Blowback for a Blowhard

The renowned Norwegian social anthropologist, political commentator, journalist, and all-around litterateur Thomas Hylland Eriksen is in the news again. The esteemed scholar has taken exception to the manner in which he was described by another commentator in a Norwegian newspaper.

Our Norwegian correspondent The Observer sends a translated opinion piece by Dr. Eriksen, and includes these prefatory notes:

This little nugget from Norway concerns the esteemed and very pompous multiculturalist, Thomas Hylland Eriksen. You may remember that Eriksen blamed conservative Norwegians for Anders Behring Breivik’s murderous actions on 22/7. Well, in November last year the tables were turned and the pompous professor was himself accused of having “ideologically” contributed to ABB’s evil acts, and this accusation was leveled by someone with an immigrant background!

Needless to say Hylland Eriksen was not impressed, and he swiftly brought the matter before the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission (PFU). He wants Aftenposten, the newspaper that published the op-ed, to apologize for seriously hurting his feelings by linking him to ABB. He doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the feelings of the people that he himself hurt by linking them with the 22/7 attacks.

By the way, the original online interview with Hylland Eriksen in which he uttered the now infamous quote about ‘deconstructing the majority and do it in such a way that it can never be referred to as a majority again’ has been removed as per the professor’s request — it seems that he’s a little bit of a censorship freak, too.

Readers are invited to take a walk down memory lane to the aftermath of the Breivik massacre, when Thomas Hylland Eriksen wrote an op-ed for The New York Times entitled “A Blogosphere of Bigots”. In his analysis he named and linked this blog (in its previous blogspot incarnation) as one of the dangerous nests of bigotry and hatred that inspired the Butcher of Utøya.

Here’s the translated article from today’s Aftenposten:

“This is a case about what people who engage in the public discourse have to accept”

Last Tuesday the PFU (Press Complaints Commission) discussed whether Aftenposten breached the media code of ethics by publishing the op-ed “Våre antirasistiske helter” (“Our anti-racist heroes”) last autumn.

In the controversial op-ed which published last November the author and lecturer Lily Bandehy claimed that the social anthropologist and social commentator Thomas Hylland Eriksen has fueled anti-immigration sentiments in Norway by not “raising sensitive issues that can fuel racism.”

“He wrote about deconstructing democracy which was the last drop for mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik,” Bandehy wrote. In the online version of the op-ed this section has been rephrased.

“Journalistically weak”

The op-ed created a heated debate. In “Bandehys misforståelser” (“Bandehy’s misunderstandings”) Hylland Eriksen went on the offensive and counterattacked, which Bandehy tried to fend off in her reply “Hylland Eriksen’s misunderstandings”.

After the verbal feud, the social anthropologist reported Aftenposten to the PFU for violating the media code of ethics Section 4.16 on objectivity and consideration.

In the complaint he stated that Aftenposten should never have published Bandehy’s op-ed, partly because it is “journalistically weak, and because Bandehy reveals poor knowledge and poor understanding.”

“The message in the op-ed is that the so-called anti-racists come across as racists, a claim which she attempts to substantiate through a variety of lies, half-truths and insinuations and by pointing a finger at me,” he writes.

Aftenposten did not promote a “fair and free exchange of information and opinion,” as the media code of ethics requires them to do, the professor claims.

Dismisses the appeal

Aftenposten rejects the appeal, in part because “the op-ed is within the limits of what a social commentator of Thomas Hylland Eriksen’s stature must have to accept in an ongoing debate.”

The professor responded that he has “to accept some” — “but not in this manner.” “Bandehy has showed in both in her op-ed and in her response to me shows that she doesn’t understand what I write about and what I talk about,” and that Eriksen doesn’t blame her for this, but that Aftenposten “should have known better.”

Aftenposten, on the other hand, claims to be fully within their rights to publish an op-ed that the complainant doesn’t like, that misinterprets him, and which the complainant believes should have been rejected.

However, the newspaper concedes that the section about Behring Breivik “should have been worded in a different manner.”

“It’s about what people have to accept”

According to Per Edgard Kokkvold, the Secretary General of the PFU, it is very rare that op-eds are brought before the PFU. He says that newspaper editors are not responsible for the opinions presented in op-eds, but that they still have “personal and full responsibility for the content,” as per the media code of ethics.

