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Anders Behring Breivik joins the Unabomber, David Copeland and Zacarias Moussaoui

What do these terrorists have in common? The have all been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics.

The psychiatrists tasked with determining the mental state of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik today declared him to be criminally insane.

According to their evaluation, the terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway this summer is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia - just like the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, whose manifesto  Brevik copied large sections from word by word for his own manifesto.

The conclusions by the state appointed psychiatrists are of course controversial, and are bound to be debated for a long time. Many feel that this, declaring Breivik insane, is a way of letting hateful extremist ideology off the hook.

«Muslim terrorists are a product of Islamic hate-rhetoric. Norwegian terrorists on the other hand, could not possibly operate on the basis of an ideological background. No sir. The explanation for Norwegian-bred terror is to be found in the brain chemistry of the perpetrator,» wrote Norwegian blogger Paal Hivand (my translation).

There is some truth to that, but I suspect we might find various personality disorders or psychiatric disorders if we look closer at many terrorists and mass-killers, regardless of ideology.

The case that instantly sprang to mind when I read about the psychiatrists' conclusions today was Ted Kaczynski.  Comparing the two cases reveal fascinating similarities.

As Kaczynski, Breivik has also rejected the diagnosis, is likely to reject a plea for insanity from his defense and is also likely to claim paranoid schizophrenic  is a "political diagnosis”

This piece in Psychology Today is very interesting on that account:

Several (but not all) of the forensic psychiatrists and psychologists who examined Kaczynski diagnosed him as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia ...Though his defense attorneys tried to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, Kaczynski refused, perhaps in part due to denial about his illness, a very common symptom of schizophrenia; or perhaps because of his own narcissism, not wanting to be maligned as mentally ill.

And it goes on:

….Terrorism is itself a form of madness. Perpetrators of terrorism express their rage at the world destructively, in a desperate, last-ditch and sometimes suicidal attempt to gain recognition, fame or glory for themselves and their cause and, ultimately, to give some shred of meaning to their otherwise meaningless lives. Terrorism is typically an infantile and narcissistic act of violence stemming from profound feelings of impotence, frustration, and insignificance.

That is perhaps why we find many other terrorists and mass-killers, from different ideological backgrounds, who have been diagnosed as  paranoid schizophrenics.

Among them, David John Copeland, who became known as the "London Nail Bomber" after a 13-day bombing campaign in aimed at London's black, Bangladeshi and gay communities, and admitted terrorist and 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Evidence was also said to strongly support that Virgina Tech- Killer Seung-Hui Cho had paranoid schizophrenia.

Still, it’s not an easy conclusion to swallow in regard to Anders Behring Breivik, who meticulously planned and prepared his terrorist attack for many years.

I have read his manifesto twice, and he comes across as many things, certainly a narcissist, but insane? I'm not so sure.

Breivik may have grandiose and delusional ideas about saving Norway, his own importance in history, segregating races, breeding true Norwegians etc, but so did Hitler. If Breivik is criminally insane, why wasn’t Hitler?

However, at this stage it’s difficult to make any bombastic conclusions about Breivik's case as there are so many things we simply don’t know about the 230-page long psychiatric report on him.

So far, we’ve only heard the main conclusions, and very little about the background for how the psychiatrists arrived at them.

But what we do know is that with Breivik labelled both psychotic and paranoid schizophrenic - if these evaluations are not contested at the next stage of this process - it is very unlikely he will be allowed to give any of those long political speeches to the jury he had planned to make.

Neither will journalists be quite so keen on interviewing him. That would raise all sorts of ethical conundrums...

57-year-old made staff reporter

You have to wonder at the state of our industry when the story about how a newspaper just employed a 57-year-old news reporter made headline news yesterday.

And no, I'm not thinking that the news site was wrong to run it, which it did under the broader headline "57-year-old gets permanent job" - but it really makes me wonder about the state of the world in general, and about the media industry in particular.

It's devastating that we live in such an ageist time that such a story is headline news, pretty much regardless of profession, and it's particularly sad that this is especially true in our industry and that many resourceful people with very valuable experience are simply let go, or unable to find new jobs, when they reach a certain age.

Amusingly, I vivildy remember being told at 26 that I was getting old for the news industry by a former UK news executive (we never worked together, it was just a piece of friendly advice).

Of course, sometimes it's the other way around: young reporters with valuable multimedia skills find themselves the first to loose their jobs in financial crisis'. These matters often depend on issues such as how strong the journalist union is in a certain country or in a certain media company.

But I do wish we could look more towards getting the right balance of skills and experience, and not let age become a variable in itself.

At least to me, age has always been a state of mind.

What global meltdown?

"Yes, yes, I understand perfectly: the global meltdown," said a British journalist I interviewed on Thursday when I told him the day was a busy news day so the story might run later.

"No, it's about the catalogue of errors made on 22/7, revealed on 22/7 and in the aftermath of 22/7," I replied.

Funny, albeit perfectly understandable, how the key headlines still revolve around 22/7, I thought to myself - and wrote as much on Google+

Then came Friday, Norway's then minister of justice and police resigned in a move, which, despite all protestations to the contrary, ended up being all about 22/7.

And today the terrorist behind 22/7, Anders Behring Breivik, will get to explain his heinous crimes in an open court hearing.

People, including many who survived the shootings on Utöya, are queuing up to see him, and the court will have to prevent him from turning the hearing into a PR-show for his manifesto - the one he claims the atrocities he committed on 22/7 only were a marketing ploy to promote the ideas in.

The global meltdown? It will just have to take the sideline for a while.

Norway’s minister of justice resigns to spend more time with his family

- I’ve cried almost every day since 22/7, Knut Storberget told the media when he resigned as Norway’s minister of justice and police Friday.

But he vehemently denied his resignation had anything to do with the Ministry’s growing catalogue of errors in handling the twin terror attacks on Oslo and Utöya 22 July.

It had nothing to do with how Norwegian police was slammed for poor rampage response on 22/7.

Nothing to do with how the emergency communications system broke down on 22/7.

Nothing to do with how a witness alerted the police to no avail about a suspicious, fully armed man (the terrorist) leaving the Oslo-bomb scene before he took off for Utöya.

Nothing to do with how the terrorist could park his car right outside the Government headquarters he bombed to pieces despite weighty reports recommending that area be shut off for traffic.

Nothing to do with how the terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, cannot be sentenced as a terrorist because the police’s computer systems are so out of date (it runs on Windows NT 4.0) they can’t handle the ”new” penal code passed in 2009.  

And nothing to do with all the other critique levelled at Storberget recently, but rather a move he had planned together with his family as early as February.

However, in a move slightly more related to the events on 22/7, the Ministry itself will be renamed to the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness

”…the Ministry’s internal organisation will be examined in order to improve the Ministry’s ability to handle crises. The Ministry will be given additional resources. In order to visualise these changes, it has today been decided that the Ministry of Justice and the Police from 1 January 2012 will have its name changed to the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness,” we could read in the same press release that announced Storberget’s resignation.

So now what?

Storberget has been replaced by Labour Party veteran Grete Faremo, a move I saw more than one online commenter applaud, and greet with such sentiments as ”finally a minister of justice who has balls”.

Maybe she’ll even have the balls to ban vans and cars from parking right outside the entrance to the Norwegian parliament like this (spotted by Pia Prestmo on 13 October 2011):