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John Serrano-Davey
John Serrano-Davey
2 years ago

Great piece, but is it ever really necessary to resort to ridiculing peoples physical characteristics as a way of debasing them?
-“ Granted, Breivik was a pudgy-faced, piggy-eyed loser with blond sweaty hair — ”
Come on- that does your argument no favours.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago

ponced-up in a black slim-fit suit that was plastered all over him like cheap spray tan, 

That is, indeed, absurdly over-written.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

I got a picture from the words.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago

Yes, but this guy’s a senior lecturer in criminology. Is this how he teaches his students to write?

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Worse, to think.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

I got a picture from the photo.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago

Progressives have a truly bizarre relationship with Victims Rights. They tend to have a knee-jerk adolescent quality to them in which All Authority = Bad.
But what progressives fail to see is that for people terrorized by criminals, the criminals ARE the Authority in terms of being the ones in charge.
For the residents of neighborhoods terrorized by gang violence, the gang members are the Authority.
For those whose loved ones are dying from addiction, the drug dealers are the Authority.
For women and children terrorized by sex offenders and batterers, the violent predators are the Authority.
To the victims of Anders Brevik and their surviving loved ones, Brevik is the Authority – not the state.
But in the minds of progressives, it is gang members, drug dealers, violent predators, and terrorists who are victims; while those who try to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate them are Bad Guys.
This is a gross distortion of reality.
When progressives in the USA abandoned the rights of victims by wanting to defund police, abolish prisons, and repeal FOSTA I could no longer stomach their cruelty and hypocrisy.
When there is no criminal justice system, and when there is no one to call for help when being threatened with violence, and when the rights of terrorists are given precedence over the rights of those they terrorize, it’s the most vulnerable people in society who suffer.
Progressives, with their talk of abolishing the police and prisons, have once again abandoned the most vulnerable members of society.
We need to stop sacrificing the vulnerable on the altar of “progressive” narcissism.
Evil does exist, and when we deny this simple fact, we enable evil and become part of Arendt’s “banality”.

Last edited 2 years ago by Penny Adrian
Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

This reminds me how people like Lenin hated the working class, and the Bolshevik leadership had very few of them – all the while doing a revolution in their name. Someone talking about the poor, the minorities, or the underpriviliged doesn’t mean they necessarily care for, or like these people. It’s just as likely someone does this because it gives them a purpose, a position of power, recognition, or authority that’d otherwise be denied to them. Not all that different from how Brevik is described here to be honest. For all I know, Brevik could equally easily have ended up a violent left-wing revolutionary following a different childhood.

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Thanks for posting this. Food for thought on my part!

Alan Groff
Alan Groff
1 year ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Penny Adrien, I love your excellent articulation of the problem! It reminds me of Niebuhr’s admonition to seek virtue while also stating that all evil issues from the pretension of virtue that doesn’t know its limitation.
The structure of authority is fundamental to civilization. Edmund Burke wrote that the first motive of civil society is that no man should be the judge in his own cause. By this, each person has at once divested himself of the first right of an uncovenanted man, which is to judge for himself and assert his own cause. He abdicates his right to be wholly his own governor and abandons his full right to self-defense, the first law of nature. Men cannot enjoy the rights of a civil and an uncivil state together. That he may obtain justice he gives up, at points, that which is most essential to him. That he can obtain some individual liberty he makes some surrender to the trust of the whole of it.
These are not new problems, yet progressives want to solve them again. Their assertion that solutions produced by Western white males before 1900, now a standard term of reproach, are inaccessible to women, blacks, and other victim classes show little respect to these groups’ intelligence or their powers of imaginative identification. The historical achievements of civilization are somehow off-limits or inaccessible. The emancipation rhetoric turns out to be deeply exclusionary – one might say racist and sexist in its underlying assumptions. The contempt for the general public in the work of literary and critical theorists reflects an unwarranted conviction of their intellectual superiority; they fail Niebuhr’s basis test for morality.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

The Norwegian system of criminal justice is humane and perhaps worth adopting by other countries – but only for 95% (number picked for arm waving, not from past data) of those convicted. The tricky bit with liberal attitudes (as always) are the extreme cases. If a liberal mindset caters for 95% of the cases what are you going to do for the last 5%?
While I acknowledge that casual use of the death penalty is unacceptable I suggest that for a few rare cases (repeated or multiple murders) the death penalty is a more humane response (for society). We just need the moral strength to accept that some cases are beyond our tolerance.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

“While I acknowledge that casual use of the death penalty is unacceptable I suggest that for a few rare cases (repeated or multiple murders) the death penalty is a more humane response (for society). We just need the moral strength to accept that some cases are beyond our tolerance.”

