable to his childhood and adolescence, are crucial.

At one point of his life, the Anders Behring Breivik’s father chose to break contact with his son. The father had already left the family when Breivik was a year old, and the last contact between the two took place in 1995.

In his manifesto Anders Breivik describes himself as socially competent. At that time he was 15 years old, and, according to his own account, one of the most significant graffiti artists in Oslo.

At the same time, he also lost contact with his friends. According to him, that was due to the increasing criminal conduct of his friends, but according to testimony by several of them, the friends chose to exclude Breivik from the group. They add that he never had a significant position as a graffiti artist.

This twisted self-image later developed into a key issue in the trial.

Court psychiatrists have concurred that Breivik is excessively self-occupied and narcissistic.

“These experiences have been central in the development of the narcissist personality disorder. Being let down early is a key element for many mass murderers, who have been abandoned by those who should offer them security and love. When those close to you consciously abandon you, and lacking alternative relations to fulfill the need, it can be extremely traumatic,” explains Inge-Arne Teigset.

Although Anders Behring Breivik characterises himself as socially well-founded, he moved back to live with his mother in 2006 after a series of business failures.

For an entire year, he remained in a basement room by his mother, doing nothing except sleeping and playing “World of Warcraft” on his computer.

94 percent of all mass murderers are characterized as “social outcasts” or “loners”, spending most of their time alone.

Teigset explains that a narcissistic personality disorder in itself can be extremely destructive. And if an exaggerated self image is violated over and over, that can develop into a dangerous cocktail for fragile and impressionable persons.

Replacing the violated self-perception

The father, according to Teigset, played a crucial role, but also business failures and the rejection from his friends contributed to breaking down Breivik’s identity.

Breivik in the Dock

Therefore he saw it as a necessity to construct a new self, and it is this version of Anders Behring Breivik that can be studied in his large compendium.

In this, Breivik seeks to come across as a gifted, well spoken and dedicated idealist, fighting for a higher ideal. And willing to use any means in order to achieve his goal.

The compendium has several photos of Breivik wearing a uniform and carrying firearms, according to Inge-Arne Teigset, evidence of the warrior mentality that is a common compensation mechanism among mass murderers.

“This is a mechanism needed for psychological survival. One develops an alternative self-perception, because it becomes too burdensome to live with the realization that one is undesired and unloved. In the case of Breivik, he has developed an identity diametrically opposed to the perceived reality: namely that he is extraordinarily valuable, clever and able to execute operations out of reach for others.”

Projecting revenge

These alternative egos are known and categorized by psychology. For “pseudo-commando” as well as for “violent believer”, revenge constitutes a common motivating factor. Timothy McVeigh, who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma in 1995 and killed 168 people, used the expression “ultimate warrior” about himself. He had a dream of joining an elite military force, the Green Berets, but had to give up when he failed the admission test.

Rejected, humiliated and socially isolated, McVeigh was looking for a purpose in life. Using his extraordinary knowledge of weapons from his army background, he turned against the institution that had rejected him, the American state. In letters he elaborated how he desired to be the first in a new American revolution, and when he was arrested by the police, he was wearing a T-shirt with the text “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Anders Behring Breivik described himself as a Crusader of an anti-Communist resistance movement, and Inge-Arne Teigset states that some mass murderers consciously use ideologies to justify their mass killings.

They have a need for revenge and a perverted desire for recognition. And for mass murderers such as McVeigh and Breivik, only the gaze of the entire world suffices to satisfy their needs.

During the interrogations of Breivik, the 33-year-old Norwegian has at no time shown any signs of regret or remorse over his acts. To the contrary, he has stood upright and in a self-confident voice boasted about how well-planned and well-executed the attacks were. According to Inge-Arne Teigset that is a clear expression of his elevated self-perception.

“His narcissistic self-image gets lots of nourishment from this. Well aided by the huge media hysteria.”

Previous posts about the trial of Anders Behring Breivik:

2012 Apr 11 Circus Breivik
    14 The Show Begins
    16 Fjordman: The Breivik Trial Begins
    17 Trial Without Limits
    17 Cracking Down on Christian Terrorism
    18 Breivik in Brief
    19 Norwegian News Roundup
    20 The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Multiculturalists
    21 The Norwegian Straitjacket
    25 The Trial of Anders Behring Breivik: Week One
    27 Is Breivik’s Trial Unconstitutional?
  May 21 Opting Out of Circus Breivik
    22 Islamophobia ‘Experts’ to be Called in Breivik Case


Anonymous said...

He was a fan of Dexter, was he not? I re-read some of the novels recently and the parallels are quite striking.


Unknown said...

Hm...Do you personally know the man Fjordman?
Do any of these commentators know him?
There is something silly and pathetic about the psychiatric explanations people are sticking to Breivik..Why is it important, why do people do that?
Fear he may become a hero, or an example? Is it to put as much space between him and ´us´??

