Norway mass murder suspect Anders Behring Breivik has been ruled insane. This means he can't be sentenced to prison but can be confined to a mental hospital for the rest of his life. I don't know much about Norway's legal system, but I do know that the maximum penalty anyone can receive -- even if you kill 77 people in a horrific day of bombing and shooting -- is 21 years. So perhaps this ruling is just a way to confine someone who otherwise would be free to kill and terrorise again by the time he reached his early 50s.
That's my best construction on the matter. Otherwise, I'm greatly discouraged by this determination. It's easy to look at what Breivik did and say "only a madman could do that." But it's much more complicated than that. I'm probably one of the few people who actually took the time to read Breivik's manifesto. And while it was unbelievably evil, it was not insane. It was hateful, bigoted and murderous. But it made sense. That was really what was so horrifying about it.
When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and her attacker killed and wounded many others, I could tell that he was mentally unstable. Reading his limited writing, I figured (accurately) that he was schizophrenic.
We're told that the insanity ruling came because Breivik had delusions of grandeur and thought he could decide who lived and died. Well, obviously. As does every other murderer and terrorist on the planet. But his writing clearly indicated that he thought he'd launch a movement only after the attack, clearly designed as a marketing stunt. And he lays out -- in a Masonic-inspired gamification system -- who lives and who dies. Yes, it's "crazy" in one sense. In another, it's a rather obvious nationalistic anti-Labor philosophy. But it's a cop out to say that it need not be refuted vehemently.
I've noticed how quickly reporters try to claim that any terrorist is mentally imbalanced or alienated. In a world where everyone is diagnosed as mentally ill and we pathologize what used to be called sin or evil, this is what you do. It's so much easier to call someone crazy or a victim of a child abuse or something than to deal with their evil.
But a society that is incapable of properly responding to evil, to sin, is one that worries me. Breivik didn't start the movement that he hoped to, thankfully, but evil people will use terror even more if we don't refute it and respond to it. Norway is choosing an easy route out of this, but at what cost?