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The Norway massacre – An unspeakable horror

Posted by James Alan Fox, Crime and Punishment  July 25, 2011 08:00 PM

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Kudos to Norwegian Judge Kim Heger who decided to close his courtroom during the arraignment of the man accused of murdering scores of innocent victims last Friday. The move seems to have frustrated many members of the media and the general public who were eager to hear the defendant describe his motivation and thinking. However, the closed door approach likely disappointed the accused mass murderer even more. After all, he had reportedly been looking forward to the chance to expound on his viewpoint during his initial court appearance.

Taken altogether, the accused assailant’s manifesto, video and photographs of him posing with his weapon suggest that the hideous massacre was as much about attention-getting and self-promotion as it was about promoting any particular extremist ideology. The defendant’s actions prior and after the massacre reflect vanity, not insanity.

Going forward, as TV reporters and print journalists attempt to shed additional light on this horrific crime and the man believed to have perpetrated it, we must avoid giving the accused the limelight. Having the chance to articulate his grievances and expound on his ideas on a worldwide stage is clearly what this man wants, but far more than he deserves.

And in the meantime, we should strive not to allow the defendant's identity to become a name familiar around the world. This was an unspeakable crime, and so let the name of the accused be unspeakable as well.

Author's note: You can follow me on twitter at @jamesalanfox or Facebook at Professor James Alan Fox for notifications of new blog postings. Also, you can find me on the Web at or contact me by e-mail at

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University. He has written 18 books, including his newest, "Violence and Security on Campus: From Preschool through College." More »

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