Intellectual smallness and naivete in Norwegian Public Debate

Intellectual smallness and naivete in Norwegian Public Debate

I barely follow Norwegian newspapers anymore. Shouldn’t I as a citizen living in the country care more about what they have to say? What they cover surely will have an impact on political decisionmaking and the policy implications will certainly affect my life.

Norway is not at the frontlines intellectually. In addition to having a very small overton window, I usually find that the topics of public debate have already been discussed overseas months or even years ago. The content is actually old. As someone living in our intereconnected internet enabled world I crave the relevancy and diversity of the topics found in the public debates of the United States. Norway is a small country geographically. But it does not therefore follow that Norway should be a small country in terms of intellectual debate. The overton window of public discourse is also narrow. The difference between political parties of the left and the right are not truly great. They are all to a large extent in agreement. There is nowhere to turn for someone like me that would like to see a great increase in individual freedom, a gutting of the welfare state and honesty in addressing difficult topics. The political parties that are mostly in alignment with my own beliefs get extremely low votecounts during elections.

The most libertarian party in Norway got some 0,00217% of the vote during the last parliamentary elections if I remember correctly. I’m not interested in spending time and money to help them or similar parties achieve success. I have very little confidence in the potential of libertarian political parties. A useful case study is the libertarian party in the US. It has existed since the late 70’s and what do they have to show for it? “What is Aleppo?” and a naked guy streaking across the scene at their convention. Their nominee for president botched a simple litmus test (gaw wedding cake debate) and failed miserably in the most fertile for third parties electoral landscape ever. With uniquely unpopular nominees from the establishment parties (Clinton and Trump) the third parties of the United States should have had much more success than they did. They are evidently not ready for primetime. I’m therefore based on the evidence and data in front of me not particularly interested in spending time, money and energy on a similar failure in Norway. We don’t even have a historical tradition of valuing freedom and liberty.

I usually skim through the debate and comment sections of the Norwegian newspapers. What they show is that the readership is to a surprising extent not in alignment with the editorial and political views of the newspapers themselves. One national newspaper even closed its online comments section after it became clear that the comments expressed widely divergent opinions than what this particularly politically correct newspaper stood for. The articles were often fact-checked by the commenters, linking to relevant information offering competing narratives. Without these comments the articles are bland and without much interest to me. Without any good domestic sources to satiate my intellectual curiosity I find myself drawn to American books, podcasts, videos and news sites. The sheer number of the available sources offers a satisfying wide range of political opinions and perspectives. I wish we could have something similar here.

I find it odd how Norwegians perceive the world. During the Arab Spring many Norwegians were vacationing in these countries. I myself would never, never ever set foot in such politically unstable places. The risk of something unpleasant happening to say the least is too great for me. Thailand is another very popular destination for us. The first things that come to mind for me are the numerous Coups d’Etat and the lack of free speech (lese majeste laws). Shouldn’t this be elements of concern to scantily clad vacation-goers? Ads for vacation homes in Turkey are not uncommon. They conveniently don’t mention their many military coups and their presidents’ “questionable” relationship to freedom of speech and freedom of political assembly. I simply don’t get the appeal of vacationing in such troublespots. This attitude towards vacationing is reflected in the political debates surrounding other topics. Norwegians would be well served by wisening up and expanding their horizons intellectually.

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