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May 20, 2015 6:54 AM   Subscribe

The Inexplicable by Karl Ove Knausgaard [The New Yorker] Inside the mind of a mass killer.
It was out of this world that the thirty-two-year-old Anders Behring Breivik stepped when, on the afternoon of July 22, 2011, he set out from his mother’s flat in Oslo’s West End, changed into a police uniform, parked a van containing a bomb, which he had spent the spring and summer making, outside Regjeringskvartalet, lit the fuse, and left the scene. While the catastrophic images of the attack, which killed eight people, were being broadcast across the world, Breivik headed to Utøya. That was where the Workers’ Youth League had its annual summer camp. There Breivik shot and killed sixty-nine people, in a massacre that lasted for more than an hour, right until the police arrived, when he immediately surrendered.
posted by Fizz (40 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Brevik is clearly mentally ill and was convicted and sentenced appropriately. Kudos to Norway for not having a death penalty; not descending into barbarism on a futile quest for vengeance.
posted by Renoroc at 7:02 AM on May 20, 2015 [22 favorites]


My gut feeling is that it gets less inexplicable if he's going to get big features about what an enigma he is and what a national watershed he created.

In many ways, I find it repellent to write about Anders Behring Breivik.

See, you know what I mean.
posted by Segundus at 7:12 AM on May 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Kudos to Norway for not having a death penalty...

They also don't have life in prison, so he's getting out someday.

I don't believe in the death penalty. I do believe someone like this should never see freedom again though.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:27 AM on May 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


“If it were theoretically possible to develop rheumatism, I am convinced that this rubber pen would be capable of causing it,” he wrote. “It is a nightmare of an instrument and I am frustrated by its use.” Because Breivik sees himself as an author, and wants to devote himself to this work in the coming decades, the writing tool is of the utmost importance. “The fact that I must, therefore, envision a future with nothing more than a dysfunctional rubber pen, appears, therefore, as an almost indescribable manifestation of sadism.”

This is so telling-- this perspective, that a thing that hurts him is unbearable, but that brutally murdering other people is irrelevant, because it is not happening to him. Ariel Castro was the same way-- all the records we have of him are about his own suffering, and a total refusal to acknowledge that the horrors he committed were in any way comparable.

And cjorgenson, he only gets out if he is judged safe for release. His 21 year sentence will be extended, five years at a time, until he is no longer a threat. Seems unlikely that it will ever happen.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:30 AM on May 20, 2015 [20 favorites]


I thought there was some sort of clause that could keep him in jail forever despite the no life in prison thing.
posted by dazed_one at 7:30 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


so he's getting out someday.

His release is subject to review which is considered unlikely to ever be granted.
posted by Drexen at 7:31 AM on May 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


The author's name has been misspelled in the OP.

For those unaware, Karl Ove Knausgaard is a Norwegian author now best known for his six-book autobiographical series My Struggle (Min Kamp), which has become something of a literary sensation around the world.

Prior to this one, Knausgaard has been the subject of five Metafilter posts.
posted by cincinnatus c at 7:32 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


They also don't have life in prison, so he's getting out someday.

From the article:
"He was given a twenty-one-year term that can be extended indefinitely—Norway’s maximum sentence."
So they may, in this case, test the limits of the term "indefinitely".
posted by distorte at 7:32 AM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Right, a fiendish thing nailed it. That was the clause I'd heard of.
posted by dazed_one at 7:32 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


"He is a person filled to the brim with himself."
This is what is most frightening about reading about him. How he doesn't see what he did with any sense of wrong doing or remorse. He is only concerned with his own perception of himself.
posted by Fizz at 7:36 AM on May 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


[Fixed!]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:38 AM on May 20, 2015


I thought this was a very good piece, essentially religious in its outlook. An optimistic vision of Norway that I would prefer to be true. What he writes about the "harmlessness" of Norway is pretty much my social vision, that hierarchies should get reduced and reduced until even profound disagreements have little power to really harm. Which is strange, because I think of Knausgaard as a very conservative writer.

