It’s easy to concentrate on the election here and miss what’s happening in Europe, such as, for example, Sarkozy’s threatened ousting in the impending French election by socialist challenger Hollande. It’s all about the economy, stupid:
With the highest joblessness in 12 years and an economy barely growing, Sarkozy has trailed Hollande in every poll in a head-to-head match in the past 11 months. Hollande promises more spending and higher taxes, saying Sarkozy’s tax cuts worsened French finances and failed to create jobs. Sarkozy claims credit for spending cuts and a retirement-age increase that he says warded off the worst of the euro debt crisis turmoil.
The French election has several rounds, of which Sunday’s is only the first, to narrow down the field—almost certainly to Sarkozy vs. Hollande, who leads so far.
There there’s the trial of Anders Breivik, home-grown Norwegian terrorist mass murderer. You can be forgiven for not wanting to revisit that story of almost unimaginable cruelty and horror, but in the Norwegian legal system Breivik gets a chance to speak at length at his trial and read a two-hour-long statement describing his crimes step by bloody step:
The 33-year-old spent two hours on Friday afternoon giving a bullet-by-bullet account of what he refers to as his “operation” on the island of Utøya., where the youth wing of Norway’s Labour party was holding its annual summer camp. He shot and killed 67 people on the island that day; another fell off a cliff and died trying to escape. One more, a 17-year-old called Håkon Ødegaard, drowned while attempting to swim away.
Leaning back in his chair, twizzling a pen in his right hand, Breivik – flushed, but never losing control — told of how some of the children he killed were so paralysed with fear that he had time to reload his rifle before shooting them. He’d never seen such a thing, he said – not even on TV.
He recalled teenagers “playing dead” whom he slowly approached before shooting them at close range.
Relatives of those he had killed hugged each other. Some who had dodged his bullets stared straight ahead. There were tears in the eyes of some of the most experienced journalists in the courtroom. Lawyers bit their lips as they listened to Breivik, in a clear, measured voice, remember how he decided halfway through the massacre to “look for places where I would naturally try to hide.”
One of the biggest questions in the trial is whether Breivik is insane, which in Norway means too psychotic too control his actions. Some psychiatrists have argued that he is, but Breivik himself says no and from what I’ve heard I would most definitely agree with him, although I’m not a psychiatrist.
Here’s Breivik on the subject:
“This case is very simple,” said Breivik. “I’m not a psychiatric case and I am sane … it’s very important to see the difference between political extremism and lunacy in a clinical sense.”
Questioned by his own lawyers how he was able to carry out the attacks, he described a “meditation” technique he had developed which mixed “Christian prayer” and Japanese “Bushido warrior codex” practised by Samurai fighters.
He insisted he was a “nice person” who was capable of empathising with those whose lives he had ruined, but that he had chosen not to as a self-preservation technique. “In many ways it is a protection mechanism,” he said. “First of all, if you are going to be capable of executing such a bloody and horrendous operation you need to work on your mind, your psyche for years. We have seen from military traditions you cannot send an unprepared person into war.”
Asked how he was able to talk about the atrocities in such an impassive manner, Breivik said he had learnt to rely on “technical, de-emotionalised language” — “if I was going to use normalised language it would not have been possible” to go through police interviews and “this trial”, he added. “People say, ‘he must be a monster, he cannot be from this planet, he must have no emotions and empathy left’, but this has to do with preparing and training.”
Questioned as to his client’s sanity after the end of the court session, Geir Lippestad, Breivik’s defence lawyer, said: “It’s not just a coincidence that very skilled experts have arrived at different conclusions.”