Sunday, July 31, 2011

Looking at the Mind of a Mass Murderer

For reasons that remain to be determined, certain segments of our population believe that we need to understand the minds of homicidal maniacs.

The view is so prevalent that few people have even entertained the idea that such an enterprise is a waste of time and resources.

Lately, people have been asking themselves what was wrong with Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. In the past they have asked the same question about Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, the Boston Strangler and Major Nidal Hassan.

Last week the Wall Street Journal asked former prison psychiatrist, Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, what he thought, and, for our edification, he replied that the entire line of questioning an exercise in futility.

Dalrymple doubts that we will ever understand. He even questions what it means to understand. After all, for all the qualities that characterize a mass murderer,  many, many other people fulfill the same descriptions without ever breaking any law.

Dalrymple explains that Breivik is: ... highly narcissistic, paranoid and grandiose. “ He adds that you might want to look into his past, where you would discover that his father disappeared when he was 15. To which he adds: So what. The world is filled with people who are narcissistic, paranoid, and grandiose without their ever becoming mass murderers. Might it not be better, I would add, if we considered such people to be evil.

But then, you might be thinking that we need to understand how these murderers think because, after all, we all have it in us to become just like them.

Of course, you cannot prove this and you cannot disprove this. The fact that you have not gunned down dozens of children does not mean that you might be capable of doing so.

For my part, I find this effort to guilt-trip people to be disrespectful and, on the part of therapists, self-serving.

It pretends that without therapy we could all become mass murderers or commit other acts of violence and mayhem.

It suggests that therapy is a prophylactic, the one force that stands between you and your criminal impulses.

I doubt that any sensible individual really believes that if only Breivik had had therapy he would not have done what he did. As ineffective as most therapy it, it is notably ineffective with sociopaths.

Dalrymple debunks the notion clearly. Asked whether he can learn about himself by studying Breivik, he replies, correctly: "Well, he doesn't tell me much about me." After saying that he is only speaking for himself, he adds: "I suppose the only thing one can say is that he tells us about the range of human possibility. But we knew that already."

Some human beings can do horrifying things. But that does not mean that all human beings are capable of the same, nor even that there are very many who would, of their own volition, commit such horrors. If you say that we all have a bit of Breivik in us, we are, in some way, making him a research subject, someone who can contribute to "science."

I hope that everyone understands that therapy is not the best form of crime prevention.

The sad truth, rarely noted in our speculations about the psyche of Anders Breivik, is that the gentle Norwegian approach to criminal justice practiced by Norwegian society contributed to the massacre. When someone pulls out a gun and starts shooting, the best way to stop him is to shoot back. In Norway this was not an option.

Neo-Neocon explains this salient point: “Because Norway has one of the few police forces in the world forbidden to routinely carry firearms, an armed SWAT team was summoned to the island. But no helicopter was available to transport them, and as a result the potential defenders were forced to travel the 28 miles by road and then to commander a boat that took on water because it could not handle their heavy equipment. Extremely precious time was lost.”

Norway believes in coddling criminals. As of now, the worst that can happen to Mr. Breivik, is 21 years of incarceration in a prison that is more like a resort than even the cushiest American federal prison.

Nevertheless, Norway is probably a low crime area. Does this mean that the Norwegian approach to criminal justice is effective, or do we need to think a little longer and a little harder about the question?

In fact, Norway is a homogeneous culture where 5 million people live on very large land mass. Such cultures tend to be low-crime areas because they rely mostly on the threat of public shaming.

In a more homogeneous culture, in a culture where people belong to the community, shaming works well as a deterrent.

Problems arise when the forces of multiculturalism take over and allow a population of new immigrants to live in the country without being integrated. If they do not belong to the local culture, they are not likely to care about being shamed.

This is manifest in the fact that Norway, like its Scandinavian neighbor Sweden, has a rape problem You may have heard, nearly all the victims of rape in Norway and Sweden are Norwegian and Swedish women. And nearly all the rapists are foreigners, generally Muslims.

In some places this would be called human sacrifice... sacrificing your daughters to the gods of multiculturalism.

Nonetheless, it does tell us that “gentle justice” only works in a specific cultural environment. If you import large numbers of people who do not assimilate, you would do well to arm your police officers and to enforce far tougher sanctions for transgression. In that context "gentle justice" is an invitation to violence.

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