Friday, July 29, 2011

"Psycho-analysing" terrorist Breivik

There are by now innumerable psychological assessments of Breivik online. Practically every publication you log on to has one. And they are all rather laughable when one looks at the things upon which the various diagnoses are based:

Breivik played violent computer games. So do a billion other men. Breivik did not relate well to women. That's also true of millions of American men -- particularly if you ask American women. Breivik lived with his mother well into adulthood. That too is common these days. It's almost the norm in Italy and Japan. He liked dressing up and giving himself titles. So do the freemasons. And so it goes: Things that do not cause terrorism in millions of others suddenly caused terrorism in Breivik? What a heap of nonsense!

My Ph.D. is in psychology, my academic specialty is political psychology and I have had over 100 papers in that field published in the academic journals -- including papers on what would seem to be relevant phenomena, such as neo-Nazism and psychopathy. So can I do better? Perhaps. To make any diagnosis when you have never even met the person is a very bad start but I will try.

So, for starters, is Breivik mad? Is he insane? There is general agreement that he is not and I agree with that. He shows no signs of delusions and has normal reality contact. He is not psychotic.

The one glaringly salient fact about Breivik is that he is a one-off. People with broadly conservative views are almost never terrorists. Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh is the nearest comparable case and there are considerable differences beteeen him and Breivik. Breivik is much more intellectual, for a start.

And that one salient fact is in my view the key to Breivik. Terrorism is not the product of personality. It is ideologically motivated. Personality plays some part but ideology is the overwhelming influence behind terrorist deeds. Nearly two years ago, U.S. army Major Nidal Hasan stood up at Ft. Hood shouting "Allahu Akbar" - Arabic for "God is great" -- before opening fire methodically from two handguns, killing 13 and wounding 32. Very similar behaviour to Breivik and with the motive being clearly ideological, in his case the ideology of fundamentalist Islam.

And there is no denying where Breivik got most of his ideas. He got them from fairly mainstream conservative sources. What he says in his manifesto about the Left and about Islam could be duplicated from many mainstream conservative sources. Indeed, he quotes such sources at length in his manifesto.

So how come hundreds of millions of conservatives have ideas similar to Breivik but only Breivik used them as a basis for a terrorist attack?

To answer that we have to move from ideology to sociology. I taught sociology for some years in a major Australian university so perhaps I have a few ideas in that department too.

And what seems to be the key sociological context is Norwegian society itself. Norwegians are very self-righteous and politically correct and one result of that is that Norway's penal code (Straffeloven, section 135 a) prohibits "hate speech" and defines it as publicly making statements that threaten or ridicule someone or that incite hatred, persecution or contempt for someone due to their skin colour, ethnic origin, homosexual life style or orientation or, religion or philosophy of life. So criticism of Muslims is illegal in Norway.

And yet, of all Western countries, Muslim aggression against the host country would seem to be at its peak in Norway and Sweden, two of the world's most permissive countries. Permissiveness is NOT the key to restraint and as the old proverb has it: "Give them an inch and they will take a mile". Because Norway and Sweden not only put up with Muslim lawlessness but actually protect it from view, the misbehaviour has escalated in those countries to quite appalling levels. Rapes in those countries in recent years have almost entirely been the doing of Muslims, for instance.

And the average Norwegian is not oblivious to that, for all the clampdown on mentioning it by Norway's Leftist government. Norwegian experts say that Breivik's attitude to Muslims is in fact common among ordinary Norwegians. Leftist reality denial doesn't work for long.

So the pressure towards retaliation against Muslims is in proportion to the Muslim outrages committed. Muslim behavior is at a peak of unacceptability in Norway and that generates a peak head of steam for retaliation against Muslims. Muslims are not as indulgently treated in other countries (even Britain locks some Muslim haters up) so their behaviour is better and that in turn means that resentment against them does not build up so much.

So Breivik was simply the point at which the Norwegian dam burst. When any dam bursts it is always possible in retrospect to say where the weak point was but that is rarely apparent in advance. The point at which the dam bursts can be essentially random.

