Freedom of Speech, Norwegian Style

By Hans Rustad.

The day before the Nor­we­gian prime minis­ter Jens Stol­ten­berg spoke in the par­lia­ment about what exactly he meant with the term “more open­ness” after the 22/7 ter­ror attacks, the state owned Nor­we­gian Broad­cas­ting Cor­po­ra­tion (NRK) show­cased their inter­pre­ta­tion of free speech.

The specta­cle aired on Octo­ber 26 seemed to be so care­fully orchestrated that some­body must have been plan­ning how to domi­nate and win the debate. If NRK can set the stage for the debate, they have won before the whole thing is even star­ted. This is a well known deba­ting tech­ni­que devel­o­ped by the left for deca­des. The others are sim­ply left behind.

The whole thing star­ted with the main news story about a poll showing 25 per­cent believe there are too many Mus­lims in Nor­way, and almost as many, 24 per­cent, believe they pose a threat to Nor­we­gian culture.

This was a strong start, and my first thought was that NRK will finally start repor­ting on con­tro­ver­sial issues wit­hout bea­ting around the bush. But then the repor­ter took to the stre­ets to find repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the skep­ti­cal, two young con­struc­tion wor­kers from - jud­ging by their dia­lect - the rural moun­tain regions. They spoke freely and openly to the camera. And I asked myself if these boys really did know what they were get­ting them­sel­ves into?

Of those 25 per­cent, 60 per­cent do not have any Mus­lim acquain­tan­ces, we were told. The tole­rance is grea­ter in Oslo and other urban areas. So this was appa­rently the hill­bil­lies on the loose again, the wild and unta­med from the villages.

The rese­ar­cher Anders Ravik Jup­s­kås has been look­ing into the right wing, and needs to balance and con­si­der many issues. A rese­ar­cher has to com­mu­ni­cate his mes­sage to the deci­sion makers who decide whether or not he will get fun­ding. When the powers that be need assi­stance, they call upon Jup­s­kås to give the issue a taint of science. Jup­s­kås has done well to point out that right wing par­ties in Nor­way and Den­mark are legi­ti­mate chann­els for poli­ti­cal pro­test. The extreme right is stron­ger in Sweden, which until recently did not have a right wing poli­ti­cal party.

But there are limits for what a rese­ar­cher should get him­self mixed up in. Jup­s­kås was asked to com­ment on that most of the skep­ti­cal 25 per­cent were from the Nor­we­gian right wing party Frem­skritts­par­tiet (FrP). He did not rece­ive the ques­tion, but was instead asked to con­firm this. Jup­s­kås hesi­tated a bit, but did confirm.

He also pointed out that 25 per­cent is actually a low num­ber com­pared to other Euro­pean nations. The TV host was happy to hear this, but by say­ing this, Jup­s­kås actually descri­bed the unp­lea­sant poli­ti­cal divide which is little men­tio­ned in Nor­we­gian Media. If the anti-Muslim sen­ti­ments in other countries are held by about 50 per­cent of the popu­la­tion, you can­not pos­sibly call these groups mar­gi­nal. Then we are tal­king about mas­sive numbers.

NRK and the rest of the media can­not make up their mind: Are the anti-Muslim sen­ti­ments cau­sed by a small num­ber of influ­en­tial voi­ces? Is it for example likely that the oppo­sition in Ger­many is cau­sed by the popu­lar web­site Poli­ti­cally Incor­rect, PI.net? Are they able to influ­ence the pub­lic opi­nion despite of mas­sive media power? Even har­der to explain is the best­sel­ler “Deut­schland Schafft Sich Ab” (Ger­many does itself in), by Thilo Sar­razin, because buy­ing a book requi­res an active deci­sion by the buyer. The unp­lea­sant ques­tion is then whether his book reflects what people actually feel on its own.

Which rai­ses anot­her issue, anot­her cliché from the six­ties and well known in the his­tory of socia­lism: If the “people” does not mean what the class ana­ly­sis says, it must be because they are manipulated.

Her­bert Mar­cuse was one of the stu­dent movement’s great minds in the six­ties, and created the notion of “false con­scious­ness”. Mar­cuse came out of the phi­lo­sop­hi­cal elitist Frank­furt School, and belie­ved the cul­ture industry influ­en­ced people’s men­tal state to the point where they did not under­stand their own needs. But Mar­cuse did, and even more so the stu­dents and Mao­ists. The Mao­ists were preachers and sol­di­ers for the good cause, and talked about people having “flies in their heads”. While Mar­cuse could carry out his dis­tan­ced ana­ly­sis, these guys leaned more towards prac­ti­cal poli­tics, and took phy­si­cal action against those who destroyed or poi­so­ned people’s consciousness.

