Last week the Norwegian organization Fritt Ord (the Freedom of Speech Foundation) decided it will award 75 000 NOK (approximately 13 000 USD) to the blogger Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen (also known as Fjordman).
Fjordman is characterized as a right wing extremist and Islamophobe, and writes for several far-right blogs like Dokument.no, Jihad Watch and also Gates of Vienna – an allusion to the battle that started the Great Turkish War – where Christians fought against the Ottoman expansion in Europe.
The rhetoric is clear, and it’s scary. Jensen was cited as one of the main inspirations of Anders Behring Breivik1, who in 2011 attacked what he called “cultural Marxists” – but everyone else call children and adolescents.
Fjordman says he doesn’t support ABB2, and after the extensive coverage his writings got in the aftermath of the terrorist act at Utøya, Fritt Ord thinks that Jensen should have the opportunity to explain himself in his book project “Witness to Madness”.
In the national media the debate is still going after the news of the award was released last week. Both sides of the political spectrum seem hesitant in their defence of the award, and the right argues for it on ideological grounds, but it sounds like the recital of a curriculum more than wholehearted support.
No one questions Jensens right to utter his views, regardless of how hateful and extreme they are. But his opinions seem just as spastically attention seeking as Pastor Terry Jones’ burning of the Quran last year. To have the freedom to do something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a smart thing to do it.
The great polemic writer, Christopher Hitchens, described in his last writings his greatest fear with respect to his oesophageal cancer – that he should lose his “freedom of speech”. As we know, the cancer eventually killed Hitch, and now it’s another kind of tumour that threatens us – right-wing extremism. And as a cancer, Fjordman will spread his hateful rhetoric regardless of whether he gets a scholarship from Fritt Ord or not. To put the foundations gravitas behind his message gives him more legitimacy than he deserves. Or maybe Fritt Ord will become another Nobels Peace Prize, which time and again proves hard to take seriously.
1 Abigail R. Esman – “What really Lies Behind The Oslo Attacks, And Why It Might Happen Again”. Forbes -http://www.forbes.com/sites/abigailesman/2011/07/23/what-really-lies-behind-the-oslo-attacks-and-why-it-may-happen-again/ (seen 19/6/2013)
2 Jamie Doward et al. – “EDL Leader demanded debate on killing David Cameron and archbishop”. The Guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/30/alan-lake-english-defence-league (seen 19/6/2013)