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Friday, August 24, 2012
Anders Breivik May Be Sane, But the Ideas He Espouses Are Nuts
Mass murderer, Anders Breivik, who had already admitted his guilt in the killing of 77 people in Norway last summer, has been convicted and sentenced:
There are many reasons to welcome the verdict in the trial of Anders Behring Breivik: that he is sane and legally responsible for the murder of 77 people – mostly members of the Norwegian Labour party – on 22 July last year.
The guilty verdict recognises the monstrosity of Breivik’s acts, carried out in pursuit of his political beliefs. It also delivers the outcome wanted by the majority of Norwegians, in particular because it means he will spend no fewer than 21 years – and most likely life – in jail. Justice has been done to the fullest extent possible under Norwegian law.
Breivik, who gave strange Nazi-like salutes and smiled a lot, today, said in his closing statement that he only wished he had killed more:
In his final words, Breivik regretted not killing more people, apologizing to other “militant nationalists” for not achieving an even higher death toll. He said he wouldn’t appeal the ruling because that would “legitimize” a court he said got its mandate from a political system that supports multiculturalism.
Breivik is a hero to many Islamophobes and white supremacists. His philosophy, clearly explained in the “sickening but coherent 1,500-page manifesto” he left behind after his arrest, takes its ideas freely, almost wantonly from everyone from right-wing uber Zionists Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes, to Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell. His fervent desire to fully restore Western civilization to a mandatory patriarchy might have gotten him a prime time speaking spot at next week’s Republican Convention, were they uttered by a GOP Senator. His belief that Israel is some sort of utopian ideal, rather than an increasingly mean, apartheid, racist society, is not only common on the far right, but almost as common among Democrats elected to our national Congress in the USA. Some European Islamaphobes still have trouble distancing themselves from Breivik:
From Europe’s far right, the reaction was mixed. Some argued that Friday’s verdict played into their core beliefs, though they have spoken out against his violent rampage.
“It was obviously wrong what he did, but there was logic to all of it,” said Stephen Lennon, the 29-year-old leader of the English Defense League, an anti-Muslim group. “By saying that he was sane, it gives a certain credibility to what he had been saying. And that is, that Islam is a threat to Europe and to the world.”
To a certain degree, one of the reports issued by the Norwegian court looking into Breivik’s mental state found a bit of insanity in the ideas he adopted, not in Breivik himself:
The main form this depoliticisation took was the medicalisation of Breivik’s actions in terms of psychological or psychiatric pathology. Within days, everyone from forensic psychiatrists to the London mayor, Boris Johnson, felt the need to put Breivik in a diagnostic box. Occasionally, even reportage of his personal history and psychology went to ludicrous extremes to seek his motives in anything but what he actually said. This reached its pinnacle with the first court-ordered psychiatric report, which found him to be suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia” on the basis of clumsy and inappropriate interpretation of ideas and behaviours common in far-right and online gaming subcultures.
Outrage over the findings led the court to take the unusual step of commissioning a second report. This one paid more attention to his political milieu, as well as his behaviour in jail, and found him sane – at most exhibiting signs of a personality disorder. Friday’s verdict confirms this conclusion and denies to Islamophobic ideologues the comfort of a clear line of sanity separating their influence from Breivik’s actions.
There have been many examples of shooters running amok, inspired by their readings of far right fearmongers. Whether a shooter has been inspired by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes or some other purveyor of racial hatred, the men or women who inspire such lunacy almost always get away with denying linkage, and get to keep on spreading their ferociously malignant ideas.
There was a bit of an exception to that rule today. One prominent and up-and-coming Islamophobe, Josh Treviño, was fired today by the British news outlet, The Guardian. Treviño had been hired recently to offset The Guardian‘s hire of columnist Glenn Greenwald. Several activist writers quickly raised a number of issues about Treviño, most notably Max Blumenthal and Ali Abunimah.
Treviño is a twitter addict, and had left behind a long history of venom toward Palestinians, Americans who support Palestinian rights, and those who don’t show proper deference to the state of Israel. Once again, here we have somebody who could easily swap brews with Anders Breivik, or take the podium at the GOP Convention.
Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada responded with a post reproducing tweets from last summer in which Treviño declared that it would be “cool” with him if the Israelis shot the participants in the 2011 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, then went on to observe that the flotilla was “not morally different from a Nazi convoy”
Not surprisingly, several participants in that flotilla, including me – and, no doubt, scores of other Guardian readers – immediately protested to Janine Gibson, editor in chief of the Guardian US, who was quoted in the press release about her pleasure at bringing Treviño’s “important perspective” to readers. We acknowledged the Guardian’s desire to present diverse points of view, but questioned the choice of someone whose approach to political debate is to call for gunning down those he disagrees with.
More tweets were found, all the way up to Wednesday of this week. One in particular, offended me, as I’ve covered the story of Rachel Corrie in many ways, and am a close friend of her family. In the tweet, he gleefully referred to Corrie as a “pancake,” after being killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer.
Josh Treviño is like Anders Breivik, in reveling in violence against innocents who seek justice for people being oppressed. And, like Breivik, Treviño has seen a bit of justice today.
Joshua Treviño wrote a piece for the Guardian on February 28, 2011 titled “Peter King has hearings, but is he listening?” The Guardian recently learned that shortly before writing this article the author was a consultant for an agency that had Malaysian business interests and that he ran a website called Malaysia Matters. In keeping with the Guardian’s editorial code this should have been disclosed.
“Under our guidelines, the relationship between Joshua and the agency should have been disclosed before the piece was published in order to give full clarity to our readers,” said Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief, Guardian US.
“I vigorously affirm that nothing unethical was done and I have been open with the Guardian in this matter. Nevertheless, the Guardian’s guidelines are necessarily broad, and I agree that they must be respected as such,” said Joshua Treviño.
We have therefore mutually agreed to go our separate ways and wish each other the best of luck.
It is too bad that he was given this kind of cover, but it is more balls than many of us had thought The Guardian would be able to muster.
There are a lot of gigs out there for people like Josh, most of them very well-paid. No doubt, he will be offered a new job soon, perhaps writing speeches behind the scenes for Mitt Romney. Let us hope, though, that somewhere down the line, the hatred in some future essay by Treviño doesn’t inspire another Anders Breivik.