Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Media now complicit in Oslo shooter’s rampage

Post by Brian O'Neill on July 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm with 11 Comments »
July 28, 2011 10:22 pm

Well, at least we now know why an estimated 68 individuals, mostly young people, were killed in Oslo. It was a marketing scheme.

That, at least, is the story the cowardly psychopath gave for his decision to blow up a building and then go on a sadistic hunt for youth campers on an island protected by a single off-duty cop. His court-appointed lawyer has, of course, added that his client is also crazy.  If so, then he’s a crazy mass murderer with a savvy business plan.

A Trib article (reprinted from AP on 7/25) related that the shooter–who will go unnamed in this column–was primarily motivated by his desire to market his extremist views to a large audience. Because his efforts in stock trading didn’t produce the war chest he needed for this task, he decided instead to, “cut my losses and proceed to Plan B.” Plan B was the horrific atrocities committed against Oslo and its citizens on July 21.

All of this, or so the cowardly killer would have us believe, was to shine the media’s spotlight on what will likely go down in history as the usual hate-riddled excrement. That excuse is a thin veneer that fails to mask his true purpose–to wallow in a cesspool of violence. If his statements were true, why go to the trouble of shooting close to 200 people? Why not stop at, say 50? The answer is that he didn’t want to.

Whatever his reason for the carnage, the killer has played the media like a blood-soaked violin. His face, his musings, his stylized photos and his hate-filled rhetoric are now splashed across news media in print, online and on television.

Not so many years ago, when drive-by shootings, drug deals and gang violence were new and on the rise, the News Tribune had a commendable policy against publishing the names of the criminal street gangs involved in each story. The reason for this was simple–deny the gang an opportunity to profit by the notoriety.

National media could do much to prevent the next tragic event by denying a violent extremist the spotlight he or she craves.

Oslo’s shooter is one of a growing group of extremists referred to as lone-wolf terrorists in intelligence circles. They are similiar in their desire for  media attention and publicity, a need that far exceeds that of street gang members.  And as we have seen in Oklahoma City, Madrid, New York, and many other locations now to include Oslo, these fringe characters can be far more lethal than gang members.

It is too late to redirect the spotlight that currently shines on the Oslo psychopath. By choosing to spend any amount of time looking at the alleged killer’s glamour shots, reading quotes from his hate-filled rant or providing him a free media blitz that would cost a legitimate business millions of dollars, we are complicit in his crimes.

It would seem that we are all simply pawns in the masterful game of a psychotic killer, all for the sake of an uptick in the profits of mass media. A cynic might suggest that the next shooter is out there, taking a keen interest in this particular business plan and imagining his name and face in the spotlight.

And the cynic would be right.

Leave a comment Comments → 11
  1. smokey984 says:

    And ive always wondered why people of intelligence use it for this manner. He could have done great things in society and chose to use it for mayhem…

  2. The Internet pretty much makes it difficult to control the flow of public information. Either the main media reports it and makes money or someone else will.

    Like guns and knifes, the Internet can be used for good or evil.

    As much as we may wish it, I don’t think we are going back to the past of Happy Days and Ozzie and Harriet.

  3. jimkingjr says:

    Yeah, if only we had news blackouts, bad things wouldn’t happen…

    And this is what passes for intelligent reflection among law enforcement?

  4. Brian O'Neill says:

    News blackouts? You got news blackouts from this column?

    If you feel you have an absolute need to read article followed by article, depicting the face, name, favorite color and particular extremist viewpoint of someone who used that point of view to kill scores of people, then I guess I’m talking about a news blackout from your perspective. I have no concern with telling the story of events, but dipping into the backstory on a homicidal maniac does nothing more than encourage the next. And those of us who read it are ultimately responsible for our own actions.

    As always, this column represents my viewpoint. I am not a spokesperson for any law enforcement agency.

  5. geeterpontiac says:

    I see no problem with the story you linked to. It provided basic facts plus some info on what is known about the person, their motivation, etc, but I see no encouragement factor in it.

    Sure, there are going to be tabloids that will try to milk this tragedy for all it’s worth but this is the specific area responsible journalists should distinguish themselves from their tabloid brethren.

    Basic news reporting requires the who, what, when, where, why, etc, approach. Anything less will lapse into selective reporting, advocacy journalism, and/or censorship, etc, to some degree.

    I’ve read much coverage by European news media and they provide more information than the article you linked. But, they did so in a very businesslike manner and very much to the point. They also took care to acknowledge the killer acted in part out of zeal to try to ensure he received publicity in order to expound upon his views. And, the courts have already shut that down as well they should. So, in a very real sense, he murdered for nothing. His mission will not be fulfilled as planned.

    Basic news is basic news. Do your job and let the public handle it. The basic facts reported in a businesslike manner will go a long way toward defusing misconceptions and false glorification of events and individual. Anything less will cause us to distrust you more

    The issue of not identifying the a name of a gang in order to deny them the profit by notoriety is a different issue and I would agree a good policy because it is a local issue and notoriety can help sell membership in the gang as valuable.