This atti­tude is reflected in the way Thilo Sar­razin was treated. He had to be iso­la­ted, his thoughts discre­di­ted, and they wan­ted him exclu­ded from the Ger­man labour party SPD. The only pro­blem was his popu­larity. Sanc­tions may back­fire, but there is no doubt what they would do to him under more favo­rable circumstances.

This dis­play of a hostile con­flict is somet­hing new in today’s Europe. It used to be related to a hostile ideo­logy anchored in Moscow and Bei­jing. Now it is replaced by an inter­nal con­flict. This is disturbing.

The powers that be feel they have the right to treat a part of the popu­la­tion dif­fe­rently from the rest, there is an open debate on whether they should be cen­so­red or locked out.

This was openly discus­sed in the Octo­ber 26 NRK pro­gram, first through the news story that should set the stage for the debate pro­gram “Aktu­elt”: Do they deserve to be heard?

And the most unp­lea­sant thing: This was not a theo­re­ti­cal debate, there was a live per­son in the stu­dio: Com­pu­ter scien­tist, aut­hor, and social com­men­ta­tor Ole Jør­gen Anfind­sen, known for his cri­ti­cal views on offi­cial Nor­we­gian immi­gra­tion and inte­gra­tion poli­cies. It had been announ­ced in the news that a com­men­ta­tor who belie­ves the 22/7 ter­ro­rist “had a point” would take part. I felt uneasy. Did Anfind­sen really intend to step out on this arena? It would be like volunte­ering to enter a gla­dia­tor match.

The whole thing was set up for maxi­mum effect. The mus­lim com­men­ta­tor Bushra Ishaq, known for her sup­port for allowing the hijab as part of the Nor­we­gian police uni­form, talked about the price to pay for taking part in the pub­lic debate. She had been har­assed and had rece­i­ved threats from the begin­ning. When the camera then pointed to Anfind­sen, eve­rybody under­stood what he had been con­tri­bu­ting to.

Anfind­sen was his usual laid back self, try­ing to admit that his oppo­nents may have some valid points. All in vain, this time, because his oppo­nents had no inten­tion of agre­eing to disagree.

The host of the show - Ole Torp - dis­tin­guis­hed him­self by an increas­ing emo­tio­nal atti­tude towards Anfind­sen. The intro­duc­tion was seemingly neut­ral, but even­tually he came out guns bla­zing. Anfind­sen was descri­bed as a neatly wrap­ped racist. Is that what he is, Torp asked for­mer labour minis­ter of cul­ture, Åse Kle­ve­land. No, was the answer, she could not spot any wrap­ping here, just a plain open racist.

Later she added that these cri­tics are well dressed and speak in a decent lan­guage, but if you ins­pect what they say closely, you will see the hor­ror in it.

Kle­ve­land hap­pe­ned to touch upon an issue which is hard to explain for the good people on the cor­rect side: The dan­gerous people appear in a form that may dece­ive the pub­lic, they dress and speak well. You need pro­per trai­ning to expose them!

This is a repeat of com­mu­nist and socia­list cam­paigns. You can­not spot who are the ene­mies of the class, so how can you expose them? By let­ting a spec­ially cho­sen elite emp­loy its methods.

But to spread your met­hods you need power and resources. In today’s Nor­way the poli­ti­cally cor­rect have both.

Ole Torp’s show on NRK was the­re­fore a pub­lic edu­ca­tio­nal event with the inten­tion of - in Mao’s words - punish­ing one to edu­cate a hundred.

Admit­tedly, Anfind­sen has given his oppo­nents a power­ful weapon by get­ting him­self mixed up in the debate about intel­li­gence and race. In Nor­way, the word race is a toxic one, it can­not be touched wit­hout glo­ves. Anfind­sen thought he could intro­duce it, just like that. His unsus­pec­ting trust­ful­ness in this mat­ter is asto­nish­ing, and bor­de­ring on the naive. He is han­ding his oppo­nents a loa­ded weapon, belie­ving they will not be used against him.

On Octo­ber 26, he was shot down.

Ori­en­ta­list Tor­kel Brekke was in the panel and delive­red the final shots on race issues and links to racist websites.

This was too much, even for Anfindsen.

The host tur­ned more and more into the role of a prose­cutor. Anfind­sen was allowed to explain what “point” he meant the 22/7 ter­ro­rist had, anot­her weapon he has han­ded his oppo­nents. He cri­ti­cized the Sta­ti­s­ti­cal Bureau of Nor­way, SSB, for under­es­ti­ma­ting the size of immi­gra­tion. Ole Torp pre­sented sta­ti­s­tics from Pew Rese­arch Cen­ter over the num­ber of Mus­lims in dif­fe­rent Euro­pean countries. It showed that Mus­lims make up three per­cent of the popu­la­tion, a num­ber which will rise to six per­cent in 2030. Could this be cal­led mass immigration?

