Pew Research & Crimson Hexagon: Bloggers Assess Motives of the Norway Attacker

A Pew special edition report with analysis powered by Crimson Hexagon
The dramatic July 22 attacks in Norway that resulted in the deaths of at least 68 people inspired a vibrant conversation in the blogosphere last week.
While sympathy for the victims was significant, more time was devoted to conversations about the killer, Anders Behring Breivik, according to an analysis of social media conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ).
Pew Research Study Results Chart
In the six days following the attacks (July 22-27), the largest component of the conversation on blogs (38%) involved passing along breaking news and facts. Bloggers passed along tidbits of information in the hours that followed the two attacks and then continued to share information about the death toll, Breivik’s history and the developments in his prosecution.
But fully 20% of the conversation focused on the motives and ideology of Breivik himself, a 32-year-old Norwegian who admitted he committed the murders in an attempt to “save” Norway and Western Europe from a Muslim takeover.
The most common view about him at 15% of the total conversation was that he was a right-wing extremist. As more details about the shooter emerged, including the text of his 1,500-page manifesto, bloggers attached right-wing extremism to his motivations. A number of bloggers also tied his views to those of conservative political parties in Europe and the United States.
A less common assessment of Breivik’s motives, at 5%, fought back against that classification. These bloggers argued he was not a true Christian or conservative and instead was a follower of another ideology such as socialism.
Sympathy for the victims accounted for 16% of the conversation, as bloggers commiserated with those harmed in the attacks and for the country as a whole.
As is often the case with social media, a significant amount of discussion (9%) consisted of criticisms of members of the mainstream press. In this instance, bloggers denounced those who jumped to the conclusion that the attacks were part of an Islamic terrorist plot, possibly connected to al Qaeda, before anything certain was known about the suspect. Many condemned journalists, such as the Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin, who declared the events should be “a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists.”
Slightly less conversation, 7%, connected the attacks and Islamic terrorism, in some cases defending the early assumption in the media that Islamic terrorists were behind it.
These are the results of a special edition of the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, utilizing technology from Crimson Hexagon. Based on almost 52,000 blog posts, this report goes beyond the normal methodology of PEJ’s index of new media to look at the specific themes and tone of conversation on blogs related to the Norway attacks.
The full report is available at Pew’s site.
As always, we’ll continue analyzing the social sphere for interesting trends on a range of topics. In the meantime, feel free contact us at with questions or to learn how your market, brand or product could benefit from leveraging the Crimson Hexagon for social media monitoring and analysis. Want to see the Crimson Hexagon platform in action? Request a Live Online Demo.

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