Oslo Freedom Forum’s Chilly Welcome in Norway

Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center and the author of “While Europe Slept” and “Surrender.” His book "The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind" is just out from Broadside / Harper Collins.

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Let’s begin with an article by Kristoffer Rønneberg that appeared in Aftenposten, Norway’s newspaper of record, on May 7:

From all over the world, activists, academics, politicians, businesspeople, and technology pioneers are coming [to Oslo] to negotiate, discuss, and learn.  About 90 journalists are traveling to Norway to cover the conference….This is an event that puts Oslo and Norway on the map.

It is therefore incomprehensible that Norwegian authorities are choosing to stay away.

What are the authorities staying away from?  It’s the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), an annual event which, during its four years of existence, has presented talks by Vladimir Bukovsky, Elena Bonner, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Elie Wiesel, and dozens of other human-rights heroes from around the world.  Year after year, the OFF shines a light on regimes that have abused and imprisoned citizens simply for speaking out and wanting to breathe free.  What’s not to like?

Well, it appears that a number of people in Norway’s Foreign Ministry and elsewhere in the upper echelons of the Norwegian government “are skeptical about the conference because they fear that it can have underlying political motives.”  They’re “especially skeptical about the man who is behind the whole thing” – Thor Halvorssen, the energetic young head of Human Rights Foundation in New York. Despite his name, Halvorssen is not Norwegian but a Venezuelan-American.  His grandfather was a Norwegian ambassador to Venezuela; his mother is a descendant of Simón Bolívar, the hero of South American independence.

Although, noted Rønneberg, “there is nothing about this year’s conference that indicates a political bias in one direction or the other,” Halvorssen has had a rough time of it in Norway because his politics grate against those of the Norwegian elite.  What politics?  Well, for example, he’s “an outspoken opponent of Hugo Chávez” and has been criticized for inviting opponents of Chávez and Castro to the OFF in 2010.

Yes, you read that right – in Norway, it just isn’t done to invite opponents of Chávez and Castro to a human-rights conference.

“It shouldn’t matter what Halvorssen thinks of  Castro or Chávez,” wrote Rønneberg (although, of course, Halvorssen’s opposition to these tyrants matters very much indeed).  “What matters,” said Rønneberg, “is who is taking part in the conference and what they can do to promote human rights in the world.”  The forum’s 121 speakers, he noted, come from 71 countries; 36 have been imprisoned for a total of 175 years; 20 are exiles; 23 have been tortured.

But that’s not enough, it seems, for Norwegian authorities, who view the OFF as unacceptably un-Norwegian. Rønneberg pointed out that one of the offenses committed by the attendees at the OFF, in the eyes of its Norwegian critics, is that they’re too formally dressed.  (Many Norwegian leftists simply can’t process the idea of a human-rights activist in a business suit – you’re supposed to look like a hippie, goddamn it.)  The leftist daily Dagsavisen sneered that the title of this year’s conference, “Out of Darkness, Into Light,” was too “far-reaching” – in other words, “American.”  (Norwegian like their conference titles dry and low-key.)  There were even complaints about the gift bags – containing an umbrella, a candy bar, and other modest items – that were distributed this year to forum participants.  This, too, is considered un-Norwegian.

The main complaint, however, is that the OFF devotes too much attention to “political and civil rights, not the broader human rights concept that Norwegian authorities and organizations often advocate” – the “broader” concept, that is, that makes it possible to make heroes of monsters like Castro and Chávez.  The sad fact is that Norwegian authorities, like many on the left, don’t feel terribly comfortable with the word freedom.  They’re proud to call their country the “peace nation,” and they’re happy to blather on about “social justice” and “economic justice” (which they think people like Castro and Chávez have promoted), but they consider freedom an illusory concept, if not an outright lie, and, in any case, a preoccupation of the right-wingers they abhor.

Perhaps what really makes the OFF stick in the craw of the Norwegian establishment, however, is that, unlike many feel-good, politically correct, peace-centered Norwegian initatives, it’s had tangible results.  As a consequence of the OFF’s attention to Singapore dissident Chee Soon Juan, the Norwegian ambassador to Singapore has felt compelled to ask for his case to be reviewed.  “It is easy to suspect that some of the displeasure directed at Halvorssen and the conference,” suggested Rønneberg, “stems from a kind of envy – that he, in a short time, has accomplished something that Norwegians have not dared to dream of.”