And I think I understand why Breivik admires people who are able and willing to use violence..I think it may be shame and anger because the feminization of western society, and especially in Scandinavia has made us silly, weak, credulous and soft. Even when it is becoming clearer every day that we have invited enemies in our midst, people who really do want to destroy us, we refuse to put our foot down, and we sell out everything we say we stand for...
Looks to me we are sitting on it, hoping it will die a quiet death, so that we can adjust to our new realities and our new masters..

Nick said...

An interesting idea re. Andrew Kehoe (and Fjordman is the only person I've ever come across who also knows about that incident).

Many people get upset about their taxes, or feel that local authorities have in one way or another failed them, or revealed themselves to be either incompetent or downright corrupt.

But they don't go off and blow up a school full of children.

Consider Klebold & Harris @ Columbine: many kids feel excluded or bullied, but they don't go off into a school full of children with home made bombs & armed with guns.

The logical point being that these external factors are not sufficient to cause anyone to do what Harris & Klebold did, or what Andrew Kehoe did.

And having legitimate political concerns about what is happening within one's own country is also, clearly, NOT A SUFFICIENT CONDITION for Mrs. Berwick, or anyone else for that matter, to start running about with guns shooting people.

Breivik may refer to other people's articles which have expressed such political concerns in his so-called "manifesto" but nothing written in those articles are sufficient to explain the choices made by Breivik.

There is another aspect to this which goes beyond such external factors & which makes the likes of Andrew Kehoe, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and Anders Breivik different from other people.

Nick said...

What is that extra aspect, which takes a human being beyond being unhappy about his taxes, or the performance of the local authorities, or having to be part of the clique of "outsiders" at school, or questioning in a democracy what one's government is doing ... and leads them into a realm where murder and mayhem are planned within a human mind and carried out without remorse?

1 Peter 5:8 says that our adversary, Satan, prowls about the earth like a lion, looking for someone to devour. A psychologically vulnerable person in a stressful situation would be easy meat to the prince of the power of the air.

Consider what Victoria Redstall wrote in the intro to her book on serial killers: the one thing that marks such killers out and separates them from ordinary people is, as she puts it, that they are able to undergo a process which she calls "doubling" in which an already damaged personality moulds itself and allows evil and perpetrating evil to become part of the self. (Redstall, Serial Killers, John Blake Publishing, p. 10)

Papa Whiskey said...

To define Breivik's disorder, one need look no farther than the psychologist Theordore Millon's "Fanatic narcissist" subtype, listed in Wikipedia:

Fanatic narcissist – including paranoid features. An individual whose self-esteem was severely arrested during childhood, who usually displays major paranoid tendencies, and who holds on to an illusion of omnipotence. These people are fighting delusions of insignificance and lost value, and trying to re-establish their self-esteem through grandiose fantasies and self-reinforcement. When unable to gain recognition or support from others, they take on the role of a heroic or worshipped person with a grandiose mission.

Fits that boy to a "T".

Unknown said...

Yes well, I can understand that a person who is under the impression that his country is being destroyed and that his people are oblivious of the fact and do not seem to be able to respond adequately to reality, while the elders of his people are in even punishing anyone who’s trying to stem the tide; and if such a person would happen to be of a private disposition and given to solitary activities, that he might, while constantly staring into an ever widening abyss that he may find himself being stared back at, one day.
And beyond a certain point in time such a man may no longer sense that wild, desperate notions are taking hold - not only of his thoughts, but of his actions. Isn´t that why people warn that staring into an abyss is dangerous?

Whether such an already marked man decides to seek out the bright lights of everyday life, or declines to escape and continues on a desperate course is his own choice and his own individual responsibility.
It would not be incomprehensible if such a man´s behavior after his deed would give the impression that he is not wholly in and of this world; and that he seems seemed locked in, in a private bubble of his own.

Desperate times do not call everyone for desperate measures, but they may whisper and be heeded by unhappy, extraordinary first responders
Some things are beyond facile explanation. Breivik is a man who has never hurt anyone before, as far as we know. He has never shown signs of cruelty, or criminal urges, he is not an antisocial problemcase. He is intelligent, persistent and willing to educate himself. Furthermore, he has gone to a great deal of personal trouble to reacht his goal, with no expectation of personal gain or reward.

I find all these snarky, quasi worldly wise and headshrinking comments to what Breivik did inappropriate and cheap. Towards him, but also towards his victims. Not because he is a hero, or because what he did is commendable, but because it is inexplicable.
It would be far better to say nothing, and listen.

Anonymous said...

Would an honest and true jury recognise Anders Behring Breivik's pleaded motivation and vision of the World, albeit regurgitated and spiced with self importance?

Mad, bad and dangerous to know maybe, BUT NOT CRIMINALLY INSANE.

Jolie Rouge

Anonymous said...

you certainly might as well have remained silent because you have said nothing meaningful or useful at all. Your quasi worldly wise comments are awfully snarky btw. Just so you know.