Breivik, 33, admits the killings but has pleaded not guilty. He says he was defending his country against Muslim immigrants by setting off a car bomb that killed eight people at government headquarters in Oslo before travelling to the island to carry out the massacre.
“It was extremely hard to shoot that first shot, it is contrary to human nature. But after that… it became easier,” he said. “To take a human life is the most extreme you can do, but you weigh that against superior motives.”
Note how Breivik overcame his natural disgust by using idealism. His rational objective was to use terror as a political tool:
He insists he is mentally stable and demanded that his attacks, the most violent in Norway since World War Two, be judged as political militancy and not the work of a madman.
The ideal is the culture:
On Friday, Breivik said he began training consciously five years before the attacks in order to suppress his feelings, after he decided to use violence to alert Europeans to what he considered the loss of their culture.
Breivik used well-known techniques to achieve the desired state of mind:
His training included playing computer games up to 16 hours a day and practicing daily meditation to “hammer away” at emotions and embrace his own death, he said.
“One might say that I was quite normal until 2006 when I started training, when I commenced de-emotionalizing,” he told the court. “And many people will describe me as a nice person or a sympathetic, caring person to friends and anyone.”
“I’ve had a dehumanization strategy towards those I considered valid targets so I could come to the point of killing them. … It is easy to press a button and detonate a bomb. It is very, very difficult to carry out something as barbaric as a firearms operation.”
When asked about his feelings, Breivik said he recognized the suffering he had caused but that he remained detached from it. His mental training regimen was similar to that which Norwegian soldiers undergo to serve in Afghanistan, he said.
Yet, there is some debate as to Breivik’s sanity:
Before the trial, one court-appointed team of psychiatrists concluded Breivik was psychotic, while a second found him mentally capable.
I don’t know why Breivik was brought to trial in this way, but I doubt it would have been allowed in the US. It juxtaposes terrorism and militarism, ideal culture and slaughter, sociopathy and patriotism, video games and dehumanization, in a dramatic way similar to some kind of psychological thriller movie.
The judge should rule him insane. The legal justification would be that, although in isolation he may seem rational, nevertheless the State has the sovereign power to manage the issues in question and to use the methods employed; and so Breivik is insane because he attempted to usurp the sovereign power of the State, although he is clearly not a monarch. The question of whether the State or a monarch should have such authority could then be addressed outside of court. Whether to execute Breivik would depend on weighing the political advantages; if it were decided that no one would lionize Breivik as a martyr, it would be more just to subject him to psychoanalysis for the rest of his life.