Thursday, May 30, 2002

Michael Moynihan of the highly recommendable Politburo has some good posts on Dinesh D'Souza and the after-effects of colonialism. Here's D'Souza's original article, Two Cheers for Colonialism, a heated discussion with students of post-colonialism, and Moynihans own comments:

Because of the British presence in the Raj, India now exports more technical expertise to the West than any other Asian country (including Japan). Surely Indian suffered greatly under occupation. There isn’t a fair-minded observer who would claim otherwise. But had India not been catapulted into the modern world by the military force, she would not be the economic power that we now know. Without England, would there be a Naipaul, Nehru or a Gandhi (all of whom were educated in Western schools)?

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

More European "anti-semitism": Andrew Sullivan (no permalink) quotes reader who really really liked the Israeli entry to the Eurovision song contest, "by far the only creative one", - so obviously the anti-Israeli conspiracy were to blame for it not winning. In other news, (I'm not making this up), Sweden blames the failure of its Abba-meets-Destiny's-Child contestants Afro-Dite on conspiracies and camaraderie-voting. Obvious proof of a wave of anti-Scandinavianism sweeping across Europe. Can this get any more ridiculous? I'm waiting.

Shock, horror. Anti-semitism scandal dwindling by the hour! What the Swedish commentators at the Eurovision song contest actually said was "We've come to the tenth entry, which some people believe shouldn't have been in the contest, considering how they're handling their conflict with the Palestinians", and "I have a real problem with this song. It's doggerel!" [*] Yup, that sure sounds like anti-semitism to me. A quote from Mein Kampf springs to mind, "With satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood, thus stealing her from her people." The similarity is uncanny.

One danger with crying anti-semitism at the slightest whiff of Israel criticism is that in some countries, well, in many countries, the judge may actually listen to you. The freedom of the press has traditionally been well protected in Sweden, but "racial incitement", defined as "threatening or expressing disrespect of a people, or other racial, national, ethnic or religious group" was recently made illegal. That's right - they've outlawed disrespect. In the tradition of ethnic thin-skinnedness, one viewer has reported Swedish Television to the police for "racial incitement", and the Israeli government has demanded a full inquiry from the European Broadcasting Union.

If there's a scandal here, it isn't one of anti-semitism.

Correction: Racial incitement has been illegal in Sweden for 50 years.

([*] Translation note: The word used is pekoral, which I have never seen before. Apparently it is a derisive term used for bad and unintentionally funny 19th century sentimental poetry. Thought you'd be interested to know. Update: Bruce Bawer informs me that the English word for pekoral is doggerel.)

Monday, May 27, 2002

The annual Eurosong contest is a pan-European tradition dating back to the 50's, and I think the primary purpose is to remind us of all those small European countries we keep forgetting. We need it now more than ever, what with the Balkans and the Baltics, Slovenia and Slovakia, Lithuania and Liechtenstein. It is best viewed with a bit of ironic distance. Too much enthusiasm is connected, at least in Norway, with the Harry. But it is viewed, and this year was actually quite entertaining.

Israel takes part in the contest. I've always thought that was odd, because Israel isn't part of Europe, and this year it was stranger than usual. You could feel the tension, as the representative from Israeli TV came on to report the Israeli votes to millions of hostile Europeans, making a point of mentioning how they were doing their best to overcome the crisis, and emphasizing "here from Jerusalem, the capital of Israel". (I count two embassies in Jerusalem, none from Europe.)

Most channels that broadcast the contest have their own commentators. As it turns out, two of them, Christer Björkman from Swedish Television and a Belgian, found it hard to keep from frothing at the sight of Israelis innocently playing songs in some contest.

Members of the Jewish community in Sweden said that the presenters on national TV1 announced before Hadad appeared that Israel was not even meant to take part in the contest "because of what it is doing to the Palestinians." Presenters on a Flemish television station advised their viewers not to be duped into thinking that Hadad's white dress was an indication that Israel wanted peace.

Loathsome. But loathsome is all it is, there is no conspiracy here. Charles Johnson seems to think that because the contest was broadcast on the Internet, with a potentially Arab audience, the Swedish and Belgian commentators were somehow trying to appease the Arab Street.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Europe, so I was surprised to hear about the sudden appearance of anti-Semitism at the contest this year. I’ve watched the horrible thing more than once (usually when coerced by a woman), and never noticed any outright Jew hatred before. But now I understand. [..] I have to wonder if the word went out (in Belgium and Sweden at least) to distance their countries from the Israeli contestant. Appeasement? You decide.

I get to decide? Very well. I decide that Charles is playing loose with the facts, and is too fond of the conspiracy bottle. It isn't always about the Arabs, you know. Sweden is one of the most pro-Palestinian countries in Europe. Who would they need to appease? Worse - local comments are broadcast to a local audience only. Whatever version of the Eurosong contest was broadcast on the Internet, it wasn't the Swedish or Belgian version. Nobody outside Sweden got to hear Christer Björkmans call for boycott, and few inside it would have been shocked.

Finally - and this is the worst error, because it's such a creepily pleasant lie, which seems to have gradually taken hold of the more Euro-hostile sections of the blogosphere: The charge of anti-semitism. Disliking Israel is not anti-semitism. To call for a boycott of Israel is not anti-semitism. To call the Israelis brutal imperialists who deserve what they're getting is not anti-semitism. Anti-semitism is prejudice against and discrimination of Jews. Like fascism, racism and terrorism, anti-semitism is real and dangerous - too dangerous to be devalued by lazy pundits.

