The Billionaire and the Terrorist

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.


Picture 5On September 9, Norwegians will vote either to keep the government in the hands of a socialist coalition led by Labor Party Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg or to turn the reins over to non-socialists.

The campaign has drawn an unusual degree of international media attention. I wrote the other day about Time Magazine’s report, with its shameless leftist slant. But though Time was particularly egregious, some other foreign media haven’t been much better, depicting Stoltenberg & co. as a veritable Round Table of heroic knights (and ladies) and demonizing the classical-liberal Progress Party as a pack of fascists who, if handed power, will poison everything they touch.

Last week, for example, the Norwegian media gave prominent coverage to a hysterical warning by Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, the British medical journal, that a socialist loss on September 9 might cause a world health crisis. Under the valiant Stoltenberg, you see, tiny Norway has become a ““global health…superpower,”” spreading largesse all over the planet and, in particular, donating more dough to the GAVI Alliance, an international health organization run by former Norwegian Labor Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, than any other nation except Britain and France. Horton’s article was a timely reminder that in recent years, while Norwegian hospitals have been forced to get by with increasingly antiquated equipment and Norwegians with serious health problems have been compelled to wait on line for months or even years to get urgently necessary tests and treatments, Labor Party leaders have been using taxpayer money to turn themselves into global players.

Horton wasn’t the only public figure, however, to weigh in on the election last week. As it happens, two of Norway’s most famous men also publicly declared their sympathies.

One of them was ninety-year-old Olav Thon, a real-estate developer and hotel magnate who is Norway’s second richest citizen and biggest taxpayer. A self-made man, he’s admired by many Norwegians for his down-to-earth image: his 2008 biography was titled Billionaire in an Anorak, reflecting the fact that his characteristic attire is not only modest but just this side of hobo. Thon maintains a flat in one of his hotels in downtown Oslo, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen him walking home down an icy sidewalk, laden with bags of groceries, the snow blowing in his face, a cheap-looking skicap pulled down over his head.

But he’s not just a charming old fellow who believes in self-sufficiency and refuses to put on airs. He’s a patriot who cares about his country’s well-being — –and a canny businessman who knows how economies work. In a nation where almost everyone who’s given a soapbox is a cheerleader for the socialist status quo, Thon is an outspoken critic of socialism who once called Norway ““the last Soviet state.”” A couple of months ago he commented publicly on the armies of drug dealers, gypsy beggars, and Nigerian prostitutes that dominate central Oslo, describing the spectacle as “”an exceptionally bad advertisement for Norway,”” and complaining that his own efforts to turn the neighborhood around (and alleviate the capital’s housing crisis) have been squelched by city fathers who are more interested in preserving rundown old buildings than in revitalizing an urban area on the skids. It was a classic confrontation between the kind of left-wing thinking that destroyed Detroit and the kind of good sense that has made other cities thrive.

Last Tuesday, Thon ran a full-page ad in several national and local newspapers announcing that he’ll be voting for the Progress Party. It wasn’t a bombastic manifesto and it didn’t read as if he’d gotten one of his people to write it for him. No, it was brief, plainspoken, to the point –– and clearly from the heart. In seven bullet points, he expressed support for the Progress Party’s desire to dismantle government bureaucracies, to introduce a ““sustainable immigration policy,”” and to encourage personal initiative rather than reliance on welfare.

The ad made headlines: it’s not every day a Norwegian in the public eye admits to voting for the Progress Party. Do so, and you’ll be branded a far-right bigot. (Voting Communist is OK; voting for the Progress Party, whose heroes are Reagan and Thatcher, is not.) Not that it came as a terribly huge surprise: last October Thon declared on TV that the socialist government had failed, that he’d like to see the Progress Party finally get a chance to show its stuff, and that he felt sorry for all the young people in Norway who –– taking advantage of the Labor Party’s generous welfare entitlements –– spend their lives on the dole instead of working, because, he said, they’ll never know what it feels like to see a dream fulfilled. (You don’t hear this kind of language too often in the Norwegian media.)

Thon’s announcement ruffled a lot of establishment feathers. In response to a threatened boycott of his hotels by farmers, Thon said it was unfortunate that in a democratic country one has to be prepared for reprisals if one makes public the fact that one isn’t voting for Communists. The Rødt (Communist) Party answered Thon’s ad with its own ad in the Communist daily Klassekampen, in which four Thon hotel chambermaids tell Thon that “”our sweat has made you rich.”” And a close friend of Stoltenberg’s launched a personal attack on Thon, calling him “”selfish”” for supporting the Progress Party. (The socialists routinely represent the choice between statism and freedom as one between solidarity and selfishness.) Thon took the attack philosophically, saying that this kind of dictatorial bullying will only intensify voter antipathy for the socialists.

There’s only so much you can do to ruin a billionaire, but it’s easy to punish an ordinary public employee who dares to criticize the current Norwegian regime. In a country where it’s almost impossible to be fired from any job (especially with the government), a cop who’s also an active Progress Party member called Stoltenberg a creep on Facebook and (according to media reports on Sunday) was summarily dismissed from the police force on the grounds that he failed “”to show loyalty to his foresatte”” – –the latter being a word that’s usually used to refer to a child’s guardians.

