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Anders Behring Breivik Trial: Triumph for Democracy Or Exactly What the ‘attention-whore’ Killer Wants?

Posted on the 17 April 2012 by Periscope
Anders Behring Breivik trial: Triumph for democracy or exactly what the ‘attention-whore’ killer wants?

Anders Behring Breivik. Photo credit: Oslo politidistrikt

On day two of his high-profile trial, self-confessed mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik continued to strike an almost entirely unrepentant tone for his July 2011 crimes which left 77 people dead. He boasted to the court today that “I have carried out the most spectacular and sophisticated attack on Europe since World War II,” and insisted his massacres were “based on goodness, not evil” as he acted to defend Norway against immigration and multi-culturalism. Breivik said he would do it all again and asked to be acquitted.

The trial of Norway’s worst ever serial killer, which is expected to run for ten long weeks, is obviously a hugely harrowing event for the victim’s families and for the Scandinavian country, which prides itself on its democratic ideals and history of tolerance. The ongoing trial has prompted much soul-searching amongst the commentariat who roundly praise Norway’s response yet do worry that self-proclaimed “little attention-whore” Breivik is being given exactly what he wants – a platform to promote his poisonous ideology.

Norway’s response is an example to the world. An editorial in The Guardian paid tribute to “Norway’s troubled example to the world.” “To its credit, Norway has refused to rise to Breivik’s provocation,” praised the newspaper, who reminded that, “there is nothing that fanatics who see themselves as warriors want more than to provoke an over-reaction. That was the mistake that the United States made after 9/11. Even though Breivik’s acts are abnormal and abhorrent, Norway has rightly put him on trial in the normal way, has emphasised that he has rights, and has allowed him to have his say in court, however painful that may be. This is absolutely the correct way to assert the strength of democracy and the rule of law in the face of acts of terror of all kinds. This is not a war. It is a challenge to the rule of law, and it must be met with an assertion of the rule of law, not by its abrogation.”

Malevolent pantomime. The Times (£) expressed concern that the ten-week trial offers Breivik an opportunity to promote his poisonous ideology to a wide audience further and threatens to further traumatize the victim’s families. The paper acknowledged that the principle of due process is “central to a democracy, to the disinterested application of law and to the notion of justice” and Norway’s legal system “exemplifies it,” but lamented that, “Breivik is exploiting the scrupulousness of the proceedings in order to turn them into a malevolent pantomime.” The newspaper recommended that, “as far as possible within the constraints of the legal system, the court authorities should prevent Breivik from compounding atrocity with calumnies against the victims and inflammatory denunciations of their ideals.”

“Prison cells in Norway are the stuff of Daily Mail nightmares, and he could end up with a flat-screen TV, a personal trainer and even a rock-climbing wall,” noted Owen Jones of The Independent.

Terror has cemented divisions. Writing at The Guardian’s Comment is free, Aslak Sira Myhre, director of the House of Literature in Oslo, lamented that the Norwegian political landscape has not changed more in the post-Breivik era. Myhre argued that, “the debate on Islam and Islamophobia has hardened rather than softened after 22/7. In the aftermath of the killings, some anti-Islamic organisations and websites showed remorse, but that phase passed, and now the venom is even stronger. Those who insist that Islam poses a threat to Europeans and Norwegians, and claim the past 1,500 years is a story of a never-ending clash between a Christian civilization and Islamic barbary, are just as insistent as before. Instead of opening a door to decent debate, the terror has cemented divisions.”

“We are looking so intensely into the eyes of the terrorist that we are becoming blind,” argued Aslak Sira Myhre at The Guardian’s Comment is free. “We know all his guns, his suits and uniforms, his family and friends. He is becoming a celebrity, an icon of evil. But we close our eyes to the fact that Behring Breivik’s worldview is shared by many all over Europe. The collective disgust for his acts is not matched by the same unanimous disgust for his motives.”

Breivik is not insane! Writing at The Telegraph, Brian Masters, the author of Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen, insisted that Breivik may be mad but he isn’t insane: “Breivik is obviously aberrant, but he was throughout resourceful, determined, careful, purposeful; ‘mad’ if you like, but perfectly sane in his ghastly ambition and his deliberations as to how to achieve it.” Masters hoped a diagnosis of schizophrenia, which carries the implication that the man was entangled by delusions and hallucinations which controlled his behavior, will be quickly thrown out by the judge “for Breivik’s reasoning may be abhorrent, but it is sequential and organised … anti-social behavior is not a mental disease, however repugnant its consequences.”


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