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  • MikeWood

    Inspiring people like these should be better known. Great quote from Nick Cohen. How true that is in these times.

  • Chezwick

    Bruce continues to be an invaluable window shining the light of day onto the twisted, stultifying, Left-wing culture that exists among the Norwegian elite. Too bad he doesn't have counterparts in Sweden, Holland, France, Germany, Italy, etc.

  • Schlomotion

    I don't think that Thor Halverssen Mendoza is a genuine rights activist. He lives in Venezuela and has taken his mother's name. His father is Thor Halverssen Hellum, an alcoholic jet-setter and CIA source who the DEA refused to employ for "reasons of duplicity and manipulation," since the CIA and the DEA do opposite things. One sells drugs, the other arrests drug traffickers.

    So along comes the son, Thor Halverssen Mendoza, who appears to not have take his dad's name, but maybe a chunk of the millions of dollars that his father was paid to prevent Banco de Venezuela from falling out of the clutches of Robert Morgenthau and Bank of America. He is also paid by Bradley Foundation and Scaife Foundation (who also pay Frontpage and the DHFC), to run from Venezuela, a "rights organization" in New York whose newest project is a Studio 54 rights forum in Oslo. Human Rights Foundation, the parent of Oslo Freedom Forum is called a CIA front group by Jean-Guy Allard. The target countries of human rights abuses are all countries that the west seeks to destabilize, namely Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the Aymara, and the Islamic countries.

    Human rights is a paramount issue, but this sob story about a guy who inherited a lot of money and opened a human rights franchise operating as a shell corporation across three countries is bogus. While OFF could be an actual benefit to human rights, that benefit would be a by-product of international intrigue by young plutocrats. Really, the guy showed up with a giant video-camera to negatively document his own forum? On it's superficial surface, the story is "well-intentioned altruistic and handsome young Norwegian man rebuffed by wicked Norway." I suspect the story is more complicated than that. The man is not unknown, and his fortune was made before he was born. Norway has rightly had its fill of international muckrakers trying to wage counter-jihad in the name of human rights.

    They call it a "Davos for human rights," but they forget that Davos is a bad thing.

  • Annika

    This is a very informative article – thank you.
    Comrade Schlomotion links us to read Granma International… Granma is the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party! And that is supposed to be objective?? Comrade Schmo also mentions several times that Halverssen would have inherited his wealth from his father… euh… and the problem with that is?? There are Cuban rafts from refugees along the shores of our South Florida coast, Schmo could take one & travel back to "Cuban Nirvana" for free! If not, he can at least feed hungry sharks, the poor creatures didn't inherit anything from their fathers either.

    • Schlomotion

      Ha! You think there are objective news sources? Is this one of them?

      • Chezwick

        Schlomo: "You think there are objective news sources?"

        It's like anything else…there are degrees. Some sources are obviously more objective than others. Anyone but a relativist could understand this.

        Schlomo: "Is this one of them?"

        This site is obviously commentary. There is no pretense of objectivity. But the fact that you would quote from a source like 'Grandma' is certainly ample evidence that the moniker "comrade" Annika has bestowed upon you is perfectly appropo…and in consonance with your absurd contention that the likes of Cornel West is a "bridge-builder".

        Is this one of them?

        • Schlomotion

          I threw the reference to Granma in there for good measure. The information on the Halvorssen family is open source, as the fact that one of HRF's Council members, Kenneth Anderson is also a counsel to the Soros Foundation. How come Matt Vadum isn't over here calling him a "Soros funded Alinskyite?"

          Cornel West is a bridge-builder. "Race Matters" and "Jews and Blacks" were both very conciliatory, outreaching books.

          • Chezwick

            CORNEL WEST: "I would like to than BROTHER Minister Louis Farrakhan for having the vision and the determination to bring us together."

