1/ I’m writing to voice my concern over the online articles that describe the
recent events in Oslo (Norwegian
gunman boasted of links to UK far right, 23 July; Anders
Behring Breivik: profile of a mass murderer, 23 July). The words “terror
attack” and similar phrases were immediately used to describe the events in
Oslo, until it transpired that the acts were committed by one local individual,
when the labelling of the atrocities changed to a “bomb and gun massacre”.
I can’t help but feel a sense of embedded passive racism developing; if the
terrorist attacks in London, crimes against UK citizens with the intention to
terrorise the public, were committed by a fellow white, previously law-abiding,
devoutly Christian UK citizen, would they have been considered terrorism, or
just mass murder? Yet here in Norway, the suspected perpetrator of the attacks
is still due to be charged and is being held for acts of terror.
White terrorists are always humanised by the media and labelled differently.
The individual is now stated to be a Christian, an extremist, somebody who
enjoyed “popular films, television shows and video games”. Muslims are
dehumanised through stereotype. It’s portrayed as being in their nature to be
cruel and hence deserve invasions and torturous imposition of foreign rule.
So, can we continue to refer to the acts of terror in Oslo as such, or do we
now see a future where all terrorist attacks are merely terrible crimes, with
the criminal humanised, regardless of race, religion or targeted nation?
2/ Matt Cox (Letters,
25 July) has a short memory. He writes: “If terrorist attacks in London against
UK citizens … were committed by a fellow white, previously law-abiding,
devoutly Christian UK citizen, would they have been considered terrorism or just
mass murder?” It is not so long ago that regular attacks were made on UK
citizens by white, Christian (Catholic or Protestant) citizens, which went on
for more than 30 years. These attacks were indeed labelled “terrorism”; they
were also labelled “mass murder”. By calling these acts murder, the state was
able to resist the perpetrators’ insistence that they be categorised as
political prisoners, with unhappy consequences that many in Ireland continue to
Most people hope that the new political settlement in Northern Ireland holds
– but language (nationalist, loyalist etc) continues to provide flashpoints of
disagreement, and underlines the continuing importance of getting the words
right in media commentary.