Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass-murderer, the pundits and psychiatrists are quick to say, is insane. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London and one of the most intelligent men in public life, considers that there is nothing to study in Breivik’s mind. That seems altogether too easy a dismissal. All the evidence is that Breivik set about this crime with unusual forethought and a thoroughness which the would-be bomber in Times Square, for example, or the man with explosives in his underwear on the flight to Detroit, were quite incapable of. Breivik is an educated man, he can make good use of a phrase of John Stuart Mill’s. For a long time he has been writing a document of 1,500 pages, a testament in which he lays out that he has enemies, in this case Muslims whom he sees taking over Europe, and the social democrat politicians, all traitors, who collude in their own downfall and the end of Christian culture in the West by encouraging Muslim immigration.
Comparison with the preoccupations of Mein Kampf leaps to mind. Bolstering the Nazi analogy is Breivik’s love of dressing up in bogus uniforms complete with orders and medals. The murderous premeditated attack on the island near Oslo seems his version of the 1923 coup which landed Hitler in prison but gave him the chance to broadcast his ideology. Insane mass killers usually turn their gun on themselves but Breivik has made sure to stay alive in order to oblige people to listen to his explanations of what he has done.
Coincidentally, that same week brought unexpected news of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy. In May 1941, Hess flew to England on a mission that has never been fully explained. Captured, he was held for the rest of the war and tried at Nuremburg where he spoke and acted as though insane, much to the irritation of former colleagues in the dock with him. He spent the rest of his life in a Berlin prison. I once interviewed Frau Hess, herself an unrepentant Nazi, and she proudly showed me among other memorabilia a specially printed copy of Mein Kampf with Hitler’s dedication. Fanatics never give up.
Those executed after the Nuremburg trial were cremated and their ashes scattered. Hess was buried in a family grave at Wunsiedel, in Bavaria. Over the years neo-Nazis have treated Hess’s grave as a place of pilgrimage. Thousands of them parade there, sing their Party songs, give their Party salute, and threaten the peace. At last, the church authorities have cancelled the rights of the Hess family to their plot, and the corpse has been removed and cremated, the ashes now scattered in untraceable water.
Breivik fits into this neo-Nazi underworld now swarming in large numbers, and far more dangerous than insane. They are the mirror image of the militant Islamists busy building a society apart, and if really nobody can devise how this culture-clash should be dealt with, then Breivik may come to be a role model.