The Untold Story

In lots of ways, it is the ideal human interest story. It is the story of heroism in the face of the unthinkable. Yet we did not get to hear about it until a week later, and it is worth asking why.

Two campers on the other side of the lake from the island of Utøya, where the Norwegian massacre happened, heard gunfire and screams while they were eating their supper. Without thought for their personal safety, they took their boat and crossed towards the firing. Bullets hit the boat, but they pulled the fleeing youngsters from the water and crossed back and forth repeatedly. It was not a very big boat, so it took four trips to save 40 teenagers who may otherwise have been shot, or drowned trying to escape. Without them, the massacre could have been considerably more bloody even than it was. So why have we hardly heard about them?

In the first place, Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen are women. A lot of the press like their tales of heroism to fit standard narratives, in which men protect and women nurture. In action films, women are mostly there so that the manly men can be rivals for their love, and to make sure that audiences never ever think that there is anything even the littlest bit gay about the boyish tussling for supremacy they enact while being heroic. Women are not, in these narratives, supposed to be competent: they don’t drive well and they twist their ankles running away in unsuitable shoes.

In the second place, Dalen and Hansen are lesbians. In television narratives, the few heroines we are allowed to see are always heterosexual; even when they are allowed to be competent, and wear sensible action-adventure outfits, they always end up melting into some man’s arms in the end. Mainstream culture does not like the idea of lesbians being people who would put themselves in danger to save teenagers, probably heterosexual teenagers, that they have never met. We are far more used to lesbian couples, in very special issue-driven episodes, being in danger, and having to be rescued themselves.

Third, they are a married couple and you can just imagine news editors in Washington worrying that, if they pushed the story, they would be accused of promoting "the gay agenda". American rightwing pundits that came close to saying "well, we disapprove of Breivik’s methods but you have to understand that there is something quite sinister about a summer camp of leftwing youth activists" was never going to be happy with lesbian heroism, and married lesbian heroes would just have made their heads explode.

It is a shame. We all need stories about people who put themselves in danger to save lives when bad things are happening; we all need to know that there are people out there who are not ideologically driven killers. In particular, gay teens need to be told not just that it gets better, but that they, personally, may one day get the chance to step up, be heroic and make it better. [By the Guardian]

  

30 thoughts on “The Untold Story”

  1. That is just so true.
    Media don’t like true heroes, especially those who don’t fit into mainstream ideologies. They prefer stars, idols, legends, celebrities…
    Fake jewels are just as shiny, so why seek genuine gold ?

  2. thats a sad thought,even if a person is gay or lesbian they should have given them credit for what they’ve done or the heroic act they did. i mean not many people even straight one would do the same thing i mean not even a straight soldier would do that without back up or support or assurance but they, they’ve risked their lives and yet no news about them?. seriously the world is getting more ignorant and stupid

  3. Thanks 4 this story. I think this 2 women are true heroines, because i don’t know, how i would react in a situation like this and that the media is not really interested, is no surprise to me. First Page -> if its bleeds, its leads./ Scandals. Storys of heroes that doesn’t fit the rolemodel if mentioned overall page 8 a short note. No wonder we live more and more in a state of fear, instead of some little bit hero worshipping. Hero worshipping though the media only happens when some country fight a war and the administration needs really more Soldiers to win. Lets invent some Rolemodel hero, with some small truth in it maybe and than promote, promote, promote. Done by America, Germany and other countries over and over again.

  4. re: “Glenn Beck likens Norwegian dead to Hitler youth
    Glenn Beck, the rightwing US broadcaster and Tea Party favourite, has compared those who were massacred on the Norwegian island of Utøya to the Nazi party’s youth wing.
    ‘There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler youth, or, whatever. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics. Disturbing,’ said Beck on his syndicated radio show.
    The comments were condemned by Torbjørn Eriksen, a former press secretary to Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s prime minister. Eriksen described the comment as ‘a new low’ for Beck, telling the Daily Telegraph: ‘Young political activists have gathered at Utøya for over 60 years to learn about and be part of democracy, the very opposite of what the Hitler Youth was about. Glenn Beck’s comments are ignorant, incorrect and extremely hurtful.'”

    To Glenn Beck, et al, I ask:

    How old were you when you learned your idiotic right-wing ideas and ways — including “jesus christ?” Believe me, anything of the right-wing religious is just as political as anything else — if not more so.

