Jacob Sullum on Mass Murderer Anders Breivik and the Fine Line Between Ideology and Insanity


Last Friday, upon receiving the maximum possible penalty for murdering 77 people in and near Oslo a year ago, Anders Behring Breivik smiled. The prison sentence—21 years initially, but indefinitely extendable for as long as Breivik is deemed a threat—meant a five-judge panel had rejected the prosecution's argument that the self-proclaimed anti-Islamic militant was insane when he committed his bloody crimes. Since Breivik feared such a judgment would hurt his political cause, the verdict was, in that sense, a victory for him. But Senior Editor Jacob Sullum says it was also a victory for individual responsibility and the rule of law, both of which are undermined by pseudomedical pronouncements that treat extreme ideas as symptoms of mental illness.