weeks, the main object for publicly expressed hatred and contempt
in Norway has been a kindly, elderly man with considerable personal
charm and polite manners. It is nearly as if the country's politicians,
writers and other prominent figures have taken part in a public
competition of invective and scorn, targeting the defenseless old
man in all the main media. Who is he, and what on earth might he
have done to deserve such massive criticism?
Mr. Jack Erik
Kjuus is the founder-leader of a small political movement of a kind
which is depressigly familiar in Western Europe nowadays. A typical
representative of the loony right, his party is called "The
White Alliance" (Hvit valgallianse). The party programme,
rather more narrow in its scope than one would expect from a fully-fledged
political party, denounces non-European immigrants as the source
of social ills in the country and calls for their immediate sterilisation
in a bid to prevent what Mr. Kjuus sees as the racial degeneration
of the Norwegian people.
This kind of
view, while perfectly legitimate in Norwegian politics as late as
the 1930s, is no longer considered compatible with human rights
and common decency. Racial discrimination is now illegal, and although
few have actually been convicted of racism, overt racism is theoretically
considered a crime.
Mr. Kjuus had
gone further than most in his invectives against ethnic minorities.
He did not restrict himself to woolly talk about "the incompatibility
of Norwegian and immigrants' culture", as many others do, but
spoke explicitly about racial degeneration. Eventually, he was brought
to court, and -- surprisingly -- he lost. Many liberals were unhappy
with the verdict, arguing his right to freedom of speech even when
it could offend a large group of Norwegians.
defeat was not unconditional. He was in effect only convicted for
one of his many views of non-white people; namely, that adopted
children should be sterilised. In other words, the court distinguished
between immigrants and their children on the one hand, and adopted
children on the other hand. This, in my view, is even more problematic
than the question of guilt and responsibility.
born in Asia, Africa or South America do not, of course, constitute
a cultural or ethnic group. They are, culturally speaking, as Norwegian
as the rest of us. It is doubtless true that most immigrant children
are more different from the majority in terms of culture; after
all, their parents have immigrated from a country which in many
ways differs from Norway. On the other hand, many of them have lived
in Norway their entire lives, and to call for their departure is
no less morbid than to claim that adopted children are not Norwegians.
Mass sterilisation as a political programme is disgusting whether
it is aimed at Jews, Gypsies, adopted children or the children of
immigrants. We cannot, obviously, afford any fine distinctions here.
The Kjuus verdict
is depressing in that it condemns racism vis-à-vis a largely
middle-class group of children, who grow up in solid Norwegian homes,
while implicitly accepting the same attitudes when they are directed
against a much weaker, largely working-class group. Not least for
this reason, one hopes -- paradoxically, perhaps -- that the Supreme
Court supports Mr. Kjuus' appeal and that he is acquitted. Otherwise,
the Norwegian legislative system has unwittingly justified racist
discrimination as long as it only affects powerless groups and individuals.