Category: 2012Oslo

4. Beyond Norway

            To gain a comparative perspective on the Norway terror attacks and the public response to them, ACIA formed a panel of speakers to discuss several mass shootings in the United States. Dave Cullen, the author of Columbine, covered the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School as a journalist, then spent 10 years writing his widely praised book. John Ryan, chair of the sociology department at Virginia Tech University, and Laura Agnich, a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech in 2007 and now teaching criminal justice at Georgia Southern University, were both on campus on the day of Seung Hui Cho’s shooting rampage there, and subsequently conducted research on the reaction in the university community. Joseph Hight spoke on the 2006 shooting of five young girls in an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, where he observed the aftermath while serving as president of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Formerly, as an editor of the Daily Oklahoman, Hight directed that newspaper’s coverage of the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

            After those and all such events, the affected communities and the wider public are left with the mystery of why they occurred. What made Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold or Anders Behring Breivik or the Virginia Tech or Amish school shooters become mass murderers?

            “The question I get asked most often is ‘Why did they do it?'” Dave Cullen said. “I think the question people are really asking is not why did these two guys do this, it is why do people do this? Why do people keep going into buildings and shooting people, or why do they put bombs under buildings and then go to an island and kill people there?” In answering the question, Cullen went on,

5. Answering Terrorism

At the heart of Norway’s narrative of the July 22 terror attacks is the theme that Norwegians refused to let extremist views or terrorist violence change their humane values. Psychologist Renate Bugge began her presentation to the ACIA meeting with “two glimpses” from her own memories that reflect that narrative:


One of the mothers who had lost her child said, “If I should have lived in a country that could have foreseen every little detail that might be wrong, I would never have lived in that country because that would be a police state that I don’t want.” That is one testimony.


The other one: one day in the court in Oslo, I was in the room, seeing Breivik there. In the witness box was a tall, good-looking man with a high position in the Department of Justice. He had to be helped up to the stand. — he was nearly blind from the bomb explosion, he had a lot of internal damage. He described all his injuries, and he ended by saying, “For 40 years, I have been working in the criminal department and. I have always thought that every single man has to be treated with dignity. No matter who.” And he turned around, looked straight at Breivik and said, “I am proud that I am living in a country that can treat even the worst criminal with dignity, and I have not changed my mind.”