As details leak out about the massacre in Norway that left a body count of more than 70, most of them young people, the message is again heartbreakingly confirmed: Beware extremists, of all stripes.

As details leak out about the massacre in Norway that left a body count of more than 70, most of them young people, the message is again heartbreakingly confirmed: Beware extremists, of all stripes.


From the right or from the left, what does it matter, and what does it prove? Scores of people are dead. There can never be any justification for it. Those prone to extremism often latch arbitrarily on to some concept - it could be one thing one day, the polar opposite the next - and obsess about it, working themselves into a frenzy because that's how they're wired.


So why all the handwringing about what the political leanings of a 32-year-old who lived with his mom were? How can anyone put any stock in the twisted musings of yet another psychopath with a martyr complex and delusions of grandeur, a nobody trying to prove he's somebody, and failing yet again? There is no way to rationalize the irrational, to make sense of the senseless. A murderer is a murderer. Timothy McVeigh, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, this guy, all cut from the same cloth.


To be sure, most of the victims in his confessed car bombing of a government building in Oslo and his random massacre of teens at a summer camp on a nearby island were members of Norway's leftist Labor Party, which is committed to democratic socialism. To be sure, he has expressed in writings his great contempt for Muslims and for advocates of immigration and multiculturalism, joining many on the right with similar views.


But as is frequently the case, he seems a bundle of contradictions. By attacking the innocent and defenseless he has adopted the very tactics of the jihadists he professes to hate. Norway actually has a very small population of Muslims. The vast majority of his victims were the Europeans and Christians he's said he wants to protect. And the greatest irony of all is that he could not have dealt his cause a more fatal blow. Who kills kids and believes that will win him converts? This guy may or may not be insane, he may or may not have been high on drugs, but he is seriously clueless. He may believe that "he is in a war and in a war you can do things like that" and that "in 60 years time, they'll understand him," but that's vanity: He isn't and he will never be understood or sympathized with by anyone with an ounce of conscience.


And again, no amount of psychoanalysis can undo the damage he takes responsibility for causing, if unrepentantly. Far more productive, then, is to concentrate on what kinds of measures might be helpful to stop or at least limit the casualties run up by the next monster.


First, police in Oslo remarkably did not have access to transportation that would have permitted them to get more quickly to the island on which these kids were trapped for more than an hour after the first call came in. Obviously, the "it doesn't happen here" attitude that seems to pervade the country now requires a re-examination. Sometimes law enforcement and political leadership need to be prepared for those things they'd rather not imagine.


Second, it's troublesome to read that the maximum punishment this guy or others - if he had help - could get is but 21 years in prison. Norway long ago dropped the death penalty. Arguably no sentence can deter the crazy or the evil, but the Norwegians may want to rethink their definitions of justice. Some crimes - such as this one - are unforgivable, forever.


Third, no one but this guy is accountable for what he has admitted are his "atrocious" crimes. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. Still, with rights come responsibilities, and it would be appropriate if ideologues with audiences the world over would try to be more cognizant of what fires they're fueling.


It is not helpful, for example, to indirectly blame the young victims in Norway, as U.S. media personality Glenn Beck recently did by comparing them to "Hitler youth," even as he condemned the "crazy man" killer. What's "disturbing" is not "a camp for kids that's all about politics" with which one may not agree, but this massacre and those who, even while rightly castigating the perpetrator, nod their heads at the beliefs that ostensibly prompted his horrific acts.


That's not a demand for political correctness but for fundamental human decency, which as we've been reminded, is in far too small supply across the globe.


Journal Star