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Julia Grønnevet: Anders Breivik: Madman or Fighter for an Idea?

December 23, 2011

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Guernica brings you an extensive translation of Breivik’s psychological evaluation.

Breivik-Evaluation-575.jpgPhotograph via Wikimedia Commons by LWP.

By **Julia Grønnevet**

The verdict on Anders Breivik’s sanity is in, and it looks like the right-wing mass murderer may not go to prison. Norway’s forensic experts released the confessed killer’s psychological evaluation and called him crazy. Guernica has what we think is one of the most extensive translations of that evaluation, since we wanted to know what it takes to make sure that a right-wing terrorist gets to avoid prison.

Breivik killed 77 people on July 22. First he planted a car bomb outside the office of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. That killed eight. Next he shot dead 69 more, mostly teenagers, on Utøya island, at the site of a youth camp for the ruling Labour Party.

No mysteries surround Breivik’s motives. He has confessed that he sought to inflict the “greatest possible loss” to the Labour Party. In a word, he acted to champion the anti-multiculturalist—which is to say the anti-Muslim—agenda, touted by advocates of the war on terror.

The evaluation declaring Breivik insane was released on November 29. This strengthens the likelihood Breivik will avoid prison.

Even among the experts, this designation appeared to have its doubting Thomases. Today, Reuters reports that Norwegian authorities had considered another psychiatric examination. But Norway’s Board of Forensic Medicine, led by psychiatrist Karl Heinrik Melle, approved the evaluation and released a one-sentence opinion today by Oslo District Court: “There are no significant comments on the evaluation.”

However, three of the review panel’s seven members had “big objections” to the initial report, state broadcaster NRK reported Wednesday. But today’s statement gives no indication of disagreement over “the fact that Breivik’s ideological convictions are not discussed in the report.”

The discourse Breivik taps into is every bit as real as his actions, and not something he alone has been iterating. From David Cameron’s and Angela Merkel’s declarations that multiculturalism has failed to the National Front’s Marine Le Pen comparing Muslims praying in French streets with German occupiers, the discourse Breivik used goes beyond meme-status. It is the intellectual rationale behind dozens of foreign policy agendas and trillions of dollars in war and security spending.

Julia Grønnevet, who wrote about Breivik, translated the November 29 assessment, which includes a Child Protective Service description from the 1980s of Breivik as a child (“contact-shy, somewhat anxious, passive child with a manic, restless defensiveness and a pretended, deflecting smile”).

The observed maintains that it was fair that the victims died, doesn’t regret it, and feels no guilt.

It also features a paragraph on his use of neologisms to describe his reality as well as a description of his withdrawal process from work and friends over a period of years.

Selections below.

—The Editors


Court psychiatric declaration Breivik, Anders Behring b. 130278

Summary

[…]

Documents of the case and conversation with the subject’s mother show that he developed unremarkably with regard to motor skills and verbal skills during his first years of life.

The observed and his family were from 1981 in touch with the local Child Protective Services department. The observed was then described by his mother as “demanding.” There is no information forthcoming about any specific psycho-pathology in the observed through this.

[Redacted paragraph.]

In a letter to the Child Protective Services Department in the same case, the observed is described as a “contact-shy, somewhat anxious, passive child, with a manic, restless defensiveness and a pretended, deflecting smile.” In the letter there is no diagnosis presented of the observed’s mental health, and also no further description of any other psycho-pathology.

The assessors have, through conversations with the observed, his mother, and the collected information not found any evidence supporting that he should have been followed up with regard to his behavior, intellectual development or mental health. There were no worries about his development until puberty.

When the observed was 15 years old, in 1994-1995, a new Child Protective Services case was opened on him and his family. The background was that the observed was issued summons several times in 1994 for tagging and vandalism. After conversations with the observed and his mother the case wasn’t found serious enough to start assistance proceedings. In the documents of the case, Child Protective Services expresses no concern for the mental health of the observed.

The observed has, through primary and two and a half years of high school, managed above average academically. He quit high school before passing his final exams. He was, as far as the assessors are aware, not referred to any public welfare follow-up for this.

