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BBC: Wessely on Breivik

SilverbladeTE

Senior Member
Messages
3,043
Location
Somewhere near Glasgow, Scotland
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17859499

Breivik case 'shows insanity misconceptions' Breivik has argued he should either be put to death or acquitted Continue reading the main story
Norway AttacksBreivik trial: Day by day
Norway's trial of the century
Unanswered questions
Breivik profile

Horrific crimes, such as the Anders Breivik case, illustrate the misconceptions the public has about mental illness, a leading expert says.

Professor Simon Wessely, of King's College London, said the simplest responses to mass killings were that the perpetrators "must be mad".

But he said the way Breivik carried out the killings suggested otherwise.

He said the idea a psychiatric diagnosis could help people avoid punishment was wrong too.

Writing in the Lancet medical journal, Professor Wessely said putting forward a mental illness defence in the UK could lead a person to spending more time behind bars than less.

"The forensic psychiatry system is not a soft or popular option," he added.

'Meticulous way'

The psychiatrist also said the Breivik case highlighted another misconception - that outrageous crimes must mean mental illness.

"For schizophrenia to explain Breivik's actions, they would have to be the result of delusions."

But he added: "The meticulous way in which he planned his attacks does not speak to the disorganisation of schizophrenia."

Breivik is currently on trial in Norway.

The 33-year-old admits to killing 77 people in Oslo and on Utoeya island last July but denies criminal responsibility.

Two reports have been compiled on his mental state and have come to opposing views on his sanity.

The court's ruling on this will determine whether Breivik is sent to jail or into psychiatric care.

Breivik has argued he is not insane and should either be put to death or acquitted.

1) I may loathe Wessely, but doesn't mean he's automatically wrong on everything (though I tend to expect such :p)

2) I do agree that there's a lot of terrible acts carried out by those who are sane: it's ego rather than rage/fear/frustration/sickness
Evil = they chose to do heinous things because they insist it must be so above all other considerations
But I think such often ends in madness as it erodes the person's mind, as they constantly have to reinforce/shore up their deeds, and the terrible events gnaws at them.
Too easy to say all evil deeds are the result of madness, though a great many are.

3) Wessely on Breivik? some how, in some dark way...the irony of that tickles a very dark funny bone of mine :p


And apologies ot any Norwegians who may be offended by my humour: I find some form of levity about such ugly things the only way one can deal with them, 'cause they're just too freakin' horrible :/
 

taniaaust1

Senior Member
Messages
13,054
Location
Sth Australia
At least there is some light in this one. I'd rather Wessely be verbally attacking mass murderers who are probably psychopaths then us any day.
 

alex3619

Senior Member
Messages
13,810
Location
Logan, Queensland, Australia
I don't know enough about Breivik to have a really informed opinion, but it would not surprise me if he were sane and just has a tight self-reinforcing belief system that leads him to conclude he is right regardless of what he learns. This is of course also what Wessely says about us (as a psychiatric diagnosis), and what I say about him (for the DBM as a failed scientific discipline). Irony. Bye, Alex
 
Messages
5,238
Location
Sofa, UK
It's a really sharp question, this, and for me the conundrums thrown up by this kind of argument are best resolved by realising that labels like 'insane' and 'evil' are just words, and they need a lot of deconstruction before you can start to make sense of these questions.

I haven't followed the case in depth, but I did pick up that the first assessment found that Brevik is mentally ill, and the second assessment found that he isn't - and that discrepancy in itself speaks volumes about how unscientific and undetermined this question still is.

It already seems clear that the decision that Brevik is 'bad' rather than 'mad' has been deemed to be more acceptable and more convenient, at this point in time - and it doesn't seem at all surprising to me that Wessely is backing the view that has prevailed.

As far as I can see, recent research is pointing towards psychopathic and sociopathic personalities being the result of a combination of (genetic) abnormalities in brain structure, plus extreme childhood/life experiences, causing those cognitive traits to be expressed in ways that are unacceptable to society. And some research is also suggesting that the psychopaths and sociopaths, as measured by genetics and brain scans, represent a high proportion of those in the boardrooms of our top companies. I think that a deeper scientific understanding of those issues is on the way, and that will increasingly erode our assumptions about concepts like 'mad' and 'evil'. How that will affect our thinking about power and influence I can only guess...but I hope we will all become more rigorous in the emphasis we place on genuine empathy as a criterion for those we put into positions of power.

If I understand you correctly, Silverblade, your relative positivity about Wessely's interpretation is based on your agreement with him that a person may be 'bad' without necessarily being 'mad' - and your support of that position seems to be based on the importance of 'blame', based on 'anger': the blame might be at risk of being withheld somewhat if the person can be 'excused' as 'mad'. I think that's all a rather sterile argument, based on the need for retribution, and defined by the problems we all confront when we try to understand appalling events and decide how we should respond to them - our efforts to cope with 'the problem of evil'. But when we face that problem, it's all too easy to fail to realise that we do have a choice as to whether we place our emotional focus on the perpetrator or the victim.

