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Anders Behring Breivik, in His Own Words, and the Freedom to Speak

Posted on the 20 April 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Anders Behring Breivik on trial

Anders Breivik, July 25, 2011. Photo credit: Globovision

There has been much angst during the week over the decision to allow Anders Behring  Breivik, the man who murdered 77 people during a far-right rampage in Norway last summer, to make a statement to the court in his defense. This case – many argued – went right to very heart of the freedom of speech debate: Should this monster be allowed to speak?

The main objections seemed to be that he was allowed to speak for so long. Indeed, he was interrupted by the judge on a number of occasions:

Judge Arntzen: Breivik …

Breivik: Yes.

Arntzen: Are you approaching a conclusion to this written your post?

Breivik: I’m on page six. Of the 13. I have come half way.

Arntzen: Yes, very much. And now it’s been thirty minutes, so I suggest you prepare a termination of your written reading.”

13 pages.. of this…. you could almost feel the judge’s draw drop. Equally, there were others who found the length of the diatribe offensive – in that he was allowed to say too much. Helen Pidd, “tweeting live” for The Guardian, found the statement too distressing relay completely and therefore offered only edited tweets, which sort of missed the point.

In fact, there was very little in the speech that was shocking; his evidence under examination has been much more devastating. Instead it was rather boring. It told us very little new about right-wing fanatics or extreme political views. But it did have interesting things to say about the mind of the man himself, or what sort of mind it is.

Are there more fanatics like Breivik waiting for their moment? Read more at The Periscope Post.

Never read your cuttings

First of all, never believe celebs or criminals who say they don’t read the press. Breivik seems someone who had devoured every column inch about himself:

They also claimed that I am narcissistic, antisocial, psychopathic, that I suffer from germ phobia and put on a face mask daily for many years.  I only like red sweaters and that I have an incestuous relationship with my own mother. They also claimed that I am miserable, pathetic, a baby killer, a child killer despite the fact that I am not accused of having killed someone under the age of 14. That I’m a coward, inbred, homosexual, paedophile, necrophilic, racist, sociopath, fascist, Nazi, Zionist and anarchist…. But it is important that everyone understands why these cultural elites, journalists, editors, and even prosecutors in this case, will continue to ridicule, mock and lie about me.”

From this extract, it’s clear Breivik does care deeply what people say about him; all the posturing in the court, the fist salutes are narcissistic, attention-grabbing behaviours. That is interesting because that is in line with Nazism; there is a narcissism which runs deep here and it is conveyed in the language. For instance his claim: “I have implemented the most sophisticated, spectacular, and the most brutal political assassination committed by militant nationalist in Europe since World War II.” 

Breivik clearly has to be seen as special; and notice the frame of reference back to World War II, repeated many times in the course of the speech. The War is clearly the anchor line in his outlook/philosophy; it gives him a moral and emotional framework from which to view the world. Past aars justify future conflict – because they reveal the true dark side of man. Conflict is more “true” to human nature for Breivik than conciliation.


Continuous Abstractions

The second thing to notice about the speech is its jargon and overwhelming sense of abstraction: “There is no foundation for democracy and all our state institutions such as schools and universities permeated by cultural Marxist and multicultural curriculum. … It’s no secret that the opponents of cultural Marxism and multiculturalism have been silenced after World War II. This opinion tyranny is the real terror. “

There is the abstraction of the endlessly repeated terms “cultural Marxism” and  ”multiculturalism”, continued even in his more threatening comments: “There comes a purifying storm. This civil war will not come suddenly and unexpectedly. There will be a gradual escalation and polarization in society, and we will see more frequent attacks from right-wing patriots and from Islamists.”

“Escalation”, “polarisation”, “right wing-patriots”, “Islamists” – these are all abstractions, there is no sense of real people here, only terms.

And the same is also reflected in Breivik’s use of statistics in the speech: “A British survey showed that 69 percent of Britons see immigration as either a problem or as a very big problem. Source references are in the compendium. Another survey from February 2010, from the UK, showed that a massive 70 percent are dissatisfied with multiculturalism and Islamisation.”

His outlook is framed by huge ideological movements, by stats and numbers, and empty lists. The really chilling dimension to all this rhetoric is not its accusations but in the abstraction – the almost complete absence of any human dimension to his thinking and language.

It is in this one might understand the mind of the monster: he shows no pity or remorse for his actions because he does not recognize that they were actions against real, simple, human beings – but a war against abstract ideologies. He does not see people as individuals but as political stats.

One can hear this mind at work in his denial and it dead-sounding, abstract list of causes: “And I can not admit guilt. I acted with the principle of necessity on behalf of my people, my culture, my religion, my city and my country.”

Breivik, the serial killer: He’s among the worst – check out this list of five others.


The chilling moment

There is only one human moment, one piece of everyday language in the whole speech. It comes when he reviews the terrible legacy of “60 years of Labor” of “multiculturalism” and “cultural Marxism” and observes: “The only thing that we would be left with is sushi and flat panel displays.” 

Suddenly we have an insight into the real – in the reality of Breivik’s own life and lonely days of “sushi” and video games on “flat panel displays”. One has the sense that it was a horror of this life, of complete anonymity, from which Breivik has recoiled. In the end, the argument for the freedom of speech is not that it simply protects but that it reveals. Speech always reveals the mind of the man or woman standing before the crowd.

Read the whole of Anders Breivik’s court statement at VoiceGig.

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