In Norwegian-born attorney Turrettini’s dispiriting estimation, there are plenty of lone wolves out there, young men—almost always young men—so disconnected from the world that killing is the only form of self-expression they think is left to them.
That killing is not without reason, at least in the perpetrator’s mind, and it often has a political dimension. “The lone wolf doesn’t murder for fun, for profit, or as a shortcut to suicide,” she writes. “This killer is so shut off and shut down from humanity that the only way for him to matter is to connect so completely with a cause that he is compelled to kill for it.” Exhibit A for much of this discussion is Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 compatriots, mostly young, as a protest against Islam, immigration policy, and a bundle of related far-right causes. Turrettini’s account veers into territory that American readers may have trouble accommodating, for the dominant social ideology in Norway, she writes, is a sense of togetherness that manifests itself in de-emphasizing the individual: “Don’t think you are anything special,” runs one bit of advice that all schoolchildren learn by heart. Breivik’s insistence that he was special was one thing, but more pressing was the insistent search for scapegoats for society’s flaws, scapegoats who form a stratum “comprising anyone not like them.” Though some of the social psychology is specific, then, to Scandinavia, the author’s larger argument has wide application: namely, that by overlooking announcements of intent, in effect, that these killers often make before acting, law enforcement officials will miss the lone wolf killers among us. “Unless law enforcement focuses on psychology more than criminal history,” she writes darkly, “men like Breivik will escape detection until it is too late.”
An urgent but evenhanded treatise that deserves a wide readership.