It was mentioned in an MWC News item of July 27th that “Breivik's lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said that he was probably insane” and in another on the same day he was described as “a psychopathic fantasist”. Similar comments have been made by police and other commentators; most people probably agree - now. Before the attack, however he had never been under surveillance and had never been arrested and it’s interesting that people who knew or were acquainted with Breivik described him as "like anyone else", "a modest person ... well dressed... well educated", someone who “did not attract attention” he had “attended a middle class high school” and was “a member of the Progress Party”. Of course, the stereotypic comment “a bit of a loner” creeps in as almost a mandatory label attached to anyone and everyone who does this sort of thing (without state sponsorship). But then, in a world that shops on-line, drives to work in an insulated, personal capsule, spends most of its leisure time in front of a television and resents friends dropping in unannounced, isn’t everyone?
It’s the apparent ordinariness of Breivik that should come as a warning, not of endemic threats and dangers of terrorists everywhere but of the state of things we have come to accept and take for granted; the current state of a long-standing, imperceptible decay of values of western society that is creating a broader instability. A Norwegian friend of mine says “I still cannot grasp how a man can kill small children in this way. Down to 4-5 years of age. Unbelievable.”. Yes, I agree, quite unbelievable, although I can’t help recalling the words of Madeline Albright, “we think the price is worth it” regarding the deaths of half a million under-five-year-olds in Iraq – a deliberate, calculated element of the strategy to achieve regime change and control of resources. In a society in which we allow our children to kill people on a regular basis on computer screens and yet are more offended by television images of children slaughtered in our "war of terror" than by the people and their disgusting weapons that have killed them it’s the “ordinariness” of a news report that describes the bombing of an Afghan village that was a “suspected”, insurgent enclave resulting in the deaths of several “suspected” insurgents that is the truly shocking thing.
As Europe and other places are now inundated with the flood of immigrants - the mass exodus of people fleeing in terror from the violence of our resource wars, past present and future, while some political forces seek a European Union that is as bland and homogeneous as a McDonalds chain and still others seek a globalised corporate world that reduces all humanity to a consumerist treadmill, there is a power dynamic at play employing methods of psychopathic violence to the attainment of political goals. Is it really any cause for wonder then, that a very “ordinary” person like Anders Breivik, still young and naive enough to take seriously the saturation-point, islamophobic rhetoric of a psychotic, criminal-run media without conscience, fearful of the changes he is witnessing, exceptional only that he has the practical aptitude to acquire the means to his ends without attracting attention, should apply the methods overwhelmingly evident in both the fiction and reality of his world to address his greatest personal fears? I have no sympathy, but I’m unsurprised.
It seems to me quite astonishing that there has been no recognition of the striking parallel between the “reasoning” of Anders Breivik (whom we all agree is insane) and that of Tony Blair. The comparison goes something like this:
- Both Blair and Breivik were possessed by a perceived threat that was not perceived or was regarded as of lesser concern by wider society, namely, in Blair’s case that Iraq could prepare to launch weapons of mass destruction (WMD) at the UK within 45 minutes and in Breivik’s case that Europe would be over-run by Muslims within a few years.
- Both Blair and Breivik believed that lethal violence was the only means available to address this perceived threat (Blair on a vast scale).
- Both Blair and Breivik recognized that their fears were not shared by the wider society but that people just simply did not understand their views (Blair lied, deceived and exaggerated to persuade them).
- Both Blair and Breivik acknowledged their action had caused loss of life and great suffering (Brievik expressed regret) but asserted that their action was nevertheless necessary and remained remorselessly committed to the view that it was the right thing to do.
- Both Blair and Breivik (Blair despite the absence of WMD) believe that the wider community will come to understand that their perception was correct and that their action was the right thing to do.
These are the fundamental elements that are the basis of unanimous agreement that Anders Breivik is insane. Yet in the case of Tony Blair this reasoning is taken as so not-out-of-the-ordinary that our (Australian) Prime Minister has recently met with him, providing further oxygen of publicity to his warmongering rhetoric seeking to apply the same rationale to Iran.
I have long argued (a nonprofessional assessment) that Blair is a psychopathic killer – someone who can inflict pain, suffering and injury, even death without empathy, compassion or remorse. Psychiatrists are saying that it will take at least 12 months to ascertain professionally if Breivik is insane. Nevertheless, perhaps if the above points, as they pertain to Breivik, are prima facie grounds for requiring such an assessment then perhaps the same case could be argued in relation to Blair.
The same point-by-point comparison is not easily applied to George W Bush. Bush seemed oblivious to the wider, public perception – “you’re either with us or again’ us”. For Bush the course of shock-and-awe-violence was the only natural and possible response; a kind of cultural given. Whether or not the wider community would come to share Bush’s views or accept the necessity of the Bush approach was clearly not a matter of concern at any time.
The perceived threat that seemed to underpin the motivation of Bush was far less consistent or coherent. At one point there was accusation of Iraq supporting terrorism and then accusation of an alliance with al-Q’aida. At another it seemed more personal in that he alleged of Saddam Hussein that “He tried to kill my daddy”. Like Blair, Bush seemed to settle on the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction but at one point there was a mention of a “crusade”, which now has resonance with Breivik, but the distinction in relation to Bush that really stands out is his later statement that “God told him to attack Iraq”, a point reported with such tranquillity in the media that the only thing surprising about it was that public reaction was equally tranquil, ranging from smirking ridicule to a natural acceptance as if this were just a very natural and expected thing for a good Christian no less sincere than Tony Blair.
While the questions about the sanity of Blair, Bush and Breivik are possibly instructive, these relate to only three people. They are far less a matter of concern than the stark contrast of the general, public reaction to the shocking violence of Breivik, on the one hand, and the vastly more shocking violence of the global, ongoing War of Terror on the other.
Breivik, at least, will be prosecuted.
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