Last weekend’s bombing and shooting in Norway is awful. The pain and suffering of the innocent citizens and their families is incalculable. The actions were more than painful, they were wicked and evil. There is no excuse.
While there is no excuse, we still search for reasons. From the outset of media commentary, people have been struggling to understand the reason. We want an understanding that somehow distances ourselves from the perpetrator – “for wewould never do such a thing”.
So the first step in analysing the reasons is to describe the perpetrator in some terms that distinguish him from us. He is insane, or a Muslim, a terrorist, a fundamentalist, a right wing extremist or a left wing radical, a Nazi or a Marxist. These are some of the lenses through which we look at the evil of the human heart and distance ourselves from it at the same time.
This time the man has published a long document detailing what he stands for and the reasons for his actions. But before it was read, media deadlines had to be met. People needed an explanation to help them process the information - to make sense of what happened. So the journalists fell back to their usual metaphors, paradigms and narratives by which they make sense of the world. Without any evidence they gave the reason for the unthinkable.
At first sight it had all the hallmarks of Islamic extremists. Norway has troops in Afghanistan and bombing has been a common method of Muslim terrorists. Here surely is the next episode. How easy it is to blame all evil on others – on Muslims. But on this occasion the criminal is not a Muslim. Just the reverse, he is anti-Islamic trying to drive Muslims out of Norway.
On Facebook he describes himself as “Christian”. But that does not make sense of his actions, for Christians do not normally bomb and shoot their opponents. So the media used a favourite story, labelling him: “a fundamentalist Christian”.
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