    1. Hi penboyX2,
      I quite agree!!!
      “…, if not more so.”

      The brains behind the teapartyists know that exactly, but they don’t tell anybody, that the teapartyists are just used.
      And Mc Murdoch will never tell the Old-testamentarians are just used too – for the benefit of the elefants.
      In fact it was W. Bush’s grandfather, who gave money to Hitler, cause that massmurderer intended to fight the Communists.
      German leaders of huge industrial plants in Germany did just the same, for the same reason.

    2. “… I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics. Disturbing,’ said Beck on his syndicated radio show.”

      I guess he very conveniently forgot about “Jesus Camp.” It’s damn hard to get more political than that camp.

      1. The John Birch society runs summer camps for kids and if that doesn’t qualify as a political organization I don’t know what does (an ultra right wing one) Glenn Beck is not too bright and has a habit of running off at the mouth without knowing a whole lot about what he’s talking about, the sad thing is that some of his listeners take what he says as gospel

  5. So let’s get this straight: a white conservative Christian man shoots up a bunch of kids and two lesbos save 40 of them… Welcome to the real world.

    facebook.com/daburamiyao

  6. Somehow I feel like the fact that Glenn Beck was the one who made those comments is almost funny. Funny considering that he has, in fact, started a political camp for youth. Still, its good to see this story leaking into America through the cracks.

  7. Thanks, great story.
    But I have to ask; I check the news from Sweden daily
    (English Vs.) and I never saw the story there either ?
    John

  8. Do you have any sources for this story, a link to an article or something? I’m from Norway and I have not read anything about this story in the newspapers here. Maybe I’ve just missed it. But there was a story about a German tourist who did something similair, and I refuse to believe the Norwegian media would have a problem about publishing a story if two lesbians did the same. We don’t really care about that stuff over here.
    An in the week after this horrible thing happened, pretty much every story about survivors or heroes were published, so I can’t imagine why they would leave this one out.

    Edit: I see that there is a link already in the article to The Independent. But, do you have a link to a Scandinavian article or maybe even a Norwegian one?

    1. I agree. I read aftenposten.no regularly, and I saw no word about it. However, a search just now revealed an article in the local rag _Helgeland arbeiderblad_.

      1. Sorry to reply to my own posting, but I tried to include a link. It seems to have got lost somewhere. Here it is again:

  9. “In action films, women are mostly there so that the manly men can be rivals for their love, and to make sure that audiences never ever think that there is anything even the littlest bit gay about the boyish tussling for supremacy they enact while being heroic. Women are not, in these narratives, supposed to be competent: they don’t drive well and they twist their ankles running away in unsuitable shoes.”

    Really? I must be mistaken about the women in The Matrix series, Laura Croft, Charlie’s Angels, The Million Dollar Woman, Xena, Aliens, Princess Leia, Kill Bill, Terminator 2, Resident Evil, Thelma and Louis, Silence of the Lambs, Underworld, most of the James Bond films, and a bunch of other movies and TV shows…

  10. I was going to remark on your unproven assumptions and broad generalizations in this article, but they are actually those of Roz Kaveney in a commentary in the Guardian of August 3. You’ve lifted the article mostly verbatim. Her last ‘graph was less of a rhetorical stretch and, perhaps, most worthy of quoting.
    “It is a shame. We all need stories about people who put themselves in danger to save lives when bad things are happening; we all need to know that there are people out there who are not ideologically driven killers. In particular, gay teens need to be told not just that it gets better, but that they, personally, may one day get the chance to step up, be heroic and make it better.”
    Your voice, Josh, is strong and important to your legion of followers. When it’s not your voice, please, let us know that up front.

  11. Mark #13
    Hey don`t feel bad very easy to miss that !
    You did have some good points I thought
    And you just got caught up in the moment..

  12. Having never traveled to Europe and only having visited US/Canadian or US/Mexican border cities occasionally, what I know about the rest of the world comes from various media. My impression is that Scandinavian countries are far more liberal when it comes to issues regarding sexuality. Even if that’s not true, I’m very surprised that local Norway media didn’t dig up this story immediately, regardless of the gender involved.

    I would also guess that US media covering the story relied heavily on local (Norway) coverage of the tragedy and if the Norwegians missed this aspect, it would in part explain why it didn’t receive coverage sooner here in the US.