I remember reading about all this on metafilter - how the bomb went off and people were talking about it, and then the first reports came in of something wrong elsewhere, and I had this terrible sinking fear.
posted by Frowner at 7:55 AM on May 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, this is a good piece. I wish they hadn't given it such a terribly hackneyed subtitle – "Inside the mind of a mass killer" is a title for a cliched 60 Minutes interview, not a thoughtful essay – but the writing is worth looking past that for.
posted by koeselitz at 8:58 AM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


The book mentioned in this piece, Asne Seierstad's One of Us, is so outstanding that I'm vaguely irritated by Knausgaard's summary.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:29 AM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was a great piece. One passage in particular stands out for me:
Breivik’s deed, single-handedly killing seventy-seven people, most of them one by one, many of them eye to eye, did not take place in a wartime society, where all norms and rules were lifted and all institutions dissolved; it occurred in a small, harmonious, well-functioning, and prosperous land during peacetime. All norms and rules were annulled in him, a war culture had arisen in him, and he was completely indifferent to human life, and absolutely ruthless.

That is where we should direct our attention, to the collapse within the human being which these actions represent, and which makes them possible. Killing another person requires a tremendous amount of distance, and the space that makes such distance possible has appeared in the midst of our culture. It has appeared among us, and it exists here, now.
Knausgaard here reminds me of Adorno's dictum in Minima Moralia: "In the monadological principle, even where it protests, lurks the ruling generality." Or, in non-German-philosophese: what the individual does, even when it seems utterly individual, is an expression of the social whole. Precisely in its difference from the social generality, the idiosyncratic is an expression of it. What does it say about a society that an individual is capable of putting such a tremendous distance between himself and others that these others seem to disappear, that the generality to which the individual is opposed seems to disappear completely?

Something in our society made Breivik possible. I'm not sure what. (I say "our" society and not just Norway's, because I think the wealthy West is a largely globalized, integrated and uniform culture. Aside from language, the difference between New York and Oslo is about the same as between New York and New Orleans or LA, and about as different.) But maybe it is a generalized coldness that we all have become capable of with respect to others. A frightening capacity for ignoring the suffering of our fellows.

Breivik's is a strange individuality since it represents a loss of common ground and common feeling, and is thus in some way a loss of individuality as well. As Knausgaard writes: "Only an individual self can feel for another, and Breivik no longer possesses that self; it is dead." Individuals are now capable of living in total isolation from one another, not as hermits exactly, but as nobodies and nothings, since a hermit withdraws for a higher purpose which others understand, while these modern nobodies don't even understand why they themselves are alone. And like Breivik they don't want to be alone, but also don't have any idea how to regain the social bond. Perhaps because it is today so fragile.
posted by dis_integration at 10:40 AM on May 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


What he writes about the "harmlessness" of Norway is pretty much my social vision, that hierarchies should get reduced and reduced until even profound disagreements have little power to really harm. Which is strange, because I think of Knausgaard as a very conservative writer.

Well, that ideal of surface harmlessness is a conservative vision. The idea that all contradictions in society are erased by social pressure creating a gentle stasis, rather than the mechanism that propels society itself forward. Knausgaard is a conservative writer of sorts and this piece is very much what he wants to believe. It is about Breivik, his mental disorder, his narcissism, etc. anything but a political context:
However, almost everything else regarding Breivik and his crime points away from the political and the ideological and toward the personal. He made himself a sort of military commander’s uniform, in which he photographed himself before the crime; he consistently referred to a large organization, of which he claimed to be a prominent member but which does not exist; in his manifesto he interviews himself as if he were a hero; and the impression this gives is of a person who has erected a make-believe reality, in which his significance is undisputed. The way in which he carried out his crime, and the way his thoughts contextualized it, resembles role-playing, rather than political terrorism.
So, this is probably a good context in which to watch the Swedish "Democrats" Salute to European Youth, if you haven't already.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:02 AM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


So, this is probably a good context in which to watch the Swedish "Democrats" Salute to European Youth yt , if you haven't already.

Whoa. Europeans can be kinda scary when they get all het up.
posted by amorphatist at 11:11 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


That is where we should direct our attention, to the collapse within the human being which these actions represent, and which makes them possible.
Seems the logical, reasonable response to Breivik's/any violent criminal's actions. Can you imagine anyone in America uttering the same sentence? And meaning it? Anyone who was in a position to actually act upon their findings into such an inquiry?
It's a nice idea.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:13 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know whether this is a symptom of a greater malaise or whether there will ever be a society where somebody like Breivik would be impossible. As the piece points out, he had a troubled background and personal disappointments, but not uniquely or even markedly so. Perhaps communal rather than nuclear family upbringing can change the impact of or render meaningless the absent father, perhaps an agrarian society with no social mobility also knows no thwarted dreams, or projected realisations of one's limitations. Those things are far from our experience.

