Writing in Open Democracy, Thomas Hylland Erikson, the world renowned Norwegian anthropologist, comments on the trial of Anders Behring Breivik. He considers the issue of whether the media coverage has given too much space to Breivik:
Some still feel that it should not be broadcast at all. Breivik’s own statements are, incidentally, not broadcast at all, but are reproduced verbatim in some of the online newspapers. Yet, most of the trial can be viewed live on TV or on any computer. Not all are overly pleased with this. An opinion-poll published just before the beginning of the trial indicated that more than 60% of the population felt that he got too much attention from the media. The liberal daily Dagbladet has introduced, for the duration of the trial, a button on the masthead of its online edition. Press it, and you enter a Breivik-free zone. My suspicion is that few do. Although we all know that Breivik does not merit this massive prolonged attention, that his message is one of paranoid hatred, and that there is no doubt as to his guilt, there is a morbid fascination with the affair, coupled with a need to know as much as possible about it in order to be able to move on.
Erikson argues that the way the trial has been conducted is a testament to the strength of Norway’s democracy and the only way to respond to terrorism and totalitarianism:
Democracy does not recommend a particular political position. It is about form rather than content. It presupposes mutual recognition and the acceptance of divergences of opinion, of the right to be heard, of the obligation to listen to others, and of respect for common norms of decency. The calm and reasoned way in which the Norwegian judiciary, the audience in the courtroom and indeed the population at large deal with Breivik, allowing him to be heard and asking him to listen, should be viewed in this light. It does not imply that Norwegians lack passion or that anger and vengefulness are absent during the trial. What it says is that our values are fundamentally different from his.
Visit Open Democracy to read the article in full.
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