The assessors therefore cannot find any evidence of any impaired development through the observed’s childhood and therefore no indications that the observed fills the criteria of any kind of developmental or behavioral disturbance with regard to the ICD-10 diagnosis manual.

The observed has never experienced depressive phases lasting two weeks or more. He appears through the examinations of the assessors completely lacking any depressive mindset in the form of shame, guilt or feelings of hopelessness. He denies experiencing sadness, joylessness, reduced initiative or aimlessness.

[…]

The observed worked in the period from 1998 to 2002 as an entrepreneur, and lived from 2001 with roommates. A normal connection to friends and family is described. Relations with women of the same age are described too, although not of very long duration. The assessors find through conversations with the observed, his mother, and through witness testimony that there is no evidence of any certain psycho-pathology of the observed during this time period.

From 2002 a lessened contact with people of the same age is described. The observed lived alone in a rented apartment. No relations with women are described. The observed’s various business activities are described by him as successful, with lots of employees and large profits. This information cannot be corroborated through tax returns, as admitted by the observed.

It is the evaluation of the assessors that the observed in the period from 2002 to 2006 had an increasing tendency towards isolation with a gradually failing ability to function. The assessors don’t have certain benchmarks to determine the debut of the observed’s psychotic symptoms, but it can’t be excluded that it began as early as this period.

From 2006 the collected documentation in the case show a certain change in the observed’s ability to function. Witness testimony from friends describe him withdrawing from social contact, becoming more quiet, moving home to his mother, and ceasing work. The phenomena are evaluated by the assessors to be withdrawal, isolation and a lacking ability to meet the demands of working life.

The symptoms are evaluated by the assessors to be failure to function, both practically, socially, economically, and in working ability.

The observed’s mother has described him turning day into night, playing a lot of computer games, and from this time staying mostly in his room. The observed didn’t participate in keeping up the apartment or in washing his own clothes, and didn’t cook. His mother bought the groceries. The observed’s mother describes how the observed, after being pressured, refused to contact the social welfare office for assistance. The symptoms are evaluated by the assessors to be failure to function, both practically, socially, economically, and in working ability.

From 2010 the observed’s mother describes a qualitative change in his behavior. She describes that the observed from this time was preoccupied with germs, his own looks, and was uncomfortably intense, irritable, and angry. He became increasingly intent on imparting politics and history, and the mother felt pressured by him. She describes how she had trouble following what it was he was trying to convey. She describes the observed as “beyond the pale, he believed all the nonsense he was saying.” The phenomena are evaluated by the assessors as expressions of psychotic delusions.

The observed’s mother describes the observed as no longer seeming to understand which distance to keep, as he could switch between sitting much too close to her on the couch and refusing to accept the food she served. The behavior is evaluated by the assessors as difficulties in adjustment as a consequence of paranoid delusions.

The observed has, until the recent events, not received any treatment from psychiatric specialist health services. Going through his chart with his primary physician [name redacted] there is no information about symptoms connected to serious psychiatric illness. In April 2011 there is a note where the doctor describes that the observed said on the phone that he wears a doctor’s mask inside. The phenomenon is evaluated to be associated with a paranoid delusion.

The observed appeared throughout all the assessors’ examinations as alert, clearly present, and oriented in time and place and situation. The observed used number values and percentages more than is normal in common speech. In conversations he makes use of a technical, unemotional and un-dynamic language.

The observed presented as emotionally flat, with complete emotional distance to his own situation, and to the assessors.

The observed maintains that it was fair that the victims died, doesn’t regret it, and feels no guilt. He reckons the victims died as a consequence of his love for the Norwegian people. Asked to assess his own actions, his observations are without empathy. The observed assesses the importance the murders had on his own reputation and future impact, and further how the murders will affect and accelerate the political project of a future takeover of power in Europe. The observed is not able to consider the victims’ or society’s perspective in relation to the recent acts.

