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

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail