CyberShrink on rampage killers

The world is horrified at the two attacks in Norway which have left almost a hundred people, most of them teenagers, dead. What motivates a rampage killer and what exactly triggers such a tragic event?  CyberShrink comments.

The bomb explosion near government buildings left at least seven people dead, and in the brutal systematic attack on teenagers at a youth camp on the island of Utoeya at least 85 people were killed during the hour the killer went on a rampage. A 32-year-old Norwegian man, Anders Behring Breivik, has been arrested in connection with both of these attacks. What sort of person can do something such as this?

So often the killer is a bitter loner, who has possibly been disappointed in a love affair (real or imagined). This person builds hatred and resentment not only against some specific individuals whom he holds responsible for having caused his grief, but also against all the rest of us.

It's as though he sees the world as divided into two teams - him versus the rest of us. Thus, like most terrorists, he sees no possibly innocent victims - so long as he is unhappy, nobody else ought to be happy, and we are all fair game to him. This is the ultimate loser's revenge.

This time, the killer was a young white male, who apparently belonged to a far right-wing anti-immigration party and was also part of a Swedish neo-Nazi internet forum and wrote blogs attacking Islam.

Triggers for rampage killings
Often a trigger for these tragic events is a split-up of love affairs. It is uncertain whether this was the case where Breivik was concerned. Split-ups are sad and annoying, and can be hard to cope with, but why should love, even love frustrated, lead to such hatred and the killing of others obviously not involved in the affair?

Part of the frustration of the victim communities is that these events usually end with the death of the killer, either by suicide or at the hands of the police. While this may end the killings, it also often ends the possibility of getting answers to the many questions that continue to trouble victims. He's not around to answer the questions, not even as an easy target for our anger. This has not been the case in the Norwegian attacks. It appears that the killer handed himself over, and that he was fully armed at the time, so could have killed himself if he had wanted to.

Senseless events?
And yet again, following such a mass tragedy, we both declare the events to be "senseless" and demand that they must make sense. But such killers are not being sensible to begin with. There are no sensible reasons for a massacre. It is, genuinely, non-sense.

We must also be wary of our motivation for wanting to blame the authorities when such things happen. Emotionally, such scape-goating is a way of convincing ourselves that this could not happen here (although it might). It appears that Breivik was very organized in carrying out this operation: the bomb explosion in Oslo served to divert the attention of the police from the bigger tragedy that was unfolding on Utoeya and it gave him the opportunity to go to the island under the guise of a security operation.

(Prof. M.A. Simpson, aka CyberShrink, Health24 July 2011)

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