The observed doesn’t express emotions in relations to those closest to him. He describes all subjects, from his own childhood to the “execution” of the recent acts, with an operational language without any emotional component. The observed appears with a significant affectlessness and serious failure at empathy.

The observed has a slightly staring look and blinks a bit. He appears as having a somewhat attenuated demeanor and a slightly stiffened body language as he moves very little on the chair during the examinations. The assessors evaluate this as a slight psychomotor retardation.

The observed uses unusual concepts, exemplified by word such as “low-intensity civil war,” “military order,” “military court,” “executioner,” and “operation.” The concept use is wholly connected to the observed’s belief that there is a civil war in the country, and is evaluated as an expression of underlying all-encompassing paranoid delusions.

The observed uses unusual concepts such as “forcible,” [hevd] “sovereign,” “definitional power,” “responsibility,” “love for (my) people,” “unique,” “pioneer,” and “new regent” connected to descriptions of his own position. The concept use is evaluated as an expression of underlying all-encompassing paranoid delusions.

The observed presents his own invented words like “national darwinist,” “suicide-marxist,” and “suicidal humanism,” “knightly magistrate” [“ridderjustitiatius”], “knightly magistrate commander,” “knightly magistrate master” and “knightly magistrate grand master” [“ridderjustitiariusstormester”]. The concepts are evaluated to be neologisms.

The observed reckons that he has forcibly become the ideological leader of the organization “Knights Templar,” which has a mandate to be a “military order,” “martyr organization,” “military court,” “judge, jury and executioner.” He thinks he has the responsibility to decide who should live and die in Norway. The responsibility is experienced as real, but burdensome. The phenomena are evaluated as bizarre, grandiose delusions.

He thinks a considerable number of people (several hundred thousand) support his recent actions. He thinks he has an overdeveloped sense of love. He thinks he is a pioneer in a European civil war. He compares his situation with historical war heroes like Tsar Nicholas and Queen Isabella. The phenomena are evaluated as grandiose delusions.

The observed thinks it’s probably, though to a somewhat varying degree measured percentage-wise, that he is the new regent of Norway after a coup d’etat and takeover of power. If he is the new regent, he’ll take the name “Sigurd the Crusader II.” He reckons he has given around 5 million NKR [around a million USD] to “the struggle.” He thinks he could be given the responsibility of deporting hundreds of thousands of Muslims to ports in north Africa. The phenomena are evaluated as grandiose delusions.

The observed thinks there is ethnic cleansing going on in Norway, and he lives in fear of being killed. He thinks a nuclear third world war could be triggered as a consequence of events he sees himself as a part of. He thinks there is an ongoing civil war in the country. The observed is at work on solutions to improve our “ethnic Norwegian genetic pool, eradicate disease, and reduce the divorce rate.” He pictures “reservations (for ‘indigenous Norwegians’),” “DNA testing” and “mass birth factories.” The ideas are evaluated as part of a bizarre, paranoid system of delusions.

The observed thinks that the Glucksburgers (the Norwegian and European royal family, note by the assessors) will be “revolutionarily removed” in 2020. As an alternative to a new regent being chosen by the Guardian Council, there will be a DNA test done on the remains of Olaf the Holy or Harald Hardråde [Harald the Harsh]. Thereafter, the Norwegian people will be DNA tested to find the person with the greatest genetic similarity, who can then be instated as the new regent of the country. The ideas are evaluated as part of a bizarre, paranoid system of delusions.

Auditory hallucinations or influence phenomena are not confirmed, as the observed maintains that his communications with those like-minded to him are secret. The assessors suspect that auditory hallucinations and/or influence phenomena have been or are present, but don’t have firm proof of this.

The observed shifts between referring to himself as “I” and “we,” that is to say, singularly and in the plural. The assessors evaluate the symptom as representing an unclear understanding of identity and depersonalization.

The observed is sometimes difficult to follow in conversation, because he switches topics rapidly and has to be brought back with questions. He associates freely, and his associations largely and irrespective of the angle of approach bring him back to his political message, his perceived mission and position. The phenomena is evaluated as a moderate associative disturbance.

