Politically Institutionalized Breivik

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Commercials work. Political campaigns shift votes. Children become educated in schools. Negotiations foster results. By and large, humans influence each others through speaking with each other. Everything we say is intended to move one or more opponents. It would make no sense to debate if we did not influence each other with our words. All communication would be meaningless. The sounds generated in our larynxes would fall on deaf ears, and as a species we would probably never have developed a language. There is no Cartesian dualism where voice and spirit is separated from body and action.

Tell a person that has been a bully victim that repetitive hostile rhetoric or persistent belittlement that words cannot hurt. They may break a child as efficiently and as permanently as violence and sexual abuse. Tell a person who struggles to balance his or her financial situation that the words "you're fired" have no physical consequences before the layoff is effectuated. Tell an innocent person who receives a death sencence in an American court as a result of the prosecutor's sharp tongue that words pose no danger. Tell the person that attempts suicide after years of directed character assinations that noone attempted to cause real damage. Tell the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq that the lies about weapons of mass destructions meant nothing.

If a politcal party did not expect their words to convey any meaning and caused the population to change their behavior, the party would withdraw from the public and stop wasting its time on TV commercials, in debates, in radio interviews, in newspaper columns, and in campaign adverts. No voter would be influenced by the communication, but would vote entirely independent of the messages from the political parties. It is simply obvious that communication from political parties aim to move the population in one way or another. The choice of rhetoric, the choice of subjects, and the choice of argumentation all aim to change the behavior of the population. It is neither unwanted or undesired if an individual is unaffected by the communication from the political parties, it is an unthinkable thought.

Long time of persistent messages create communicating communities of agreement - discourses - which are even ranked alongside the definition of reality, because reality is not objective but a social definition - through language. Language describes reality: the words attached to meanings that are worth assimilating or opposing, sentences defines the subjects that one is expected to be concerned with; the language composes the reality that is describable and thus relatable. The more a reality is described in one's society, the more present it becomes; it becomes institutionalized.

And that is why the racist dis­cour­se of the Scand­in­avi­an right-wing parties plays a role in cre­at­ing an­i­m­os­ity against im­mi­g­rants in the Scand­in­avi­an pop­u­la­tions. The strong and per­s­ist­ent anti-Muslim dis­cour­se creates hos­til­ity against Middle-Eastern pop­u­la­tions in the so­ci­et­ies. It would be crazy to suggest that this hos­til­ity had grown en­tirely in­de­pend­ently of the right-wing parties, even if taking into account that the parties them­selves are in­flu­enced by their re­spect­ive support bases. Deny this nexus, and you must deny one of the most im­port­ant pillars of lan­guage, philo­so­phy, and dis­sem­in­a­tion of know­ledge.

This make the Scand­in­avi­an right-wing parties squarely co-re­s­pon­s­ible for the po­s­i­tion that the right-ex­trem­ist, Nor­we­gi­an mass mur­der­er­ Anders Breivik had ar­t­ic­u­lated; even Breivik himself knew this and re­fer­red to the Nor­we­gi­an and Danish right-wing parties. Anders Breivik can be ex­pec­ted to suffer from a per­son­al­ity dis­order­, but it the rhet­or­ic ques­tion is obvious: would Anders Breivik's per­son­al­ity dis­order­ have become man­i­fest as mass murder if his per­cep­tion of reality had been nour­ished by a rhet­or­ic about peace­ful co­ex­ist­ence instead of the hostile rhet­or­ic applied by his pol­it­ic­al idols?

The answer, as Philip Zombardo has stressed, to examine the individual only when all other explanations have been abandoned; you are not who you are; you are where you are, that is, your identity and demeanor is primarily determined by your physical and communicative surroundings. Anders Breivik had taken note of the rhetoric and embodied it. Much of the hostile rhetoric would only be possible through actions such as Anders Breivik's on a larger scale. Imprisonments in concentration camps, genocide, and mass deportations are the only way the hostile rhetoric could be accomplished in practice, and in this light, Anders Brevik's only personality disorder is his lacking ability to understand that the action, and hence the rhetoric, is insane.

It is not even certain that Anders Brevik suffers from a personality disorder. If a hundred people stand at the docks and yell: "push him off the docs!" about a person and one of the 100 people suddenly pushes the person, it would be absurd to assign all blame to that one person and claim that the shouts of the remaining 99 individuals had never been heard. Anders Breivik's statements and opinions are far from unheard on the extreme right wing, and he may have been led by the extremist rhetoric in the same way as solders are driven to shoot at an enemy that they have been conditioned to view as inhuman.

The Scandinavian right-wing parties cannot be held responsible for the probability that Anders Breivik suffers from a personality distorder, but their rhetoric guides the actions and opinions that a person such as Anders Breivik will assume. It is shameful that instead they cast all guilt aside and continue with their hateful rhetoric as usual.

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This page contains a single entry by Ole Wolf published on September 4, 2011 11:16 AM.

The Stabwounds in My Back was the previous entry in this blog.

The Mythical Nazi is the next entry in this blog.

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