So we come back to the question: Why was Breivik the weak point? I think it was essentially random. Other Norwegians would have eventually done something similar if Breivik had not.

One thing that I do notice, however, is that a lot of his mental characteristics seem rather adolescent. So we have adolescent mental characteristics combined with a very capable adult brain. And adolescents make great warriors, warriors who are largely heedless of their own wellbeing in fighting for what they are told is the common good. The undoubted heroism of the Hitler Youth in the closing stages of WWII is an obvious example of that and armies generally do recruit heavily from teenagers.

And it is clear that Breivik saw himself as self-sacrificing in what he did. He acted for what he saw as the general wellbeing by attacking the protectors of Muslims at their weakest point: Their children.

And I see no reason to doubt the account Breivik gives of his motivation: It was self-sacrifice for the common good, a very Norwegian motivation. He wanted Norwegians freed from the very real oppressive burden of their Muslim minority.


Ideals Versus Realities

Thomas Sowell

Many of us never thought that the Republicans would hold tough long enough to get President Obama and the Democrats to agree to a budget deal that does not include raising income tax rates. But they did -- and Speaker of the House John Boehner no doubt desires much of the credit for that.

Despite the widespread notion that raising tax rates automatically means collecting more revenue for the government, history says otherwise. As far back as the 1920s, Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon pointed out that the government received a very similar amount of revenue from high-income earners at low tax rates as it did at tax rates several times as high.

How was that possible? Because high tax rates drive investors into tax shelters, such as tax-exempt bonds. Today, as a result of globalization and electronic transfers of money, "the rich" are even less likely to stand still and be sheared like sheep, when they can easily send their money overseas, to places where tax rates are lower.

Money sent overseas creates jobs overseas -- and American workers cannot transfer themselves overseas to get those jobs as readily as investors can send their money there.

All the overheated political rhetoric about needing to tax "millionaires and billionaires" is not about bringing in more revenue to the government. It is about bringing in more votes for politicians who stir up class warfare with rhetoric.

Now that the Republicans seem to have gotten the Democrats off their higher taxes kick, the question is whether a minority of the House Republicans will refuse to pass the Boehner legislation that could lead to a deal that will spare the country a major economic disruption and spare the Republicans from losing the 2012 elections by being blamed -- rightly or wrongly -- for the disruptions.

Is the Boehner legislation the best legislation possible? Of course not! You don't get your heart's desire when you control only one house of Congress and face a presidential veto.

The most basic fact of life is that we can make our choices only among the alternatives actually available. It is not idealism to ignore the limits of one's power. Nor is it selling out one's principles to recognize those limits at a given time and place, and get the best deal possible under those conditions.

That still leaves the option of working toward getting a better deal later, when the odds are more in your favor.

There would not be a United States of America today if George Washington's army had not retreated and retreated and retreated, in the face of an overwhelmingly more powerful British military force bent on annihilating Washington's troops.

Later, when the conditions were right for attack, General Washington attacked. But he would have had nothing to attack with if he had wasted his troops in battles that would have wiped them out.

Similar principles apply in politics. As Edmund Burke said, more than two centuries ago: "Preserving my principles unshaken, I reserve my activity for rational endeavors."

What does "rational" mean? At its most basic, it means an ability to make a ratio, as with "rational numbers" in mathematics. More broadly, it means an ability to weigh one thing against another.

There are a lot of things to weigh against each other, not only as regards the economy, but also what the consequences to this nation would be to have Barack Obama get re-elected and go further down the dangerous path he has put us on, at home and abroad. Is it worth that risk to make a futile symbolic vote in Congress?

One of the good things about the Tea Party movement is that it resisted the temptation to actually form a third political party, which has been an exercise in futility, time and time again, under the American electoral system.

But, if the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party becomes just a rule-or-ruin minority, then they might just as well have formed a separate third party and gone on to oblivion.

