Norwegian Broadcasting, NRK, last night screened a documentary featuring Anders Behring Breivik’s father and stepfather. It was a revealing insight into Breivik’s background and psyche.
The program seemed to reveal a boy who was mentally wounded from a very early age.
His father Jens Breivik left a feeble impression, of someone who “left”, of a father who never became a father. He obviously was still in denial about his leaving his son. At 15 there was a rupture between them, and when asked why he didn’t contact his son, he answered that he thought it was up to his son.
Agony is the word, Breivik senior was in agony.
He lives in France. He obviously had no idea what he was doing when he consented to be interviewed by NRK. Is it right for a huge institution to intrude upon a person that obviously is entangled in personal guilt feelings, and expose him to the public at large?
The program left the impression of someone who failed, and still has not come to grips with it. One can understand why, after such a catastrophic event.
Since Breivik senior does not live in Norway he is not able to gauge the impact of his words. That he was at a loss to understand his own role, and what happened to his son, was made clear.
His mother refused to participate. She was left alone with the one year old Anders and his six year old sister when Jens Breivik left, and she couldn’t cope. She tried to raise the alarm herself, and several professionals tried to do the same. At one point they were patients at the State center for child and juvenile psychiatry in Oslo, living there for one month, to be observed. One doctor commented on the boy’s withdrawn attitude towards strangers - and also his mother - with a contstant smile on his face meant to deflect contact and at the same time acquiesce.
An interesting piece of family history came to light: his grandmother on the maternal side had suffered from paranoia, in the clinical sense, i.e. had been delusional.
His stepfather for 12 years, a former pilot, now living in Thailand, looked back on his time with the boy: he needed a father, and wanted to succeed, but could not. The stepfather described Breivik as a rather effeminate character, someone who was pleasing, who wanted to be accepted.
The picture that emerged seemed to corroborate the judicial review’s conclusion that Anders Behring Breivik suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is in juridical terms insane. He will face trial, but may not be condemned to prison, but compulsory ward.
This professional review has elicited an outcry, and large parts of the media, and professionals - psychologists, psychiatrists, commentators of all stripes, seemed to say: this diagnosis will not stand.
Their arguments are often political in nature: the two psychiatrists who did observere Breivik either does not know or care to know the views that are espoused on the internet, and that inspired and radicalized Breivik.
What they want is for this whole milieu to be put on the stand. They want the court case to be a political review and judgment of the opinions that in their view have contributed to the deeds, and those opinions are very easy to prove: they are contained in Breivik’s 1500 page manifesto.
Whilst Winston Churchill and John Stuart Mill would go scot-free, it is questionable if a person like Ayaan Hirsi Ali would, and a host of others are already found guilty: Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, Pamela Geller, Bruce Bawer, Lars Hedegaard, and certainly Fjordman, alias Peder Jensen Nøstvedt. Simply for dealing with the same topics - multiculturalism and islam - from a critical viewpoint, is enough to fall under the light of aspersion, suspicion, of being morally and politically dubious.
But doesn’t this smack of a political show trial?
It does, and it is been going on since midnight 23.rd of July. For many a necessary outlet, an emotional release. But it never stops, and one wonders: where are the countervailing forces, where are the inhibitions, that makes professionals shrink, that deter them from crossing certain invisible borders?
Because what is pretty obvious to an detached observer is that one is making a compact, a self-referring system, built on its own logic, and only the facts and premises that support the desired purpose are admitted: to see evil in all its ghastliness, attributed to one’s political enemies.
The psychiatric report brought some real and serious objections to the prevailing mode and conception. But the problem is: when a conception is based on mood it becomes resistant to new facts.
22/7 becomes an emotional roller coaster.
The media are main players. They seem to act according to an invisible script. In America this is simply known as political correctness, and leftist liberalism, that is incapable of jumping over its own shadow. In Norway the situation is different: there simply is no countervailing force to tell the powers that be that they are on a dangerous roll, that their obsession with something they do not know - is leading them and society astray.
The great paradox is that Norway is run by the generation of 68′ and their siblings. They are now leaving the responsibility to their offspring. Before they go they want to put the 22/7 in the right perspective: they want to solve the case, i.e. explain and understand how this Norwegian boy ended up as the greatest mass murdererer in Norwegian history. Since the crime was political they will find a political explanation: Breivik is the harbinger of a extreme right that is rising its ugly head in Europe. Thus the case and its solution has an impact on the whole of Europe. It feeds into the conflict between a political and cultural class that feel it is under attack and are convinced that it is fighting a just case.
But like Joschka Fischer said to Donald Rumsfeld in Munich before the invasion of Iraq: “Sorry, we are not convinced”, one can say about the Norwegian scene: Show us all the arguments, if not you may make the wrong judgement.
Breivik will be judged, either to imprisonment, or psychiatric treatment. He will not be released until old age. But what is really at stake is the context: what will come first - his mental illness, or “the milieu”?
It is worrying that his lawyer, Geir Lippestad, a couple of weeks ago announced in the biggest daily, VG, that he wanted to subpoena his likeminded writers on the net, and he specifically mentioned Fjordman, and the editor of document.no. Lippestad spoke in general terms, about responsibility for one’s words, and that those might have radicalized his client. Lippestad later stated that he only wanted to subpoena Fjordman. From his point of view the damage this inflicts on individuals may seem small compared to the seriousness of the case. But the damage that he and VG does to freedom of speech in Norway is a different story.
Lippestad acts in an environment where a host of intellectuals are calling the same tune; when they say “responsibility” they mean criminality, out of bounds, banishment, ostracism and punishment.
The two main public broadcasters in Norway and Sweden, NRK and SVT, have cooperated and both aired documentaries that lies the blame squarely on the political right, starting from Sverigdemokratene and Fremskrittspartiet (Progress party), via political websites and individual bloggers. What is startling is the lack of distinction between hugely different actors. On the contrary, the object is to establish the link between them, to show they are part of the same trend, that is rightwing, meaning illegitimate and antidemocratic. If they should represent a substantial part of the population, the more important it is to suppress them. This is not a question of numbers and opinion, but about mandate, and the powers that be, both in politics and the media, have the mandate. From whom they do not tell.
A lot is in the balance, not just for Norway. Some 450 journalists are due when the case opens April 16th.