I've done my share of Fisking the anti-Israeli sentiments of local media, but perhaps I haven't made clear enough the difference between being anti-Israel and anti-semittic. Well, I'm doing it now. There's a fine line that separates them, and it's not always clear where it goes, but I am confident that the vast majority of Europe is squarely on the stupid, not the evil, side of that line.

Glad to know there are people who still believe in Norways ability to bring about world peace.

The descendants of the warlike Vikings still wind up in many of the world's worst conflicts, except that modern Norwegians are more like doves of peace. From Afghanistan to the Balkans, from Guatemala to the Middle East, it seems that wherever there's trouble these days, there's a Norwegian peacemaker.

Fair enough, we're trying, but by their fruits ye shall know them:

 The Israeli-Palestinian peace effort — one of Norway's greatest triumphs — is now in tatters, undermined by years of trying to negotiate details of a final treaty and by 18 months of violence.

But if the Peace Process is in tatters, do one still call it a great triumph, or perhaps .. what's that strange human expression .. a great failure? Everything is a great triumph when you ignore the consequences.

Norway sees peace as a way of protecting its heavy investment in development aid, which amounts to 0.9 percent of its gross domestic product. "What is the point of us building school after school, then having schools bombed, then building more new schools, and having them bombed, too?" said Raymond Johansen, a former deputy foreign minister.

I don't have a problem with diplomacy, and if warring parties can sit down around a Norwegian negotiator and focus their anger on his English accent, that is a good thing. But this attitude, (or, to quote a recent article about Norwegian mine clearers in Afghanistan: The US fights, Norway cleans up the mess), bothers me. Having a knack for diplomacy is not necessarily a sign of moral superiority, and when it is used as an excuse to sneer at military power, when one expects anything to be solved with a pen and a friendly word, it becomes downright dangerous. We will have to fight for our country again, one day, and to depend on some foreigners across the Atlantic to come and rescue us the next time is both risky and shameful. In the National Anthem, Bjørnson wrote that We shall rally, too, to save it, when we hear the call, but this is looking increasingly unrealistic. We shall chat, and sign agreements, when we hear the call - now that's a Norwegian Anthem for the 21st century.

Scratching the back of the hand that feeds you, or something like that: Norways ambassador to Israel, Mona Juul, to return her half of $100 000 Peace Prize from the Shimon Peres Center for Peace. This comes after pressure from the Foreign Ministry, which didn't know of the gift, and was only recently informed by the vast right-wing Israeli conspiracy, in an attempt to kill the Peace Zombie once and for all. Her husband Terje Rød "horrific beyond belief" Larsen does no longer work for the Foreign Ministry, and has decided to keep his share.

Mona Juul and her husband, U.N. envoy to the Middle East Terje Roed-Larsen, have denied any conflict of interest in sharing a $100,000 prize in 1999 from the centre, which is named after Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. The centre has received more than $1 million from Oslo and many opposition politicians in Norway have berated the couple for accepting cash without declaring it. Both were working for the Foreign Ministry in 1999.

Norway is no longer relevant to the War Process, so I find it difficult to get worked up about this, but this isn't the first time Rød Larsen is in trouble over money. He lost his job as Minister of Planning in 1996 over a 386 000 NOK tax evasion. And it certainly is curious how these Peres Center Peace Awards seem to end up with employees of major contributors.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

I'm working on a comment system for this blog. It's almost done - which means that half the workload remains. (The recursive rule of thumb for software development: It always takes twice as much time as you estimate, even if you take this into account.) I've also been getting some other neat ideas, which will take even more time to finish, if I can get it all working. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Let's take a moment to consider what real racism looks like. Just how paranoid do you have to be to look at some random pictures I shot on May 17th, and smell a multicultural agenda? Ask this reader of the Vanguard News Network:

This is what a White Country (Norway) and its citizens look like as they celebrate their Constitution Day. Only One darkie pops up in a couple of frames (the same one, by design, it seems, in order to make a half-hearted concession to "diversity", but it's thoroughly unconvincing). DOES ANYONE REALLY PREFER THE FILTH OF ANY AMERICAN CITY TO THESE WONDERFUL SCENES FROM OSLO ???

Glad you liked them, sir, sorry my self-hating policy of not airbrushing away dark-skinned people offended you. If you look closely you'll also notice that I've hidden subliminal messages with bolshevik and Jewish propaganda on several of them. It's all in a days work for .. Multicultural Diversity Guy!

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Well, that's certainly an odd editorial decision: In NTB/Aftenposten's summary of the Guardians interview with Colin Powell, the headline Lay off US Powell tells Europeans suddenly becomes Powell ber Europa slutte å kritisere USA, ie. Powell asks Europe to stop criticising the US, (and at TV2: Don't criticise us!).

But that wasn't what he said. I've been following the mood of the American street for a while now. I think I can say with confidence that European criticism isn't the perceived problem. Incessant whining, basic ignorance and snobbishness is. Sure, the ignorance often goes both ways, but that's no excuse. Part of the problem, I think, is our foreign correspondents. All our bad ones seems to have ended up in Washington or New York. There are two kinds of correspondents: Those who face the region they're covering with curiosity and a willingness to learn about the dynamics of its local politics, and those who don't have any higher ambitions than filtering summaries from a few local newspapers of record through their own political agenda. It's the difference between "the Democratic party have recently criticised President Bush for doing A when he should have done B, in response to issue C, which is currently under heavy debate", and "severe charges aimed at controversial president". Or, as it used to be, "right-wing extremists on smear campaign against popular president".