So a single murder is ‘within our tolerance’? This is a curious argument.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Murder should get an automatic full life sentence in a category A prison with no eligibility for parole.
Multiple murder, child murder and murder of a police or prison officer should have the option of the death penalty.

Stuart Sutherland
Stuart Sutherland
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Why should the murder of a child or police officer merit the death penalty more than the murder ofJoe Public?

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Follow my line of thought… a single murder might arise for a number of reasons. Crimes of passion, drunken rage, etc. All are unacceptable (but comprehensible) and the criminal can be reformed or removed from society long enough to no longer be a risk. But someone who murders on more than one occasion, or carries out multiple murders is probably inhumane and should be put down for the sake of everyone else.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

It is sometimes OK for the law to impose a death sentence for murder(s).

It is never OK to “put someone down” as if the law was a pest control firm, which it isn’t.

BTW should those harming the environment – ie most people in the Rich World – be “put down for the sake of everyone else” ?

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Murder has degrees of severity. We can possibly understand someone who has been abused by their husband finally snapping and doing something impulsive like stabbing him with a kitchen knife.
This is quite different to some other crimes in terms of moral depravity. Like the case of the lady who tried to poison her own daughter after taking a life insurance policy on her.
I for one could understand a system that is lenient on the first case of murder, but enacts the death penalty in the latter case.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

The UK began to get totally unserious when under Jenkins we were told that the death penalty did not deter-I can remember it. The BS dressed up as progressive thinking. Since then, crime of all sorts has gone through the roof, and the percentage of crimes that are punished has shrunk, and will continue to shrink as the Great and the Good convince themselves, at least, that they are on the right track.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Story

How on earth does getting rid of the death penalty encourage “crimes of all sorts” as opposed to murder alone ?

Do you want to “lock ’em up and throw away the key” ?

If so, there’s no money, no space and no staffing for all the prisons that would be needed.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

The contrary argument to this is Japan’s harsh criminal system and low crime rate, including for drug users.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Low crime rate in Japan ?

With such an ageing and elderly population, it would be surprising otherwise.

Also, it’s a country where conformity is inculcated from birth.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Years ago I watched a Frontline on prisons which interviewed a Kentucky warden (conservative guy, NRA member, pro-police, almost certainly Republican.) He said something that stuck with me:

“We have to decide who we’re mad at and who we’re afraid of. If we’re afraid of something you’re likely to do, you belong here [in his prison]. But if we’re just mad you for something you already did, this isn’t the place for you. We need a different system for the people we’re just mad at, and that’s most of the people here.”

This dichotomy makes a great deal of sense to me. It’s a different way of asking: is prison primarily about punishing those inside or protecting those outside? Our current system tries to do both and does neither particularly well. Breivik is someone society must be protected from, but Norway’s system is treating him simply as someone to be punished. But Breivik’s are mercifully rare, and America frequently errs in the opposite direction.

When even the prison wardens think the prison system is failing though, something drastic needs to change.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

The 5% reinforces the 95%. After all you don’t determine your humanity by taking on somebody else’s opinion of what it should be. I would though make sure they earn their bread.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bret Larson
Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

Breivik wasn’t in a berserk state. What he did, he planned for years and executed with ruthless, pinpoint calculation.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

Which makes him cool-headed.

But that’s a very different thing from being mentally balanced.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

The author implied he was berserk. He used that word. It is inaccurate. Breivik certainly wasn’t mad, not by the McNaughton Rules, anyway. It’s just a bit too easy to question his mental state. That lets too many people off too many hooks.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

Who said he was mad ?

