If people wondered why I have so little regard for humanity most of the time, the days following Anders Behring Breivik's terrorist attacks in Norway present an excellent example.
Mainstream news outlets have been covering the story in detail... but the details of the print copy have changed as the details of the incident have emerged. Before Breivik was arrested, speculation focussed on Islamic groups (because if something bad happens there must be a Muslim involved, or there's no story, apparently). Once Breivik was in custody, it didn't take long for it to sink in that he looked rather pale for a Muslim.
Very little time passed before media outlets began changing the wording used to describe the attacks: they scrambled to redefine him as a mass-murderer or gunman, rather than admit to yet another deadly instance of terrorism perpetrated by a white Christian. I suspect the time between Breivik's arrest and the change of wording in the print copy was roughly equal to the time needed for doctors to shatter reporters' hopes that Breivik was an albino Arab.
The acrobatics resorted to by the mainstream media came in spite of the blatantly political nature of Breivik's attacks, which almost tailors them to the very definition of a terrorist: he attacked a youth camp that was operated by the Norwegian Labour Party.
As if the failure of the media wasn't enough reason to shake one's head at the species, the failure of intellect of regular people is far worse. The same type of hardline right-wingers who Anders Behring Breivik would have felt kinship with are turning out to be more numerous than one might have hoped: a contributor to the National Post spotted postings on right-wing websites that claimed that the attacks were part of a conspiracy to deflect "populist" anger at recent financial bailouts; the first two results of a Google search for the phrase "breivik terrorist" are audio recordings of a former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State trying to debunk the rapidly-spreading conspiracy theory that the Norway Attacks were a false flag operation designed to make white Europeans out to be a security risk; a commenter on the page for this video insisted that the United States' government has motivation to crack down on "individualists" (which is what people in the militia movement call the militia movement) and that the Norway Attacks were part of a PR campaign to justify surveilance of them; and a major US radio host compared the slain children to the Hitler Youth in an attempt to stifle criticism of a terrorist whose politics were uncomfortably similar to his own. It's sickening, really.
However, for once there's been a silver lining to the bad news. For once, my disgust with society at large is balanced by the demonstration of qualities I appreciate in people.
Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister Of Norway, has reacted to the attacks not with militarism or a call for more security spending, but with a call for more democracy, more openess, and more freedom. The people of Norway have responded to that call: Stoltenberg's politically-progressive Labour Party, specifically targeted by Breivik, has seen a massive surge in support. As icing on the cake, it has come out that a number of Breivik's intended victims were rescued by a married lesbian couple who were nearby in a boat: the resulting positive press for the lesbian community is a slap in the face to Breivik's right-wing Christian ideology.
Seeing the reaction of Norwegian leaders and people to this incident has, I grudgingly admit, filled me with admiration for them: for once there's a bit of shade from the harsh glare, a place where cooler heads have prevailed and reasonable thought has won out over feverish hysterics.
I stand with my fellow Northerners in calling for a strengthening of the institutions that men like Breivik seek to attack.