In legal terms, it would seem that the case of Anders Breivik is as uncontentious as it is possible to be. Politically, the picture is more confused and misleading.
He intended to kill, and did kill. Under English law, that defines murder.
As I understand it, you can have a personality disorder and still not be mad. That is, you can be answerable for your actions, even if they proceed from abnormal motives. Breivik’s meticulous planning and prolonged rehearsal demonstrate his ability to control and order his behaviour.
Breivik does not consider himself insane, any more than John Bellingham did. The excuse he is using, that of self-defence, is arrant garbage but a defendant can try any argument he likes in a court of law. What is more debatable is the decision by news media to let him use the court as a global public address system, but I’ll come to that in a moment.
Reportedly, he wished to do more than he had done, and would do it again. On that basis, and given the unavailability of a death sentence, he should be imprisoned for the term of his natural life as (a) a punishment for his crimes, (b) a warning to others and (c) a safeguard for society.
Reportage and implicit political agenda
So, why the nightly TV reporting of his case?
It could be simply because the case is sensational.
Or (and it may not be so) it could be because it’s a useful stick with which to beat the Right. If the latter, the message is, he did these terrible things because he is a racist, therefore anyone who opposes unrestricted immigration etc should be tarred with Breivik’s brush.
The Right could answer, this simply shows the importance of what are supposedly traditional family values. Breivik is the child of divorced, f*ckabout parents. Their failure to serve their child’s development, in preference to servicing their own pleasures, led ultimately to the terrible events in Oslo and Utoya. As John Lennon said of Hitler, what if he’d been told he was loved, all his life? As a part-time teacher of special needs children, this has resonance for me.
We shouldn’t be getting this blow-by-blow coverage. Even the BBC news pointed out tonight that some Norwegian newspapers have chosen not to feature it on their front pages.