I'm not calling for true objectivity here, (an illusory ideal American media seems to cling to more than Europeans). The problem is incompetence - the inability to understand or explain what's going on in a country because of the incessant humming in your head caused by singing too many revolutionary songs in the 70's. And yeah, I do mean you, Halvor Elvik in Dagbladet. Morten Fyhn in Aftenposten does a better job, but his newspaper subscriptions seems limited to the New York Times, and some of his outbursts against conservatives defy reason.

This criticism can backfire on myself, of course. I've been filtering summaries from foreign newspapers through my own political agenda since I started this blog. But one or two online newspapers are often all I've got to learn about a country. I think I have a good idea of what the various camps in American politics represent, (at least good enough not to portray any of them in apocalyptic terms), but that's only because of language and the web. All those other countries I've written about, I don't claim to understand their internal affairs. But that's why we pay people to go and live in strange cultures, figure out what's going on, and report back home. And that's where so many of our foreign correspondents, at least those whose asses I can fact-check, fail. Might as well read the same newspapers they do, and skip at least one more biased middle man.

Joyful Christian Jeffery Collins points out that Mona Sahlin isn't really Swedens Minister of Integration, but Minister of Industry, Employment and Communications, and that integration is only one of her areas of responsibility. Actually, it's more complicated than that: There are three Ministers of Industry, Employment and Communications, and Mona Sahlins job description is, apparently, "Minister with special responsibility for working life, postal services and telecommunications, matters relating to integration and national minorities, metropolitan affairs and matters relating to the loss of M/S Estonia".

This may be one of those cases where the importance of your job is inversely proportional to the amount of text on your business card.

In any case - I'll remember not to take Nettavisen on its word in the future!

Friday, May 17, 2002

I took some pictures at todays celebration of Norways Constitution Day. High yucky patriotism and cute kids factor.

(Sorry, no close-ups of Crown Princess Mette Marits scarred face. See, the Germans got this weird Lady Di fetish about Mette Marit. More Germans watched her wedding to Haakon Magnus than Norwegians. And last week they tried to kill her. Sure, they're blaming the hole in the ozone layer. How convenient.)

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Swedens Minister of Integration, Mona Sahlin, has come all the way to Norway to tell us what's wrong with our immigration debate: We've got one. (Translated excerpts.)

- It pains me that the right-populist parties of Europe would exploit a partly unsuccessful integration of immigrants. Carl I Hagens abuse of the Fadime case physically pained me.
Sahlin believes we mustn't let the right-populists dominate the integration debate. [..] Unlike Norway and Denmark, Sweden has no large party in Parliament that plays on stranger-fear (fremmedfrykt), according to Sahlin. She believes the main reason is that the dominant Swedish parties haven't allowed a debate on how much immigration costs society.
- This is a dangerous debate to start. Soon we'll start asking how much the disabled cost, or the elderly, says Sahlin.

That depends on how you define immigrants, as an asset or a burden. It's not much better to victimize than to demonize, and they're head and tail of the same coin. The cure for racism is respect, and that respect is impossible without the freedom or willingness to be critical. I'm not particularly interested in how much immigration costs society, and I'm not against it. If we lock up our culture it will suffocate, and I think that, if it is allowed to exist, the place where Norway meets Pakistan will be more exciting than the place where Norway remains Norway, nostalgic and self-pleased. But in many ways Arab culture really is a backward culture, and we've got a few pieces of new and ancient wisdom of our own to teach them. If we do this the right way, the best of their culture will be added to the best of ours. If we do this the wrong way, only the worst of our cultures, Norwegian socialism and Arab misogyny and intolerance, will survive the meeting. When social democrats like Sahlin tells me I shouldn't be saying that, that immigration is a non-debatable issue, I reach for my keyboard, and others reach for their ballots.

I've written earlier about the Fadime-case she refers to, in which a Kurdish immigrant shot his disobedient daughter to preserve family honor. What I and many other Scandinavians saw in this case was an extreme example of the misogyny and racism that appears to be common in several immigrant communities, closed like fortresses against their host culture. The debate that followed was healthy in almost every way, and some of its most ferocious combatants were young immigrant women who had picked up a strain of old-fashioned feminism. It was beautiful to watch, and propably set an example to follow for other second generation immigrants.

According to Sahlin, though, the murder had nothing to do with the flaws of a particular culture:

The Swedish minister believes the murder of Fadime was an example of mens attempt to control women.
- We must acknowledge that there exists a culture built on honor and shame, but it has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. [..]
According to the Minister of Integration, Fadime was an example of successful integration. She came to Sweden as a child, and learnt Swedish very well. After a while she even had a Swedish boyfriend. Therefore Sahlin believes one cannot hold up Fadime as an example of a failed system.
- We must admit that we have failed in much of the integration, even though the Fadime case is not an example of this.

Of course not - her father was the failure, and the culture that supports and understands people like him, and threaten their daughters with the same fate, the real problem. And it does have something to do with religion, not Islam as such, (which can be and have been many things), but Islam as it is currently practiced in many places of the world. It takes different forms: Oppression, genital mutilation, forced marriage, and occasionally murder, but they are all remnants of barbarism, and a dark stain on any culture that practices them. If this isn't a cultural problem, what is? And if the absence of these practices in a culture is a sign of progress, isn't their presence in a culture a sign of backwardness?

