Will Breivik Keep CA Death Penalty Alive?

JULY 27, 2011


Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik poses  a challenge to the proposed ballot initiative to end the California death penalty, regardless of the cost of executions.

The initiative didn’t emerge on moral grounds from liberal religious or civil rights organizations, but on the basis that it is too costly.  The California State Assembly Committee on Public Safety approved such a ballot measure for the November 2012 election.

The initiative still would have to be approved by the full Assembly and the state Senate to make it onto the ballot.

The proposal would make life imprisonment without parole the maximum punishment for a capital crime in California. This is more severe than in Norway where the maximum sentence is reported to be 21 years in prison, although a “crime against humanity” could render a sentence of up to 30 years’ imprisonment.

With upcoming redistricting in California, elected state politicians may not be able to remain immune from unpopular votes as they have in the past in electoral districts protected by gerrymandering.  Here is the roster of members of the State Assembly Committee on Public Safety:

     Name Party/District No.
     Tom Ammiano – Chair Dem-13, San Francisco
     Steve Knight – Vice Chair Rep-36, Antelope Valley
     Gilbert Cedillo Dem-45, Los Angeles
     Curt Hagman Rep-60, Chino Hills
     Jerry Hill Dem-19, San Mateo
     Holly J. Mitchell Dem-47, Culver City
     Nancy Skinner Dem-14, Berkeley


For example, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, who is gay, is afraid that his heavily gerrymandered district would be split up.

Breivik’s Ideology Misunderstood

Reuters.com reported that, in his 1,500-page online book, Anders Breivik supported the “Vienna School of Thought,” referring to the halt of the Ottoman Turkish invasion of Vienna in 1683.

Although liberal snap judgments quickly mischaracterized Breivik as a “fundamentalist Christian” or political conservative, he is an apparent nationalist and traditionalist with an unrecognizable Neo-Nazi Aryan ideology.  Breivik is more analogous to the Serbian nationalist who assassinated Slavic Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, setting off World War I.

Breivik surrendered voluntarily after committing his crimes and reportedly wants to use the court system to “market” his ideology. Breivik is opposed to the perceived folly of the idealistic Neo-Wilsonism of the Norwegian Labor Party.

The term Wilsonism does not come from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, but from former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, a leader of the Labor Party and advocate of a “classless technocratic society.”

The Reality of Evil

Quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, Abraham D. Sofaer, a legal scholar at the Hoover Institution, stated that a 21-year maximum sentence is “absurdly inadequate” for such a damnable crime.  Sofaer added, “I’m sure it’s well-intentioned. Maybe it works in most cases. But then you get these cases, where one would think almost anyone would agree that 21 years is an insult.”

San Francisco Chronicle journalist Debra Saunders reminded us that lenient sentences for heinous political crimes can sometimes result in the perpetrator being sprung from prison based on political or economic pressures being placed on a state.   In 2001, the Scottish justice system convicted and sentenced Libyan Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in 1988 that killed 270 people.  Al-Megrahi got just a 27-year sentence. Then he ended up being sprung out of prison when Libya exerted economic pressure on Scotland using its leverage as an oil supplier.

Back in Libya, al-Megrahi was greeted with positive identification for his actions of murderous violence.

Saunders writes:

“When a country’s justice system dispenses with the death penalty and then life sentences, it has no mechanism to redress evil. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg actually used the word “evil” at a heartbreaking memorial service. Stoltenberg pledged that his country would respond to the evil with “more democracy, more openness and more humanity, but never naivete.” It’s clear where he should start: Eliminate the 21-year maximum sentence.”

Whither California?

Surely, human justice is insufficient for such crimes as Anders Breivik’s.  But the time is past for the self-righteousness on the party of any political persuasion — Left, Right or Center.  If there are patriotic murderers in Norway of children with no armed guards, there are revolutionary murderers such as at Fort Hood facilitated by a permissive but perverted system of “tolerance.”

And then there are the delusional murderers of either or no political persuasion, such as the Jared Loughner, the shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., who was encouraged by the lack of armed guards at public meetings.

Of all the states, California is probably the closest to embracing a Norwegian-style idealistic Wilsonism and cultural relativism.  But reality has a way of imposing clarity on moral judgments and legal systems.

The message of Breivik’s actions is that no state can stay naively immune from the realities of ideological terrorism.  Nor can a state hide behind the self-righteousness of banishing the death penalty, if in so doing it unintentionally results in a perverse incentive for mass murder and offering a platform for spreading a murderous ideology. Breivik’s crime coupled with a more accountable political redistricting will test California’s liberal mindset if the proposal to abolish the death penalty qualifies for the ballot.



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  1. So. Perry
    So. Perry 27 July, 2011, 09:23

    If we’re talking about the media getting this story wrong, I think the prize goes to the Wall Street Journal, which published an editorial online saying the attack was perpetrated by jihadis. They deleted the paragraph when it turned out they were completely wrong.


    Reply this comment
  2. frankk
    frankk 4 November, 2011, 16:27

    If we’re talking about the media getting this story wrong, I think the prize goes to the writer of this article who clearly have no clue how the norwegian legal system works.

    America handles prisons and criminals terribly, Norway does the opposite.
    You have something to learn, but you refuse?

    Next time, do some research.

    Reply this comment
  3. Anonymouscoward
    Anonymouscoward 26 November, 2011, 20:06

    Breiviks lawayers are at the moment in california to interrogate one or several individuals. One of them is a californian judge.
    I also support what frankk is saying. Get a clue!
    Your strict prison sentences and killing of criminals have clearly not set an example and you have nothing to be proud of in legal terms or in criminal statistics for that matter.
    Btw, anyone have more info about the lawyers visiting california state?

    Reply this comment

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