Our collective obsession with Breivik is just getting started. What did he watch on television. What groups inspired him. What his childhood friends thought of him. Even where he bought his clothes.
Here’s what we know so far:
1. Breivik may or may not be insane.
As his lawyer says, it will take months of observation, interviews and analysis to determine whether Breivik is insane. But find out we will, because it’s difficult to fake mental illness over a long time period.
2. He liked thriller movies and TV shows.
Breivik loved the thriller movie “Dogville,” so much that Danish director Lars von Trier has apologized for the movie and its use of machine gun fire. On Breivik’s Facebook page, he also claims to be a fan of the HBO vampire drama “True Blood,” the serial killer show “Dexter,” and the historical but violent movies “300” and “Gladiator.”
3. Breivik has shown that our fears about violence and video games might not be unfounded.
In his manifesto, Breivik claims to have used Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as a way to train himself for the massacre. He says he was a hardcore gamer and spent a year playing World of Warcraft and doing little else.
4. Breivik may have gotten a nose and chin job to look more Aryan.
While Breivik has blond hair, blue eyes and strong features associated with the Aryan look, members of Norway’s intelligence agency said there is no way that Breivik’s look was natural. An old school friend has now said that Breivik boasted of having had his nose and chin operated on a decade ago, a time when he had befriended “a group of people obsessed with their bodies.”
5. Breivik’s uniform was a sham.
While Breivik calls the outfit he was often pictured in a “military uniform” of the medieval Knights Templar group, U.K.-based newspaper the Sun has found that Breivik cobbled together the pieces for the outfit for less than 400 euros. The copies of real badges and ribbons may have cost him less than one euro.
But why do we care about all of these nuggets of information so much? Why must we know how Breivik spent his leisure time, or laugh at his shoddy attempts at a uniform?
Over time, many writers and psychologists have tried to get at just why we are so obsessed with murders and murderers.
U.K.-based news site the Daily Echo writes of our “gargantuan appetite” for reading, watching and talking about the breaking of the sixth commandment.
The Daily Echo cites author Charles Dickins, who in his time witnessed many an execution and people’s obsession with them. Dickins called it “a fascination of the repulsive, something most of us have experienced.”
More recently, when America was trying to track down the Long Island serial killer in April, American Web site Business2Community wrote simply: “America likes serial killers. If America did not like serial killers, you would probably stop reading this. Furthermore, if America did not like serial killers, it would not make movies called ‘How to Be a Serial Killer’ and ‘American Psycho.’ ”
The site also mused that finding out more about killers was important because at the end of it all we could tell ourselves, “Thank God I’m not like him!”
Alarge part of our obsession with crime and murder, American crime novelist Walter Mosley wrote in a long piece in Newsweek in 2009, is that we simultaneously need forgiveness for our mistakes, and someone to blame.
Anders Breivik certainly seems worthy of our blame. So perhaps we can forgive ourselves for our curiosity, too.