According to European multiculturalists, pointing this out is called right-wing extremism. According to the dictionary, it's called honest criticism.

Monday, May 13, 2002

One last eulogy over Pim Fortuyn, from Bruce Bawer:

During his lifetime Fortuyn was widely condemned as a right-wing bigot – a characterization that has been echoed around the world since his death. The label is bitterly unfair. On most issues, he was far more liberal than anyone in the U.S. political mainstream. As for the issue of Islam and immigration, if it is honorably liberal to sound the alarm about male supremacism and hatred for homosexuals within fundamentalist Christian communities, why call someone a right-wing extremist bigot for taking these prejudices equally seriously when held by fundamentalist Moslems? Reading some recent misrepresentations of Fortuyn, one has the impression that journalists’ consideration for the sensitivities of fundamentalist Moslems have far outweighed their regard for the very right of homosexuals to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I've just spent two horrible hours watching some godawful movie that's premiering around these days, and I need something to cheer me up. Ooh, found it:

The Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions (LO) has been declared an enemy of the Israeli state, and some of its leaders were held for several hours at the airport of Tel Aviv yesterday. Only after the Norwegian embassy got involved were they allowed to enter the country, (for a trip that includes a meeting with Yassir Arafat). Headed by a reformed (or perhaps one should say moderate) Stalinist, the LO has previously called for a consumer boycott of all Israeli products, and in an attempt to liberate us consumers from the hard work it is to avoid Israeli oranges in the stores, several of the member unions recently ransacked a warehouse down the street from where I live, holding up trucks suspected of carrying Israeli products.

So how on earth have the Israelis gotten the idea that the LO is a hostile organization? Beats me, but it's good news all the same. I've already forgotten about .. oh, that.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Dutch blogger (and Norwegian resident) Taco is annoyed with the international media:

Almost without exception they portrayed Pim Fortuyn as a right wing extremist and placed him in the same camp as Le Pen and Jörg Haider. Some went even further and drew lines between him and Hitler or Mussolini. Nobody seemed to bother to get the facts straight. There were articles about his flamboyant gay lifestyle, his butler, his chauffeur driven Mercedes and so on, without ever grasping any of his political content. Without shame Pim Fortuyn, who fought a battle with words in a democratic arena, was called an extremist, while the idiot who gunned him down in cold blood was addressed to as an environmental, animal loving activist. A world up site down. I'm talking BBC, NBC, ABC, CNN, NYT, etc. here. I'm not going to comment on each of them. Others bloggers have all ready done that. There are however a few that have managed to arouse my anger: Mark 'lying sack of shit' Steele (Independant), John 'liberator of Kabul' Simpson (BBC) and Steven Erlanger (NYT). May they live on as examples of bad journalism.

And Adam Curry wants Fortuyns books translated. (Side note about language: I once wrote that nothing beautiful or sensible should ever be written in Norwegian, and while I'm more willing to compromise now, the difficulty of digging up info on Fortuyn that doesn't come from foreign newspapers, and is in a language I can read, has again illustrated to me why english-language websites are so important. What is written in a minor language stays behind borders. What is written in a major language creates bridges across them, and allows a global exchange of opinions and facts. I'm not about to launch a crusade on small languages, but I don't mourn the prospect of them going out of use, at least on the web.)

UK Europe Minister Peter Hain timidly suggests that perhaps, you know, Muslim immigrants aren't always too keen on this whole integration thing, and that the right-populists aren't necessarily racists, although we do not wish to "[target] Muslims as Fortuyn was doing, but [send] a clear message that British Muslims are welcome here", and is immediately chastised by Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of something called the Muslim parliament in Britain, for being divisive.

Dr Siddiqui was, incidentally, opposed to the war in Afghanistan, and his title as Leader of the Muslim parliament is less fancy than it sounds.

A week ago I asked how democratic the UN really is. Dan Hartung (welcome back, btw!) has worked it out. On the Freedom House scale from 1 (Free) to 7 (Not Free), the average UN rating is 3.45.

Gerhard Schröder, chancellor, in the Guardian.

Germany's chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, has warned the leaders of Europe that they must pay urgent attention to the issue of law and order if they are to stem the rise of the far right. Speaking at the end of a tumultuous week in the continent's affairs that saw the anti-immigration Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn, assassinated and nearly six million French people vote for an overtly xenophobic Jean-Marie Le Pen, the chancellor said: "In France, and possibly also in the Netherlands, the right has been getting stronger because, among the public, a feeling prevails that the question of internal security - the protection of people - has not been adequately addressed".

Harald Stanghelle, editor, in Aftenposten, (translated).

The power of the media is often discussed. The impotence the media is also known for, is less discussed. This is why the success of Carl I. Hagen is presented as a small mystery, "hounded" as he is by a united Norwegian press. "We aren't exactly spoiled with good press, but we are where we are in any case, despite of it", says Siv Jensen in a recent interview in Kapital. She thinks the explanation is a conflict between journalists solidly on the left, and a party not well known for its radicalism.

