Heather Michon

Heather Michon
June 25
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APRIL 17, 2012 10:39AM

Audience for a Mass Murderer

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Anders Behring Berivik In Court in Oslo, Photo by Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

The trial of confessed mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik had barely gotten underway in Oslo when debate erupted over the media's coverage of the event. 

Press turnout was impressive. Some 800 reporters were on hand for the opening day; pool video coverage of most of the session were broadcast live on Norway's national television station, NRK; at least a half-dozen reporters live-tweeted the throughout the session, including those parts of the proceedings that NRK was not allowed to show live.

Online coverage in the Norwegian media sites has become so ubiquitous that at least two publications are looking at creating a button that would allow readers a "Breivik-free" version of their pages.

The criticism, voiced by both media critics and some of the survivors of his rampage, is that all the coverage is playing into Breivik's desire for a platform for his crackpot ideas of the dangers of Muslims, multiculturalism and women's liberation.

"He stated he did this to gain attention and I don't believe that he should gain attention to it," survivor Tore Sinding Bekkedal told the Associated Press. "I don't want to give him that reward."

Breivik, who began the trial by denying the authority of the Norwegian judiciary and called his murder of 77 people an act of "necessity," no doubt does perceive the public airing of his views as a reward for his actions.

In this case, that's actually a good thing. His trial is not about guilt or innocence. It's about deciding how his obvious mental disorder might  define his punishment. The only "audience" that matters is the panel of judges. The more empowered he feels -- the more he plays to the audience, the more he plays to the gallery, the more disjointed his ramblings -- the better.

In an indication of just how ineffectual his arguments have been, one of the three lay judges hearing the case was dismissed this morning after news broke that he had written on Facebook last summer that Breivik should get the death penalty. Norway does not have the death penalty.

Fears that the public dissemination of Brevik's ideology could increase anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe also seem unfounded. The people who are likely to agree with him are those that already agree with him. The ideas he's espousing are the same ones he's been sharing on ultra-right forums for years now. He's unlikely to win fresh converts to his cause.

Plus, the saturation coverage is assuring that his claims are being debunked in real time. "Breivik claimed this morning that Norwegians would be a minority in their own capital 'within five years,'" The Guardian reported on their live-blog of Tuesday's proceedings. "That is not what the statisticians say. Statistics Norway predicts that immigrants are set to make up almost half of Oslo's population by 2040 and its definition of "immigrants" includes children of immigrants..."

How the media should cover sensational legal cases is always a debate worth having. We've all seen situations where the depth of coverage has gone far, far overboard.

In this situation, Breivik's crime was an assault not only against a group of innocent victims but against Norwegian society as a whole. That society deserves every opportunity to see him confined within the strict rules of the judicial process, challenged on every statement, held to task for every action, and finally, sent away to jail or an institution for however long the judges see fit. It's not a reward for him. It's the best way to exorcise him from the public mind.  

Photo by Stoyan Nenov/Reuters


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Thanks for this!
I posted on his conflicting psych evals last week here.
I love your take on this.

Whether proven sane or insane, he will be locked away for a very long time. My feeling is that he should be sent out on an ice floe to meet an early demise and save Norway's citizens from paying for his incarceration.
I think this is a strong, short, and well written examination. I think your perspective has merit.
Perhaps if his country (and the rest of Europe) didn't work so hard to stamp out freedom of speech there would have been open discussions on the subject of immigration by Muslims amongst the population in general and thus things would never have boiled to a head.

But freedom of speech doesn't exist in European nations and sweeping issues under the rug doesn't appear to work either.

And another flaw in their Utopian society is he might only get 21 years in jail for all those murders.
Harrison Price is clearly one of those dimwits that thinks Muslim immigrants are "swamping" Europe's population. News for you Sparky - there aren't that many of them. The UK has the biggest proportion at 6%, and we've been importing people from South Asia a long time. I had a friend in college whose ancestors, name of Singh, had been in London since the 16th century.
As for the freedom of speech thing, you're talking nonsense there too.
And the Norwegian loony should get his publicity just so people see where right wing thought inevitably leads - to corpses of the innocent.
GeeBee... are you a dullard? I never said what I believed only that discussions about it "among the population" (hint: that includes Muslims and people colored orange or blue or green) might have worked as a safety valve.

And I've lived in Europe... I can assure you freedom of speech such as we have in the U.S. does not exist and saying the "wrong thing" can get you arrested, jailed, fined, or all three.

Go live there and spout off and learn for yourself.
He's not talking to us. We can say "Pshaw! What a psycho!" all we want.

He's talking to the 40 or 50 guys living in their mother's basements that look up to him. And among those 40 or 50 are 2 or 3 that know how to make bombs.

He shouldn't have a public trial. And he definitely shouldn't be executed. Both of those affirm his worldview.

Tuck him away somewhere bland and boring but secure and practice making a blank, forgetful look for when people ask where he is.

