Insane or evil? How Norway's Dagbladet and Aftenposten newspapers covered the perpetrator of 22 July 2011


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This article investigates how the two Norwegian newspapers Aftenposten and Dagbladet framed the reporting about Anders Behring Breivik (henceforth Breivik) in the aftermath of the terror attacks at the government building in Oslo, leaving eight dead behind, and the killing of 69 young people at the AUF youth summer camp on Utøya on 22 July 2011. On the basis of critical discourse analysis, Robert Entman’s framing theory and theories about enemy images, we have analysed a selection of articles from a total sample of 1323 articles covering landmark periods related to the attacks of 22 July 2011: the immediate reaction (22–29 July); the meeting in court to prepare the trial (14–15 November); and the presentation of first psychiatric report (29–30 November). Did the media speculate, before Breivik’s identity was known, on the possibility that Muslim extremists were responsible? An analysis of the editorials in Aftenposten and Dagbladet concludes that Aftenposten hypothesized that Muslims might be behind the attack, while Dagbladet mostly avoided such speculation. The divergence in representation is reiterated in the interviews the authors conducted with the two newspapers’ editors. After Breivik’s identity became known we found three dominating frames, the perpetrator as a ‘right-wing extremist’, as an ‘insane person’ or as an ‘attention-seeker’. The framing analysis show that the ‘insane’ frame was the most usual in both Aftenposten and Dagbladet, followed by the ‘extreme right wing’ frame and ‘the attention-seeker’ frame. The article discusses how this framing might have influenced the long-term consequence for public debate in Norway.




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