But is it really true that the media and the Progress Party work against each other? When five houndred journalists in June last year were asked about party sympathies, none of them said they would be voting Progress Party. And Tore Slaata at the University of Oslo thinks "the case of Carl I Hagen is a good example of the limits of media power". The media can't break Hagen until he is in power, Slaata claims in Journalisten. This is a strikingly superficial analysis, and the observant commentator Geir Arne Bore in Vårt Land is propably closer to the mark when he calls Norwegian journalists "Hagen's involuntary helpers". Professor and social anthropologist Anders Johanses discusses this issue in his book "Credibility of the Speaker", and concludes that journalists perhaps are "less anti-Progress Party than they are aware of". The reason isn't hidden sympathies, but that the logic of the media often encourages the same attitude to politics that a populist party can play on.

Notice how in both articles, the rise of the right-populists is discussed in terms of "what have we done to cause this?" Schröder believes the responsible political parties of Europe have ignored public concerns about crime, and have failed to explain adequately to the ignorant masses why the EU is good for them, and that's why they turn to these right-wing extremists. It's not about politics at all, it's a cry for help! Meanwhile, Stanghelle, refusing to accept that the media may not be all-powerful, interprets the success of the Progress Party as a consequence of the medias preoccupation with tabloid subjects. In other words, if only responsible journalists lived up to their duty as shapers of public opinion, the people would know better than to fall for the tricks of populism.

What in both cases look like introspectiveness, is in reality arrogance. "We caused our lessers to do this. We can help them work it out again." No room for the possibility that perhaps a large minority disagrees with the political and media establishment, and that perhaps whatever is happening in European politics can't be stopped easily, not even by people who happen to write for newspapers. I'm not saying that Schröder and Stanghelle are alltogether wrong in their analysis, but their inflated egos get in the way of a true understanding of the situation. Sadly, this seems to be a common predicament among chattering Europeans.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

New low in pro-Palestinian bias. Line Fransson in Dagbladet interviews Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas leader, and refers to him as standing on the Israeli list of wanted "terrorists". If not for those quotation marks I might have forgiven her understandably meek attitude in the presence of a terrorist, but she obviously doesn't see him as one. You can almost picture her sitting on the floor by his chair, nodding, saying "okay, so now that the Jewish-American world conspiracy has forced your people to defend yourself against Israeli so-called 'civilians', how does that make you feel? Oh, and bring in one of your children and place him on your lap. We want a picture that emphasizes your vulnerability and indignation."

Quotes? Translations? You actually want to read this thing? Very well then:

While Dagbladet visits Rantisi, he is interviewed over phone by Iranian TV. Here he tells that the Palestinian resistance against the Israelis has succeeded. Israelis are now afraid to go out. The number of people who visits psychologists has also increased, says Rantisi. - Business men are leaving Israel, many hotels have been blown up, and the economy is failing. After a while, they will all emigrate back to their home countries.

Told you, you didn't want to read this. If you're anything like me you've already taken a mental note to cheer when the Israelis get this guy, who's currently hiding in Gaza. If not, remember: Rantisi. Death. Cheer. Oh, and a note to the editors at Dagbladet: Fransson. "Journalist". Fire. (We now return to our usual none-cheering-peoples-deaths and none-getting-people-fired schedule.)

Oh dear God, it's the 30's all over again! Mark Steyn: Gay professors on the march across Europe.

Israel aren't too happy with Norwegian contributions to the PA.

I'd be pretty pissed off too if other countries were paying terrorists to blow up my country. Hey wait a second -- Saudi Arabia, former US friend, funds terrorists, has oil. Norway, former Israeli friend, funds terrorists, has oil. No it can't be! This is different, it must be! At least we're not spreading some dangerous ideology through outlets all over the world, unless you're counting the UN. But -- but --

I'm going to stop now, before I think of more ways in which Norway is like Saudi Arabia. (Such as Middle East peace proposals and easily Fiskable newspapers.)

Friday, May 10, 2002

Expatica reports that Volkert van der Graaf, suspected murderer of Pim Fortuyn, may have been planning to kill other members of Lijst Pim Fortuyn as well. He had the names and addresses of three other candidates, along with maps of their neighbourhoods.

"Arr! I'd still have my hand, but for American intervention in the Falklands." - The Chomsky Pirate.

Talk about being more Catholic than the pope: 10 foreign peace activists refused to leave the Church of Nativity today after all the Palestinians had come out, and had to be removed by the Israelis. I thought peace activism was all about bridging differences, and finding peaceful solutions to conflicts, not prolonging them, but maybe the definition has changed.

Two of the activists were Swedes. Perhaps it's some kind of Stockholm Syndrome, but that doesn't explain why they entered in the first place, or why the whole European continent has been inflicted. Victor Davis Hanson offers a better explanation. The loser is always right. Oppression ennobles.

More half-hearted eulogies: Charlotta Friborg in Dagens Nyheter, Sweden, (translated for your convenience).

All over Europe, established parties have condemned the assasination, as well as the immigrant-hostile (främlingsfientliga) message Pim Fortuyn stood for. On the outside, the parties of discontent share these condemnations, but in hiding they rejoice. The murder has given the immigrant-hostile (främlingsfientliga) forces a martyr.

That's one possible interpretation, assuming that the right-populists are cynical proto-fascists eagerly awaiting their Reichstag Fire. More likely, they're afraid of the same thing happening to themselves. If Fortuyn can be seen as a dangerous extremist, who is better off dead, anybody can.

And again, that evil word, främlingsfientlig, Swedish for fremmedfiendtlig, stranger-hostile, (close to xenophobic, but with a broader meaning). The more I think about it, the more I think this popular word is a major barrier to an open discussion of immigration in Scandinavia, or at least a key to understanding why it's so difficult. Instead of arguing against strict immigration policies, we define all opposition to immigration as racism, and then argue against racism, which is so much easier.

