Is Breivik insane? Dalrymple comments

After we commented to Dr. Dalrymple on the number of people describing the Norwegian mass murderer with phrases like “obviously insane”, we asked the doctor whether this was necessarily so, and received the following reply from him:
It is always hazardous to pronounce on the mental state of someone one had not met, and about whom one knows only a little and third-hand. But all the same, one is tempted… 
The first trap to avoid is to say person x did act y because [he] is or has z, and we know he is or has z because he did y. This is circular.
But there does seem to be evidence that Breivik was narcissistic, grandiose, paranoid, socially and sexually inept, and deeply resentful. This is a horrible mixture, though any explanation will always be incomplete and not pluck out the heart of his mystery.
I think it unlikely he is legally insane according to the M’Naghten rules that govern legal insanity in a lot of the English-speaking world. He knew the nature…[a]nd quality of his act and that [it] was (legally) wrong, to use the wording of the rules, and therefore would not be entitled to a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Again, please note the disclaimer at the beginning of his statement.

16 thoughts on “Is Breivik insane? Dalrymple comments

  1. Gavin

    Fascinating. I was looking forward to seeing what TD had to say. Perhaps he will write more in due course..

    There’s been a lot of interesting reporting going on over at the Telegraph http://goo.gl/p4eNz re. this, with the lawyer passing comment on this issue (also Ed West has commented).

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  2. Jay C

    In what way is “sexually inept” a complete explanation of a killing spree?
    It is a commonplace that many of the wicked men through history have had trouble either forming sexual relationships or physically consummating them. Such a condition has always been part of a greater psychopathology; in fact, the opposite extreme of sexual insatiability and perversity has been directly responsible for murders many times over.
    Is this not offensive to the millions of people with social difficulties or impotence who do not harm others?
    You said in a previous post about the decay of Western civilisation that refusal to sublimate sexual desire into something more refined is one of the problems, and directly feeds into egotism with its attendant social deviancy. Any otherwise normal person with hang-ups over sex would not take their frustration out on strangers with bullets.

    There is one line in Our culture, What’s left of it (the first time I read Dalrymple was in this book, then I discovered his older writings) that profoundly disconcerted me. Analysing Measure for Measure, he says “prostitutes are necessary as a safety valve, but not a good model of intimate human relations.” This delineates where his worldview diverges from mine, me being a Christian and a believer in chastity while he (surprisingly given the rest of his oeuvre) holds to the view that if you avoid sex you are likely to have mental problems because of the rage and frustration; “safety valve” suggests something that is dangerous if not appropriately released. Therefore it’s best to marry or be in a long term relationship- but, if you can’t get a partner because you are socially awkward in the extreme or spend your life travelling knock on that discreet well-varnished door with the red light above it and do what “must” be done.

    A psychologist- I can’t remember his name but it will be up there with Kinsey, Mead and Sanger- said if a man does not experience < > for 7 days serious damage will start to be done to his mind. I wonder how he can explain all the sane Evangelical Christians and observant Catholic men who strive to avoid even sexual thoughts…oh no, they are already insane, for denying materialistic evolution.

    I have even heard Protestants claiming priestly celibacy is the root cause of the Catholic paedophile scandal; this is against pretty much all the evidence we have on how the human mind operates. If you are sexually normal and try to escape from the fleshly domain of sex with women in order to become closer to the purity of God, you will not start to have desires of copulating with other men, then with children, and then of violently raping and sexually torturing those children, and then begin acting on them. They were perverse and spiritually deficient in the first place, or became weak in their faith and practice; else they would have grown in holiness.

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  3. Jay C

    In the above comment originally said “la petite mort” (a delicate term for sexual release which I wrote in angle brackets in the French way.)

    Not conversant with the mechanics of the Web I did not expect the words to be omitted due to my use of those brackets.

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  4. Jitpring

    Jay C, I agree with you. Dalrymple’s atheism (more specifically, his non-Catholicism) leads to a number of blind spots. You’ve identified one. (Make no mistake: I consider him to be the most brilliant essayist among secularists today.) Nevertheless, as a number of his essays show, he recognizes original sin (or at least the social utility of the idea of original sin; a “noble lie,” so to speak). I consistently pray for his conversion to Catholicism (and none other than Catholicism; that is, not Protestantism, the neo-Protestantism of the Vatican II Novus Ordo church, or anything else non-Catholic).

    Gloria in excelsis Deo!

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  5. Jay C

    I once wrote that “if Christianity was not true, it would still be a noble lie.” -Believing it is a noble lie will improve one’s sublunary conduct, but unfortunately does not lead to Heaven without repentance.