Writers can advocate things that have no chance at the moment, for their very writing about those things persuasively can make them possible at some future date. But to adopt the same approach as an elected member of Congress risks losing both the present and the future.



'Swift Boat' Veteran Who Defended Kerry Stripped of Silver Star

One crook defends another

A Vietnam veteran who defended Sen. John Kerry against "Swift Boat" attacks in the 2004 presidential race has been stripped of his Silver Star by the Navy -- more than a year after he was sentenced to prison on a child pornography charge.
But the Silver Star wasn't stripped from Wade Sanders because of the child porn conviction, per se.

Military officials told Fox News the medal was revoked in 2010 after Navy investigators looked into his record and found administrative errors surrounding how the award was created. Sources said Sanders was responsible for those administrative errors and may have lied.

The case indirectly stemmed from the child porn conviction because the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) only looked into his record after the child pornography charge.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced his decision in a memo last August, though it has only now received greater media attention.
"Had the subsequently determined facts and evidence surrounding both the incident for which the award was made and the processing of the award itself been known to the secretary of the Navy in 1992, those facts would have prevented the award of the Silver Star medal to Wade R. Sanders," Mabus said in the memo, without going into detail.

The decision is the latest blow to Sanders, a decorated Navy veteran who in 2004 stood onstage as Kerry accepted the Democratic nomination for president -- Sanders was among several Vietnam veterans who defended the nominee against criticism of his service by other "Swift Boat" members.

Several years after the campaign, Sanders was hit with the child pornography case in federal court in southern California.
An FBI agent claimed to have found several images and videos of underage naked girls on his computer. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2009 to more than three years in prison. At the time, Kerry and others officials presented letters to the court testifying on behalf of his character and service.

Sanders' lawyers had argued that he obtained the graphic images because he was doing research on child pornography. Further, they claimed he was driven to conduct that research in part because of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He's not a pedophile," Knut Johnson, his defense attorney, told "Wade did a lot of great things for his country and his community."

It's unclear exactly what the justification was for the Silver Star in 1992, though a 2009 court document said it was awarded for "gallantry in action."

Sanders also had been awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. According to military officials, those awards were found to be legitimate.




New York Times Reader Kills Dozens in Norway: "The New York Times wasted no time in jumping to conclusions about Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who staged two deadly attacks in Oslo last weekend, claiming in the first two paragraphs of one story that he was a "gun-loving," "right-wing," "fundamentalist Christian," opposed to "multiculturalism." True, in one lone entry on Breivik's gaseous 1,500-page manifesto, "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," he calls himself "Christian." But unfortunately he also uses a great number of other words to describe himself, and these other words make clear that he does not mean "Christian" as most Americans understand the term. (Incidentally, he also cites The New York Times more than a half-dozen times.)"

Shut down the Postal Service: "The Postal Service has announced that it is closing 3,700 post offices across the country due to financial troubles. I’ve got a better idea. How about closing the Postal Service itself and turning over the delivery of first-class mail entirely to the private sector? After all, the Postal Service is a monopoly. That means the government has granted it an exclusive privilege to deliver first-class mail without fear of competition."

Bollywood vs. jihad: "Islamic fundamentalists have long worried about the threat that Bollywood poses to their puritanical demands. ... They have ample reason to be worried: About 3 billion people, or half the planet, watches Bollywood, and many of them live in the Islamic world. By depicting assimilated, modernized Muslims, Bollywood -- without even trying -- deromanticizes and thereby disarms fanatical Islam. If you can have Munni and Sheila in this world, why on earth would you want to strap bombs to your waist and blow yourself up for the sake of 72 theoretical virgins?"


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Robert said...

Regarding the "Shut down the postal service" article, I remember reading about Lysander Spooner and his mail delivery company which competed directly against the Post Office in the 1800's. He showed back then a private entity (The American Letter Company, I think, was its name) could deliver the mail cost-effectively until the government enforced its monopoly and forced his company to shut down. But it did at least get postage down from 20 cents to 3 cents during its existence.