Suitable vehicles: Framing blame and justice when children kill a child

  • Green D
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Abstract

This article presents the results of a comparative analysis of English and Norwegian newspaper coverage of two child-on-child homicides from the 1990s. Domestic coverage of the English case of James Bulger presented it as alarmingly symptomatic of deep-seated moral decline in Britain that only tough, remoralizing strategies could address. Coverage of the Norwegian case of Silje Redergard constructed it as a tragic one-off, requiring expert intervention to facilitate the speedy reintegration of the boys responsible. Four sets of plausible explanations are offered to account for differences in the ways the two cases were constructed. First, different cultural constructions of childhood endure in each country and these condition the responses deemed appropriate for children who commit grave acts. Second, the dominant claims makers were very different in each jurisdiction with consequences for the quality of the discourses readers encountered. Third, while the legitimacy of elite expertise appears to survive in Norway, it appears to ail in Britain, and addressing this absence of public confidence has become a political priority. Fourth, a consensual political culture obtains in Norway and this makes Norwegian politicians less susceptible to the temptations experienced by adversarially acculturated English politicians to politicize high-profile crimes.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Childhood
  • Discourse
  • Legitimacy
  • Penal populism
  • Political culture

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Authors

  • David A. Green

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