            So, West perceives a race hater like Farrakhan as a BROTHER. This is a powerful testimony on his status as a "bridge-builder"

            CORNEL WESDT: "I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men…It's understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he's always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white…When he meets an independent black brother it is frightening…He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable."

            What does this say about West – the "bridge-builder" – and his perception of white people?

          • Schlomotion

            It says that black people over age 60 call each other brother instead n***er.

          • Chezwick

            No, it says that a race-hater like Farrakhan is perceived as a visionary and a brother by Cornel West, the "bridge-builder".

          • Schlomotion

            Farrakhan is just a Zionist for black people. What's the big deal?

          • Chezwick

            What's the big deal? That's like asking 'what's the big deal about the KKK'? How about Farrakhan's hateful anti-white and antisemitic vitriol? How about Cornel West's long association with him?

            You're outed, Schlomo. You're an apologist for a racist and an antisemite, just like you're an apologist for Castro, a tin-horned despot who enslaved his people and even devoured his own when they became too popular (Gen Ochoa).

          • Schlomotion

            What about Jews not telling Black people how to run their own civil rights movement? What arrogance. I'm a white person and I don't care what he says about me. So what. Louis Farrakhan doesn't like white people. Big deal.

          • Chezwick

            So what, the KKK and the Nazis don't like black people. By your level of apathy, you should be just as indifferent to them. But you're not, are you Schlomo, because you're a lefty, and in your twisted narrative, some haters are evil and others aren't?

            And what about Jews fighting and even dying alongside black people in the greater cause of civil rights? What arrogance!

          • Schlomotion

            I am indifferent to them. The KKK and Nazis aren't a real force in the world anymore. And you can only milk the corpse of Michael Schwerner so much. You have to subtract from that Mossad trying to poison Malcolm X, and Abe Foxman trying to dictate the terms on which black people can organize for 20 years. You have to subtract The Lobby trying to stop Dinkins, Fulani and Chavis. You have to subtract Michael Fitzpatrick (Jewish) trying to assassinate Louis Farrakhan in 1994. You have to subtract the JDL sending death threats to Easy E and Tupac Shakur and doing extortion in 1997, and trying to kill Darrell Issa with pipe bombs in 2001.

          • Chezwick

            Boy, them Jooos aren't very efficient at political murder are they? "Trying to kill"…."trying to assassinate"…!!! Not quite as lethal as the Muslims, are they?

            You're a vile anti-semite.

          • Schlomotion

            They're pretty good at killing their own. Poor Yitzhak Rabin.

          • Chezwick

            Indeed. An exceedingly rare modern example of a Jew killing another Jew…and to you, because of your rabid antisemitism, it is telling. But the million-plus victims killed in modern Jihad over the last 30 years….well, no extrapolation can be made there, eh Schlomo? You have other fish to fry.

          • Schlomotion

            Yeah. The peace process was more important.

          • Western Canadian

            Cornel West a bridge builder? In Quebec, maybe. Extremely corrupt construction industry in that province. People die because of the corruption. Yes, that would be a ‘bridge builder’ to someone as weak-minded and ill-informed as you.

          • Schlomotion

            You really can't get more informed than meeting the people themselves.

  • Ghostwriter

    Unlike Schlomotion,most Venezuelans probably don't like Hugo Chavez all that much. From the few times I've listened to him,he sounds like an egotistical fool with a slight touch of paranoia. I doubt most in Venezuela want this ego-driven narcissist as their president any longer.

    • Schlomotion

      I don't like Hugo Chavez either, but that's not my problem. My problem is we have a President who allows Russia to park a nuke off the coast of Venezuela.

  • Kali P.

    Groan. I feel for you, Bruce. You have your work cut out for you in that land of leftist loonies. And that’s coming from a liberal.

    Keep up the great work in pointing out the idiocy and moral bankruptcy of the extreme leftists. I fear you are beating your head on the wall.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The North lands have been corrupted,I had to stop myself from being descriptive of the
    fall in character and what lays ahead for this new generation………………………..William

  • aNorwegian

    Thank you very much Bruce Bawer for exposing the blunt hypocrisy of the Norwegian left/elite.

