What have we learned from the Breivik parole case?

Anders Behring BreivikPhoto: Lise Åserud / NTB

The Telemark District Court is in recess to discuss the fate of Anders Behring Breivik’s parole request. In what was no doubt a harrowing experience for those that lost loved ones, and the survivors, of the July 22, 2011 attacks, both the prosecutors and defense have helped to unwrap another layer and try to probe into the thoughts and actions of this convicted mass murderer, terrorist, and right-wing extremist.

Will not take any responsibility for his actions

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from his parole case hearing was that after more than a decade since the July 22 attacks, Breivik still refuses to take responsibility for them. After one of the largest trials in Norwegian history, he was found to be alone in undertaking the July 22 attacks and has spent a decade in prison as a convicted mass murderer and terrorist.

During the parole case, he claimed he was “brainwashed.” Speaking from the witness stand, Breivik said that “it was actually not my fault that I was brainwashed – it is those who brainwash and radicalize (people) online who bear almost all the responsibility for (the) July 22 (attack).”

After admitting he was “brainwashed” he then decided to dump the responsibility for the attacks on the Neo-Nazi group “Blood and Honor”. Breivik told the court that “I did not carry out (the) July 22 (attacks). It was not me. I was a soldier and (I was) radicalized. It is Blood and Honor that bears the full responsibility.”

He showed no remorse at all for undertaking these attacks and total contempt for simply not taking responsibility for his actions.

His excuse smacks of immaturity and cowardice. Yet it does speak of the growing threat of online radicalization that crosses cultures, countries, and religions. Here in Norway one only has to look at the disturbing and tragic history of Philip Manshaus to understand that this is a very clear and present danger. Breivik, perhaps, summed up this danger with astonishing clarity. He noted that, like him, “many (people) are just as radical today.”

The difference is, however, that not all of these radicalized people go on to murder 77 people in cold blood.

Still very much espouses twisted Nazi and extremist right wing ideologies

One would think that a decade spent in “preventive detention” (i.e., solitary confinement with little human contact) would have given Breivik ample time for some introspection. Yet time has not mellowed his extremist views in the slightest. Breivik still very much supports his twisted racial theories surrounding white power. Upon entering court he did his usual Nazi salute (which he calls a “Norse” greeting and has done in previous court appearances) and had “Stop your genocide against our white nations!” written on his suitcase.

Breivik used large parts of his time in the courtroom to try to explain his worldview. In a nonsensical and rambling testimony, he spoke at length about white power, a “cultural war”, race theory, and all the other usual right-wing extremist ideas and principles. He admitted that though he does not condone the use of violence anymore he does still firmly believe in the Nazi ideology. Furthermore, his admission that he had been “radicalized” by descendants of German SS soldiers in order to “re-establish a Third Reich”, through the Neo-Nazi group “Blood and Honour,” just shows how deeply ingrained extremist right-wing attitudes still form a huge part of his belief system.

Anders Behring Breivik
Breivik gave a Nazi salute and held a right-wing extremist message during his parole hearing at Telemark District Court. Photo: Ole Berg-Rusten / NTB

Loves the media attention, to censor could be dangerous

As mentioned, his decade in isolation has left him starved of human contact. If there is one thing that can be ascertained from his court appearances, is that Breivik, like most sociopaths, loves both the media attention and the public spotlight. Rotting in a prison room for a decade starves him of the oxygen of human contact and, more importantly, a platform for him to broadcast his message worldwide. From his Nazi salute to the message on his briefcase, there is a touch of a sickly sadistic showman in his appearances.

His former lawyer, Geir Lippestad, has spoken on Breivik’s use of the media attention. He spoke to the newspaper VG about the fear that trying to silence or censor Breivik’s views will actually make him much more important than he truly is. The worst thing that the press could do, Lippstad believes, is to not report accurately or to try and censor some of his hateful ideology. It is better to report accurately and explain rather than to expurgate any of his warped world views.

This may well have been painful for the survivors of the July 22, 2011 attacks, and those that lost loved ones, but his explanation of his actions must be on the public record for the benefit of scholarly interest and to help prevent attacks like this again.

Psychiatrics reports show that he still can not be trusted and has not changed

For those judging a parole hearing, one of the key factors is change. Has the perpetrator shown any sort of significant change – be it remorse, a change in attitudes or beliefs, or a realization of the crime/s they have committed? In Breivik’s case, the simple answer is that he has shown no change. Psychiatrist Randi Rosenqvist has carried out psychiatric assessments several times on Breivik. Speaking to the newspaper Aftenposten before the parole case started, she noted that there was little or no change between assessments.

Breivik has, since 2017, consistently said that he is no longer violent and doesn’t embrace violence like he used to. A psychiatric assessment of Breivik was last made public in December 2016 and in it, Rosenqvist warned against trusting Breivik’s newfound pacifism. Fast forward to the parole hearing in Telemark and in her closing remarks, State Prosecutor Hulda Karlsdottir spoke of trust. She said that Breivik wanted to be trusted but she believed this was a PR stunt. She said “He asks for trust. The Breivik who asks for trust today is the same Breivik who smashed the government quarter and called it a fiasco.” Karlsdottir further added that, for her, Breivik is still very much the same man who committed a massacre of innocence on Utøya.

A nation awaits

The parole case for Breivik has now wrapped up but this is hardly the end of the sad saga. The judges will adjourn for a few weeks before they decide on whether to grant Breivik parole. Should he be successful in this hearing, his defense counsel Øystein Storrvik said that he thought the Norwegian Correctional Service (Kriminalomsorgen) did little to prepare Breivik for life outside prison. This will hardly gather any sympathy for Breivik though. Storrvik also felt that the solitary form of preventive detention was too strict. Breivik has seized on this before and has unsuccessfully tried to sue the Norwegian state for a breach of his human rights.

Should Breivik fail in his wish for parole, one would assume that he will try again. Due to the procedural complexities and backlog in the legal system, it is estimated that another parole hearing would take approximately 3 years though, in theory, he has the right to reapply for parole every year from now on. If he is still deemed a danger to society at large, and capable of committing further violent crimes, his detention can be extended indefinitely by a block of 5 years.

There is, of course, the most valuable thing that we have learned from Breivik’s parole hearing: that the pain and suffering that he caused on that July day 11 years ago is still very much present and raw for the survivors, those that lost loved ones and Norwegian society at large.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Norway Today unless specifically stated.

About the author:

Jonathan is a lover of the written word. He believes the best way to combat this polarization of news and politics, in our time, is by having a balanced view. Both sides of the story are equally important. He also enjoys traveling and live music.

Source : #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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