To use an apposite metaphor (albeit horrific in this case), the Norwegian government is probably shooting itself in the foot by planning to keep Anders Behring Breivik’s trial going for ten weeks. Both feet actually, whether Breivik is subsequently found insane, or sane but guilty. Although the authorities will undoubtedly win their case and he will be incarcerated for many years, if not a lifetime, he has already had one victory and is likely to have another.
Some weeks ago, two government-appointed psychiatrists decided that Breivik was insane. However, a prison psychiatrist who’d observed Breivik closely over a long period said that he was sane and no doubt broke government protocol by saying so. She was very brave to go against what would have been a tide. A subsequent panel of three psychiatrists appointed by the court itself had to agree, of course — Breivik’s sanity is obvious to all now that we can see him on television. However, if the judges shorten the trial in the next few days by over-ruling this assessment (no doubt on exquisitely concocted “legal” grounds) it will be because the Norwegian government has decided that a long trial will have counter-intuitive effects. The law of unintended consequences.
If the Norwegian government has got any sense at all (which I’m sure it has) it will already be carrying out anonymous opinion surveys. (A preliminary one would probably have already persuaded it that Breivik’s “insanity” wouldn’t wash among the general public.) Such surveys would only confirm a powerful and growing resentment at the way that politicians and civil servants of Western countries have turned a blind eye to the growing immigration of poor and uneducated people from Africa and Asia in the past two or three decades. Indeed, the most vociferous against any further immigration comes from previous immigrants who’ve now found jobs, started their own families and are worried about the future job prospects of their own children. They, even more than the ordinary indigenous population, don’t want to see future welfare benefits diluted even further.
So what should the Norweigian government have done? Or do now? Instead of grandstanding for the sake of its multicultural polity, it didn’t need do much. The media have already given us more than enough gruesome evidence, and Breivik has already pleaded guilty. Instead of presenting yet more details and prolonging the anguish of the relatives of the 77 who were shot down by Breivik, a trial of a few days or perhaps one week would have sufficed.
I wouldn’t be surprised if, indeed, the trial is brought to an end this week by one means or another. At diplomatic level, other Western governments must already be requesting this. Breivik hasn’t achieved any dramatic victory but, actually, he’s won. He will have accelerated anti-immigrant feelings — albeit invisibly for the time being. The quicker that he’s put away, the better. I’m not suggesting that there’ll be copycat murders but we can be certain that racial incidents, particularly in Oslo where a quarter of the young people are new immigrants, will have been growing.
We humans have paradoxical instincts which have evolved, and normally express themselves, quite separately according to specific circumstances. In this case two opposing ones have been elicited simultaneously. By far the majority of West Europeans have been horrified by Breivik’s murder of 77 people, particularly of young lives with so much promise. At the same time, most countries’ majorities agree with Breivik that mass immigration must be stopped. If Western governments have any sense at all (which I’m sure they have when push comes to shove) they’ll now be thinking much more seriously about this than they were on 22 July 2011.