  6. BlaineCGarver says:

    Tsk, Tsk, Brian……full, and honest disclousure. How many times do you see a paper do a article about an unapprehended criminal, and refuse to disclose the person’s race? If they want public help, and cops do, you have to be open to the public and let the media do their job. I also do not approve of writers using a news story as an editorial…just the facts, Maam.

  7. Brian O'Neill says:

    If you scan the Internet and look closely for TV news footage, articles, etc., you will see that the Oslo shooter has been given a huge podium from which to vent his hate-filled rhetoric. That rhetoric, along with his posed pictures (much like many other campus shooters) are filling the airwaves and cable lines. That information has nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with the story. By including it the media has changed the story from one about an atrocity and its victims to one about the new celebrity shooter. If you can’t connect the dots, between that coverage and the next shooting, then I give up.

    Oh, and please feel free to quote the name of one victim without looking it up. Just one.

  8. geeterpontiac says:

    Well, the truth be known, I can’t remember the shooter’s name either. And, I have read both his name and those of some of his victims numerous times.

    Do I think there will be more shootings or bombing from both sides? Yes! I think these horrific events will continue but I don’t see the primary cause being someone wanting to copycat this killer because of the publicity he has and will receive. There will always be tragedies like this every now and then. It isn’t a perfect world.

    I guess I have to ask you, what are your expectations? What do you want to do or think you can do about the coverage? What are the alternatives?

    The news is the news even if it gets beat into the ground sometimes.

    Evil exist, people do bad things, it is important the public knows what is going on and why. That why news organizations exist. It is up to each journalist/reporter to decide how to handle the story.

  9. Brian O'Neill says:

    The names of the victims, some of which will never be seen in American media, will likely appear at a ratio of 10:1 compared to the shooter, at best. As I’ve said before, tell the story. Tell the whole thing from start to finish. But why in the world would the media choose to vindicate a killer’s insane acts by providing the one thing–publicity–that prompted the shooter’s carnage in the first place?

    Yes, the world has evil in it. I’ve seen it face to face many times. But if you shrug your shoulders and accept it, without attempting to do what you can within reason to prevent it, then you are truly part of the problem.

  10. geeterpontiac says:

    Well, then step up to the plate instead of whining and judging people you know nothing about. (part of the problem?)

    I’ve asked you above what you would like to do about it and you haven’t shared any ideas at all. All you’ve done is cry and bellyache.

    From my post above,

    “I guess I have to ask you, what are your expectations? What do you want to do or think you can do about the coverage? What are the alternatives?”

    If you can’t figure out why the news media is giving this the attention it is, then maybe you should find another line of work.

    In case you haven’t noticed, it’s “NEWS”. There are always trade-offs.

    I have a suggestion. Why don’t you personally write the reporters that are writing these articles and tell them how complicit they are in the shooter’s rampage. Tell them they are encouraging more acts of violence. Go for it!

    Those are the ones you really have the beef with. Step up and let them know.

    No guts, no glory! :)


  11. Candles16 says:

    Sorry the argument does not hold water to not report on the what drove an extremist in Norway to carry out acts of terrorism. So you won’t report on crazy criminals, or will you? This sentiment does not match the News Tribune’s Sunday headlines about Ted Bundy with in-depth analysis to understanding details of Bundy’s crimes and what might have motivated him. We don’t like Bundy anymore than Breivik, but there is significance to understand where these nuts are coming from.

    Please don’t try to justify not reporting on the Norway ‘rampages’ by claiming its only isolated criminality or some crazy lone wolf, while its clear this incident is Europe’s Oklahoma City bombing done with extreme political prejudices and specific political goals of undermining Norway’s government and leading political party. This event in Norway didn’t work anymore than the bombing in Oklahoma City, but it shows the undercurrent of extremism in Europe that erupted in this domestic terrorism. What is alarming and should be of interest to Americans is that Breivik seemed to get most of his political leanings from American extremist and specifically tea party extremists, so much so that Breivik suggested the creation of a European tea party. Seems like Breivik’s extremist politics is being censored because its almost identical to right wing conservatives here in the US, just as the threats of American domestic terrorist is being censored or downplayed, and worse yet go under investigated and under reported. Ignoring this problems seems to be wink of tacit approval.

    Most terrorism gets no end of media coverage, but as soon as its known some Muslims are not behind this terrorism the media decided its not as big a deal as it doesn’t match the narrative of the fearmongers of which terrorism should be covered.

    With lots of Scandinavians readers TNT ought to take the time to cover this story accurately and thoroughly. Facts are starting to emerge that cast light on the Norway bombing and slaughter that deserve our attention to understand the extent of extremists. Norway is doing a good job of handling the threats of domestic terrorism.

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