Amy Winehouse and Anders Breivik: Where to Point the Finger of Blame?

By , Columnist

Lumping together two big news stories this week of the tragic death of pop star Amy Winehouse and the evil deeds of Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is a risky choice for a columnist. How can you compare a newly media-canonized pop star with an ‘insane’ murderous sinner? I am going to give it a try and if I get it wrong, here is a new concept — I am not going to blame my ill judgment or wrongdoing on anyone or anything else but myself.

Personal responsibility, or lack of it, is the common denominator between these two tragic events. Since the news of Amy’s death, the world has tried to point the finger of blame at someone or something for her early death; since the news of Breivik’s killing spree, the world has tried to find an underlying cause that motivated his sick attack.

The truth is, they alone are to blame.

finger of blame.jpgSince Amy was found dead the media has been jammed full of people coming forward to point the finger of blame for her death: Piers Morgan blames her record company; reports claim police are investigating a mysterious man who had spent the previous evening with her; her boyfriend blames it on a binge reaction to a row they had the day before; her ex, Blake Fielder-Civil, blames it on the fact that he wasn’t allowed to contact her from prison because if he had, he would have been able save her.

Until the autopsy is conclusive, it is hard to tell her actual cause of death. However, barring an act of violence on the part of someone else, it can be fair to assume, given her young age and history of substance abuse, that her death was a result of something she did either in the days or over the many years leading up to her death.

Addiction is an illness, but it is an illness that has a cure. The cure is expensive, difficult, and long, but it is at least possible. I have huge sympathy for those who suffer from this cruel disease, but unlike some cancers which can snuff you out no matter hard you fight back, with addiction (if you can afford treatment) where there’s a will, there’s a way. Ultimately, regardless of what underlying woe caused the addiction (unhappy childhood, boredom, pressures of fame) an addict has to take personal responsibility to get clean. Those connected to them can support, encourage, and help with recovery but they are not to blame.

Since Brevik carried out his day of terror in Norway, the media has been trying to find a reason for his appalling actions. His lawyer claims he may be insane; others point to right wing groups who hypnotized him over the Internet; some blame an unhappy childhood, divorced parents, and an absent father; Brevik may try to claim he was under the influence of drugs, which he claims he took to make himself ‘strong’.

The ‘insane’ claim is the most worrying of all the reasons. The legal definition of insanity is there to protect those who carry out crimes when they are unaware at the time, due to an inherent mental condition, of the difference between right and wrong. Brevik knew what he was doing was wrong; he reportedly told police that he knew that he would be arrested and face a trial. In fact, he believed that he was likely to be killed before even reaching the island. If only he had been.

The drug ruse is also extremely worrying. I suspect if the insanity plea does not wash, Brevik will use a backup plea of being under the influence of drugs so as to reduce his sentencing down from cold-blooded murder or crimes against humanity to a lesser charge, a clever tactic that underlines his calculating, cold mind and not signs of true insanity or drug-induced lack of judgement.

Whilst I have huge sympathy for talented Amy and her family and only revulsion and anger for Anders, I am sick of living in a society that spends more time pointing the finger of blame rather than saying, “I did it. It was me”.  Amy abused her body and her mind; now she is dead either directly or indirectly because of it. Anders murdered at least 76 people in cold blood; now he should feel the maximum weight of the harshest law of the land because of it. No excuses.

The columnist who said it? It was me.

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Victoria Robertson is a freelance current affairs columnist and founder of With her back foot firmly planted in some commonsense and a lively swing of the bat, she knocks today's big news stories straight out of the park.

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