Socialist Worker

After massacre, media jumps to wrong conclusions

by Patrick Ward
Issue No. 2262

The media was quick to condemn the horrors of the Norway massacre—but quicker still to blame it on Muslims.

Even as it started to emerge that attacks were carried out by Anders Behring Breivik, a white Christian, the Sun newspaper’s front page on Saturday stated: “‘Al Qaida’ Massacre: Norway’s 9/11”.

There was no evidence that the Islamist group was involved.

Even as news of the gunman and his intentions started to emerge, the Sun was steadfast: “Witnesses claimed the gun maniac was blonde with blue eyes and spoke Norwegian—raising fears that he was a home-grown Al‑Qaida convert.”

The paper’s editorial then put the rest of the argument in place:

“We do not know if yesterday was the work of Al-Qaida… or Libyan madman Gaddafi.

“We need the decent Muslim majority to help stop their impressionable young men being recruited as bombers.”

Tellingly, the editorial was later extensively rewritten in the online edition: “Acts of terror can be an easy resort for any loner who believes their own personal grievance against the state is justification for indiscriminate violence,” it now ran.

The killer was now no longer a member of an organised Islamic terror network, but just a “loner” with a grudge.

White Christians were not told to sort out their community.

But it wasn’t just the tabloids. The Guardian also leapt to blame “jihadists”. And BBC journalist Jorn Madslien wrote, “If the bomb blast in Oslo turns out to be a terror attack, it will mark a 9/11 moment for Norway.”

Madslien here implies that only Muslims are terrorists. Otherwise, it was just a bomb.

Daily Mail hate columnist Melanie Phillips had the honour of being quoted favourably and at length in Breivik’s “manifesto”.

Her response was telling: “Breivik may be one unhinged psychopath—but what is now erupting as a result of the Norway atrocity is the frenzy of a Western culture that has lost its mind.”

Media reports of “Muslim plots” have helped governments launch wars abroad and attack civil liberties at home—all in the name of protecting “Western values”.

That’s why Breivik is made out to be just a lone “unhinged psychopath”. The real lessons of the atrocity are, to much of the media, an inconvenient truth.

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Tue 26 Jul 2011, 18:32 BST
Issue No. 2262
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