CRAIG BROWN: Anders Breivik’s childhood was unloved, friendless and cruel

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Feb 28, 2015 in Rat News | Subscribe

Craig Brown Event for The Mail on Sunday

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One Of Us: The Story Of Anders Breivik

Asne Seierstad                                                                                        ★★★★★ 

Awaiting trial, Anders Breivik was to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Awaiting trial, Anders Breivik was to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

It begins with a group of children running away from gunfire. 

They imagine there are several gunmen set on killing them. 

‘Let’s lie down and pretend we’re dead,’ says one of the boys. 

‘Lie down in strange positions so they think we’re dead!’

But there is only one gunman: he knows who he has already shot, and who he has not. 

So far, he has killed 22 people on the island, at a rate of roughly one a minute. 

Seeing the children pretending to be dead, he starts to shoot them through the head, one by one.

By page five, I was already wishing I didn’t have to carry on reading this horribly upsetting book about the peculiarly repellent Anders Breivik and the devastation he wrought in Norway on July 22, 2011. 

Five hundred pages later, I put it down with relief, freed at last from the grip of such evil, and such sadness.

Breivik was born in 1979. In One Of Us, the Norwegian author Asne Seierstad (who wrote the bestselling The Bookseller Of Kabul) charts his life so meticulously that she even includes a passage about his behaviour in the womb.

‘It’s as if he kicks me almost on purpose, to torment,’ complains Wenche, Breivik’s paranoid mother-to-be.

The baby looks slightly blue when he is born, and his mother’s first thought is that he is abnormal. She soon sinks into a depression.

This description of Breivik’s birth reminds me of the short story by her fellow Norwegian, Roald Dahl, in which a German woman called Klara gives birth to a frail little boy, who may not survive. 

‘He must live… He must… Oh God, be merciful unto him now…’ And then we learn that this baby is Adolf Hitler.

Breivik’s mother was a paranoid schizophrenic, as was her mother. His father was a cold and distant Norwegian diplomat. 

When Breivik was six months old, the family moved to the Embassy in London, but after another six months Wenche had had enough of their starchy lifestyle, and returned to Oslo with her baby and his half-sister.

Breivik’s childhood might have been specially designed to create an adult monster. Deciding that she couldn’t handle her child seven days a week, Wenche farmed him out to a young couple at weekends. 

From the start, young Breivik appears to have been preternaturally unlovable. A child psychiatrist noted that he took no joy in life, with no spontaneity, and no capacity for empathy 

From the start, young Breivik appears to have been preternaturally unlovable. A child psychiatrist noted that he took no joy in life, with no spontaneity, and no capacity for empathy 

‘She asked if Anders could occasionally touch his weekend dad’s penis. It was important for the boy’s sexuality. 

‘He had no father figure in his life and Wenche wanted the young man to assume that role… The young couple were speechless.’

From the start, young Breivik appears to have been preternaturally unlovable. A child psychiatrist noted that he took no joy in life, with no spontaneity, and no capacity for empathy. 

If this were a novel, the author would be obliged to give him one or two redeeming qualities. But truth can be simpler than fiction. 

‘Aggressive, and nasty with it,’ read his case notes from the Oslo Health Board.

He had no friends. His childhood hobbies included snapping the heads off roses, throwing stones through windows, and killing ants. 

He kept pet rats, and liked to poke them with pencils. As he grew up, he took pleasure in bullying younger children. 

‘If he could make someone cry, he would gloat and his eyes would sparkle,’ recalls a contemporary.

Aged 13, he took up graffiti, and briefly became part of a gang. The name he gave himself – and which he spray-painted on every available wall – was Morg, after an executioner in a Marvel comic who murders his own people.

But Breivik soon fell out with the rest of the gang and switched his allegiance to Norway’s Progress Party, a more strident version of our own Ukip – anti-immigrant, anti-socialist, anti-tax. 

By the age of 18 he had risen to the post of deputy chairman of the Oslo West Youth Wing. 

But there remained something about him that put others off, and when they failed to pick him as a candidate in the city elections he decided he had had enough.

Breivik may have been unlovable, but he wasn’t stupid; before long, he was making quite a bit of money printing and selling false certificates – doctorates, medical diplomas, and so forth. 