In that regard, the question that the PFU will discuss tomorrow is not essentially new.

“Hylland Eriksen, like many others who report things to us, feels insulted. This case is about what a person who engages in the public discourse must and should accept,” says Kokkvold.

7 thoughts on “Blowback for a Blowhard

  1. I love this stuff. Small skiffs in a stiff wind swooshing about in the shallows, eh what?

    It was my understanding that Henry Kissinger originated what is commonly known as Sayre’s Law. That was disappointing, given how much I enjoy a ponderous HK bon mot.

    Thus, imagine my pleasure as I read further down into the wiki, to find ol’ Henry winking about the subject of intramural disputes among academics:

    =======================================================
    …Justin Kaplan, editor of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, asked Henry Kissinger whether he had stated, “The reason academic politics are so bitter is that so little is at stake.” According to him, Kissinger, “foxy as ever, said he didn’t recall saying it but that it ‘sounded’ like him. In other words, he didn’t say it but wouldn’t mind if we thought he did.” In fact, in a 1997 speech at the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University, Kissinger said: “I’m going to say one thing about academic politics to which Mr. [Peter W.] Schramm referred. I formulated the rule that the intensity of academic politics and the bitterness of it is in inverse proportion to the importance of the subject they’re discussing. And I promise you at Harvard, they are passionately intense and the subjects are extremely unimportant.”
    =======================================================
    That wiki is peopled with all kinds of academic survivors who, hiding their wounds and scars with carefully tailored bespoke costumes, were still not able to mask their bitterness. Fun stuff, but I still prefer Henry’s version.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayre's_law

    BTW, do you remember Bush II’s very Southern habit of giving nicknames to those around him? I can see Bush jovially slapping Kissinger on the back and saying cheerfully, “How yew, Bubba?”

    On further consideration…maybe only once.

  2. Thomas Hylland Eriksen sounds like a typical bully to me. He’s aggressive, inconsiderate, and libelous towards others, but thin-skinned and easily wounded when there is the slightest opposition or push back. The only way to deal with bullies is through strength and an unwillingness to indulge their slightest tantrums.

    The only way to ensure true freedom is speech is through a constitutional provision, like the first amendment to the constitution. Otherwise, you get a plethora of government oversight commissions, who are soon captured by partisan, career bureaucrats. These bureaucrats are distinguished by their general uselessness in any truly productive capacity, and by their willingness to misuse the powers of their office to advance their own careers and their Utopian visions.

  3. Well done ‘The Observer, you are going from strength to strength.

    I wonder, are there any more of the like of you out there throughout Scandinavia, or France, or Germany, or Italy, or Greece, or Spain, or Portugal, or Austria, or Switzerland, or Poland, or the Czech Republic, or Serbia, Slovakia, Hungary, the Baltic States – Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia – and anywhere where we, all of us, the Europeans, still exist and who may still have enough moral vertebrae to band together and turn back the barbarian horde yet again?

    I do have a feeling that GoV and its community would make you most welcome if you are prepared to speak out quietly, accurately and rationally (although the Baron will decide in that sense – his call).

    Yet, if we did, and if we were prepared to follow up our words with actions we who are now so few just might be able to become so many that we could speak with a single, powerful voice and act thereafter in unison with the same, strong determined arm.

    Seneca III (Wishful thinking, yet again)

    • Hello Seneca III. Good question. But I must say Scandinavia consist of 3 very different countries when speaking of enlightenment. Sweden is properly lost to PK/MC, Norway is well underway thanks to ABB hideous and stupid crime. Denmark though has slight hope, having numerous established and wellknown … dissidents. Still fighting an uphill battle, but we will surely prevail, as we have always done, whatever plague, invasions, ideologies. But properly not without tears and loss, sadly enough.
      – Altmark

    • Thank you Seneca III for your kind words.

      Is the collective political effort of the counterjihad community enough to stem the Islamic tsunami, or is a non-political alternative needed? Sadly I fear that the latter scenario is more realistic than the first, but we got to give a go no matter what the odds are. I would hate to see Europe plunged into yet another bloody war.

      In a time of great sorrow, I at least find great comfort in kicking the Norwegian establishments collective behind whenever the opportunity arises. I’ll keep translating and posting on GoV for as long as I can ;-)

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