Mike Vickers' Blog

July 28, 2011


Filed under: History in the making — derryvickers @ 9:07 pm

It is difficult to make any sensible comment on the Norwegian massacre – so many thoughts are going round in my head. 

Charlie Brooker has long article in the Guardian and pleads that Anders Behring Breivik should not be made a ‘hero’ yet how can it not happen – he is most likely to insist on his own defence.  With the Dunblane massacre who can remember Thomas Hamilton but he committed suicide after his shooting – not so Breivik.  Others have exampled Timothy McVeigh.

Brooker also denigrates the experts called in immediately after the massacre  for blaming it on Al Qaeda and he is right but then in an era of ‘instant news’ people just want instant answers – any answer will do and certainly not that ‘it was one of us’.

 The massacre instantly displaced News Corp from the headlines but this story has been short lived too; the tabloids are front-paging the death of Amy Winehouse and even the Scotsman’s front page shares both stories.

Leslie Riddoch and Chris Smith do a little analysis in their weekly pod and this has a ring of correctness: Breivik concentrated his main anger on the up and coming labour party teenagers on the island rather than gunning down more senior labour politicians.  The guy is reacting against a liberal society that tolerates and even welcomes Muslims.  Muslins who may have a different set of moral standards from the rank and file Norwegians.  Leslie and Chris have described them well in their pod.

One of my heroes, Stephen Jay Gould, has admirably described that there is no such thing as ‘rank and file’ – the mean is not the answer – it is the distribution (Gaussian standard deviation) that is equally if not more important.  Even if the mean is open minded, left of centre, there will always be a few bigoted far right of centre members of society; as there will be narrow mind members of the extreme left.  These extremes may both feel they need to act.

And one has, to devastating effect.  Another was Bin Laden – equally well educated from a prosperous family.

Of course in different parts of the world the mean features and their distribution differ considerably from those characterised by western society.  These may change over surprising short periods; look at the US where a vociferous population, narrow minded, right wing Christian, is preventing resolution of the Budget.  I do not argue whether the group is right or wrong, but if they survive they will change the face of the US and indeed the Western World. (The real problem with budget balancing is that it is not the ones who balance the budget but the poor and less able who suffer – wealth is a Poisson distribution with the politicians high up the tail).

So back to Norway, it is unlikely that security will not get tighter.  Our local primary school is now surrounded by a high barbed steel fence.  This is not, I suggest, to protect the children from outsiders but from ourselves.

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