The Thinking 

More on Breivik’s Father

July 26, 2011


THE INTERVIEWS widely circulated today with Jens Breivik, the father of Anders Behring Breivik, offer a chilling portrait of a selfish, disengaged parent who viewed his son as nothing more than a passing acquaintance. He divorced his son’s mother when the boy was one and had little to do with him afterward, though he did initially attempt to gain custody of the boy. Regardless of how possessive the mother was of Anders, the father was clearly indifferent to his son as he became an adolescent and adult. In interviews, he expressed concern for his own safety and reputation.

Katherine Birbalsingh of The Telegraph makes similar points about the father’s attempt this week to disavow his son. She writes:

What I want to know is why his father isn’t feeling any sense of remorse for having failed his son.

Jens Breivik was married once, had three children and then left his first family to marry Anders’ mother. He then left her, Anders, and his step-daughter to marry his current wife – Wanda – with whom he now lives in rural France. Jens’ third wife has never met Anders. She has never met the boy whom she and Jens cared so much about that they insisted on a custody battle, trying to move the boy from Norway to Paris, to be raised by them. Jens himself had not spoken to Anders since 1995. In 1995, Anders was 16. Wanda speaks of being traumatised because of the attacks. I wonder if the one-year-old Anders was “traumatised” by Wanda’s apparent interest in him which met a very quick death?

Jens Breivik said, “He should have taken his own life, too. That’s what he should have done.” It seems an odd desire until you hear the rest of the quote. “I will have to live with the shame for the rest of my life. People will always link me with him.”

Erm, yes, that’s it Jens, that’s what is important after all. No matter that 76 people are dead. No matter that you were an absent father who abandoned two different families in your lifetime. No matter that you decided to move to a different country altogether when your children and step-child were in Norway. What is really important is your reputation – that people should understand that you “don’t feel like [Anders’] father” – that you had nothing to do with your son at all either now, or ever.

While Anders Breivik is clearly disturbed on many levels, I am certain that the beginnings of his madness started when he was just a small child, when his father abandoned him. Indeed, he wrote about his family relationships and his parents’ divorce in his 1,500 page manifesto. Jens Breivik is not a bad man. Anders Breivik is. But his father’s reaction to this event is disappointing, and demonstrates a lack of humanity that should be there.

Notice the first comment that follows Birbalsingh’s piece. This is the sort of comment you see often in the British press:

What a ridiculous article.

A ‘stable’ and enduring nuclear family life is a modern phantom and has rarely occurred throughout European history – for peasant or aristocrat. Absent fathers have been a norm, either through disease, war or disinterest for as many centuries as you care to count. Children make the most of what they’re dealt, and get on with it, or fail. It was ever thus. Frankly, siblings can be the worst challenge.By her name, this writer seems to come from a culture with a rigid caste system with has had its own unique problems.

Absent fathers have been the norm. If she says so, it must be true. History be damned. This commenter sees no difference between a child who loses a father through death and the child who loses a father from abandonment.

Children make the most of what they’re dealt, and get on with it, or fail.

Well, yes, that’s true. And children with absent fathers are remarkably more likely to fail and end up in prison. And sons who are deprived of their fathers through some injustice are more likely to be enraged.  


                                                      — Comments —

James P. writes:

There is an interesting contrast between Breivik’s father and the father of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh. To refresh your memory, Lindh was a northern California boy who converted to Islam, studied in a Pakistani madrassa, went to Afghanistan in May 2001 to fight for the Taliban, and was captured shortly after the US invaded Afghanistan in late 2001. In an American court in 2002, Lindh accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to 20 years without parole.

How did Lindh’s father react? In December 2001, when the memories of 9/11 were fresh in everyone’s minds, US troops had recently started suffering casualties at the hands of the Taliban, and nobody really knew what Lindh had done, his father gave an interview on CNN. Lindh’s father said he was proud of his son’s “devoted” study of Islam, claimed his 20-year-old son was “really not much more than a boy,” said, “we want to give him a big hug,” and said he would gently chastise his son “for not getting my permission, because I would not have given him permission to go to Afghanistan” (Lindh was an adult male of military age and of course needed no such permission). Since 2001, Lindh’s father has persistently denied that his son did anything wrong, excoriated the Bush administration, and insisted that his son’s “pointless” incarceration should end before he serves his full sentence. Lindh’s father has never expressed any remorse that his son fought for a vicious group that has killed (and continues to kill) many Americans.

Meanwhile, Breivik’s father says he is ashamed of his son and thinks his son should have killed himself. If your son is a Left-wing terrorist and traitor who unquestionably knew what he was doing, you absolve him of blame and crusade on his behalf. If your son is a right-wing terrorist who is clearly insane, you disown him and urge him to kill himself. What a contrast!

Laura writes:

Yes, to Jens Breivik’s credit, he does express mortifying shame.

Alissa writes:

If liberals believe that the past is full of evil religious patriarchy then how on earth is fatherlessness the norm in history? How on earth could fatherlessness have existed in mass in conjunction with the great influence of the nuclear (father, mother, children) and extended (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins) family as the standard? Aren’t these contradictory thoughts? Children who dealt with most of what they have been given end up trying to heal the wounds and move on. By her own assessment if they don’t deal with what they have been given they fail and that’s for a good reason. They were given something that didn’t measure up to the standard of the nuclear family.




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