Anders Breivik’s World: How Sick Is Norway’s Mass Murderer?
Seventy-seven people died in the attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utøya last July. The central question in the trial of the perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, is whether or not he is criminally liable. There is much to suggest that he is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Can a delusional person be punished for their crimes?
On July 22, 2011, Oslo-born Anders Behring Breivik committed a massacre, with eight dead in the government district of the Norwegian capital and 69 fatalities on the island of Utøya, 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. He injured many other people, both physically and psychologically, who were lucky enough to survive and were forced to look on as others lay dying.
Is he schizophrenic? And paranoid? Is he “mad or bad?” Breivik doesn’t deny that he committed the atrocities, but he also insists that he is neither guilty nor mentally ill. He says he would do it all again, and that he would kill even more people the second time.
It is inadmissible to automatically conclude that someone who committed such a vicious crime must be insane. “A normal person doesn’t do something like this,” many are saying. But even so-called normal people have committed the most abominable crimes. Germans should be the first to recognize this.
But Breivik could be mentally ill. The schizophrenic disorders include a paranoid form characterized by delusional ideas, usually accompanied by delusional perceptions and acoustic hallucinations. It can progress in spurts or a person’s condition can deteriorate gradually. Listening to the defendant speaking in the Oslo courtroom, it isn’t difficult to become convinced that this man must have felt driven by a homicidal mania at the time of the massacre.
What other logical reason could there be to set off a 950-kilogram (2,094 pound), homemade car bomb that would indiscriminately rip people to pieces? Or to shoot participants at a Labor Party summer camp in the head — and in the eyes, the mouth, the back and the chest, often multiple times, but mostly in the head, as if Breivik’s aim had not only been to kill the young people on Utøya island, but also to extinguish their thoughts? There is no logical reason. Insanity is the only possible explanation.
Breivik speaks quietly, almost timidly at times. At the beginning of the trial, he occasionally smiles knowingly to himself. But eventually the smiles fade and his face becomes impassive. Referring to Breivik, Berlin forensic scientist Hans-Ludwig Kröber says: “It’s not uncommon for psychotic offenders to conceal or tone down their delusions, because they are certainly conscious of the fact that others think they’re crazy. There are orderly lunatics who get their bread from the baker and lead a quiet life at home, even as they write hundreds of pages detailing their notions of a new world order.” Breivik was one of those people, writing a 1,518-page document, his so-called manifesto, to disseminate his confused ideas.