The Lilac Pilgrim – Yet Another Blog

British Media vs. Norway

Posted on: July 26, 2011

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or Norway is considered a tiny, insignificant speck where you’re from, you’ll likely have heard of the terrible crimes committed by Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo and Utoya, Norway. For those who haven’t you could click on the link provided. If not, a very extremist right-wing Norwegian man set off a bomb in Oslo and then proceeded to massacre teenagers at an island camp, believing himself to be waging war on some enemy force.

It’s a terrible time for Norway, and of course we must keep them in our thoughts and help out wherever we can. I think this means we also have a duty to understand the news as it comes in and actually read articles. I think it also means that we should respect that country’s justice system and hope that they do what is right.

I don’t think it means what British media seems to think it means.

That’s not to say that I don’t think it’s being covered well by many media outlets. There is a wealth of useful information out there and efforts can easily be made by the individual to educate themselves and understand the issues at hand. Some newspapers and websites? They don’t make it easy for their usual readers, but then, when we’re talking about the Daily Mail and Sky News, are we really surprised?

Take this Sky News article as an example. It details the statements of Geil Lippestad, Breivik’s unfortunate lawyer. Mr Lippestad takes the stance that his client is insane, considering Breivik’s bizarre delusions that he is part of a war on values and tradition, but notes that he is unsure of whether his client will plead insanity. Predictably, the article is rather critical of the insanity defence, and rambles about how most people are not actually insane even if they do plead insanity. Even more predictably, commenters on the article rage about the audacity of the poor lawyer. How dare he do his job?

Yet it’s hard to tell which is worse. The article or the commenters? The commenters are certainly taking the ideas presented within the article much, much further, even suggesting that Breivik be shot or hanged or what-have-you, and claiming him to be undeniably evil and not human. The thing is, however, that the article is really encouraging this thought process by being so strongly anti-Lippestad, apparently misunderstanding the lawyer’s statement. He is the one who has to come up with the defence. He does not agree with his client that he was perfectly justified, so insanity is a perfectly valid choice from Lippestad’s point of view. The article does not bother to note that Breivik has already said that he knew what he was doing, and that his lawyer has admitted to knowing this. They do not care to point out that Breivik is very unlikely to agree to plead insanity.

This sort of journalism breeds misunderstanding and vitriol, and judging by the lack of revision, they seem to be just fine with that. After all, it’s bitter hatred and rage that sells, almost more than sex and scandal. The comments underneath the Sky article demonstrate how well they breed mistrust and anger, and they simply seem to get worse and worse with no sign of stopping.


Note – I am going to publish this unfinished article and add to it later. I think it stands well on it’s own, but I plan to look at other sources as well.

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  • HoistTheColours: Dear author, I full-heartedly and absolutely agree with your above statements. I just thought I would let you know, since I don't quite understand w
  • richclark: I covered this in my blog too. Found your post on one of Wordpress' random (associated posts). Has Ask really made the impact it needed to from
  • The Lilac Pilgrim: I couldn't go anywhere without someone mentioning it. It was incredibly obvious and yet people were still arguing about it. Absolutely ridiculous.
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