But I wasn’t making a legal point, only a moral one.

Nothing comes cheaper or easier than the fashionable, harsh moral condemnation of others.

Ian Moore
Ian Moore
2 years ago

I think the recidivism rate in Norway suggests they do understand “evil”. One thing with Norwegians is they follow the rules, however unpalatable. Therefore they will allow everyone due process according to their law, which is why Breivik is allowed his day in court. The guidelines for sentencing and the rules around “maximum” sentences mean that even though they have to have a parole hearing at halfway, and then at regular intervals until the theoretical end date they don’t have to release the criminal. They can detain indefinitely those who remain a danger.
With Breivik already playing the system, reference his “inhumane treatment” case, I suspect the Norwegian authorities are attempting to do things by the book and close off any potential complaint for malpractice. This should mean that any further spurious claims made by him are shown up for what they are; utter b@llshit. Allowing him the platform to speak in court is effectively giving him enough rope to hang himself, and when they detain him longer than 21yrs these appearances will or should count against him, ensuring any bleeding heart/civil rights lawyer has nowhere to go with any claim to unfair or unjust treatment. Showing people that he is indeed still unrepentant, still remains a dangerous, calculating psychopath is a very good way of controlling the discussion on whether he should be released or not.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Moore

The very possibility that he could be released is a form of terrorism committed against the grieving families of the children he murdered. Imagine how they must feel every time he comes up for parole. The Norwegian system shows a horrific lack of empathy for victims of violent crime.

Nicolas Jouan
Nicolas Jouan
2 years ago

This article is more cathartic than constructive in my opinion. I wish more was said about the process of de-humanisation of the ‘enemy’ that seems to be a common trait with all acts of unthinkable terrorist violence perpetrated around the world by a diversity of people (mostly men though). Instead of underlining his failures (as you interpret them with your own subjectivity) and physical traits to explain (and alienate) his actions, it would be better to reflect on why most ugly men with no careers actually don’t turn into violent extremists. He is fortunately an outlier in the extent he took the logic, but the propensity to de-humanise the other and mentally accept that a lot of pain is inflicted on them (by the state, our neighbour, ourself) is a scale on which we all are.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nicolas Jouan
Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicolas Jouan

I think your comment shows a distinct lack of empathy for the victims and their families. To suggest that they are on a scale with Brevik is extremely thoughtless and cruel.

Nicolas Jouan
Nicolas Jouan
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

We all are on the same scale, we are all humans. That’s not a lack of empathy, it’s an epistemological standpoint.
You are mistaking my comment for an excuse of his actions because you are yourself prisoner of the us vs him fallacy. I’m personally in favour of harsher punishments, but that changes nothing to what I said.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

About time this essay happened thanks Simon !

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
2 years ago

This essay mentions Ordinary Men (which is a terrific read). However, Browning never attributes ‘weakness’ to characters like Breivik. Also, much of the Nazi atrocities happened under world war conditions. This isn’t an excuse, but there’s no way 21st century Norway is as mobalized, as paranoid, as violent as Nazi Germany.
Which, if anything, makes Breivik very horrifying. Like the Christchurch massacre, these occured in peaceful places (Oceania and Scandinavia are known for offering high quality of life, beautiful nature, good incomes and stability) to innocents who posed no harm, especially in the immediate sense. There’s a level of cruelty and malice that’s hard to comprehend.
This is an interesting essay, btw. Primarily because it explores the limitations of certain criminological / psychological modes. While I strongly believe in good and evil, I do agree with Christopher Browning. Just wouldn’t apply his thesis to Breivik.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

Breivik seems to have been motivated by a mixture of bitterness over his past and anxiety over Europe’s future.

Cruel certainly, evil perhaps, malice no.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

I don’t think the Norwegians are fools. They’ll never let this person out. Is it not the case that they can keep him detained beyond the end of his sentence? The worry though is if a twenty-one-year sentence is enough to be a deterrence. And no more filming of appeals for public consumption should be carried out.