The temptation from the parties of discontent lies in their simple solutions. These parties deliver the message that you don't have to change yourself, or make an effort - the "solution" is said to be to stop immigration, and, according to some parties, to throw all foreigners out.

Behold the fine art of propaganda, and the abuse of broad political labels. Since the right-populists are all alike, what is true for some must be true for all, and to place some of the blame for Europe's problems on failed integration equals total abdication of responsibility for ones own future. Never mind that the free-market, small government principles of several of these parties represent the opposite: Individual responsibility, work, innovation - and certainly effort. Fortuyn is a right-wing extremist, he has been charged, tried and found guilty by the European press, and consequently all the clever anti-nazi arguments Friborg was taught in school can be recycled without second thoughts.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

There's a good reason why I'm initially skeptical to portrayals of Fortuyn and other European right-populists as extremists and racists. It all sounds suspiciously similar to the treatment of Carl I. Hagen by Norwegian media. As I've said before, I'm not a Progress Party supporter, and you don't have to be to recognize that its policies are being distorted by reporters, almost all of whom fit somewhere between center-right and far-left on the political spectrum. Despite opposition to "any form of discrimination, based on race, religion, gender or ethnic origins", a catchphrase of Hagen, no opportunity is lost to dismiss him as a "brown" politician, who "flirts" with immigrant-hostile (fremmedfiendtlige) forces. This is propably true for some members, but does not describe the character of his party, and even less that of his voters.

A bit of terminology: Fremmedfiendtlighet and fremmedfrykt (literally "stranger-hostility" and "stranger-fear") are multiculturalist buzzwords, and their purpose is to lump criticism of non-Western cultures together with hatred of other races. I don't trust anyone who uses these phrases, (either they do so without thinking, which is bad, or they know what they're doing, which is worse), and since so much criticism of the right-populists focus on them being fremmedfiendtlige, I don't trust these critics to know or care about what they're talking about.

With honest criticism of what these parties stand for being so rare in local media, it's difficult to get an overview of what's actually going on here. So I've gathered what I consider interesting quotes from their party programs and websites, revealing their political flavor. Here they are, the right-populists of Europe, in their own words:

Pim Fortuyns List, the Netherlands. "Europe is a bureaucracy which barely interests its citizens, let alone inspires them." .. "Participation in the labour process is seen in our western culture as a great good, and in the view of the LPF should be given maximum encouragement." .. "We need more police on the street and fewer behind desks." .. "The LPF bases its approach to spreading the tax and contribution load on the solidarity principle. The strongest shoulders will bear the heaviest loads, but in a socially acceptable manner." .. "Large groups in the community are lagging behind in social and cultural terms. These groups often originate from countries which did not participate in the Judeo-Christian-humanist developments which have been taking place in Europe for centuries." .. "In order to get Dutch society into shape, it is absolutely essential that maximum resistance is given to immigration." .. "Subsidising cultural development should take place only with the greatest of restraint." .. "Responsibilities must be placed as low as possible in the administrative structure."

Danish People's Party, Denmark. "In a time where many traditional values are under attack, the DF strives for a nation built on common values" .. "It is the Danish people’s right and responsibility to defend and pass on essential values, upon which the society is based, i.e. freedom, equality, individual responsibility and hard work." .. "The national church is, and should continue to be, the Danish people’s church" .. "Criminals are to receive severe punishments." .. "The DF wishes for a broad political effort to strengthen all things Danish in all our cultural institutions." .. "The DF will not accept that Denmark develops into a multi-ethnic society." .. "Taxation and unnecessary regulation that weaken free market competition shall be phased out." .. "Together with the Danish culture the family is the supporting pillar of society." .. "The DF is a strong opponent to the European Union"

Progress Party, Norway (translated). "The Progress Party is a libertarian party. It is based on the Norwegian Constitution, Norwegian and Western traditions, and with a basis in the Christian worldview." .. "The individual is the greatest resource for society's development." .. "The Progress Party wants a society with limited state power." .. "The Progress Party will work for the lowest feasible level of taxation." .. "Free trade with fewest possible trade barriers and an international economy based on market principles is in the long run the best foreign aid." ..

Vlamms Blok, Belgium. "We seek to bring into being a fully autonomous Flemish state. As a patriotic party, we seek to protect the Flemish identity and to defend Flemish interests." .. "Watertight immigration stop" .. "Acquisition of our citizenship should only be a reward for a successful immigration process." .. "More attention has to be given to those crimes that most irritate people: burglary, assault, drugs, hooliganism and vandalism." .. "The legalisation of [soft] drugs can only increase their use and provide thousands of users with an avenue towards harder drugs." .. "To enable real freedom of choice, the party is in favour of financial compensation of parents who stay at home." .. "Abortion should be made possible only in emergency situations" .. "In addition to his or her basic wages, employees should receive extra income proportionate to the profit made by their employers." .. "Protection of smaller shopkeepers against unfair competition by new mega-chains."