    Sadly, very few Norwegians are ever exposed to the truth as the hard left atheists control virtually every aspect of Norwegian media, academia etc. Worse, the non-Norwegian speaking liberal media in America (NYT, CNN, TIME etc) are presenting a mythological fantasy version of Norway. A false liberal Nirvana based on hard left atheism.

    Thank you again for exposing this utterly false and evil narrative.

  • Schlomotion

    Again, it is not a binary world. What I said is true independently of the myriad shortcomings of Chavez, Castro and Che.

  • Schlomotion

    This issue of Immaculate Conception is important. The Ku Klux Klan has adopted sections of highway, but it doesn't make sense for them to be cleaning it without wearing orange jumpsuits.

  • Ghostwriter

    I have a question for you,Schlomotion. Since when have you criticized Chavez,Castro,and Che or is your criticism only for those who condemn them as monsters?

  • Schlomotion

    I don't like Chavez. He's a bully and a personality cult. He can't operate with a free country or a free press. I speak fluent Spanish and think that by all rights, Venezuela should share a destiny of Revolutionary liberation with the United States and France. Simon Bolivar was a great man, and Chavez claims to be completing the Bolivarian Revolution. I don't think he is. I believe in the Monroe Doctrine. Unfortunately, the US cringed from the Monroe Doctrine in in 1902 and it is doing so again now, at critical points in Venezuelan history. I think the Roosevelt Corollary is garbage and gave rise to Citibank. I think Citibank and Chavez can both die and make the world a happier place. The United States has really mismanaged relations with South America for two hundred years to her own detriment.

    Castro, I think is a brave guy. He was always strong, virile, and kicked the crap out of Batista, who was a scumbag, taking over an island in no time and wresting it from the Jewish and Italian mafia. I bet you wish you could say as much. He has a really good intelligence network, and the US was afraid of his foco organized teams practicing systema. It's a fact substantiated by declassified CIA documents. Plus he swam like 8 miles in an abortive other Revolution. Can you do that?

    Che, I don't really know enough about except that his speeches were great and he was a trained field surgeon as well as a master of disguise and guerrilla warfare. He could only be captured with the help of the Nazis and was shot by a coward while tied up. If his death was anything like Saddam Hussein, then it is a testament to the idea that one man is better than many.

  • Western Canadian

    His reply to this one, is beyond stupid. “I don’t like Chavez. He’s a bully and a personality cult. snip- free country or a free press’ Gee, sounds like the pig Castro. Who this loon admires.

    Che? “snip- his speeches were great and he was a trained field surgion….. master of disguise and guerrilla warfare’ Try reading his speeches, moron, he was a foaming at the mouth pyschotic, as well as a coward who shot people who were tied up…. his efforts at any form of warfare, were those of a failure at anything except sadism. He is, admittedly, your kind of people.

  • Western Canadian

    Immaculate Conception is of no importance. An organization can start out pure and noble, and end up rotten and corrupt (Big labour). Think kennedy and water preservation. It is not unheard of for a corrupt from the get-go organization clean up its act, and actually start doing good. Do not think of Acorn…

  • Schlomotion

    Right. But where is the basis for an organization starting out corrupt and getting more honest over time?

  • Schlomotion

    I did read his speeches. They didn't sounds like this:

    "stupid snip- gee pig loon snip- rarara arf arf snip- moron foaming at the mouth snip- snip- psychotic coward snip- everything somebodyelsejustsaid snip-"

    Right there, I would have to choose Che Guevara for a wingman over you.

  • Ghostwriter

    Where are you getting your info,Schlockmotion? The Cuban Information Ministry? Castro is a well-known tyrant! Reliable human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have condemned Cuba for show trials,the wholesale slaughter of opposition groups,etc. Many ordinary Cubans risked their lives trying to flee Castro's nightmare state,a lot of them ending up as shark food. His air force shot down an airplane from a Cuban exile group for spreading leaflets that were against Castro.
    His navy attacks those who try to flee from Cuba. If you oppose Castro,you end up in jail or the cemetery. Fidel Castro deserves to be known as one of history's greatest villains,not the hero you and those like you wish him to be.