Perhaps there is a sense that with progressive systems of justice (filmed appeals, PlayStation for the worst criminals), there is no more of the “throwing away the key” idea of justice as both deterrent and final judgment. If there is a sense that the key can be retained, then good people may well feel that justice can be undermined.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Just to add, most of the 77 people cut down were children.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

“… most of them teenagers, ..” as is said in the piece.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

It’s cheaper to buy PlayStation’s for prisoners than to employ warders to keep them quiet.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Yes, you’re probably right. I hope they don’t play online though.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 years ago

Consider this, I’m Canadian, I have been participating in the trucker rally. The first weekend I went I wore a mask. There was thousands of people there, not a mask in sight. Whole families. Do they all have the same opinion of masks. Did they all have zero symptoms and a firm belief that a mask couldn’t help someone not get covid? I’m not suggesting they should wear masks. I’m suggesting that people do comply with social norms. And generally for good reason, being outed can mean death.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

Hannah Arendt wrote a book about the Eichmann trial, a book which was subtitled, ‘A report on the banality of evil.’ She was much criticised, more for the subtitle than for the book. This all arose because Eichmann presented himself as a small, timid, boring person who ‘wouldn’t say Boo to a goose’. The book was really trying to say, after WW2, that not all Germans were evil.

I recently watched a 25 minute interview with Angela Davis, now a professor in California, and she advocated a world without police and without prisons.

Another Arendt book spends 210 pages arguing the difference between Philosophy and Politics and this book, surely provides the key. You can have a Philosophy which says that no human beings should be kept in prison but the Politics says that the decision should be for the good of the multitude. Untimately, for survival, the Politics must overule the Philosophy. Don’t forget that Arendt was a philosopher!!

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Angela Davis is a privileged fool who’s completely out of touch with the majority of Black Americans. She caters to those of her class (mostly white) to sell books to naive college students. I have zero respect for that pandering sellout.

Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Angela Davis advocated a world without police and without prisons because she bought the gun used to murder Judge Haley.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“The problem with the Arendtian thesis about ordinary killers, and the broader consensus that has hardened around it, is that it can’t explain ideologically fervent men who revel in the idea of murdering and humiliating scores of their perceived enemies.”
Anyone who visits social media knows that ‘ordinary people’ harbor some very hateful and violent ideas, but they are really cowards. In normal life they do not get opportunities to act on these. But put them in a situation where their violent ideas are seen to be acceptable, and they will murder readily.
Remember how easily people who shout about freedom and personal autonomy went along with lockdowns, vax cards, and mask mandates.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

I wish people would stop examining the minds and hearts of people like Anders Breivik, and start examining their OWN.

A much more necessary and courageous occupation !

No human being from teens up is good, so let’s start improving the world by improving ourselves, for a change.

To start with, we could refrain from playing the Blame Game, which involves holding up our little hands in horror at Breivik and other criminals, while saying “We’re not good, but at least we’re better than Breivik !”

Well, perhaps – let God be the judge of that.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

This is all fair enough comment as far as it goes. However of course Anders Breivik is a ‘white supremacist’ target who is culturally easy to monster. I wonder however if Simon Cottee has / would dare to make any similar observations about (the far more numerous) fanatical Islamist killers. Attack THIS phenomenon and the odious individuals perpetrating these attacks, whatever race and religion they hold. But instead we see Parliament going in for a load of safe displacement activity about people saying nasty things on the internet.

Lee Jones
Lee Jones
2 years ago

Every word you write depresses me, but to not read them seems worse.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago
Reply to  Lee Jones

This is why victims of violent crime are so lonely and isolated: they challenge the fairy tales people tell themselves about the basic goodness of everyone.
We normally choose to reject victims and embrace perpetrators to maintain our childish beliefs, and by doing this, we become participants in the evil we deny exists.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Victims of violent crime are lonely and isolated for the same reason old age pensioners are – no one can be bothered to befriend them, least of all those bewailing crime rates.

You are right to denounce Progressive attitudes like Defund the Police – though Progressives are rarely cruel and hypocritical, but usually starry-eyed and barmy, hence dangerous.

But going to the other extreme and being very Punitive is no better. For one thing, the Money for being punitive has run out.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

At root, Law and Order poses a philosophical question:

“Why be good, if one has a fair chance of getting away with being bad ?”