Breivik is badly formed. Empathy is absent. That's categorised as disorder rather than illness, but to some extent those are categorisations that reflect more our current understanding of mind than its nature. I don't know, and I don't think anyone knows, what causes this, whether it's latent and potentiated or extant from birth in its full nature. A different society may well have seen it expressed differently - if he was born in a gangster regime, say, or in warrior times, then he may have lived out his life in a very different way. He may even have become a hero by acting out his drives under different circumstances, or a feared lieutenant of the mob boss.

But I'd be surprised if there was any society where he wouldn't have been in his skull much the same person - if that word is correct - as the man of massacre he is now. There may be many where he could find a path that wouldn't have involved such acts - sociopaths can be very effective within societal norms - and there are certainly many where other types of people can be coerced or transmuted into being able to act with similar levels of cruelty.

But did modern Norwegian society make him what he is? Does he reflect some basic flaw in Western communal consciousness that, if rectified, would have let him be whole? To me, that seems very improbable, and the lessons from what happened should not be drawn too large. Until we can see into him and his kind well enough to find the cracks, it seems more sensible to suspect the vessel rather than the pressures around it.
posted by Devonian at 11:17 AM on May 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


But did modern Norwegian society make him what he is? Does he reflect some basic flaw in Western communal consciousness that, if rectified, would have let him be whole? To me, that seems very improbable, and the lessons from what happened should not be drawn too large. Until we can see into him and his kind well enough to find the cracks, it seems more sensible to suspect the vessel rather than the pressures around it.

Why is it improbable? It seems to me that there is no strict distinction between the "vessel" and the "pressures". We are social beings, through and through. Mental illnesses are genuine afflictions, but they are inseparable from the social context in which they arise. What is chemically wrong with Breivik's brain is one thing, but how that defect came about and how it expressed itself through his actions is another thing entirely. I believe that the individual is a product of society much more than society is composed of individuals. Our individual defects arise out of social defects. If that's the case*, then it is not at all improbable that getting society "right" would fix such flawed individuals. But of course the individual is in a dialectical relationship to society, so getting society right somehow requires getting individuals right as well.

But it seems that these kinds of killings are precisely things we should be drawing large lessons from. What makes them possible? How could we stop them? In America, for example, the fact that we can't even agree to insure that everybody has access to adequate healthcare no matter their background is a sign that we have grown cold. What that says is: "I don't care about your pain and your suffering, I'm not going to pay so that you can be well. Fuck off and die for all I care." That generalized coldness is perhaps only a few steps away from the face-to-face coldness required of the mass murderer. Its possibility at large in that attenuated form is perhaps what makes it possible on the small scale in the intense form of a school shooting, etc. I dunno. I just think it is dangerous to say: he was broken, that's all. Everything else is just fine now that we've pruned the rotten branch.

*I don't have a lot of solid evidence to say that this is the case, one way or the other, and it is difficult to imagine how one would design an experiment to test it. But it's not implausible, and not without it's rarefied supporters.
posted by dis_integration at 11:36 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Something in our society made Breivik possible. I'm not sure what.

When people discuss killers like Breivik or McVeigh, they usually chalk it up to aberrant psychopathy, for which no one else is responsible. Or, if they're a little more willing to acknowledge something in our society made them possible, they will talk about our modern culture of alienation, apathy, boredom, narcissism, etc. But very rarely will anyone investigate more closely the fact that Breivik and others like him are also influenced by violent white nationalist ideologies, which are the extreme manifestations of white supremacy in our everyday society. Breivik was not just a deluded video gamer out of touch with reality. He was also anti-Islamist and opposed to multiculturalism, as was McVeigh. These men were the discontents of a changing society that had deprived them of what they saw as their rightful inheritance. Multiculturalism was largely to blame for their failings, in their minds. And nobody really wants to go in-depth about that, including Knausgaard here, because that would take society's culpability to an even deeper level. Of course, in the end, these were the actions of crazy individuals, but how willing are we to acknowledge our enabling of them?
posted by ChuckRamone at 11:49 AM on May 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


. But very rarely will anyone investigate more closely the fact that Breivik and others like him are also influenced by violent white nationalist ideologies, which are the extreme manifestations of white supremacy in our everyday society.