"Breivik... Breivik... Breivik... That rings a bell. Was he the drug smuggler from Belgium?"
Good insight. This will be instructive about "right wingers" in general. I wrote in my blog today about how it is a mental condition, with politics being the context.

Democracy Now had a great interview today with Johan Galtung, a Norwegian peace activist (http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/17/norways_johan_galtung_peace_conflict_pioneer).
If you bother to read his weird manifesto you will realize he's not a "right winger" at all (sorry Libs). He rejected Christianity, sought solace in Norway's Viking past, and described himself as a freemason, an “evolutionist” and a secular fundamentalist.

Generally "secular Fundamentalists" are not Conservatives but that L word.
Thanks for this additional reporting.
harrison price - pray tell, where in Europe did you live...Russia, Hungary, Bielorussia.......even people like you get to spew any idiotic rant anywhere in, certainly in Western Europe and vicinities...
Roberto, I lived in France. I saw people arrested for being black among other things.

Roberto, I feel sorry for you that your only response is to personally insult a stranger... you must be a man of few ideas when you come into contact with a person of differing ideas.

Cheers again!
Harrison Price,before you open your mouth and spread nonsense,do some reading first.
If you got into trouble in France it must have been for a reason.
Have you ever heard of the French revolution???The French do not keep their mouths shut.Talking about freedom of speech,you are quite ignorant of the facts in Europe,and when you start a verbal battle with Roberto,you are definitely going to be the loser because you don't know what you are talking about.
By the way:Norway is one of the best democracies in Europe.How dare you speak such nonsense?
Heather,do you really think Breivik can be exorcised from the public mind?This is such horror story,it will be manifest in the collective mind.
When Breivik looked into the camera this week,I thought that this man should never be free as his deranged mind is actively involved in other crimes.
In Norway,living on his own,he would become a target for lynching.
I have high respect for the Norwegians as they keep countenance .I would not be able to touch this man's hand as the members of the jury did.
Heidi I never said I "got in trouble" did I? And the French are quite racist have you ever lived there?

And Norway is not a democracy it has a parliamentary system might want to learn the differences.

And there is no 1st Amendment in Norway.

For example, if you say something that the Government considers "ridicule" you can be arrested, jailed, and fined.

Might want to look into that, too, before you presume to know the facts.

Harrison I was born and grew up in the UK. Only moved to the US to get away from Thatcher and her toadies in the 80s.
GeeBee, if you call the wrong person in the UK a "dimwit" and the Government doesn't like it you could be arrested, jailed, fined, or all three because there are severe limits placed on free speech.

Guess England and Europe was such a wonderful place you decided to leave!

harrisomn price - stating that Norway is not a democracy shows what kind of a nincompoop you are.....but let's leave at that....just happy to know that you are no longer in Europe........and don't wear hoodies now, you hear?......
Harrison,I am definite that I know better what I am talking about than you.
Norway has still a crown,but the people ARE very democratic like the netherlands,Sweden,also Spain,for some decades.
From what you were saying about the arrest,I assumed that you had been in trouble there,not necessarily for your skin.
Whether or not the French are racists, is not upto you to decide,leaving the hard facts of immigration out of consideration.
I appreciate people with an open mind with new ideas,but in your case,you have to prove more basic knowledge and general acceptable behaviour before we can go on with this discussion.
Roberto, Norway isn't a Democracy. Neither is the United States, actually.

Are you really going to deny that I am not 100% correct in my statements? If so then it is you, sir, who are the nincompoop.

And do you know who said people who wear goodies are dangerous?

Obama's Dept. Of Homeland Security.

Look it up!

Sorry... that should have been "hoodies" not "goodies" take care!

And Heidi, you might have lived in England but I'm.l be damned if I can understand what your point is.
Harrison,OK,fair deal.
From now on we can talk business.
I have nothing left to add cheers.
Jesus wept Harrison. Kids in school playgrounds call each other much worse than "dimwit" all the time. I know of no person in the UK privileged to be legally protected against being called a dimwit. Not the Queen, the Prime Minister, no-one. Speech is just as free there as in the US. Government secrecy is however more constraining, but that's a different subject really.
PS I didn't leave England. I left Scotland. Well actually I did leave England some years earlier once I completed my Masters. But I left for the US from Scotland, for the (at that time) greater job opportunities.
GeeBee, if you deny the holocaust in England you will go to jail!

In the U.S., somebody burns a flag or a bible who cares? In England, some people burned poppies and Andrew Ryan burned a Koran and was sent to jail for inciting hatred.

That doesn't happen in America.

Darryn Walker was arrested and thrown in jail for writing porn.

In 2007 Samina Malik was arrested and ended up with a suspended sentence for some poetry she wrote.

In 2009 Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle were arrested for having written things that would "incite hatred."

I'm really surprised you lived someplace but have no clue about the laws there... especially something like "freedom" of speech (which English common law doesn't grant.

Ignorance is bliss until you say the wrong thing to the wrong person.
Tuck him away somewhere bland and boring but secure and practice making a blank, forgetful look for when people ask where he is.