Mocking Justice in Norway: The Breivik Trial Targets Contrarian Intellectuals

By Kirchick, James | World Affairs, September-October 2012 | Go to article overview

Mocking Justice in Norway: The Breivik Trial Targets Contrarian Intellectuals


Kirchick, James, World Affairs


"Wow." This is the only word Tonje Brenna heard Anders Behring Breivik utter as he methodically killed sixty-nine of her fellow Norwegian Labor Party activists on the island of Utoya last summer. Brenna, the twenty-four-year-old secretary general of the Labor Party's Youth League, sat remarkably composed as she recalled every grisly detail of the massacre, which began around 5 p.m. on July 22nd. Ninety minutes before Breivik began his shooting rampage on the island, he had detonated a massive car in central Oslo's government district. That blast killed eight people, ultimately bringing the day's death count to seventy-seven.

It is a quiet day in May and I am watching Breivik's trial at the Oslo District Court, just blocks away from where the blast took place. As the courtroom itself is filled to capacity with relatives of the victims, a room has been set aside for the media, along with simultaneous English translation of the proceedings. Several other foreign journalists sit quietly as we watch the trial on a giant television screen. Family and friends of the victims mill about the premises, some of them wearing stickers that say, "Please, no interviews." This being Norway, no one disrespects the politely offered admonition.

The massacre last July was undoubtedly the most traumatic event to shake Norway since World War II, and this Scandinavian country of some five million people has been riveted by the trial's daily developments. What garnered the most headlines the day I attended the trial was Brenna's revelation of what she heard Breivik say while he went about his killing spree. Asked by Breivik's lawyer how she knew, amid all the chaos on Utoya, that it was Breivik who had shouted, "Wow," Brenna had a well-prepared answer. "It was a joyous outburst that was repeated several times," she calmly replied. "And I felt, given the situation, no one else had reason to express it."

Screaming with pleasure as he executed dozens of teenage political activists for what he considered their complicity in surrendering Norway to "multicultural hell" is not the only evidence of Breivik's insanity. That's also apparent in the fifteen-hundred-page document he e-mailed to the media shortly following the Oslo explosion, "2083: A European Declaration of Independence." In the heavily plagiarized, rambling tract, Breivik cites the Benes Decrees--the postwar Czechoslovak laws mandating the forced expulsion of ethnic Germans--as a possible model for dealing with Europe's growing Muslim population. Breivik copied and pasted whole pages from the "Unabomber Manifesto" into his own treatise. The first chapter of his "Declaration of Independence" is a copy of Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology, a 2004 pamphlet published by the far-right American Free Congress Foundation. In his screed, and subsequently during his trial, Breivik claimed to be a member of a secret, underground "international Christian military order," which he called the "Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici." Also known as the Knights Templar, this "international Christian military order" ceased to function in the early fourteenth century. Breivik's membership in it exists only in his head.

Last November, two court-appointed psychiatrists declared Breivik a paranoid schizophrenic. After conducting thirteen separate interviews, the examiners concluded that the man lives in his "own delusional universe where all his thoughts and acts are guided by his delusions." Breivik was reportedly "insulted" by the psychiatric finding, which is unsurprising given that the criminally insane tend to think that they, and only they, are rational. But the diagnosis also caused uproar across Norway, with many of the country's citizens--particularly those members of the predominantly left-wing cultural, political, and academic elite--finding themselves in agreement with the mass-murdering, right-wing fanatic on the question of his mental state. …

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