It is not enough to say he is mad. Anders Breivik is patently mad: no one in their right mind would behave as he has done. Nor is it enough to say that he is evil. If the word evil has any meaning at all, then it must obviously apply to a man who can go to a lake island summer camp, call innocent young people to run towards him – and then shoot 85 of them with an automatic rifle.
We will never be satisfied with simple words like “mad” or “evil”, and for the days and weeks ahead we can expect exhaustive psychoanalysis of this dreary and supercilious 32-year-old sicko. We will summon and interview all the potential hobgoblins of his mind. With the help of the Norwegian investigators, we will try to understand how these demons persuaded him to engage in an act of such premeditated cruelty; and as our guide we will use the 1,500-page manifesto of hate that he (and possibly his accomplices) have posted on the internet.
It is in many ways a preposterous document, with its plan to revive the ancient order of the Knights Templar, with Breivik as “Justiciar Knight”. The idea is to mobilise an army of similar loathsome berks and to liberate Europe of immigrants by 2083. It seems that this is the 200th anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, whom Breivik blames for egalitarianism, feminism, multiculturalism and all manner of other things he dislikes. Breivik’s attempt at Mein Kampf is awash with Wikipedia-generated teenage ruminations about Gramsci, Adorno and Islam, and I must confess I have not slogged all the way through to the end.
But I have read enough to grasp the gist – and there is something both curious and troubling in his obsessions. He goes on and on about the EUSSR and “Eurabia”. He attacks multiculturalism as a “big lie”, and asserts that “political correctness now looms over Western European society like a colossus”. “Can the European Union be reformed?” he asks. “I doubt it. The EU is bound together by a self-serving class of bureaucrats who want to expand their budgets and power, despite the harm they do.” He claims that Europe has been systematically betrayed by mass immigration from Muslim countries, and that the method of this immigration has been concealed from the electorate. He cites a great many British commentators to make his points. Indeed, it is fascinating to see how rooted is this Norwegian extremist in the political discourse of the Anglosphere.
My friends, there is no easy way of saying this: a lot of what this evil nutcase says could be drawn from the blog-post threads that you will find in the media, especially the “conservative” media, in Britain. Some people will read his dismal expectorations and conclude that this inflammatory guff is what really drove him on. They will say that his barbarism was spurred by fury at the EUSSR and immigration, just as the murders of 9/11 were triggered by the various tenets of Islamic extremism.
It is certainly true that on the face of it he has much in common with some recent Islamic suicide bombers. He is disturbed by female emancipation, and thinks women would be better off in the home. He seems to be pretty down on homosexuality. Above all – and in this he strongly resembles an Islamist – he believes that his own religious leaders are deeply decadent and have deviated from orthodoxy. He is repelled, like so many Muslim terrorists, by anything that resembles the mingling of cultures.
People will say that we are looking at the mirror image, in fact, of an Islamic terrorist – a man driven by an identical but opposite ideological mania. There is certainly a symmetry here, and yet in both cases, Breivik and the Muslim bomber, I don’t think that ideology is really at the heart of the problem. Yesterday the television reporters found an acquaintance of his from Norway, a fellow called Ulav Andersson, who said that he had known Breivik pretty well. He was surprised by all the Knights of Templar stuff, because he had never really been religious, and he wasn’t aware that he had been interested in politics.
“He didn’t seem opinionated at all,” he said. He just became chippy and irritable, said Ulav Andersson, when some girl he had a crush on jilted him in favour of a man of Pakistani origin.
It wasn’t about immigration, or Eurabia, or the hadith, or the Eurocrats’ plot against the people. It wasn’t really about ideology or religion. It was all about him, and his feeling of inadequacy in relation to the female sex. The same point can be made (and has been made) about so many of the young Muslim terrorists. The fundamental reasons for their callous behaviour lie deep in their own sense of rejection and alienation. It is the ideology that gives them the ostensible cause, that potentiates the poison in their bloodstream, that gives them an excuse to dramatise the resentment that they feel in the most powerful way – and to kill.
There is an important lesson, therefore, in the case of Anders Breivik. He killed in the name of Christianity – and yet of course we don’t blame Christians or “Christendom”. Nor, by the same token, should we blame “Islam” for all acts of terror committed by young Muslim males. Sometimes there come along pathetic young men who have a sense of powerlessness and rejection, and take a terrible revenge on the world. Sometimes there are people who feel so weak that they need to kill in order to feel strong. They don’t need an ideology to behave as they do.
Michael Ryan had no ideology in Hungerford; Thomas Hamilton had no ideology in Dunblane. To try to advance any other explanation for their actions – to try to advance complicated “social” factors, or to examine the impact of multiculturalism in Scandinavia – is simply to play their self-important game. Anders Breivik may have constructed a portentous 1,500 page manifesto, but like so many others of his type he was essentially a narcissist and egomaniac who could not cope with being snubbed. We should spend less time thinking about him, and much more on the victims and their families.
But then read the comments...