With a tradition of stressing rehabilitation rather than punishment, Norway does not impose the death penalty, and the maximum criminal jail sentence is 21 years. So at most, Anders Breivik, the self-proclaimed neo-Knight Templar behind the July bombing that killed eight in Oslo and the nearby massacre of 69 more people, would spend 100 days in jail for each of the mostly youthful victims he systematically hunted down and, as he put it, “executed.”
But now, a report released by court-appointed “experts” has declared him legally insane, which means Breivik could be held in a mental health institution rather than being imprisoned at all. He could even be released if such experts later determine that he is no longer a threat to society.
Psychiatrists claim Breivik had developed paranoid schizophrenia and was psychotic at the time of the attacks, and that his condition persists. Their report describes examples of different forms of “bizarre delusions,” according to a prosecutor:
They especially describe what they call Breivik’s delusions where he sees himself as chosen to decide who shall live and who shall die, and that he is chosen to save what he calls his people.
A lecturer in forensic psychiatry at Oxford University expressed polite skepticism at the diagnosis:
From the initial reports that came out about him, he came across as someone who planned this extremely carefully over a long period of time and was terribly well organized. Usually, with people with severe mental illness, their lives are slightly more chaotic than that…
People with severe mental illness are at increased risk of committed violent crimes – although that’s often in the context of drug and alcohol problems, which he doesn’t appear to have.
Others are more outraged and think that perhaps it is the Norwegian justice system that is insane. “This is completely incomprehensible,” said a leader of the populist Progress Party, which campaigns for tougher criminal sentences. “How can someone who has planned this for such a long time… be considered insane?”
Good question, but careful premeditation isn’t necessarily an indicator of sanity. Case in point: Jared Loughner, the lunatic shooter of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He had been fixated on Giffords for years as his sanity unraveled, ever since she apparently did not adequately answer an insane question he once asked of her. He planned his attack and even left behind a note saying, “I planned ahead.”
A more appropriate question might be, “How can someone whose motivation to kill stems from a rationally constructed ideology be considered insane?” Loughner’s attack, like that of John Lennon’s shooter Mark David Chapman or Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin John Hinckley, Jr., was premeditated, but did not derive from any ideological motivation. The Left and its propaganda mouthpieces in the news media jumped at the opportunity to make the case that Loughner was a rightwing gun nut directly inspired by conservative talk radio, the “violent and racist” Tea Party movement, and Sarah Palin’s campaign strategy map, which was dotted with gunsight icons. Of course, he was utterly ignorant of those sources and apparently uninterested in politics. Like Chapman and Hinckley, Loughner was quite simply unhinged.