    Other things we would find to be blind spots in Dalrymple are his belief in hypocrisy and saying that sex scandals are better kept secret- but traditional Catholic doctrine includes a sin of calumny, “saying something true of another which one has no business saying.” This could be taken to exclude revealing information that a friend has confided about their sins to the Press.

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  6. Jaxon

    Jay C
    I am in error, it was a careless, absurd response – certainly not appropriate in this context, thank you for taking the time, thoughtfully responding to me.

    “Is this not offensive to the millions of people with social difficulties or impotence who do not harm others?”

    It may not entirely surprise you, give or take a few details perhaps, that I pretty much fit that discription.

    Interestingly enough I have also taken issue with that very comment from Measure For Measure essay – I basically don’t agree with it, I agree with you, but more from a residual religious perspective – a respect for the virtue of chastity.

    I think I largely agree with Jonathan Sacks ‘The Great Partnership’ about hwo the Greek conceptual filter (not his words) has skewed the view of a great many people with regards to the concept of orignal sin, ascetism and more besides.

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  7. Jaxon

    While we’re on the subject I’ll take the opportunity to express concerns about how sexuality, a form of anti feminism and religion manifest perniciously.

    It occurred to me in relation to the two Austrian cases of cellar abduction and Stockholm syndrome; for want of a better way of putting it.

    http://knol.google.com/k/stockholm-syndrome-kidnapping-and-childhood-abuse#

    I have a form of anti-feminism that I’ve probably expressed more carelessly than not, I wish to distinguish it from what may appear a closely related strain.
    Basically where zealot ‘Christians’ set themselves up something like vultures in their warped society enclaves – they can count on the corrupt outside world to alienate people, not least women, who in their vulnerability seek out refuge in said ‘enclave’. They exploit this vulnerability – maybe get themselves a wife.

    When, after sometime the ‘wife’ having had time to establish a less warped view, becomes less grateful, perhaps resentful, and not sexually receptive – the husband shows his true malicious colours – leveraging the threat of eternal damnation (probably explicitly) – should not his wife give sexual gratification on demand. Dispicable!

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  8. Jaxon

    hmmm better hope and pray you’ve got your method of repentance right.

    Some no doubt say that peeling back the layers of cognitive processes you get to a point where the impulse to better ‘sublunary’ conduct (Matt 25:36) is indistinguishable from the impulse to humility in the form of repenting to a psychologically generated concept, an intuition, many call God.

    And some respond: the keeper of the keys to the gates of heaven and hell has no problem distinguishing.

    And others say, but that’s a ‘Greek’ esp Pauline, (either/or, sheep/goat (geep?) left hemisphere)’universalism’ propensity as oppose to the (right hemisphere) more concerned with particularities, truer to the human condition.

    and so on…

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  9. Orion Blue

    If le petite more in angle brackets is the French way of putting it, then what does that make an XML Document?

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  10. Jaxon

    Here’s an elaboration, that goes some way to explain my impatient regrettable distillation, as it were (I know I’m rather tiresome on the matter).

    Well, anything like this, interpreting social misfits etc, there’s a number of lens’ to use, Political, economic, racial etc the first question that comes to my mind is always the most fundamental… if you go back in time these various cultural lens’ become less relevant – go back far enough the last one standing (other than need for food, clothing, shelter) is Sexual Selection.

    I’ve done a quick search and one article says:

    “He had few friends and no serious girlfriends and his writings betray a deep bitterness at being abandoned by his father at the age of 15.”

    Society is ill equipped to address this problem – pornography is rampant, a potent indicator of just how problematic this is – ill equipped because there’s too much ‘interest’ on the part of the most powerful (the majority in ‘democracy’) in society, the world, to maintain sexual freedoms that are antagonistic to social capital.

    Apparently if the usually monogamous Meadow Vole (the embryo, I think) is injected with a Oxytocin Antagonist (OTA) it becomes polygamous, aggresive, like its cousin the Montane Vole…

    Society has embraced something like an equivalent, it dissolves that which gives relationships meaning – “being abandoned by his father” … why aren’t I surprised.

    That’s not a huge improvement but hey, there it is

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  11. PJN

    I actually tried to get a more elaborated responce from Mr Daniels on the issue of prostitutes last fall when he was in Belgium.
    To my amazement, he was taken aback by those words ‘prostitutes as a safe valve’. “Did I really write that?” he asked.

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  12. Clinton

    I apologize for my delay in approving your comment. Our blogging platform automatically, and erroneously, marked it as spam.

    Interesting and amusing that he said that to you. He is so prolific I don’t doubt that he can’t remember everything he writes, or sometimes says things he might on reflection wonder about. At what event did you see him?

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