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July 26, 2011

Ottawa Citizen

Soon after it emerged that the perpetrator of last week’s horrific attacks in Norway was a white anti-Muslim reactionary rather than an Islamist extremist, there was a backlash against experts who had speculated that the incident was likely the work of al-Qaeda or another jihadist group.

The problem, however, was not just with the experts who lacked the patience to wait a few hours for evidence to emerge before pronouncing on the motives of the attack. Part of the responsibility also lies with the informal curators of social media networks, mainstream journalists and many others who repeated this speculation, and, in doing so, helped publicize and legitimize it. With the lines between traditional and new media blurring, it’s not surprising that the information then found its way onto the pages and websites of reputable news publications.

The failure, in other words, seems to have been a systemic one. The 24-hour news cycle has given way to an 86,400-second-per-day inf...

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Roland Paris
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Ottawa

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