Agreed. Knausgaard is disappointingly hand-wavey about the political ideologies that spawned these atrocities. He talks about Arendt's "Banality of Evil" as if that evil was a passive condition of our environment, and not a specific and motivated campaign that (maybe tacitly) encourages and rewards Braivik's hatred.
posted by Think_Long at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


A lot of intelligent people who lack empathy cotton onto anything that reflects this - everyone finds a god who agrees with them. Perhaps if there were no ideologies that reward fundamentalist fervour over self-questioning awareness, then nobody would ever be 'enabled' to act under those colours, but from what I know of those sort of causes, they reflect a particular pathology rather than creating it. You find the same kind of people behaving in the same kind of ways, under a wide variety of different guises.

And perhaps lack of universal healthcare does drive people into a mental rejection of society and the real existence of others, but we get mass shootings in the UK too. Not many, but they're rare everywhere.

It's perfectly natural to try and find big answers to big events, but there's no need to assume they exist but are hard to find. This sort of madness is, thankfully, very rare and appears to happen in all sorts of places and conditions. I suspect that the knowledge that the act will be widely publicised, which is to some extent a modern development of a technological free society, is as much a trigger as anything deeper - if you look at how the Germanwings pilot talked about his plans, for example, or the prevalence of 'manifestos' with people such as the Unabomber (and Breivik) then it's hard to avoid the conclusion that this works well with the narcissism to push people into action. That's obvious (and obviously hard to counter), but once you've been through the commonalities such as these is there really much mystery, beyond why extreme narcissism exists? It does, and I believe it exists independent of culture or times.
posted by Devonian at 12:23 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't have a lot of solid evidence to say that this is the case, one way or the other, and it is difficult to imagine how one would design an experiment to test it. But it's not implausible, and not without it's rarefied supporters.

It's not implausible but neither is Devonian's view or any number of others. Research on the internal, external, heritable, environmental, or inexplicable determinants of behavior shows complex and inconclusive results. That doesn't mean "everything is just fine" but neither does it mean Breivik's crime indicts the particular things you wish to indict.

(I find the white supremacy angle more convincing - I'm not sure that his ability to kill without compunction is a reflection of the general breakdown of social bonds but regardless I don't think it was the inevitable outcome of his life except that he found this "calling.")
posted by atoxyl at 12:45 PM on May 20, 2015


These men were the discontents of a changing society that had deprived them of what they saw as their rightful inheritance. Multiculturalism was largely to blame for their failings, in their minds. And nobody really wants to go in-depth about that, including Knausgaard here, because that would take society's culpability to an even deeper level. Of course, in the end, these were the actions of crazy individuals, but how willing are we to acknowledge our enabling of them?

I think this might be overstating things a bit. Norway is by many measures a successful experiment at social democracy, inclusion, fairness and community cohesion. If there was any country in the world that could save some troubled person from falling through the cracks, it would be Norway. You would be hard pressed to find a society that does a better job at reaching out to and assisting the most vulnerable. Breivik is profoundly mentally ill. Everything about Breivik's behavior strongly suggests a severe pathology with a tenuous grasp of reality, and the details listed in the article of his extreme narcissism, delusions, and paranoia are just the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot to be said about how the law of the jungle heroism of capitalism has made monsters of people who could have been helped, but Norway isn't the greatest example to draw from.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:00 PM on May 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Crazy people are crazy, Breivik was a very well prepared "school-shooter"-type in an environment where shootings never happen.

In Europe, we love to say Americans are out of control and there are far too many crazy people on killing sprees. But recently, I've been thinking that maybe the numbers are not that different between the US and Europe, if one compares crazies pr capita in protestant areas. (And Church of England is probably not protestant in any way that leads to high school shootings).

That said, Breivik's future is obviously interesting and depends on how society interprets his crime in 20 years.

In 1977 Copenhagen was in a panic because of a fascist terrorist who placed bombs in phone-booths and other sites. Phone booths were essential to daily life at the time, and the terror frightened society across the board. When he was caught, he got a five year sentence. He proceeeded to get an academic degree and a family, but died young at the age of 38. Between getting out of jail and finding a new job and a family, he never ever did anything wrong.
posted by mumimor at 2:02 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


If there was any country in the world that could save some troubled person from falling through the cracks, it would be Norway.

But Norway, in reality, is a pretty dysfunctional country. The generous welfare system and large public sector workforce paid for with oil money - and not from the taxes of hard-working private sector workers - makes Norway more like Saudi Arabia than Scandinavia.

One of this guy's "gripes" was the large number of immigrant workers living in Norway, particularly Oslo who are there doing the little work that gets done in Norway.

who was murdered? In this case, a bunch of nice Norwegian kids on a lovely island.

