Media substitutes conjecture for fact in coverage of Norway attacks

By Calvin Palmer

When news of the horrific events in Norway unfolded yesterday, the quality newspapers in Britain were quick to ascribe the bombing in Oslo and shootings on Utøya island to the work of Muslim terrorists.

The newspapers went to great lengths to uncover the various ways Norway might have offended Muslim sensibilities, including Norway’s strong support for military action in Afghanistan.

Such speculation is the stuff of Tyler Twoguns as he downs shots at Sadie’s Bar or Rodney Fortescue-Smythe holding court in the snug of the Dog & Duck.

But everyone knows that the utterances of Tyler and Rodney are opinions that have little basis in fact and no one takes them seriously.

But when idle conjecture appears in a news report rather than an opinion piece, we are treading on dangerous ground. Some people, an awful lot of them, will believe those guesses to be fact..

Fox News uses such methods to warp the perceptions of American voters. It pays no heed to fair and balanced reporting in order to promote its right-wing, anti-Obama agenda.

The media, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The demands of live coverage are such that even if the facts are unknown, the media will fabricate some theory in order to fill the void.

Newspapers in their Web guise are trying to compete with television and offer live coverage on stories and to keep readers interested they guessed at explanation of what had happened in Norway and targeted the usual suspects.

And politicians were no better with Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama promising Norway they would do everything in their power to track down the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.

I find it worrying that political leaders come out with these knee-jerk reactions. I expect political leaders to be better than Tyler Twoguns and Rodney Fortescue-Smythe. A leader, by definition, should take time to sort through the facts and duly arrive at a measured response. But the media’s appetite for the instant sound bite is insatiable and politicians seem more than willing to feed it.

Today, it emerges that the bombing in Oslo and shooting of at least 87 youngsters at a political youth camp had nothing to do with Muslim terrorists.

Norwegian police are questioning a suspect – 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian citizen. He is described as a fundamental Christian with right-wing beliefs that include the eradication of Islam and Marxism from Europe.

If it emerges that Breivik was involved in yesterday’s attacks no doubt he will claim he was acting on instructions from God, although might just as well as cite the tooth fairy. He may even have been following Sarah Palin’s advice to “reload” with deadly consequences.

It is frightening to think that Michele Bachmann, who has designs on becoming the next President of the United States, also claim to be acting on God’s instructions.

Should the American electorate be dumb enough to elect her or one of her ilk, and it is possible, the mindset of the United States will take a leap back to the 17th century.

Fox News will be in its element covering the subsequent witch trials and fueling the rabid hysteria against the unfortunate defendants.

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2 Comments

Filed under Europe, Media, News, Newspapers

2 responses to “Media substitutes conjecture for fact in coverage of Norway attacks

  1. To me the problem with this is that many people’s immediate reaction to news of the attacks would be to assume it was Islamic terrorists. The audience was primed for the message and getting ready to express anger.

    Delivering it to them was dreadfully irresponsible. I don’t know if any gangs gathered outside mosques to create trouble, but if they had, there could have been blood on the reporters’ hands.

    • calvininjax

      I make the distinction between ordinary people and journalists. The former often do assume but the latter are supposed to deal with facts and not wild speculation.

      Thanks for commenting.

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