This tragedy in Norway has left me echoing Peter Rabbit: how do they do it? What can it be? There’s idiocy in everyone but twice as much in them (rhyming never was my strongest suit).
It was bad enough when people (even PZ Myers, who ought to know better, being a level 20 sceptic with a +10 amulet of rationality) pronounced Breivik “delusional and insane” and a “lunatic” – without any good evidence that is the case. It is both a symptom and cause of the stigma and discrimination the psychiatrically ill face every day, that whenever someone does something appalling that (by its appalling nature) is beyond the comprehension of the rest of us, people start saying “he must be crazy” and variations.
Now, while I am not saying he is definitely not psychiatrically ill, I am saying there is nothing so far evident in his actions or his “manifesto” that really indicates him to be so. He might yet turn out to be psychotic, but at this point we have no evidence to say so.
Particularly, there is no apparent formal thought disorder in what I’ve read of his manifesto. Thought disorder is generally more apparent in writing than speech, and given that English is apparently his second language, any thought disorder ought to be screamingly apparent in his written English. So I think we can say he’s probably not thought disordered.
Is he deluded? Nothing in what he’s written indicates clearly that to be the case. They’re awful ideas, yes, but seriously, if they – by their content, which is all we have to go on – are delusions, then the US Tea Party are all deluded …
… ‘k … Moving on …
Is he hallucinated? I’ve seen no mention of anything to suggest so. No communication from God or Satan or anyone else for example, which you might expect if this were psychotically-driven.
Is he insane? That’s perhaps easier to make an armchair comment on. Most definitions of insanity (a legal term, not a psychiatric one any more) are based on the McNaughton rules, which basically require that the person, to be found insane, be unable – through mental illness, sometimes mental retardation – to understand the nature or moral wrongfulness of their actions. It appears pretty clear that Breivik knew exactly the nature of his actions. Moral wrongfulness? Ok, that’s arguable, but unless his moral compass is askew because of psychosis, it doesn’t make him legally insane; a psychopathic nationalistic hate-filled horror yes … but not insane.
Just a psychopathic nationalistic hate-filled horror.
Anyway … Then we get the doublethink starting, and while the “crazy” talk bugs me deeply on a professional level, it’s this doublethink that really boggles my mind. I mean really, how do these people walk without falling down?
A good piece in Salon captures a lot of the idiocy. Even though Breivik explicitly espoused the nationalistic, racist, white-supremacist, anti-Islam sentiments of the far right, they have divined, using their amazing powers of divination, that in fact the “problems” that created him and caused this tragedy were… wait for it … Multiculturalism and Islam and such. Even abortion, would you believe?
And people are saying Breivik’s insane?
George Orwell invented a term for this amazing capacity to believe totally contradictory things (such as Glenn Beck saying that a youth politics camp “sounds a little like the Hitler Youth” – despite running a political youth camp himself: DOUBLETHINK – and that’s exactly what these rightwing whackos are displaying: super-Orwellian degrees of doublethink.
Scary as hell. Orwell had it sussed, ladies and germs. This is, indeed, the world of 1984.
Update: Andrew Bolt has actually managed to cram in both of these positions in one post for the Herald-Sun. Wow.