To live in Oslo in the early twenty-first century is to frequently encounter plaques reminding you that, within living memory, this city was under Nazi rule. In one building the Gestapo carried out acts of torture. In another, Resistance members hid out, maintaining radio contact with the British military. In another, Jews were discovered hiding, then carted off.
There were Norwegian Nazis – not just collaborators, but full-fledged Nazis, who avidly embraced the Nazi ideology. Hitler, after all, considered Scandinavians part of the Master Race. In more than one Norwegian bar with which I am familiar, the walls are papered with wartime copies of newspapers, the articles in which demonstrate that there were plenty of journalists who did not shrink from transmitting Nazi propaganda about America, Britain, and of course Jews.
When the war ended, these Norwegian Nazis did not dissolve into the ether – nor did the widespread enthusiasm for totalitarianism, anti-Semitism, the strong state and strict limits on free speech. A generation after the war, many of the most influential figures in Norwegian society were self-declared Maoists and Stalinists. Today, although members of the cultural elite tend to be more careful about openly declaring allegiance to Communist tyrants, being an outright Communist is still no bar to being a respected member of Norway’s cultural establishment. (Members of the Rødt, or Red, Party hold important positions in several major cultural institutions.) Write the most sickeningly anti-Semitic article this side of Der Stürmer, and you will still be welcome in the corridors of Norwegian cultural power. Call publicly for strictly enforced limits on free speech about Islam, and your peers will hail you as a hero.
To deny that there is a disturbing degree of continuity between all this and what went on in Norway during World War II is to shove one’s head in the sand. There is, after all, a reason why we Americans still speak of our own contemporaries as, variously, Jeffersonians, Hamiltonians, Jacksonians, or Wilsonians. To take a part of one’s country’s history and quarantine it, as it were, treating it as an aberration, a departure from everything that preceded and followed it, is to choose not to understand the red threads (as Norwegians put it) that run through a country’s history.
“If you hate Norway so much,” wrote my correspondent, “why don’t you go back to America?” The fact that so many people have asked me this question in recent weeks demonstrates just how effective the cultural elite’s propaganda has been at convincing many Norwegians that to dissent from officially approved views, to reject the establishment consensus, to challenged the received opinions that are served up every day in the echo chamber of the country’s mainstream media, is to hate Norway.
Au contraire. I’ve taken on these vile people and their – yes – totalitarian views precisely because I love Norway, love the West and idea of the West, and love the Enlightenment legacy upon which these monstrous people are so blithely, recklessly, and cynically trampling. My question to my correspondent, and to every other Norwegian who has asked me the same question is this: why don’t you love Norway enough to try to help save her? Can it be that, like all too many people, you’re more worried about being called a racist or Islamophobe than you are about what kind of country your children and grandchildren will live in? Or are you genuinely incapable of recognizing who Norway’s friends – and enemies – really are?
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