Breivik's lack of empathy and racist views link him to Hitler

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Opinion roundup: Breivik's brain, Qatada's extradition, and the dilemmas of fracking and the sex industry

LAST UPDATED AT 11:48 ON Wed 18 Apr 2012

BREIVIK'S CRUELTY STARTS IN HIS BRAIN
SIMON BARON-COHEN ON ANDERS BREIVIK
The answer to how Breivik could have committed such acts of cruelty lies in his brain, says Simon Baron-Cohen in The Times. If we were to attach Breivik to an MRI scanner we could predict that the specific circuit in the brain, the empathy circuit, was undeveloped. There are two types of empathy. "Cognitive empathy" enables us to read the feelings of another person. "Affective empathy" allows us to not only identify another's feelings, but to feel them too. People with antisocial personality disorder (such as psychopaths) often have the ability to read others feelings, but lack affective empathy - other people's suffering is of no concern to them. Breivik's racist ideology may have been the extra ingredient in the deadly mix. He is not the first person to have committed acts of cruelty motivated by ideological conviction. Hitler was also willing to ruthlessly sacrifice and dehumanise others in the name of his beliefs.

QATADA'S TRICKY CASE MAKES FOR GOOD LAW THE INDEPENDENT ON ABU QATADA
It is right that Abu Qatada should be expelled from Britain as soon as possible, says an editorial in The Independent. But the Government has been wise not to reject the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights blocking his deportation. The grounds the court gave for its ruling were that evidence obtained by torture might be used against him in a trial in Jordan. It was the correct decision. Defendants must be protected from unreliable evidence – "even when that does not suit British political interests". Prompted by the court's judgment, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has asked the Jordanian government for guarantees that torture evidence would not be used if Qatada were put on trial. "Due process and the rule of law are paramount", which is why May was "right to resist the siren voices from the Tory backbenches to ignore the European Court". Governments, as she said, must be seen to obey the law.

FRACKING ONLY POSTPONES THE INEVITABLE
HAMISH MCRAE ON ENERGY
So far the fracking debate has focused on environmental issues, but there's another problem, says Hamish McCrae in The Independent. The global demand for energy is increasing, and the market for oil and gas getting ever tighter. For the past generation estimates have been predicting we have some 40 years of oil left at current rates of consumption and some 60 years of gas. So we've been finding the stuff about as fast as we use it. "My guess is that fracking pushes this a bit further forward: we will gain a few years' supply but it will not make a radical step change in the outlook." Fracking will have political consequences, as it can reduce dependence on foreign sources of oil and gas. But it won't solve the long term problem of supply. In fact, a short term increase in gas supplies will likely keep costs down. And as price is one of the factors limiting the market, consumption will continue to rise.

THE UGLY REALITY OF THE SEX INDUSTRY
TANYA GOLD ON PROSTITUTION
What to say about prostitution, asks Tanya Gold in The Guardian. Studying it is difficult because of a lack of data. In the sex industry "the truth is underground". Some studies claim that drug addiction, sexual and physical abuse and early death are the prostitute's inevitable pension. Other reports insist these studies are skewed towards street prostitutes, and that there are many happy experiences of prostitution. Commentators such as Dr Brooke Magnanti, formerly the escort Belle de Jour, "look on the sex industry with the warm eyes of an advocate". She focuses on the financial benefits while ignoring the emotional costs. Yet she is also a realist and an advocate for prostitutes' employment conditions and rights. "The truth that prostitution may be the best economic choice for some women is repulsive, but it cannot be wished away." Ignoring this ugly reality "condemns women to poverty or criminality". · 

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