After Barack Hussein Obama was reelected as President of the United States in November 2012, the regular columnist Frithjof Jacobsen wrote in the Norwegian newspaper VG that the problem for Obama is that as a human being, he is so great that it becomes hard to live up to these expectations as a political leader. He claimed that the same was the case with another left-wing politician, Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Frithjof Jacobsen suggested that Stoltenberg is in a totally different league from all the other politicians in his country and has displayed exceptional “moral fiber.” If you believe this leading columnist in Norway’s largest national newspaper, “The public person Jens Stoltenberg has given the Übermensch a human face.”
Yes, he used the same term (overmenneske in Norwegian, Übermensch in the original German) as was employed by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche about exceptional human beings above normal morality, which was also used or misused by the Nazis for their own purposes. This is an embarrassing reminder of the tradition for personality cults surrounding various left-wing leaders throughout history, most of them deeply flawed.
In October 2001, a few days after stepping down as Prime Minister for the first time, Stoltenberg damaged another car in a parking lot in Oslo after he reversed a car owned by the Labor Party. He then tried to run away from the bill, putting a meaningless parking ticket at the windscreen of the other car in case somebody was watching him, but without leaving his name, telephone number, registration plate number or an explanation. The only reason why the owners of the damaged car got paid was because a witness had watched what happened and decided to check to see if the former Prime Minister had truly left his personal information. He did not.
The damage to the other car amounted to 8000 Norwegian kroner. Not an enormous sum, but the main point is that Jens Stoltenberg’s first reaction was an attempt to cheat other people as long as he thought he could get away with it. The Labor Party later paid his bill, but only after they had been contacted about the case and it became too embarrassing for them to deny it.
This story may not be a major issue in itself, but it does tell us something about the man’s character which does not reveal “exceptional moral fiber.”
Far more serious are the allegations that in the 1980s Stoltenberg, as a political talent with good family connections, had more friendly relations with KGB contacts than was advisable. This was the case with many left-wing Western politicians in the Nordic countries and elsewhere. I must stress here that no evidence is available indicating that he did anything outright criminal in this context, but there are things in life that may not be illegal but are nevertheless unwise.
According to the author Alf R. Jacobsen, one of the great taboos of Norwegian politics is the way in which central members of the political Left, including the Labor Party, had contact with the KGB and other intelligence organizations from Communist dictatorships. After the arrest in 1984 of the spy Arne Treholt, a Labor Party politician, it became more difficult for Soviet authorities. One of the last important persons in Norway cultivated as a useful contact by the KGB before the collapse of the Soviet Union itself was the young and promising Jens Stoltenberg. He was, however, warned by his own security services and broke off all contact shortly after this.
As Jacobsen writes, “When I as editor of NRK Brennpunkt uncovered this case in December 2000, the reaction was powerful. I was condemned – not just by Jens Stoltenberg, who a few months earlier had become Prime Minister, but by virtually all of the leading press commentators.”
His boss Einar Førde, the director-general of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and a prominent Labor Party ideologue who himself had a shady relationship with the KGB, gave him the cold shoulder. The Labor-friendly members of NRK Dagsrevyen, the country’s leading TV news program, tried to undermine the case as either irrelevant or made up with malicious intent, as did the veteran reporter and foreign correspondent Jahn Otto Johansen.
Soviet authorities knew a great deal about the internal intrigues of local politics and had extensive files on many notable politicians, intellectuals and journalists. Alf R. Jacobsen is careful to note that none of these people were involved in criminal activities, but he questions whether they were wise. The KGB had many highly trained, cunning and calculating officers who were only there to infiltrate society. What could be gained from engaging in “dialogue” with organizations representing hostile powers in foreign countries with repressive rule?
Besides the KGB, the security services from many Soviet satellite nations under the rule of Communist dictators, for instance Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia and other countries, were sometimes active abroad, but perhaps the most active ones apart from the KGB were Stasi from East Germany (DDR).
Another prominent Labor Party member whom the KGB tried to cultivate as a contact was Sigbjørn Johnsen, Minister of Finance from 1990 to 1996 in PM Gro Harlem Brundtland’s Third Cabinet, and since 2009 in PM Jens Stoltenberg’s Second Cabinet, but he, too, broke off contact after having been warned. Quite a few others from the political Left, also from the Socialist Left Party, had a dialogue with representatives of the KGB.
The historian Roy Vega has asked the provocative question: which senior Labor Party members in Norway didn’t have close contacts with the KGB? Much of this was swept under the rug in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The public was told that Communists and people on the political Left had been put under unfair surveillance and that the security services were the bad guys. In this way, the Left avoided the uncomfortable prospect that someone might ask too many critical questions about their conduct and their many Stasi and KGB connections. They later pretended that this was all innocent, and simply part of a regular diplomatic exchange, but the KGB cultivated these contacts precisely because they were useful to them.
Some would claim that the nature of politics – and of foreign policy in particular – is that one sometimes has to deal with unpleasant people with whose opinions one disagrees. This is true up to a point, but some of these meetings with senior members of a foreign military power with obviously hostile intentions are still questionable.
It is also striking to notice that far fewer attempts were made to groom conservative politicians in this manner. The Communist regimes perceived the Left to be the West’s soft spot. They presumably had their reasons for that.
It is disturbing to notice that the very same groups and individuals who once appeased or collaborated with totalitarian outside forces during the Cold War are now doing the same thing with Islamic organizations.
Vebjørn Selbekk, the editor of a small Christian newspaper in Norway, on January 10 2006 reprinted the Danish Mohammed cartoons. The former Oslo bishop Gunnar Stålsett reacted by claiming that he did this because he took pleasure in harassing Muslims. Selbekk merely wanted show what the international news story was about.
Selbekk had expected some reactions, but not on the scale of what happened. He soon received 50 explicit death threats from Muslims, and at that point he stopped counting. Some of these were very graphic, with details about cutting his throat in his bedroom. Prior to this, he had lived a quiet family life. Suddenly everything was turned upside down, with bodyguards instructing his children to check for bombs under their car.
In addition to the death threats against him, massive pressure for Selbekk to back down came from leading Norwegian politicians such as Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of the Labor Party. After this event, the FM repeatedly had direct contact with leader Khaled Mashal of the Palestinian Islamic terror organization Hamas, contacts which Støre tried to hide and deny. In 2007, the Stoltenberg government made Norway the first country in the Western world to attempt to “normalize” its relationship with the terrorists of Hamas, since its youth organization AUF, the labor unions (LO) and coalition partner the Socialist Left Party had all pushed for this.
In 2006 Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, at a point when Selbekk’s family were living with constant death threats, pointed to him as personally responsible for the burning of the Norwegian embassy in Damascus, Syria, perhaps the most serious attack on Norwegian territory since WW2. He thereby abandoned one of his countrymen and indirectly gave legitimacy to Islamic death threats against him. Selbekk has later described (video) that he felt as if the Stoltenberg government told militant Muslims “Just take him, he has hurt Norwegian interests.”
The conservative Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, showed some spine during the Cartoon Jihad and refused to apologize to Muslims for the actions of one newspaper in his country. The Socialist Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, displayed the spine of a badly baked soufflé and quickly caved in to Islamic pressure. If he has the exceptional “moral fiber” of an Übermensch, he certainly didn’t show it then.
As Vebjørn Selbekk warns, what is valuable is not free, including freedom of speech. Unfortunately, that lesson doesn’t seem to have sunk in with everybody, including the leaders of what was once called “the free world.”
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