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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Norway's Terrorist Was A White-Racist Christian Fundamentalist

No wonder all the wall to wall terror-porn hyperventilation clammed up so suddenly…

More on the evil asshole here.


myst101 said...

His maximum prison sentence under Norwegian law: 21 years. And this time will be spent in relative comfort.

Norway emphasizes rehabilitation and humane treatment. Normally this works, and should be a model for the rest of the world.

However, I fear this exceptional case will strain this progressive model.

jimf said...

> . . .the evil asshole. . .

That word (I mean "evil", not "asshole" ;-> ) always seems fatuous to me when I hear it in this kind of context.

You're certainly not alone in using it, of course -- P. Z. Myers does the same thing:

One thing I have a hard time with is that people only seem to take notice of "evil" when somebody goes completely over the edge and actually kills somebody. The implication seems to be that there was no particular reason to think this guy was anything out of the ordinary, and then boom! he was suddenly revealed to be "evil".

But that's not the way things work, of course. This guy has got to have seemed "off", and "off" in an obviously-dangerous way, to a lot of his acquaintances, and for many years. Just like Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma, or Eric Harris in Colorado, out of a number of high-profile examples in recent years.

But if you mention things like the existence of psychopathy, or cluster B personality disorders, or the kind of stuff Simon Baron-Cohen talks about in his recent book _Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty_, many people -- including you, Dale -- get awfully squeamish. No, no, we musn't "psychologize" people.

Well, if I knew somebody like this Norwegian guy, I'd be "psychologizing" plenty, and -- dare I use the phrase around here :-0 -- a good many politically-correct friends **would not want to hear about it** (and some I can think of would respond not just dismissively, but with anger). And only in **very specific circumstances** would anybody be expected or permitted to take notice of such a person in any kind of official capacity -- such as if someone were making a fellow student or a coworker feel threatened (and probably only in that case if it were a woman being, or feeling, threatened by a man), and even then only **maybe**, depending very heavily on the status and perceived credibility of the complainant (and the authorities involved would still be reluctant to take account of "hearsay", "subjective" testimonies as to the guy's character **before** there was any tangible evidence of wrong-going).

I'm not suggesting that people should be officially classified as "probationary personalities" (as in David Brin's Uplift books), or that people should be arrested on the basis of attempts to predict the future (as in _Minority Report_).

On the other hand, it's just silly to pretend that some people suddenly, for inscrutable reasons, turn "evil", with absolutely no prior indications of their potential for heinous acts.

Part of this, I suspect, has to do with what George Lakoff calls the rationalistic bias of our institutions. We want hard evidence, always, and iron-clad deductive logic. We're very reluctant to make probabilistic judgments based on patterns in large collections of "soft" evidence, at least publicly. Too "subjective".

Dale Carrico said...

I am quite content to designate as evil white-racist fundamentalist Christians, whether they have actually killed anybody or not, as it happens. Starting with members of my own family, if you must know. On a separate note, I daresay Norway's more humane and rehabilitative vantage on the penal system has as much to recommend it as our own brutal racist for-profit monstrosity is a scandal before the world -- though I do still think that murderers should serve a life sentence without parole, while the families, friends, and communities of their victims should have access to them all their long lives through to find their way to forgiveness or not in the fullness of time.