The Lawyer Lippestad

This will be the last post on this subject as it is too horrific and exhausting to continually engage with.

It is reported that Breivik’s lawyer, Geir Lippestad has said that he believes his client is insane. For the record, what Lippestad said is,”This whole case indicated that he is insane.” And that is the difficulty. How to separate, in retrospect, the man Breivik from his mission. And not just the man, but the man’s mind.

Once you know what horror he has perpetrated, which in my mind, Lippestad’s mind, is insane beyond belief, how can you say he is not mad? And if you are the lawyer, holed up with a mass murderer for hours listening to an individual, alternate reality wherein we are just behind in our thinking by about 60 years and by then Breivik’s actions as part of wider war will be understood, how could you not doubt the man’s sanity. Because if Lippestad did not doubt that Breivik’s whole thinking was insane, then where an earth would that leave him. A plea of insanity, which Breivik has not made, is inversely a plea for his lawyer’s sanity.

How do beliefs, realities and narratives combine to inform a true madness? Can you really retrospectively judge the mind that planned the insane and murderous action for years beforehand? Do you just judge the act in isolation or the person after it? If someone acted alone, with no group to sponsor the atrocity does that make it more a terrorist act and less mad? Where are the lines drawn?

I am back now to where they started the debate on the Today programme I think. Are we culturally more inclined to dismiss a white loner as a madman than an Islam fundamentalist? Take Richard Reid the thankfully failed shoe bomber; he acted alone, but he had trained in a terror camp in Afghanistan; that connection rendering him more sane than Breivik at least in the view of the Western World. More answers than questions here I am afraid, but insanity as a label because we cannot conceive of another’s beliefs, let alone actions, means we learn little about others and even less about ourselves.

Posted on July 26, 2011, in News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. This has always intrigued me. When did society say what is acceptable and what is not. Who made the norms and values? Are people innately good and bad, admittedly slaughtering people is at the extreme end of badness, but then again that’s from my societies values. Why does everything seem to stop you doing things? And don’t start with religion!

    I think this ties in well with that freedom post earlier in the week/last week.

  2. Well I suppose I don’t know because acts of ‘madness’ and good v bad can encompass moral and philosophical questions which are for individuals to answer as well as the religious, medical and legal questions which are constructs of society which we imagine are formed by a majority view as they serve to keep the critical mass in line but, at their inception, are they by us or for us?

    Ideas that eventually prove to be valuable and ‘true’ for humankind must often start as a lone voice flowing against the tide. Imagine being the round earth drinker in the flat earth pub. I would never think that what happened in Norway is an example of that though – and I think, somewhat unsatisfactorily, that individuals are never mandated to declare war on others.

    Does that mean I think groups are? No, it doesn’t. Does it mean I think countries are? Well yes, sometimes 😩

  3. People seem to have different reactions to feeling out of control. I imagine he did it for a much more personal reason than we know. Did something change in his life?

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