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<nettime> Tad Tietze: The importance of the Anders Breivik verdict reach
Patrice Riemens on Sat, 25 Aug 2012 19:56:13 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Tad Tietze: The importance of the Anders Breivik verdict reaches beyond Norway (Guardian)

The importance of the Anders Breivik verdict reaches beyond Norway
The guilty verdict, which declares Breivik sane, means the hard right
cannot distance itself from his rhetoric of hate

Tad Tietze
guardian.co.uk, Friday 24 August 2012

There are many reasons to welcome the verdict in the trial of Anders
Behring Breivik: that he is sane and legally responsible for the murder of
77 people ? mostly members of the Norwegian Labour party ? on 22 July last

The guilty verdict recognises the monstrosity of Breivik's acts, carried
out in pursuit of his political beliefs. It also delivers the outcome
wanted by the majority of Norwegians, in particular because it means he
will spend no fewer than 21 years ? and most likely life ? in jail.
Justice has been done to the fullest extent possible under Norwegian law.

To understand the full import of the outcome, however, one needs to look
to the wider realms of politics and society. The trial was dominated by
the question of Breivik's sanity for more than just procedural reasons.

Once it was realised a white, middle-class Norwegian man was the culprit
and that he'd left a sickening but coherent 1,500-page manifesto for all
to read, the race was on for some on the right to depoliticise Breivik's
acts. The problem was that his politics were not just similar to their
own, but often drawn directly from their statements, cut and pasted into
his tract. In many cases the only difference was that he took their
language of a war of civilisations to its logical conclusion in violence.

It wasn't just harder rightwingers such as Melanie Phillips, Mark Steyn
and Pamela Geller who tried to deny the connection, but many more moderate
writers and politicians. This should not be surprising, as Breivik's
opposition to Muslims, multiculturalism and a "cultural Marxist" fifth
column was never far from the surface in the mainstream discourse of the
war on terror. Norway, for all its famed tolerance, continues to be an
active part of the Nato occupation of Afghanistan.

The main form this depoliticisation took was the medicalisation of
Breivik's actions in terms of psychological or psychiatric pathology.
Within days, everyone from forensic psychiatrists to the London mayor,
Boris Johnson, felt the need to put Breivik in a diagnostic box.
Occasionally, even reportage of his personal history and psychology went
to ludicrous extremes to seek his motives in anything but what he actually
said. This reached its pinnacle with the first court-ordered psychiatric
report, which found him to be suffering from "paranoid schizophrenia" on
the basis of clumsy and inappropriate interpretation of ideas and
behaviours common in far-right and online gaming subcultures.

Outrage over the findings led the court to take the unusual step of
commissioning a second report. This one paid more attention to his
political milieu, as well as his behaviour in jail, and found him sane ?
at most exhibiting signs of a personality disorder. Friday's verdict
confirms this conclusion and denies to Islamophobic ideologues the comfort
of a clear line of sanity separating their influence from Breivik's

The verdict is doubly important as an intractable economic crisis across
Europe provides opportunities for the advance of the far right. Virtually
all of these rightwing parties disowned Breivik's actions while singling
out in their own propaganda the same groups he targeted. At one extreme,
Greece's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has seen its electoral support rocket
to 7%, even as its thugs carry out violent attacks on migrants in the
streets of Athens. But much wider networks of extreme rightwingers
populate the internet and organisations of the populist right, exactly the
spaces in which Breivik's ideology and commitment to action were formed.

Friday's verdict thus not only delivers justice, it also clarifies the
connection between his crimes and how dangerous rightwing ideologies have
infiltrated an apparently "sane" mainstream discourse. It is a problem
that cannot be expunged simply by labelling it as mad, but must be tackled
directly as the political threat to freedom and democracy it is.

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