The only solution to this question is a religious one, namely that if one harms others, one does terrible spiritual damage to oneself (esp. if one “gets away with it”). And that is a problem if the human soul survives Death.

Last edited 2 years ago by Tony Buck
chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

True – which is why the CCP is now fostering ‘spirituality” in China. Xi appears to be wiser than anyone in the ‘developed’ world. I guess living in a cave eating grass might do that to one. How ironic if Xi actually does manage to close the have/have not gap in China, together with housing for all, free health care etc etc

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

Your first sentence is nonsense. Even if say you crucified him, with a little expertise you would only prolong his existence for about five days. Then what? Death, complete escape! That will not do.

His existence needs to be prolonged for a long as humanly possible, preferably incarcerated with the same conditions that now apply. Continue to tempt him with the hope of parole, but ultimately always reject the request.

In short, recreate the wonderful Ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus, continually pushing his boulder uphill for eternity.

(* Only for it to roll back down again, for those unfamiliar with the story.)

R S Foster
R S Foster
2 years ago

…convincing, if the Author would be willing to advocate a slow, painful death for the far larger number of Islamists who have planned and perpetrated mass-murder in Europe over the last twenty years…but I don’t suppose he does…

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago

I have a retired friend whose upper class family came from Germany before WW2, with many staying there, and he often discusses the acceptance, or collaboration with or support of, by his German relatives of the Nazis because he carries a little guilt about it. They didn’t actually support the Nazis ‘operationally’ but they went along with the whole thing and prospered commercially. Does failing to challenge the evil make them as complicit as those who obeyed orders and hurt people?
I think the USA practice in allowing people to bear extremely powerful arms that could permit a million Breviks to be unleashed is quite informative here. Even in the cauldron of violent BLM protests/looters, with protesters and property owners armed and feelings running very high, there have been no massacres of any scale. That degree of self control is remarkable in my view, and suggests that ordinary people are just not inclined to inflict cruelty even when provoked.
One of the reasons I’m glad we don’t have arms available to the public in the U.K. is that I don’t think I for one, and probably many others, would be able to exercise such self control. But it appears that because the Americans have been brought up in a gun culture they have that self control bred into them and very few of them seem to revolt against it. Far from being appalled at the large number of mass gun shootings in the USA, I’m actually amazed that there are so few mass gun shootings.
I wasn’t aware of the book Ordinary Men so I’ll look that up for me and my mate.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Stewart
Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

A seven foot drop is the only answer here.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

Anyone who has experienced the bent violent Norwegian police knows why the Quislings happened and so many fought for the Nazis…

SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
2 years ago

However unforgivable his violent actions that does not mean history may not judge his political fears come true on 2 grounds:
1)That the anti-white rhetoric of Critical Race Theory may end up with white females being so ashamed of being white that they will convert to Islam as a means of they and their children escaping whiteness
2)Many Political Millennials are resembling the far left Chinese students who started the Chinese Cultural Revolution by smashing statues and ending up murdering millions.However grotesque a far right terrorist might argue that by targeting young left wing students the way Breitvik did he was trying to warn Europe not to end up with its own Chinese Cultural Revolution

Barry Stokes
Barry Stokes
2 years ago

The world would be a far better place if individuals like this were humanely euthanized.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Barry Stokes

How ? Firstly, that evades the issue – if someone is to be killed, they must be sentenced in Open Court of Law.

And in any case, there are so many bad people in the world – many of them on the right side of the law – that getting rid of a few Breiviks would have little effect.

Barry Stokes
Barry Stokes
2 years ago

The world would be a far better place if individuals like this were humanely euthanised.

Vince B
Vince B
2 years ago

I am shocked that Norway would imagine any sentence less than life in prison for a mass murderer like this guy, let alone 21 years, or any chance of parole. And it sounds like he’s got a nice little set-up. How perverse.

trevor fitzgerald
trevor fitzgerald
2 years ago

Was his broadcast de-platformed? I hope there was outrage and protests. In a world where a few words on social media can get you ‘cancelled’ I find it odd a mass murderer is given the platform to share his views.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

The writer avoids the obvious which is reintroduction of capital punishment.