"Breivik headed to Utøya. That was where the Workers’ Youth League had its annual summer camp."

To you and me, a nice bunch of kids, but to Brevik this was all political. Brevik was killing communists. He killed those kids like a soldier kills - methodically and in the coldest of blood. For God and country.

I have a hard time with writing this off as a troubled guy with an untreated mental illness. That may well be true, but OTOH Brevik is a fascist which falls more into the "evil" category than the crazy category. Fascism gained some traction in Europe before and it's not a mental illness; it is by definition a political reaction to a state's embrace of Marxism and so long as there are Marxists you cannot assume it to be dead.

As an entirely practical matter, Norway might well regret not having a death penalty for fascists. A lot of trouble and effort would have been saved in the last century if a certain fascist was executed instead of jailed after the failed Beer House Putsch. But he was a model prisoner. Kept his cell tidy. Engaged in reading and writing. So they let him back into society like a harmless little fly.
posted by three blind mice at 4:00 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


But wouldn't that create a martyr? "Anders Breivik was killed by the state, the state he sought to defeat because it seeks to crush the indomitable spirit of the One True White Race! We will pick up his fallen banner!" Or some such bullshit.

Let him rot.
posted by RakDaddy at 4:08 PM on May 20, 2015


But Norway, in reality, is a pretty dysfunctional country. The generous welfare system and large public sector workforce paid for with oil money - and not from the taxes of hard-working private sector workers - makes Norway more like Saudi Arabia than Scandinavia. One of this guy's "gripes" was the large number of immigrant workers living in Norway, particularly Oslo who are there doing the little work that gets done in Norway.

This is simply not true. The standard, lowest income tax bracket in Norway is about 41%. It utilizes the Scandinavian model of having a strong social welfare state, comparable to similar models seen in Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. The current rate of unemployment is about 3.9%, and was even lower at the time of the shootings. Norwegians are by and large far more tolerant of their immigrant population than a lot of other Europeans.

The oil money is of course finite, but there's a reason why an increasing number of people in Iceland - a country with a very similar social model - are immigrating to Norway. The overall point is, if there's a society that has a social system that looks out for the most vulnerable with demonstrable success, it is Norway, so asking how society could have let Breivik down might be overstating things a bit.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:29 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Adam Shatz article on Brevik was way more informative and interesting
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n22/adam-shatz/west-end-boy

I mean he was a kid that couldnt get laid, and his Paki friend got more "action" or whatever so he turned into a introverted, mainfesto writing nutjob...I respect Knausgaard and all but he's glamorizing just another loser that had guns/bombs and too much free time.
posted by brainimplant at 5:34 PM on May 20, 2015


There's no doubt that far-right racist political ideology had a role to play in Breivik's descent into madness, but it's far too easy to simply blame the "them" of the far-right parties just as it is easy to dismiss Breivik and his ilk as "lone gunmen", homicidal aberrations whose acts came out of nowhere, contextless, as if out of a vacuum.

But both gestures have the same goal: to exculpate the good liberals and everyone else from sharing any responsibility for the conditions that made the crime possible. Being an islamophobe caught up in paranoid fantasies of a "Eurabia" overrun by Sharia law or whatever is not enough by itself to foster the state of mind required to slaughter dozens of children at close range, again and again. As Knausgaard emphasizes, it's really hard to get people to kill genuine enemies in war zones even when you can be certain that these enemies are actively trying to kill you. Why was it seemingly so easy for Breivik to murder children who posed no immediate threat? Ideology, again, is not enough: plenty of obsessive neo-Nazi ideologues would, in the event, shrink from the crime. Their humanity would shine through as they saw the light of humanity in the eyes of their enemy.

Yes, we should silence the fanatics who spread hatred and refuse them a public forum, and yes, we should cast some blame onto them for the acts done in their names. But we shouldn't do so in order to avoid taking a good look at ourselves and asking what we could do to prevent it from occurring again. This is perhaps empty words from myself, and hypocritical, but I guess what I'm trying to say, the thought that Knausgaard's essay kindled in me, is that if we evade taking responsibility ourselves for the atrocities that the citizens of our societies commit, we resign ourselves to their repetition. We treat them like a force of nature. Oh, that? It's just massacre season again. But Breivik was not a hurricane or an earthquake. He was a human being, raised and nurtured by institutions of education and care that are, in principle, under our control, he was fostered (or not fostered) by a society made up of other humans, each capable of decision, each possessing the power of reason, capable of orienting their actions in favor of good or bad decisions. We should take his crimes as an accusation against all of us, not the accusation he took them to be, but rather as calling us out for letting such a person as he come to such a terrible maturity on the basis of these institutions and these decisions. Is this the best we can do?
posted by dis_integration at 6:24 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why was it seemingly so easy for Breivik to murder children who posed no immediate threat? Ideology, again, is not enough: plenty of obsessive neo-Nazi ideologues would, in the event, shrink from the crime. Their humanity would shine through as they saw the light of humanity in the eyes of their enemy.

