Selected twits from 20 April 2012, in chronological order.
@helenpidd: Breivik: “I am not a racist, I am an anti-racist.” Concerned with the “anti-European racism” in the Norwegian media.
@helenpidd: Breivik complains that “cultural conservatives” such as himself has no chance of having a letter published in a Norwegian newspaper.
@helenpidd: Breivik says he was influenced in a particular bomb making technique by Andreas Baader from the Red Army Faction/Baader Meinhof Gang.
@helenpidd: Breivik: “We consider the police our brothers, along with the military. if we are going to have a coup d’état, we are going to rely on them”
@paulrbrennan: “Starting point was not to kill as many as possible, but to send a message and ensure the compendium was distributed.”
@paulrbrennan: “If the building had collapsed, Utoya would have been unnecessary, and I could have driven straight to the police station…
@paulrbrennan: “I cannot claim to comprehend the suffering I have caused. If I were to try to comprehend the suffering I have caused, I wouldn’t
@paulrbrennan: “…have been able to sit here today, or even to *live* after July 22nd.”
@paulrbrennan: lawyer: how can you say that, but you cried when you saw your own film the other day (in court)…?
@paulrbrennan: says “What I love is not the same thing you love.”
@helenpidd: Breivik asked to describe Norwegian culture he wants to protect: “It’s everything in Norway ranging from door handles, patterns, beer…”
@helenpidd: “…The way we speak, act… school disciple, politeness, the way we address each other.” (Breivik’s idea of what is Norwegian culture)
@paulrbrennan: is being asked about journalists, and the fact he groups all together, but he differentiates between politicians. why so?
@paulrbrennan: says he differentiates between news and sports journalists….
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik is asked how he found out that 44 of his victims held leadership positions. #Breivik: “my assumption was that more than half would”
@paulrbrennan: After lunch, #Breivik will be asked more about the ‘categories of traitors’ which he outlined yesterday.
@paulrbrennan: MT @mmayson: Are you aware it’s Hitlers birthday today? Is that why #Breivik is dressed completely in black? Mike << I wasn't aware. Maybe. @paulrbrennan: #Breivik says he’s a third generation militant nationalist. Says he tried essays on internet, debate, “absolutely everything.”
@helenpidd: Breivik: violence was last resort: previously tried “everything that was possible through peaceful means until I lost my faith in democracy”
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik now to be asked about Cat A-B-C traitors.
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik is being shown an image of the badge he photoshopped onto his uniform: “Marxist Hunter: Valid for Cat A,B,C only”
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik is told that about half of those he killed were less than 18 years old. #Breivik says he assumed they were older.
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik psychiatrist asks him why he thinks they are lying. #Breivik “That is a good question, maybe you can tell me…?”
@helenpidd: Breivik tells psychiatrists that his meditation dulls all emotions – “from happiness to sorrow, despair, hopelessness, anxiety, fear”
@TrygveSorvaag: Prosecutor takes over and moves over to Utøya.
@TrygveSorvaag: #Breivik asks people to leave the room if they do not want to listen to this.
[Much twittering conveying Breivik's recounting of the attack omitted.]
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik looked at his notes for a second there. Says he shouted “You are going to die today, Marxists!” at the tent site.
[More twittering conveying Breivik's recounting of the attack omitted.]
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik says when he reached Lovers’ Path again he heard a helicopter in the trees above. Thought police must now be on island.
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik: “And I thought, do I really want to survive this? I will be the most hated man in Norway. And I looked over and saw my Glock…”
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik: “…and I thought about shooting myself in the head.” Says he remembered his compendium and the plan to face judicial process.
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik: remembers helicopter was very close, and wondered why, because new police had thermal cameras and didn’t need to be so close.
@paulrbrennan: #Breivik: said he thought ‘my mission is over’, had no intention of firing on the police because they are not the enemy.
The journalists covering the story are the enemy however. Here they are fretting about how twitting makes it harder to spin the proceedings their way.
As the court’s live TV feed is subjected to a ban on broadcasting any of Breivik’s, or his victims’, testimonies, many people across the globe are likely to choose to follow the Twitter feeds of journalists inside the court room for updates.
But free speech blogger Daniel Bennett told Journalism.co.uk he believes substituting reporting Breivik for tweeting his quotes leads to coverage fraught with problems. He also blogged about the issue for Index on Censorship.
“The problem for live-tweeting journalists is that it is hard to do any more than simply relay what Breivik is saying,” Bennett said.
“Live-tweeting is a time consuming exercise and it is difficult to consistently provide background information, context and challenge Breivik’s unsavoury evidence.”
He added that the “natural news instinct” is to repeat Breivik’s “most shocking” comments, “potentially causing additional suffering or inspiring extreme right-wing nationalists.”
As Bennett flagged up in his Index blog post, Guardian reporter Helen Pidd, tweeted on Tuesday: “Heading to Oslo today for the Breivik trial. Should I live-tweet proceedings? I’m thinking not. Loath to give Breivik the platform he craves”.
And she went on to discuss the ethics of live-tweeting the trial with her followers and colleagues.
“@pollycurtis Well, I think with a report you have context. With tweets I’d feel I was publicising his warped soundbites without criticism.”
Twitter users who replied to Pidd’s comments were divided over whether she was justified in this self-censorship. However, Pidd disclosed that her colleagues at the Guardian had agreed that it was “not morally wrong to live tweet the trial” and went on to tweet the proceedings in its minutiae.
Bennett believes that the only way to overcome the ethical issues surrounding live-tweeting is incorporating the tweets into liveblogs, and longer articles where there is more space for additional analysis.
“But even then”, he says, “there is a difficult balance to be struck between accurate reporting and providing a platform for an abhorrent ideology which led to the killing of 77 Norwegians.”