In my view, if you really explore the philosophical issues here, the lack of solid ground should suggest that the very concepts of 'mad' and 'bad' are the real problems preventing us from understanding: these words and these distinctions are making us miss an important understanding. At the very least, both terms describe a continuum on which society attempts to draw an arbitrary line (to decide who to lock up, and why); at the worst, the dualistic and absolutist nature of these words suggests that they are terms that tend to obscure the real questions we are wrestling with.

In the end, Brevik will be locked up for life, whether he is 'mad' or 'bad', and that is the best way society currently has to respond because we can't have people going around behaving like that. That's all there is to it; why debate further? Perhaps the whole debate would make more sense if we focused on that pragmatic reality rather than attempting a definition of aberrant human behaviour and focusing on our personal desire to understand how much we should blame the individual responsible. Those emotional energies are better focused on the victim than on the perpetrator, even if that is emotionally a more challenging place to stand.
 

ukxmrv

Senior Member
Messages
4,413
Location
London
I wouldn't want to be in a situation where SW was judging my sanity and I don't want to see his comments on other people. Although he has no power in this case it's not a good idea that a newspaper or online report is using him for opinions on anything.

My hope is that he will be discredited in the future for his opinons on ME and CFS.

Also using him as an authority on mass murderers will only remind people of the claims of death threats and CFS patients that he has made. Therefore connecting one man who did carry out a mass killing with CFS patients who supposedly made death threats.
 

taniaaust1

Senior Member
Messages
13,054
Location
Sth Australia
The urge to judge is strong in Wessely.

He should of taken up law and order, instead of psychology!!
...

He obviously has got a real need to keep himself in the public headlines... He's ATTENTION SEEKING lol

(the more one observes his actions, the more one has to wonder if he has actually got some kind of medical issue himself)

Can anyone make up a funny limerick about Wessely and his behaviour? (I really want a laugh and cant get my head together to think of a good one)
 
Messages
15,786
Can anyone make up a funny limerick about Wessely and his behaviour? (I really want a laugh and cant get my head together to think of a good one)

There once was a shrink named Wessely
Who treated ME patients quite testily:
If they dared to whine,
He'd tell them they're fine,
And they just need to think more festively!

My limerick is a bit off topic for the the thread, but I couldn't think of anything that rhymes with "media whore". :D
 

garcia

Aristocrat Extraordinaire
Messages
976
Location
UK
I don't know enough about Breivik to have a really informed opinion, but it would not surprise me if he were sane and just has a tight self-reinforcing belief system that leads him to conclude he is right regardless of what he learns.

I agree. This is actually very similar to the psychopathy of those who hold high office - e.g. Bush and Obama. They can break as many laws as they like, kill as many innocent people as they like. But because they see themselves as inherently "good", they believe that whatever they do is justified. And their psychopathy is reinforced by a toadying self-serving media system which instead of questioning power, sucks up to it at every opportunity.
 

Glycon

World's Most Dangerous Hand Puppet
Messages
299
Location
ON, Canada
Just a necro, nothing to see here, move along :D

Having read Wessely's actual editorial in The Lancet I must say that I don't really have any complaints about the content. In fact, he says many good things there. He is not saying that Breivik is "sane", but makes a much narrower claim that his actions and public statements offer no evidence of schizophrenia. He also condemns (correctly, in my opinion) the readiness of the public in the UK and elsewhere to seek retribution for violent criminals even when they are clearly mentally ill. And he does not attempt to diagnose Breivik himself.

But we do get this deliciously ironic sentence:
The inexplicable can only be explained as an act of insanity, which by definition cannot be rationally explained.

:rolleyes:
 

Strawberry

Senior Member
Messages
2,079
Location
Seattle, WA USA
I haven't read the article except for what was quoted, and admittedly I very quickly scanned what was posted here, but did Wesseley even mention psychopath? I agree with him that the planning is NOT sociopath, but if he left out psychopath, he needs to lose his status. I only have psych 101 under my belt, and know the difference between the two. Sociopaths aren't in control, psychopaths are.
 

natasa778

Senior Member
Messages
1,774
It's a really sharp question, this, and for me the conundrums thrown up by this kind of argument are best resolved by realising that labels like 'insane' and 'evil' are just words, and they need a lot of deconstruction before you can start to make sense of these questions.

I haven't followed the case in depth, but I did pick up that the first assessment found that Brevik is mentally ill, and the second assessment found that he isn't - and that discrepancy in itself speaks volumes about how unscientific and undetermined this question still is.

My thoughts exactly. I guess the only time this distinction between 'bad' or 'mad' matters is when death sentence is a possible outcome? Which doesn't apply in this case.

In the end, Brevik will be locked up for life, whether he is 'mad' or 'bad', and that is the best way society currently has to respond because we can't have people going around behaving like that. That's all there is to it; why debate further? Perhaps the whole debate would make more sense if we focused on that pragmatic reality rather than attempting a definition of aberrant human behaviour and focusing on our personal desire to understand how much we should blame the individual responsible. Those emotional energies are better focused on the victim than on the perpetrator, even if that is emotionally a more challenging place to stand.

Absolutely, totally.