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The opposite reaction to terror September 22, 2011

Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, Political behavior , trackback

Norwegian newspapers today report the following: A month after the terror at Oslo and Utøya, a group of researchers from the University of Bergen repeated three of the survey questions they asked Norwegians as part of the International Social Survey Programme, right after the terror in Madrid in 2006.  They were amazed at what they found. Norwegians are more sceptical, not less, towards extending police powers of surveillance.

They asked the following questions (english translations from ISSP documentation):

Suppose the government suspected that a terrorist act was about to happen. Do you think the authorities should have the right to…

This constitutes a clear drop in support for security measures that invade privacy and civil liberties, quite the opposite of what we  would expect. This supports the impression of the response that seemed to amaze international media and bloggers  (f.ex. Glenn Greenwald, Huffington Post, AFP). Virtually no cries for tightening of security, revenge or a “decisive response” as we would expect if this had happened in the United States.

Professor Anne Lise Fimreite from the University of Bergen and researcher Magnus Ranstorp at the Swedish Defense Academy attribute this to the decisive political leadership calling for openness and democracy in the days following the attack. The mantras that has been repeated over and over have been the two quotes “We will meet terror with more openness and more democracy” and “If one man can show that much hate, think of how much love we can show” from Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Labour MP Stine Renate Håheim respectively.

As a Norwegian myself, I do feel a sense of positive nationalistic pride in this development. Still, the numbers are quite high, and the Parliament did decide to adopt the European Data Storage Directive after intense debate. The struggle to defend civil liberties is far from a given victory.

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