    When Rep. Giffords (Arizona) was shot and nearly killed, her life was very probably saved by the quick action of her intern, Daniel Hernandez, who is gay and Latino. That story was disseminated rather quickly here (perhaps not on Fox Noise but on legitimate journalistic outlets) and I recall seeing him interviewed several times.

    Anyone with a brain dismisses Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and their ilk for what they are – profiteers cashing in on bigotry and hatred who will, in the long run, be a sad footnote in history and nothing more. Times are changing and while it may not be as quick as we’d like, Josh’s generation will take equality to new heights.

  13. @ Thomas – “stars, idols, legends, celebrities…” classic ! although I initially misread it as “idiots” which is almost as good

    @ PenBoyx2 – the [kind of] funny follow up item to the Beck ignorance is that the Tea Party camps for kids website opened up within days of his spew and was recruiting from “18 months to 18 years” to learn that stilted brand of ignorance over the course of a week long stay – Ewwwwww.

    @ Josh – thank you Thank You THANK YOU for posting this… I had seen a reference to this at TowelRoad or the like but no pointer to the Guardian article. In a just or reasonably sane world those women would have been on every interview program from here to the Einstein-Rosen bridge.

    “married lesbian heroes would just have made their heads explode.” ahhhh if only… starting with Beck and his ilk – now THAT even I would pay-per-view to watch

    Prayers & <3 s & healing thoughts for everyone who lost anyone in this act of ignorance… which I suppose includes all the people of Norway, wherever they may be…

  14. A very thoughtful post, Josh. Thanks.

    I live in America, and my country is being taken over by the most extreme proto fascists imaginable. They have completely destroyed Barack Obama. Our political process has been severely broken for decades, and a lot of us naively believed that it was all going to be magically repaired when Obama got elected. But the sickeness in our body politic has just gotten worse. We’re now at a point that conservatives talk openly about rebellion and secession — just like they did in 1860 before they started the civil war, invaded the north, and started killing people in cold blood — all to defend their sacred rights to keep blacks as slaves. They invaded the north and took free northern blacks prisoner and sent them back to the south to become slaves.

    One hundred years later, in response to the Civil Rights Movement, they engaged in a 15 year campaign of terrorism, bombing churches, assassinating liberal political leaders, in an attempt to prevent blacks from getting the right to vote and other basic rights.

    Now the same people have risen up in the Tea Party movement and this time they are winning. They have the corporations behind them and the media.

    A lot of my friends talk about moving to Canada or Europe.

    1. “just like they did in 1860 before they started the civil war, invaded the north, and started killing people in cold blood — all to defend their sacred rights to keep blacks as slaves. They invaded the north and took free northern blacks prisoner and sent them back to the south to become slaves.”

      What the hell are they teaching you yankees about that war in school?

      While there were plantation owners that hired men to go into the north to retrieve run-away slaves (which, at the time, was legal) prior to the war, southern troops never stepped into the north until the second year of the war. Many escaped slaves may have stopped in the north, but until the the Emancipation Proclamation, federal and state laws either allowed or compelled authorities to return escaped slaves to their “owners”. They weren’t truly free from slavery unless they made it to Canada.

      Even then, the only battles of the war to take place in a northern state were in Maryland, which didn’t abolish slavery until 1864 even though they sided with the Union… a year after the confederate army was pushed back into the south and two years after Lincoln’s first Emancipation Proclamation.

      Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia (the four northern-most states to secede) didn’t leave the Union until Lincoln had already sent troops into the south. Hence the reason that many in the south still refer to it as “the War of Northern Aggression”.

      Yes there were atrocities in by south leading up to the civil war and well into the 1960’s but, other then a minority of the citizens, the north is equally to blame for most of them.

  15. I think that’s bullshit (eg see Sixle’s post) but it does make a good article.

    Which basically sums up most of the English speaking media.

  16. Nice story, but about the part why it is not heard I absolutely disagree. I mean, if this happened in the USA 50 years ago, what you said might be true, but I do not think you can apply these reasons here.

    1. As has been pointed out before, this story has yet to appear in any major Norwegian news publications like _Aftenposten_, _Dagbladet_ and _VG_. In today’s Norway, the reason for this clearly cannot be sexual discrimination; there must be some other factor at work. Can we even be sure that this is a real story?

  17. Thank you very much for telling us this story. Here in the USA, this is the first I’ve heard of it, and I agree, the reasons you give why I haven’t heard about it are right on the money.

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