Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Norway's Mass Murderer, in The New Yorker

He killed 77 people in Norway on July 22, 2011. He's now serving a 21 year (extendable) sentence, and studying political science via the University of Oslo. See also: The Mass Murderer Triad and this post on Tim McVeigh.

New Yorker

"An initial court-ordered psychiatric review concluded that Breivik suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, but a second review diagnosed only “dissocial personality disorder” and “narcissistic traits.” The court ruled that he was not psychotic.
What can prompt a relatively well-functioning man to do something so horrific? In the midst of a stable, prosperous, and orderly country? Is it possible to ever comprehend it?
Based on Breivik’s political rhetoric and his self-understanding, and also on his chosen targets—Regjeringskvartalet and the ruling party’s youth organization—it is natural to draw a comparison between his act and the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, where Timothy McVeigh, in an anti-government protest, parked a truck bomb outside a federal building and murdered a hundred and sixty-eight people. Indeed, Breivik took the Oklahoma City bombing as a model for the first part of his attack. However, almost everything else regarding Breivik and his crime points away from the political and the ideological and toward the personal. He made himself a sort of military commander’s uniform, in which he photographed himself before the crime; he consistently referred to a large organization, of which he claimed to be a prominent member but which does not exist; in his manifesto he interviews himself as if he were a hero; and the impression this gives is of a person who has erected a make-believe reality, in which his significance is undisputed. The way in which he carried out his crime, and the way his thoughts contextualized it, resembles role-playing, rather than political terrorism. The solitude this implies is enormous, not to mention the need for self-assertion. The most logical approach is to view his actions as a variation on the numerous school massacres that have occurred in the past decades in the United States, Finland, and Germany: a young man, a misfit, who is either partly or completely excluded from the group, takes as many people with him into death as he can, in order to “show” us.
A few months before Breivik carried out the assault, he visited his former stepmother and told her that soon he was going to do something that would make his father proud. His mother had left his father when he was one, and it had been years since Breivik had spoken to him.
He wanted to be seen; that is what drove him, nothing else.
Look at me. Look at me. Look at me."

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