Coded yellow.

Friday 15 September 2000


Pic of the day: HALT! HALT! Screenshot from Daggerfall, as I find this topic hard to illustrate with my usual cutesy pictures.

Innocent until arrested

OK, I'm going to rant. I don't do that often, do I? But this just ticked me off past the scale of my tick-off-o'meter. And you're the type that can understand it, I think. Most people would just stare dumbly, in this particular case. No, it's not about quantum physics. It's about tabloids, rape and murder.

As I went to get a new stock of throat lozenges and yoghurt, I passed by a newsstand. There were the two main tabloid papers here in Norway, VG and Dagbladet. I looked at them briefly; as can be expected, they were about the murder in nearby city Kristiansand which is now presumably solved. I guess I said so myself on Wednesday. Anyway, I walked on and there was something nagging me. Then it exploded into my consciousness. They had used full names and photos of the two young men arrested, one of who has confessed and implicated the other.

How dare they? The bastards! You don't do that. You may do it with some mad killer on the run, to help people get out of the way. But you don't smear someone across the front page because they've been arrested. "But they deserve it! They promised to show the girls cute kittens, and then they raped them and killed them with a knife!" No, they didn't, not until they are convicted by a jury of their peers. Not by the tabloids. They have the right to a fair trial; how can they get that now that they're already branded?

Let me make my point clear: You cannot deny a man fair trial because of a crime he is not convicted of. No matter how repulsive. In fact, the more disturbing the crime, the more important that it be handled with utmost care.

These papers seem to presume that there are crimes so heinous that you should be punished just for being a suspect. And what worries me more: Most people probably agree with this. These are mass market papers; they know their audience better than the audience knows itself. I am convinced that most people are actually this stupid. (Not you, of course. The fact that you have somehow arrived at this remote website without the help of colorful ads show that you are well above average intelligence. That's why I think you can understand this.)

Needless to say, once someone is convicted in a fair trial, I'd like to see them punished to the full extent of the law. You can hardly choose a more horrible crime to commit in peacetime. Yet so far, we don't know that they are guilty. In latest news, the young man who confessed part in the murder has given a detailed description of where the weapon was hidden. Only, the police found the place and there was no weapon there. Hmm. Time will show, I guess.


We humans have the capacity for logic, but we are ruled by emotions. This is not such a disaster as it may sound. Logic is great when you know all the facts and the laws involved. But in real life, we often have very incomplete data. Emotions help us sort out the important things and assign values to them.

When the rest of the tribe run screaming from that thing on the edge of the forest, chances are it is not something immediately edible. The same rule usually holds true for the stock exchange.

But sometimes our emotions jump to conclusions in a situation where we could get a better overview by waiting. This is often so for court cases. But the worrying thing here is that people tend to make up their mind on first impressions, and stick to this unless convinced otherwise. So, if you're ever going to court for some reason, dress your best and don't fidget. And, above all, don't get smeared across the front page of national newspapers as a baddie.

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