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June 22, 2012, Friday

A.B. Breivik: insane or calculating killing machine?

Is it not supposedly part and parcel of civilized societies that we simply do not go on random shooting rampages? If interacting with fellow citizens based on tolerance without resorting to violence no longer works, we will have once more reverted to prehistoric times where my physical assault on you was as good as yours on me and accepted as the norm!

However, in today’s world, from Virginia Tech to Utoeya Island and on to far too many shopping malls and other locations all around the world, an alarming and ever-growing number of individuals somehow lose the plot of what is right and what is wrong. Case in point: Anders Behring Breivik, killer of 77 innocent Norwegian citizens, mostly youngsters. But are these murderers insane as some experts would want to make us believe?

Let us try to enter the mind of a criminal first, often referred to as profiling. Why should someone who manages to buy up to 20 packets of aspirin in various Oslo pharmacies over an extended period of time (knowing that CCTV would not single out men buying aspirin as would-be terrorists), and then plants a bomb in the city center only to soon thereafter embark on his mass-murder trip to Utoeya Island camouflaged in a policeman’s uniform, and eventually and at random shooting at dozens of innocent summer camp participants, be considered mentally unaccountable, stupid or insane? What’s more, would he not have known all too well that any other policeman stationed at the island jetty who perhaps had already heard about what had happened in Oslo would automatically trust anyone else wearing a uniform? Breivik had a master plan. This killer wanted to cause maximum harm; this terrorist had singled out a political party’s youth camp as a target to manifest his sick beliefs that Norway and the West are prone to Islamist attacks of whatever dimension.

Although one must argue that the assumption that Islam is a danger to civilization is “sick,” it does not mean that someone like Breivik is automatically allowed to resort to the refuge of being labeled insane; far from it. He is a killing machine who must be sentenced according to what democracy has in store -- a life sentence without parole. Yet in the Norwegian legal system, the maximum limit of years spent behind bars is capped at 21.

Why has Breivik argued against being sent to a psychiatric ward? Because he knows all too well that whatever he says now means that his ideas will be automatically rejected. Hence he assumes that spending some time in an institution reserved for “insane” citizens would most likely lead to someone in the psychiatric profession to take him on as a showcase in order to demonstrate to the world that therapy works (think a new Ph.D. thesis, some academic publications). Five, perhaps 10 years later he could be back on our streets, a role model, a kind of present day Clockwork Orange reformed former villain. But here I must make my point and declare the following: A mass murderer of 77 innocent people as a future role model -- no way!

His arguing against being put away as insane is based on the fact that he knows that as long as he refutes exactly that (being called insane instead of a political militant as his defense team argues) the chances are that the verdict will indeed be “insane.”

Future (God forbid) copy-cats of Breivik must know from the outset that if they would ever dare commit a similar crime they would not become famous after being released from prison -- talk shows, analyzed by soft-voiced people about why he turned into a serial killer over a cup of freshly brewed tea. Instead, they would be locked up for decades with other hitmen, drug dealers or weapons smugglers. None of their politically inspired fellow warriors -- if there are any as cellmates -- just plain, non-politically motivated “ordinary” criminals!

Would I demand capital punishment? No, neither here nor anywhere! These people wish to destroy democracy and we simply cannot give in to that by allowing our societies to become lynch-mob sort of places.

Hence, Breivik as a deterrent? Yes! However, Breivik once found insane as an academic case study about how to turn evil into good and released well ahead of maximum time? I don’t think so!

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