The match was uneven. An honest jour­na­list would take the trouble to check up on dif­fe­ring views. Nor­way and hardly any other Euro­pean coun­try has sta­ti­s­tics over reli­gious groups, and after the second gene­ra­tion, non-europeans are counted among Nor­we­gi­ans like any­body else. The reli­a­bi­lity of the num­bers are the­re­fore ques­tio­nable. The aut­hor Kaj Ska­gen has quoted a num­ber of between fifteen and nine­teen per­cent immi­grant popu­la­tion in Nor­way in 2060. This is a huge popu­la­tion shift in a short amount of time. We are tal­king about a replace­ment of the ori­gi­nal popu­la­tion and a change of Europe’s cul­tural, eth­nic, and reli­gious pro­file in about 75 years.

This is pro­bably the change people worry about when they say on the news that “Nor­way is a Chris­tian coun­try”. But the state broad­cas­ter por­trays them as idiots.

The ques­tion is who the viewers trust the most, their own sen­ses or the NRK.

They are most likely to trust their own com­mon sense, which results in a huge gap of trust and a democra­tic deficit.

This rai­ses the ques­tion of free­dom of speech, and Ole Torp pushes it to the extreme: Should they be allowed inside? He talked about Anfind­sen as if he was not there, as if he was not human, as if he did not have the right to speak.

To answer the ques­tion, NRK had brought in jour­na­list Anders Giæ­ver from the tab­loid VG, who over­bea­ringly stated that it is not pos­sible to shut them out because of the inter­net. It is tech­ni­cally impos­sible, alt­hough it was under­stood that this was what they really wanted.

And then Giæ­ver could not resist taking the opport­u­nity to rub their faces, i.e. Anfind­sen, into the mud: They are con­stantly com­pla­i­ning and whi­ning about get­ting no press, and are proclai­ming them­sel­ves vic­tims and mar­tyrs. Instead, there is a good rea­son to ask if the edi­tors are giving them too much space due to this end­less whi­ning, because when you look at how mar­gi­nal their num­bers are, they do in fact get a lot of attention.

This seemed to sit well with those around the table, Brekke, Ishaq, Kle­ve­land, and Torp.

A debate about “them” is not com­p­lete wit­hout men­tioning the right wing party Frem­skritts­par­tiet, and their new spo­ke­s­per­son on immi­gra­tion issues, Mor­ten Ørsal John­sen, accep­ted some blame in line with their new policy, but not all the blame all of the time. The party still makes a dis­tinc­tion between mode­rate and radi­cal Mus­lims, and the lat­ter and the media have them­sel­ves to blame for making people skeptical.

Ishaq inter­ve­ned to say that FrP had coined the term “cre­e­ping isla­miza­tion”, which says eve­rything about their true inten­tions. An impres­sion was made that there is a lot that can not be said if Ishaq gets to define the debate.

Towards the end of the show, Torp said to Anfind­sen: You should weigh your words care­fully, it might take a while before you get invited here again.

By then, the debate had been going on for so long that Anfind­sen was star­ting to get the viewers’ sym­pat­hies sim­ply because of the way he was being treated. And Torp’s finish­ing state­ment left no doubt: Anfind­sen was an outcast.

To get the mes­sage, you would have to see the con­nec­tion between the dif­fe­rent pro­grams, which were care­fully orchestrated. From the polls to the con­struc­tion wor­kers, the offen­ded Mus­lim, and the righ­te­ous people in the stu­dio who dis­tan­ced them­sel­ves from this hor­rible crea­ture and his opi­nions. The under­ly­ing issue: Should he be allowed inside? And you might add: Should he loose his job, his fri­ends, and should his child­ren have a right to play with other children?

Torp, Brekke, Giæ­ver, and Kle­ve­land would never admit that this is their inten­tion. But it is the con­se­quence of their pub­lic poli­ti­cal ousting.

At the same time as Bushra Ishaq as a mat­ter of course was assu­red that she was a part of “the exten­ded we”.

I do not think NRK has given much thought to who they are expel­ling and who they are including.

But this is what hap­pens when you are con­vin­ced you have the moral aut­hority to degrade other opi­nions and the people who express them. From the events in the stu­dio it was not pos­sible to dis­tin­guish dis­agreement from harassment.

Was not this sup­po­sed to be about inte­gra­tion and community?




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