The Norwegian Predator – Grendel’s Bastard Spawn

The Norwegian Predator –Grendel’s Bastard Spawn

A Meditation

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

The Norse monster, Grendel (that nemesis of Beowulf) killed vulnerable humans in their sleep.

The signature of the modern monster is always the same – the suicidal grandiosity (suicide and homicide are emotional twins), the naked craving for fame and significance, and the obsession with the Final Gesture (they will remember me!).

The details vary, as does the scope of the damage, which is closely tied to the intelligence, luck and planning of the malefactor, and the vulnerability, bad luck and unpreparedness of the victims.

But monsters reveal the innate weaknesses, practical and moral, in the societies that hatch them.  One category of weakness is post-modern liberalism (exempting the robust old fashioned variety).

Norway was asleep on June 22 of last year when Grendel’s bastard-spawn harvested 71 bodies.  Norway and has yet to wake up from the half-sleep called post-modern liberalism.

Now liberalism is often a wonderful thing.  I’m thinking particularly of the early reforms in the US criminal justice system from 1927-1967 founded in the principle that the rich and poor should be equally accountable to and protected by the law; as it worked its way into the system, much more good than harm followed: This was the brand of liberalism that strove to reform the justice system such that that no poor arrestee would go unrepresented by able counsel; that  no rich miscreant would escape justice; and that the police officers would be held to a high standard of veracity and performance.  It was a profoundly liberal idea and it remains profoundly important.  It was a high moment in justice, an apotheosis point, in which the practical and ideal were in league with each other.

But note the word accountability.  No seriously liberal at the time thought that weakening accountability for wrongdoing was a good idea for the poor or anyone else.  After all, poor people (as I can personally attest from 28 years in the field) are harmed far more by criminal activity than are the well off.

In the greater sweep of history, the liberal project is about erasing boundaries, and the conservative project is about preserving them.  Each project has had its day, its value and its place, and each will again.

Post-modern liberalism is toxic.  Among the boundaries that post-modern liberalism has helped dissolve are three that constitute essential bulwarks of the civilized life:

  • the boundary between accountability and its absence;
  • the boundary between moral categories and medical ones;
  • …and the boundary between good and evil.

Now imagine the following scenario taking place during any part of the two decades between 1939 and 1959 in the USA that hatched the Greatest Generation:

An arrogant, 32 year old man sets off an explosive in a major city, killing 8 innocent men and women; then he then methodically mows down 69 more – boys and girls at an undefended youth group, before he is finally taken alive.  After being apprehended, he confirms that his were intentional killings – he was making a political point. [I’ll spare you the gruesome details the screams, the running, the pleas for mercy, the loading and reloading, the remorseless calm of the killer.] Yet no one openly condemns the crimes as evil.

The death penalty has long since been removed from the table – accountability for a deliberate, intentional, culpable murder of another human being is set at 22 years in a well-managed prison or mental hospital.  Soon after the arrest, the appointed mental health professionals declare that the killer is mentally ill. After a political blowback, other experts say that he is sane, taking care not to disrespect their colleagues’ contrary view.  Months later, the law and justice authorities are still hand wringing about this killer’s mental illness or lack thereof – the resolution of which will be up to the trial judges.  Although the crime of first degree murder only carries two decade term in prison (assuming the man is not kept in a mental facility), the official spokespersons say that this killer probably won’t be released (if convicted) because of the government’s policy of “preventative detention.”

Of course this is all about Anders Behring Breivik whose mass murders took place on Utoya Island in Norway June 22 last year, immediately following his Oslo bombing.

By the way, Breivik is currently bragging during his trial, revealing a plan to seize and behead the former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland on Utoya (a woman who fortunately had already left the island by the time the shooting started).  Note that Breirvik fully expected to be shot during his homicide spree, revealing that this was to be his classic grand suicidal gesture. So we are in his bonus, center stage period.

The first government mental health experts to see this miscreant found that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, a finding that would have averted prison in favor of a hospital.  This caused a public outcry (the first sign that Norway may be waking up).  There is now a contrary opinion by a brace of new mental health experts who spent 37 hours interviewing the killer. The psych file that the prosecutor must deal with is 310 pages long.  The new psych teams opined that there is a danger that Breivik, if ever released, would kill again. Preventative detention must be used.

A representative of the survivors (from a government-support group) has been quoted as acknowledging that when passions were high, some wanted Breivik executed, but said “If we introduce the death penalty, we become like him. I’m proud to be Norwegian, that we don’t have a death penalty such as other countries.”

Norway dumped the death penalty in 1979, having earlier limited its use to military discipline in 1905.  Of course the Norwegian traitor, Vidkun Quisling (who led Norway after a Nazi engineered coup 1942 to 1945), was executed by a military firing squad in October 1945 for High Treason.

Whatever you say about the death penalty, its elimination in favor of a comfortable prison term for 22 years represents a diminution of accountability. In contrast with Anglo-American criminal justice that requires the participation of citizen jurors, the Norwegian system is entirely administrative in nature.  This is in tune with the general socialist cast of Norway’s overall governance.  The Anglo-American criminal law is the product of the rich, textured legacy on the English common law that grew up organically over time on a case by case basis.  Norway’s criminal justice system and philosophy is the product of academic theory, while the common Law springs for cumulative experience.

Contrast the approach to mental illness as it impacts criminal responsibility.  Most American jurisdictions use some variation of the “McNaughton” test. Daniel McNaughton was a real man, not a social theory.  The matter arose when he murdered Edward Drummond the secretary of the British Prime Minister Robert Peel in 1843.  The following rule (as promulgated by the House of Lords) was announced for all future cases:

“[T]he jurors ought to be told in all cases that every man is presumed to be sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to their satisfaction; and that to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.”

There are a number of modern variations in US jurisprudence but the moral component, the quaint notion that there is a “right and wrong” to which a presumed sane miscreant is expected to direct his or her attention, remains part of the test.

So far, in spite of the march of post-modern thinking, we Americans have not allowed the law to diminish responsibility by eliminating its ineluctable moral component form the criminal law or by allowing medical categories to totally eclipse moral ones.  At some level, mere derangement cannot be twisted into non-accountability.

Contrast Norway:

Section 44. A person who was psychotic or unconscious at the time of committing the act shall not be liable to a penalty. The same applies to a person who at the time of committing the act was mentally retarded to a high degree.” [From the General Civil Penal Code of Norway, unofficial translation 2006]

In my professional opinion, Norway is attempting to deal with an evil, homicidal sociopath for whom ideology was just a means and a justification – part of a larger nihilist game that is playing out in a vulnerable culture.

Susceptible minds will succumb to evil ideation from time to time, and the test is not the particular flavor of ideology that happens to capture their fancy.  Breivik’s ideation was different in detail and target selection from, say, the homicidal architects of the September 11th 2001 immolation, but his immoral devotion to indiscriminate homicide, the addiction to a grand gesture that would somehow bring down the world, were clear indicia of a mind succumbing to an evil agenda.

This was Faust succumbing to the blandishments of Grendel, not some hapless, weak minded fool succumbing to imaginary voices.


Copyright 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

First published on the Policy Think Site { }and the Out*Lawyer’s Blog

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