When he is given the opportunity to speak freely, the observed stays consistently on the same topics. He explains again and again the same details connected to his own “knighthood,” “the radicalization process,” the organization “Knights Templar,” the coming coup d’etat and takeover of power in Norway and Europe. The phenomenon is evaluated by the assessors as belief perseverance. There is no latency period nor mind block during the conversation. The observed doesn’t show disorganized behavior.

The observed assigns his own private and personal experiences superior importance in societal relations and decisions. As examples of this, we mention that the observed thinks his use of dipping tobacco [snus], nicotine and candy is a war strategy. Further, he describes his own private movements and actions as guidelines for future revolutionaries in his compendium.

The observed’s cognitive functions are unremarkable as regards limited intellectual functioning. In conversation he is focused, he has an unusually good memory both for details and situations, and his compendium demonstrates a considerable ability to handle large amounts of material and details. He has also managed to plan and execute an incredibly complex action.

The observed’s ability to have a comprehensive, overall cognitive understanding of himself and his relationship with the outside world is failing. The observed cannot manage to see himself from any other perspective than his own. This is particularly apparent in that he doesn’t understand, or can’t place himself in the external world’s reaction to the recent actions. The observed presents his own expectations of the external world’s reactions in line with his own delusions. He describes the bombing and killing as brutal but brilliant. His characterizations of his actions are strange and somewhat bizarre as he describes himself as a hero, a knight, with too much love.

The described psychotic symptoms seem to have come on gradually. There are clues showing a continuous worsening since 2006, perhaps with pre-symptoms much earlier. The time of debut coincides with a total failure to function both socially, practically and in working life. From 2009 the observed has described thoughts about surveillance and spying. From 2010 the observed also, through acquisition of weapons and reconnoitering, has acted in line with his psychotic symptoms.

In his explanation to the police at 8:15 PM 07.22.11 the observed says he is “a commander” and continues “We are crusaders and nationalists.” The observed says that the recent actions the same day are expressions of the beginning of a very bloody civil war. He claims in the same statement that “Knights Templar Norway” has given him the authority to “execute A, B, and C traitors,” and that the organization is the uppermost military, police and political authority in Norway. The symptoms are evaluated as grandiose and paranoid delusions.

[…]

The assessors find that the observed satisfies the criteria for a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

[…]

The observed has committed the recent acts, and by this killed 77 people with an expressed wish to kill hundreds. The background for the murders is his paranoid psychotic delusion that he is participating in a civil war where he is responsible for deciding who lives and dies. His mission is to save the Western world and gene pool. He thinks that through his murderous actions he is showing knighthood and boundless love, and through this is forcibly given future positions of power in Europe and Norway. The murders were planned.

The observed has shown an ability to make long-term plans and follow through with his murderous intentions. He has, in conversations with the assessors, maintained that a number of people will be killed in the future, too. The number has varied from a couple thousand to several hundred thousand, and the observed mentions several scenarios that could result in murder.

The observed describes that the murders would have to happen as revenge for actions the named persons have already committed. The observed’s thoughts of killing are connected to officials like the prime minister and members of the royal family, but also to people without any official status like university employees, those working in the media, those working at the nuclear facility in Halden, and demonstrators who attend protest marches.

The observed also included the assessors in his thoughts of killing. The thoughts showed up after the observed had been having conversations with the assessors for some time. The assessors mention this because the observed’s thoughts of killing are clearly dynamic, and affected by the context the observed at any time finds himself.

The assessors assume that a similar development could occur in the future too, and evaluate there to be a considerable risk that people close to the observed, such as employees at prisons or hospitals, could become part of his paranoid delusions and included in his thoughts of killing.

[…]

Oslo, 11.29.11

Torgeir Husby, specialist in psychiatry

Synne Sørheim, specialist in psychiatry

______________________________________________________________________

Julia Grønnevet was born in Bergen, Norway. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, she is a staff reporter on the United Nations beat for the Asahi Shimbun. She has also written for The Guardian and n+1. Her work was included on The Atlantic’s list of the best non-fiction of 2010. She lives in New York.

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