FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Madness of His Method

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Societies, if we are to take the Freudian line, prefer to subordinate chaotic urges in favour of dull order.  Civilization implies stability.  By the nineteenth century, human society was digesting a range of theories on ‘constants’, be it in such matters as gravity or the speed of light.  This, argues Ian Hacking, was largely due to a desire to tame chance.  Those who seem fit to violate this are deemed aberrant, disorderly and reprobate.

The charge of madness and lunacy is therefore an ideal accusation, the perfect riposte against collective responsibility.  The scene is set by observations that paint Norway as sylvan idyll that was rudely disrupted by the killings inflicted by Anders Breivik.  Jack Knox, columnist for the Canadian Times Colonist, spoke of how frightened he was that ‘the murders in Norway ? sensible, peaceful affluent Norway’ took place in a country ‘so familiar, both in look and feel’ (Jul 26).  Was mother nature playing tricks?

In the Breivik case, the man’s ideas and his deeds are convenient fused.  He did these acts within a peaceful society (not Iraq, not Afghanistan), and must therefore be touching the fringes of the unstable.  Closely allied to this is the suggestion that he is a fantasist, a delusionary who imagines plotting followers in cells awaiting the next crusading push.  Such accusations make it tempting to dismiss Breivik’s acts as singular, solitary and irrelevant to a broader European debate on culture and tolerance.

The irrational sentiment is often misunderstood.  It is not a valued commodity these days, even if, as Albert Camus recalls in his notebooks after the Second World War, it was the only thing that kept creativity alive.  After all, rational beings created the gas chambers and camps running to the bellicose melodies of Richard Wagner.  Breivik was, in a sense, placing a form of rationalism behind the gun.

Tidy labels of medical resort prevent self-analysis and vital questioning.  Breivik’s ramblings in his 1500 page manifesto have an interior coherence.  Behind such terms as ‘cultural Marxism’ lie a traditional loathing that any advocate of minimalist government might feel.  Government is the enemy, especially if it capitulates over its own ideals on such matters as free speech.  (Breivik notes the Rushdie affair, and the cartoon incident.)  In this, Breivik exhibits a close similarity with the reasoning of Oklahoma Bomber Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people with a fertiliser bomb in 1995.  Prior to being officially sentenced to death, McVeigh cited the dissenting words of Justice Brandeis in Olmstead v The United States.  ‘For good or for ill, [Government] teaches the whole people by its example.’

Breivik’s distaste for multiculturalism is itself a traditional view by a member of a conservative society.  In addition to this, studies in recent years have also shown that the radical right is becoming a serious presence in Europe.  But what, exactly, is this radicalism about?

The report by the Berlin-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination:  A European Report (2008) found a good strain of old-fashioned xenophobia amongst a sampling of 1,000 persons across Britain, the Netherlands, Poland, France, Hungary, Italy, Germany and Portugal.  True, an average of seventy percent of Europeans were positive to immigration, but ‘about half of all European respondents said that there were too many immigrants in their country and that jobs should be given to non-immigrants first in times of crisis.’  Disturbingly, the report found that a third of those surveyed still hold the view that there is ‘a natural hierarchy of races’, with whites at the top of the food chain.

Behind Breivik’s observations of ‘Islamisization’ creeping across Europe lie a broadly felt suspicion of the deeds of the Prophet, whose Ottoman warriors were stemmed at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the Battle of Vienna in 1683.  Broadly, he claims to be a cultural conservative Christian in that he shares a belief ‘in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity, and moral platform.’  ‘At the age of 15 I chose to be baptised and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church.’  The Christian label applies, claims Breivik, even to conservative Europeans who are professed agnostics.

Such attitudes suggest that politically stable institutions, unless they are complemented by cultural tolerance, make uncomfortable bedfellows.  The liberalism of such societies as Norway, Denmark and Sweden is hard to challenge, but nor is the presence of emergent populism that frowns on the increased mobility of citizens within the EU and failed attempts to integrate displaced peoples, many from Islamic countries.  On the other side of the fence, Breivik’s desire to see a Muslim cleansing is not far removed from the claim of some Mullahs in Scandinavia who would wish Sharia law and a theocracy to be established within the environs of European society.

Breivik’s lawyer has attempted to lead the lunacy charge by a plea to the court of insanity.  It is very much society’s escape clause.  Breivik gets off murder and gets into a ward to be medicated for the rest of his life; European society is left off the hook ? after all, to take this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, only one man did it.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
Sheldon Richman
The Real Danger From Trump is Ignored
Jay Moore
Learning from History: Resistance in the 1850s and Today
Matthew Stevenson
Down and Out in London and Paris With Macron, May, Trump and Gatsby
David Jaffee
Rolling Back Democracy
Fred Gardner
Irrefutable Proof: Russian Election Meddling Documented!
Jess Guh
Neurology Study Reveals What We Already Know: People of Color Get Worse Healthcare
Joseph Natoli
A Culture of Narcissism, a Politics of Personality
David Rosen
Politics and the Agent of Social Change
Ian Almond
The Secret Joke of Our Democracy: Britain’s Elephant in the Boardroom
Andre Vltchek
Revolution Vs Passivity
Erik Rydberg
Stop the Jordan Cove LNG Project #NoLNG
Vijay Prashad
When Israeli Fighter Jets Almost Killed Nehru
Christopher Brauchli
The Certified Trump
Chuck Collins
Congress Wants to Cut Your Health Care — And Billionaires’ Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail