Media Criticized For First Blaming Muslims For Norway Attacks
A memorial service in the Oslo cathedral for the 93 killed in the Oslo bombing and the massacre on the island of Utøya took place on Sunday and was attended by, among many others, the King and Queen of Norway and the prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg. 97 are reported injured and six people aged 14 – 20 are still known to be missing. Several more who have yet to be named are also missing; a full list can be found at the Norwegian news site NRK.
32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik has been charged with both the bombing and the shooting and, while confessing to both attacks, he denies criminal responsibility and says the attacks were “gruesome but necessary.” He says he was the lone gunman and had planned the attacks for a long time; prior to the attacks, he had posted a 1500-page ideological manifesto online, “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence,” that is heavily based on that of the so-called Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski. Counter-terrorism police have raided an apartment in Oslo belonging to Breivik and arrested six people, but released them without charges.
Many initial reports which attributed the attacks to Islamists have come under fire, the Guardian points out. An opinion piece by Ahmed Moor on Al Jazeera says that the Western media’s response “demonstrates the extent to which reactionary bigotry,” and anti-Muslim sentiment, have “infected mainstream thought.” Writes Moor:
As Glenn Greenwald helpfully pointed out [on Salon], the editors of the NYT – America’s allegedly liberal newspaper – reserve the word “terrorist” solely for use in conjunction with the word “Muslim”.
When news emerged that the perpetrator of the murders — the terrorist — was a man whose religion and skin pigmentation closely resembled those of the editors of the NYT, the story changed. The terrorist became a deranged “Christian extremist” whose tactics clearly mirrored “Al Qaeda’s brutality and multiple attacks”. In that way, the paper linked the terrorist with Muslims, despite his strong antipathy for them.
ThinkProgress also critiques an op-ed in the Washington Post by Jen Rubin, saying that “some pundits, mostly right-wing neoconservatives, proclaimed that this bore all the hallmarks of Islamic terrorism” and that the “jihadist” attack was grounds for the US not reducing military spending.
Equally inflammatory — and very much in error — was the front -page headline of Saturday’s The Sun: “‘Al Qaeda’ Massacre: Norway’s 9/11.” A cartoon referring to the twin attacks in Norway in The Sunday Times offered a cruel and tasteless parody of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream. The cartoon and criticism of it can be found here; considering the phone hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns both The Sun and The Sunday Times, one would think (but what am I thinking? these are sibling publications of the likes of Fox News) that these papers would think twice about displaying such insensitivity. Charlie Brooker on the Guardian comments on how, even after the gunman’s identity was reported,
Some remained scarily defiant in the face of the new unfolding reality. On Saturday morning I saw a Fox News anchor tell former US diplomat John Bolton that Norwegian police were saying this appeared to be an Oklahoma-style attack, then ask him how that squared with his earlier assessment that al-Qaida were involved. He was skeptical. It was still too early to leap to conclusions, he said. We should wait for all the facts before rushing to judgment. In other words: assume it’s the Muslims until it starts to look like it isn’t — at which point, continue to assume it’s them anyway.
The Norwegian media themselves are “anxious” about becoming the messenger as it were in publicizing Breivik’s beliefs. The Guardian quotes Knut Magnus Berge, who has been covering the events for NRK’s television team:
In his manifest he declared that he wished to set the agenda for people. And we have to admit that he has certainly achieved that the last two days. But Breivik has also said, through his lawyer, that at his arraignment on Monday he wants the proceedings to be open. This is a dilemma for every media organisation, who will be providing Breivik with a theatre stage.
I know discussion and debate about Breivik’s unspeakable acts are inevitable. I have been trying rather to read as much as I can about the victims and their families, whose lives been irrevocably changed by unspeakable pain and suffering. On NRK, Andrian Pracon, who was shot but survived, recounts his own terrifying experience — including pleading with the gunman — on Utoya. He also describes an 11-year-old boy who, saying that Breivik had already shot his father, ordered him not to kill him too and lived.
NRK has more accounts of those who endured the terror on Utøya and in Oslo: Even if you cannot read Norwegian, Google Translate or another translating program can help you read some of these accounts — stories which must be heard.
Previous Care2 Coverage
Almost 100 Killed in Twin Attacks in Norway on Friday
Photo by L.C.Nøttaasen