Freedom Party of Austria. "A way of life rendering as much self-determination as possible for everyone should not be misunderstood as a cult of the ego." .. "[Human beings'] existence should not be threatened by euthanasia and the suchlike, nor should they be destroyed by the abuse of medicine especially genetic technology" .. "Because of its topography, its density of population and its limited resources Austria is not a country for immigration." .. "The big Christian churches play a decisive part in preserving the European consensus of values." .. "Government regulation and bureaucracy must be reduced and not be moved to a supranational European level." .. "Through cooperation with other German-speaking states, the cultivation and dissemination of the German language can be promoted" .. "[The state] must only restrict the basic rights and freedoms of the individual if the abuse of these rights violate the rights and freedoms of others or of the community." .. "A fair market economy is the response to unbridled capitalism which exploits man and nature and to failed socialism which degrades its "workers" to administrative objects." .. "Market mechanisms must operate for the environment. Costs and prices must express the ecological truth." .. "The work of farmers for the public should be legally safeguarded by annual direct payments." .. "Art is a private matter."

National Front, France. "Successive governments are responsible for the decadence of France" .. "Immigration, unemployment, AIDS and the decrease of birth rate pose a real threat" .. "The state is neglecting its essential duties: defence, national security, law and order, education" .. "The Front National sees itself as the stronghold and bastion of national identity against cosmopolitan projects aimed at mixing peoples and cultures." .. "transcending the artificial division between left and right" ..

Oh, and - why not? National-Socialist German Workers Party. "We demand land and soil (Colonies) to feed our People and settle our excess population." .. "We demand that all non-Germans who entered Germany after August 2, 1914, be forced to leave the Reich without delay." .. "We therefore demand: The abolition of all income obtained without labor or effort." .. "Persons committing base crimes against the People, usurers, profiteers, etc., are to be punished by death without regard to religion or race." .. "We demand laws to fight against deliberate political lies and their dissemination by the press." .. "We demand laws against trends in art and literature which have a destructive effect on our national life" .. "[The Party] fights against the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a permanent revival of our nation can be achieved only from within, on the basis of: Public Interest before Private Interest."

Last one included for contrast or comparison, depending on your political views.

(One comment: I may have been too harsh on the Progress Party when I accused it of lacking principles of individual rights and small government. It's got plenty - but I don't think that's where the votes come from, and it truly is a national society of village idiots.)

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Dutch readers comment the Fortuyn assasination at CNN.

In the beginning Mr Pim Fortuyn made me sick. However, later on it became clear that he is not a right-wing extremist. It's a bloody shame that we will never know if he was truly capable and if his intentions were truly good.
Holland stands for freedom, freedom of speech. We don't have that anymore.
I absolutely did not appreciate Pim's ways of thinking and his thoughs but he woke a lot of people and had them involved in politics. Why would you kill a person that thinks diffently than you? If we start doing this we are at the end of the world.
I am ashamed of my own country. Not just now, after the murder of Pim Fortuyn, but I have been ashamed of my own country for a long time now. The Netherlands is widely regarded as a tolerant country, but as from 6 May I hope that the world will think otherwise. The Netherlands is not tolerant; if you are not left-wing, if you do not support the liberal, progressive tendency in Dutch politics, people feel free to make jokes about you or call you names. Pim Fortuyn did not fit into our political system, and he paid a heavy price for it.
Although I do not believe in his right wing politics, I very much respect the man. He has stirred up public interest in politics. He would have been a great player in the opposition.

Also Dagsavisen seems to regret Fortuyns martyrdom more than his death, (translated for your convenience):

Pim Fortuyn represents the new, right-populist wave in Europe. European mass media categorizes also the Norwegian Progress Party and Carl I. Hagen as part of this trend. These parties are primarily nationalistic and populistic. We therefore see significant national differences, adjusted to the mood of each country. But they harvest the same field of immigrant-fear, angst of a society in rapid change, fear of crime, and discontent with failing public services and waiting lists in the health system.

As with all right-populists, Pim Fortuyns solutions were simple: The problems had their origin in immigration, and lack of integration. The muslim population is pointed out as the source of the problem. His analysis was wrong. It was also a significant break with Dutch liberal and tolerant traditions. Pim Fortuyn brought racism out in the open. His death will not help burying racism with him. European right-extremists now have a martyr.

Stein Aabø in Dagbladet, (translated for your convenience):

Pim Fortuyns slogan "Close the borders" does not represent a solution to Europe's problems. Neither does the shots that killed him. [..] For the second time in two weeks, Europe has been reminded of the fragility of democracy. Le Pens victory over the social democrat Lionel Jospin in the first election round in the French president election, and the murder of the of the right-nationalist dutch populist Pim Fortuyns on Monday, have made it clear that we are not through with the "age of extremism". The great masses again look for politicians with simple, undemocratic solutions. The brutal murder of the 54 year old, gay professor of sociology Fortuyn will not change this. Fortuyn is the first right-extremist and immigrant-hostile martyr of our time. [..] The attitudes and movements Fortuyn played on, can in any case not be stopped by six fatal gunshots.

I've read and re-read this over and over again, and I still get the impression that mr Aabø A) regrets the fact that six fatal gunshots aren't enough to stop right-wing populism, and B) considers the victory of Le Pen as much a threat to democracy as was the assasination of Fortuyn. Or maybe he thinks that to support Fortuyn was a greater threat to democracy than to kill him.

