Low-Information President

By John R. Lott:

arack Obama stunned Americans and French alike on Tuesday with his false claims about gun violence in America. “I say this every time we’ve got one of these mass shootings. This just doesn’t happen in other countries,” the president claimed, as he has repeatedly over the years. Talk about being self-absorbed.

The French have witnessed three mass public shootings this year. January saw two attacks, one on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and another on a Paris supermarket. In the November attacks, 129 people were killed and 352 were injured. In 2015, France suffered more casualties than the U.S. has suffered during Obama’s entire presidency (508 to 394).

Obama also overlooks Norway, where Anders Behring Breivik used a gun to kill 67 people and wound 110 others. Still others were killed by bombs that Breivik detonated. Of the four worst K-12 school shootings, three have occurred in Europe. Germany had two of these — one in 2002 at Erfut and another in 2009 at Winnenden, with a total death toll of 34.

Obama isn’t correct even if he meant the frequency of fatalities or attacks. Many European countries actually have higher rates of death from public shootings that resulted in four or more murders. It’s simply a matter of adjusting for America’s much larger population.

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The Mind of Anders Breivik

From Theodore Dalrymple:

How does a man in one of the most peaceful societies in the world come to the conclusion that shooting a large number of people unknown to him is to serve the cause of his country?

Several ingredients must be in the witch’s brew of Anders Breivik’s mind.

First is resentment; second, self-importance; third, the desire for fame or notoriety; fourth, the search for a transcendent meaning to life, and fifth, a difficulty in forming ordinary human relationships, whether of love or friendship.

A final precondition is an above-average level of intelligence, for this is necessary in order to rationalise the commission of a deed that would otherwise be repugnant.

Resentment arises when you are not treated or rewarded as you think you deserve to be. Your merits, whether by virtue of birth or accomplishment, go unrecognised. You are therefore a victim of injustice. By definition you can do no wrong when you try to right them.

Self-importance prevents you from putting the wrongs you think you have suffered into any kind of perspective.

You do not see that, by the standards of most people, you have suffered little. You cannot see the difference between mere inconvenience or distaste and severe oppression.

In a world in which celebrity seems so important, obscurity is felt by many as a wound to their ego. Why should others be famous and not me?

If you cannot achieve celebrity by force of talent, then you can do so by means of murder – witness the Crossbow Cannibal.

A wider cause gives meaning and purpose to your life, and persuades you that your resentment, your anger, is not petty or personal, but something much grander. Breivik thought that by acting on his personal resentments he was a saviour of Europe; he might just as well have been an animal rights activist as a nationalist. His monomania relieved his inner emptiness.

A difficulty in forming normal human relationships is another cause for resentment of a man like Breivik, and of yet another wound to his ego. It has to be compensated for somehow, and producing an event of historic importance is one way to do it.

A man must be intelligent to act like Breivik – for he needs not only to plan and execute his “historic” deed, but to be able to weave a coherent, if paranoid and ultimately stupid, justification for it.

The pity for others of a mass killer like Breivik is nil; for himself, infinite.

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The Monster of Monsters

From The Guardian:

What he was about to describe, he cautioned, would be “horrendous”.

But no warning could truly prepare Oslo criminal court for the experience of listening to Anders Behring Breivik detail in a calm, blank way how he gunned down terrified teenagers in the second of two attacks he carried out on 22 July last year.

The 33-year-old spent two hours on Friday afternoon giving a bullet-by-bullet account of what he refers to as his “operation” on the island of Utøya., where the youth wing of Norway’s Labour party was holding its annual summer camp. He shot and killed 67 people on the island that day; another fell off a cliff and died trying to escape. One more, a 17-year-old called Håkon Ødegaard, drowned while attempting to swim away.

Leaning back in his chair, twizzling a pen in his right hand, Breivik – flushed, but never losing control — told of how some of the children he killed were so paralysed with fear that he had time to reload his rifle before shooting them. He’d never seen such a thing, he said – not even on TV.

He recalled teenagers “playing dead” whom he slowly approached before shooting them at close range.

Relatives of those he had killed hugged each other. Some who had dodged his bullets stared straight ahead. There were tears in the eyes of some of the most experienced journalists in the courtroom. Lawyers bit their lips as they listened to Breivik, in a clear, measured voice, remember how he decided halfway through the massacre to “look for places where I would naturally try to hide.”

On the west side of the island, he said he came across a group “hiding, pressing themselves against the cliff face.” With nowhere to run, he was able to shoot them too. Another gang had clustered near an escarpment beneath Kjærlighetsstien, Lovers’ Path. Spotting them, he murdered five, claiming his youngest victim, Sharidyn Meegan Ngahiwi Svebakk-Bøhn, who had just celebrated her 14th birthday.

Breivik remembered campers “screaming and begging for their lives.”

One boy saw him coming and shouted “Please, mate”. Breivik shot him regardless: “I shot everyone there.” He repeatedly recalled taking what he called “follow-up” shots to ensure that those on the ground were really dead. It was just one of a string of military terminology he used on Friday to describe the massacre. He also referred to using a building on the island as a “forward operational base”. It was to there that, in one of the most tragic twists, he had persuaded his first victim to help him carry a bag containing extra rounds of ammunition.

Trond Berntsen, 51, one of the island’s security officials, had met Breivik off the ferry. Utøya’s head of security, Monica Elisabeth Bøsei, had been told by Breivik that he needed to her help to sail to the island because he was a police officer who had come to reassure campers in the wake of the Oslo bombing he had carried out barely an hour earlier. He was dressed in police uniform, and Bøsei believed him. As Breivik put it: “She bought it.” Within five minutes of Breivik setting foot on the island, both the security officals were lying dead between the pier and the so-called information building.

The maximum sentence he can receive in morally enlightened Norway is 21 years in prison: about 100 days per victim.

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