Who’s to blame for Haren? What the papers say

A young girl invites her friends to her 16th birthday on Facebook and forgets to check the privacy box: the invite goes viral. The media pick up on the story and according to police figures three to five thousand people descend on Haren, a small village in the north of the country. They all but destroy it. Who is to blame? What the papers say.


It’s the ‘traditional media’, the Volkskrant quotes media sociologist Peter Vasterman. ‘As long as this sort of thing only floats around on the internet and the social media, nothing much will happen. It’s only when the traditional media pick up on it that it gains prominence’.

The invite to Merthe’s party only became news on Wednesday and was then endlessly commented on, says Vasterman. ‘Nobody should be surprised that things escalated. (..) It’s a question of proportion: it’s not what you talk about, it’s how often you talk about it. The media often pretend not to have a role in things, they are not very good at self-reflection.’

Doing their job

In the same paper, Thomas Bruning, secretary of the journalists’ union NVJ, disagrees. ‘The media were just doing their job reporting on an event taking place in the social media. It’s not as if it wouldn’t have happened if we had kept quiet about it’, he says.

Meanwhile, all the papers reported on an apologetic 3FM DJ Timur who encouraged people to make the journey to Haren on his radio show: ‘Ok, let me be the first: it was very unwise to tell people to go Haren. Sorry.’

Pink elephant

It’s Haren local council, says NRC columnist Steven de Jong. ‘Haren local council has unwittingly turned Project X into a pink elephant.’ By repeatedly telling people there would be no party in Haren, the local council created it’s own pink elephant, the columnist argues, and turned something non-existent into a reality.

It’s time for police and authorities to ponder the implications of this kind of media event, he continues.  And the media should have reminded would-be party-goers of the riots at Hoek van Holland three years ago instead of giggling about the naughtiness of it all. ‘‘Do you want your head smashed in and a police record? Come to Haren’, would have been a better approach’, De Jong writes.

Mindless hooligans 

It’s not the social media, it’s the ‘mindless hooligans’, Trouw writes in an editorial. ‘Haren has lived through a traumatic night which caused material, physical and psychological damage, not because of a girl who accidentally put an invite on Facebook, but because of youngsters who only had one thing in mind: make trouble. The images are sickening. It’s no use trying to find a reasonable explanation. These are mindless hooligans’, the paper writes.

The only comfort is that the modern means of communication – ‘police cameras, mobile phone footage from witnesses’- will help find the culprits. ‘Make no mistake about this’, the paper quotes a policemen as saying, ‘we will find you, so you may as well hand yourself in’.

An investigation on how the mayhem could have been prevented is in order, Trouw concludes.


It’s the parents, says Elsevier commentator Gerlof Reitsma. ‘Parents should talk to their children about their behaviour and the dangers of drink and drugs. The police should get a better grip on those youngsters who are threatening to fall into extremes. The problem is much bigger than football hooliganism’, Reitsma thinks.







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