On Sunday, I made the (now a bit ominous) prediction that many of European right-populist parties are nothing without their strong and charismatic leaders. I'm not really qualified to say that about Lijst Fortuyn, and I certainly hope I'm wrong. If all that is needed to stop the growth of what is considered right-wing extremism, (but is often neither right-wing nor extreme), is a few well-placed bullets, other concerned European citizens might get ideas.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

Joshua Trevino (no permalink, May 3rd No 5), thinks there's hope for the European right-populists:

A massive superstate gripped by statist consensus is unsure how to deal with a reborn right wing populated with frightening knaves and potential leaders all at once; and so its opinionmakers deride this right wholesale as "fascist" and "dangerous." Only this time it's not America c.1960. It's Europe 2002. As in America, non-socialist parties will have to decide if they are truly rightist parties; and rightists will have to decide what they will tolerate within their own ranks. It's a remarkable parallel. While historical parallels shouldn't be pushed too far, the American experience is certainly grounds for placing new hope in Europe's future.

I haven't read the book he's reviewing, about the birth of the post-war conservative movement in the US, but the current movement in Europe does not seem to me to have an ideological core to build a real party on. The local branch, the Progress Party, is a group of quarrelsome non-comformists lead by an autocrat, Carl I. Hagen. There's nothing wrong with quarrelsome non-conformists, but do they make a good political party? I don't think so. Following Alexander or Charlemagne, a great leader can take a party like that from obscurity to government, but after he's gone, internal conflicts may tear it apart, (which they threaten to do on a regular basis. The Progress Party sheds heretics in waves.) At least the other parties have an ideology to fall back on, even if it has been diluted by close proximity to power, (as in Labor).

This new generation of right-wing populists derives power from the other parties being out of touch with the people. There's a gap between the Norwegian political establishment, where certain ideas on immigration, welfare, taxation and crime are taken almost from granted, and a large section of the population, who can see many of the shortcomings of these policies with their own eyes. The gap is so wide, it would be odd if there weren't a party to fill it. This could have been the solution to the problem I wrote about below, if perhaps the Progress Party had at its center a real ideology, and had actively promoted it, because I think the protest votes are protests mostly against obviously stupid policies, not the less obviously stupid principles they are based on. It's the difference between "get off my property" and "get off my neighbours property as well". So, little changes.

For all I know, many great parties have begun like this, and evolution to responsibility is slow but likely. But I'm still waiting for signs of movement in the right direction, and I don't think we're looking at the beginning of a glorious age for European politics, based on individual rights and small government.

Saturday, May 04, 2002

So where did the illusion come from that the UN represents the free world, or even the world? Here's the list of members, each of which have one vote each in the general assembly. How many of these are democracies? How many of the democracies are mature, stable democracies? I find the list growing small.

The UN serves a purpose as a meeting place for the worlds nations, and possibly as a tool to administrate aid. Its value as a political and moral guide, however, is null, and it is an insult to free and freedom-seeking people everywhere to claim otherwise. The people of China does not have a seat in the UN - the elite that enslaves them has taken it. The Arab Street is barely represented at all, neither is Africa.

Of course, even if all these countries had properly elected representatives in the assembly, its decisions might still be wrong. Democracy is not a goal in itself, and the thought of a global democracy gives me nightmares. Much science fiction takes the future creation of this (or some other form of global government) for granted, but how it can be done without catastrophic failure is beyond me. And that's only a potential future, to expect a country to follow a decision today simply because it were made by the UN is ridiculous. Only if the decision is right, or the penalty of not following it is too high, should it be respected. The UN has no more moral credibility than its individual members, and in most cases that isn't much.

Friday, May 03, 2002

Re-reading that last entry, I notice that I seem to have been channelling Moses breaking the stone tablets. That wasn't the intention, but I am furious at the waste of intellectual energy, and the state of the public sphere, in my country. I used to be too occupied with the usual introspection and clever deconstruction of our values to be a patriot, but now that I am, I take the shortcomings of our leaders, and our complacency, as a personal insult. We can do better than this.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Norwegian government wants to ban all smoking in restaurants and bars.

Much has been made, at least in local media, of the recent drift towards the right in Norwegian politics. Progress Party demagogues and very small c Conservatives together receive almost 50% in polls, and the traditional bastion of social democracy, Labor, had its back brutally broken in the last election - incidentally the day before Sep 11 2001, (which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "that's so Sep 10". The most exciting election in post-war Norway was quickly buried on page 2.)

What this trend hides, however, is our apparently innate desire to be governed, as this ban proposed by the Christian/Conservative government illustrates. There's a disease in our culture, and it's not the myriads of intrusive and counterproductive laws, small and large, but our acceptance of them. Public debate in Norway, as perfected by tabloid and non-tabloid media, takes the form of two steps: A) Point out the problem. B) Demand that the government solves it. No other solution can be imagined.

We have adopted democracy in a debased form. When regulations are the accepted method of solving problems, and government is unchecked by any real concept of individual rights, power is shifted from the individual to the interest group and the pundit. With seemingly unlimited oil wealth at the governments disposal, we have acquired the habit of voting away the symptoms, while the real problems remain.

Our nanny state has created irresponsible citizens, whiners instead of builders. The current government is propably less bad than any realistic alternative, but the sickness in our political culture requires a lot more to heal than a superficial change of PM. I believe in the Norwegian potential for greatness, I can see that it's there, in uniquely talented individuals, but will we allow it to come out? I don't know, I really don't, but I do know one thing: The solution won't be a party or an ideology, but an attitude. Once the attitude is there, the parties will eventually follow, but the change must come from below, through old learning and new thinking. Politicians die, but knowledge is eternal.

As for smoking, I don't. The ban doesn't affect me, and smoking is really really dangerous, so why should I care? It's for our own good, and if the government can't be trusted to know our own good, what can it be trusted to know?

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