Was it not also seemingly easy for average German civilians (and the average civilians of a lot of other European countries) to participate in the Holocaust? Those people arriving on the platforms at Auschwitz didn't present any armed threat, but they were exerminated in cold blood all the same. And not by one person during an afternoon, but by thousands of people every day for months and months. If that was not a result of "obsessive ideology" I would be curious to know what it was that motivated all those murderers.

I think one underestimates the power of fascism and the actions of the left that gives rise to it.

...f we evade taking responsibility ourselves for the atrocities that the citizens of our societies commit, we resign ourselves to their repetition. We treat them like a force of nature.

Indeed. Fascism should be seen as a force of nature. An unavoidable right wing reaction to left wing encroachment that leads to bloody conflict.

It utilizes the Scandinavian model of having a strong social welfare state, comparable to similar models seen in Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. The current rate of unemployment is about 3.9%, and was even lower at the time of the shootings. Norwegians are by and large far more tolerant of their immigrant population than a lot of other Europeans.

No other Scandinavian country has oil money. This is my point. In Sweden people work hard and pay taxes to support a strong welfare state. There is a broad consensus and active participation.

Norway's welfare state is supported by oil money and the country increasingy lacks the broad social consensus that exists in other Scandinavian countries. There are very many Norwegians who support social welfare, but who are not tolerant of immigration or taking in large numbers of asylum seekers or paying healthy people not to work and much of the rest of the left wing agenda.

Moving away from a consensus model, Norwegian left has ignored these concerns and has created an environment where people like Brevik feel politically justified to engage in mass murder.

I'm just saying that this facsicm stuff is powerful voodoo in Europe and it is ignored or downplayed at everyone's peril.

Brevik should have been shot in front of the same wall where Quisling was executed - for all the same reasons.
posted by three blind mice at 3:02 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


3bm, that 41% minimum income tax rate is what supports the welfare state, and the country has the institutions and the demonstrable practice of being just as good at helping its most vulnerable as any other Scando country. It tops or nearly tops pretty much any index in terms of social care, equality and social well being. Your insistence that Norway is a "dysfunctional state" that allowed Breivik to happen is just not accurate.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:16 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, I get we scramble for meaning when something like Breivik happens, but some people are just plain sick.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:23 AM on May 21, 2015


Interesting article, quite conservative (individualistic) though. Some leftish political takes on Brevik's crime from Australian and UK writers can be found in an eBook 'On Utoya' here. I didn't agree with all of them, but it was worth a read.
posted by harriet vane at 4:42 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


the power of fascism and the actions of the left that gives rise to it

the actions of the left that gives rise to it

the actions of the left

the left
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:22 AM on May 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Was it not also seemingly easy for average German civilians (and the average civilians of a lot of other European countries) to participate in the Holocaust?

Not a good comparison. The low-level perpetrators of the Holocaust had a state behind them and/or were caught in up in like-minded peer groups and so on. That's not the same as being a self-directed killer like the Utoya idiot.
posted by Mocata at 6:44 AM on May 21, 2015


I think that's kind of one of his points - Breivik's dehumanization came from within himself, but the end result was the same.
posted by Think_Long at 8:49 AM on May 21, 2015


You're always going to get the odd nutter. The real issue is whether the nutter can get his hands on good guns. Breivik got semi-automatics: lots of deaths. The correct policy response is gun control.
posted by alasdair at 1:20 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


It took me many days to read the article. I feel that something important at play in this discussion. Perhaps the "banality of evil" is what tickles my brain the most. Even the most evil act seems banal compared with other atrocities committed in a larger scale. It speaks to the ultimate darkness of genocide, war and of the alienation these sufferings bring. Perhaps we should not respond with disbelief in atrocity, but with belief and a heartfelt sharing in how it affects us all. Evil, by definition, should not be banal. Otherwise there is another greater form of evil which has superseded it.
posted by thebestusernameever at 5:56 PM on May 21, 2015


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