An image, taken from a police helicopter, showing Breivik during his rampage on Utøya island. Dressed as a policeman, he tells the children that he has come to protect them, then shoots them dead

An image, taken from a police helicopter, showing Breivik during his rampage on Utøya island. Dressed as a policeman, he tells the children that he has come to protect them, then shoots them dead

At the same time, a second cousin had got him inducted into the Freemasons, though his attendance record was poor.

After his false certificate business went belly-up, he moved back to his mother’s flat, and locked himself away in his room. 

There he spent the next five years playing online war games, killing virtual enemies non-stop, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, taking an annual break only to watch the Eurovision Song Contest on television.

After five years, he graduated to anti-Muslim websites, full of conspiracy theories about Muslims taking over Norway, raping and murdering Scandinavian women, and so on. 

In his blogs, he awarded himself increasingly grand titles, all of them fostering the illusion that he had friends and followers: Knight Commander Of The Knights Templar, Distinguished Destroyer Of Cultural Marxism, Commander Of The Norwegian Anti-Communist Resistance Movement. 

He also posted tips for murdering socialists, such as acquiring a police uniform so you can move around unchallenged with weapons, and getting a job at a political youth camp.

‘You should also equip yourself with a personal picture gallery, because if you were arrested the police would only release retarded-looking photos of you,’ he advised. 

For better photos, he suggested a stint in a solarium, and even the use of a professional make-up artist.

Later, awaiting trial, he was to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but this was an understatement. 

The first thing he said to the psychiatrists who came to examine him after his arrest was that every forensic psychiatrist in the world would be envying them their task.

Was he mad, or bad? I remember years ago the late Gordon Burn, who wrote a book about the Yorkshire Ripper, telling me he thought it was a false dichotomy: you can be both.

Certainly, the pages in One Of Us that detail the way Breivik shot those teenagers, one by one, on the island of Utøya, suggest he was in some way inhabited by evil, and that though his murderous instinct may have arisen from a combination of any number of disorders and neuroses, it now had an independent existence.

Dressed as a policeman, Breivik tells the children that he has come to protect them, then shoots them dead. He is intrigued by the sound emitted by their heads when he shoots them.

‘It was sort of ah, an exhalation, a breath. How interesting, he thought. I had no idea. 

‘The sound did not always come, but usually it did; he wondered about it each time he killed a person.’

Books about serial killers are generally trashy and repugnant, elevating the murderer to an anti-hero while marginalising his victims. 

With his bomb in the centre of Oslo, then his shootings on Utøya, Breivik killed 77 people, so Seierstad has been obliged to marginalise all but a few of his victims. 

Nevertheless, she succeeds in depicting the full horror of his crime, as well as the essential banality of his ‘philosophy’.

The book appears scrupulously researched, with nothing made up or what Hollywood, in its weaselly way, calls ‘based on’ the truth. 

Seierstad’s prose may be a little preeningly faux-naif in parts, with too many paragraphs consisting of a single sentence of just three or four short words.

On the other hand, she has a remarkable eye for the haunting detail, particularly of empathy, and of grief. 

A forensic technician, herself a mother of two children, has to place the corpses of the victims into body bags, but before she does so she strokes each one gently on the cheek.

The younger brother of a surviving teenager, whose arm has been amputated, tucks his own arm into his sweater, explaining, ‘I’ve got to find out what it’s like, so I can teach him when he wakes up’.

And, most moving of all, this is the scene on the island in the early hours of the morning following the massacre: ‘All over the island sounds were ringing out.’

The opening notes of a symphony, a Justin Bieber song, the signature tune of The Sopranos, or just standard ringtones. 

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Many of the phones were set to silent, because their owners had been trying to hide and did not want to be given away by their phones. 

Now their mobiles were lighting up soundlessly in the darkness. Some through a blanket, in a pocket, in a stiffened hand.

‘They were calls that would never be answered. 

‘Only the police officers set to watch over the dead could hear the tunes or see the displays, lighting up over and over again. Mum Mum Mum Mum. Until the batteries gave up, one after another.’

 


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Article source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/event/article-2970411/CRAIG-BROWN-Anders-Breivik-s-childhood-unloved-friendless-cruel.html

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