The latest media debacle to catch my eye is the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian O.G. who shot/blew up 77 people, including children, because he hates Islam.
The debacular (sic.) aspect in this instance is that the prosecution is trying to argue that Anders was sane when he committed those actions and remains sane today, while his defence claims he was insane. Now I will preface this by saying I understand that the prosecution would like him deemed sane so they can push for jail-time/harsher sentences, but really, how do you argue that a man who massacred several people is sane?
You don’t. That motherfucker is crazy. I mean have we really set the bar for crazy so high that mass murder isn’t an instant qualification? Is crazy an exclusive club now? The way I see it, if you wanna call him crazy but also label him the Norwegian equivalent of a Dangerous Offender so he can be locked up indefinitely/executed,* do that. But please, whatever you do, don’t insult the families of the victims and their memories by trying to prove this man was sane when he went on a killing spree.
On the other hand….
Now I have been wrong before, and now that I think about it perhaps the prosecution is on to something. Nobody does anything without seeing potential gain in it, And perhaps after examining Anders’ testimony and statements they saw that he was acting as one who was/is of sound mind and body and simply trying to achieve a goal. Anders himself is a proponent of this view:
“Breivik himself has insisited he is mentally stable and demanded that the
attacks be judged as a political act rather than the work of a deranged man.”
Certainly a diagnosis of sane, though it would carry a harsher penalty, would render the man a tad more credible. If deemed insane we could dismiss him as an aberration,** ignore his cause and go about our lives. However, if we deem him sane we should examine his motives and try to understand him: it is a serious cause indeed that would drive a sane man to massacre people. We probably won’t do this. Instead, Norwegian society will want to have the best of both worlds: punish him as a sane man but dismiss him as a crazy one. This is a mistake in my opinion. Certainly most people would be reluctant to give Anders a forum to spread his views in light of his crime, as it presumably sends the message “if you commit atrocities you get to have a voice.” There is merit to this view and I don’t think bad behaviour should be rewarded, but it occurs to me that Anders probably felt voiceless long before he committed his crime. People like him (“terrorist” is what they are calling him) are screaming to be heard and when no one listens they might start to feel like they have to make a big noise to get people’s attention. Or 77 big noises.
*I’m not sure what Norway’s laws are on capital punishment, and I’m too lazy to google them. Please don’t take my casual allusion to the death penalty as a cavalier attitude toward life. I will explain myself in good time, but that will be another entry.
**I don’t believe crazy people should be wholly dismissed either, but that also is another entry.