The other famous man who announced his political preferences last week was Mullah Krekar –– Norway’s most celebrated resident terrorist and chief symbol of Muslim victimhood for the more misguided members of the nation’s cultural elite. Since coming to Norway as a refugee in 1991, Krekar has openly acknowledged that he’s at war with Western civilization, declared his admiration for Osama bin Laden, been named an active Al-Qaeda supporter by the UN, written his own autobiography, and warned that people will pay with their lives if he’s expelled from Norway. At present, he’s serving a five-year prison sentence for threatening to kill Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg. But since Norwegian law is concerned more with shielding terrorists than with protecting potential terror targets, efforts to ship him back to Iraq have consistently failed. (Last year, amid reports that he’d soon be returning to Iraq of his own volition, I bid him adieu here. But he stayed.)

The other day, from his cell, Krekar wrote a letter to Norwegian Muslims in which he began by rejecting the claim that it’s un-Islamic for Muslims to participate in elections in non-Muslim countries. On the contrary, he insisted that Muslim voters are obligated under the Koran (specifically, verse 38 of sura 74) to cast their ballots for “”whatever is least harmful for Islam and Muslims.”” Reminding his co-religionists that what matters is “”the teachings of Islam and the aspiration to restore Islamic rule and Sharia sovereignty,”” he expressed the belief that the Muslim umma, which for the last century and a half has been suffering as a result of civilizational conflict, will in the next 25 years ““produce something new for humanity.”” And given that “Muslims in Norway aren’t yet so numerous or so much in agreement that they can manage to form a party or to make common demands upon the politicians,” he maintained that it’s best – — for now — “”to vote for Labor, the Socialist Left, and the Red Party.”” Why? Well, partly because Stoltenberg, unlike the non-socialists, isn’t “”a blind follower”” of U.S. foreign policy. And partly because ““the left-wing parties come closer to Muslims’ views.””

Like Thon’s support of the Progress Party, Krekar’s thumbs-up for the left didn’t come as much of a surprise. Krekar, noted VG, wouldn’t still be living in Norway if it weren’t for the socialists’ asylum policies; as the Progress Party’s Per Sandberg put it, Krekar understands “”that a vote for the Labor Party is a vote to keep him in Norway,”” because the socialists “”will never forcibly return him [to Iraq].”” Meanwhile, one of Krekar’s lawyers told TV2 that many Muslim voters will indubitably heed his advice when they head to the polls, because ““Krekar is an authority in his community and enjoys great respect.””

Officially, the Labor Party distanced itself from Krekar’s endorsement; yet it knows there’s plenty of potential Labor votes in the Muslim community and hasn’t been shy about soliciting them. Last week, for example, aspiring young Labor politician Eskil Pedersen, the openly gay former head of the Workers’ Youth League (the Party’s junior varsity team, as it were), gave a speech at a mosque in which he urged Muslims to exercise their franchise. Pedersen is, it should be noted, the latest in an ever-growing list of openly gay Norwegian politicians to cheerfully encourage adherents of Islam –– a religion that, of course, calls for the execution of gays –– to do their utmost to bend the country to their will.

Anyway, there you have it. The choice facing Norwegian voters on September 9 was already a clear one. But the personal statements of Olav Thon and Mullah Krekar –– and the reactions thereto –– have, I think it’s fair to say, helped to illuminate the whole business in an exceedingly useful way.

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  • Baluba

    As a Norwegian I can only say that this is a spot on analysis. It seems funny, but is really very sad :p The iron fist of the socialist/globalist regime is a hard one indeed and their control over the school and media reigns supreme. You need to be brave to speak up against it.

    • Ei Saa Peitaa

      As a fellow Norwegian I second that!
      A policeman the best we have, who also are a member of the conservative progress party in Norway just got FIRED for criticizing the prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, there is no freedom of speech if you don’t agree with the socialist rulers in Norway!

      NORWEGIAN TOP COP DISMISSED FOR CALLING PM JENS STOLTENBERG AS CREEP ON FACEBOOK http://tundratabloids.com/2013/09/norwegian-top-cop-dismissed-for-calling-pm-jens-stoltenberg-as-creep-on-facebook.html

      • hurrdurr

        Yeah he got fired for calling pm Jens a creep not for ranting racist slurs on facebook…

  • jewdog

    Norway is a small country that could easily be transformed by a determined immigration policy on behalf of Islamization. What I don’t understand is why any sane native of that country would permit that. I know that there have been many rapes in Oslo, and other ominous goings on. Norwegians are the opposite of the Burmese Buddhists, who don’t take any crap from Muslims. It’s hard to believe that those pathetic wimps are actually descended from the Vikings.

    • Jakareh

      Actually, the Burmese Buddhists were quite slow to anger. It took many outrages perpetrated by the invading Bangladeshi Muslims, the so-called Rohingya, for them to react.

      • Philo Vaihinger

        I, too, have the impression violence comes late to them and really is, just as they say, essentially self-defensive. Much like the Hindus in India.

        The case would be easier to make if we knew Burma allows, as India generally has allowed, and they support, religious pluralism. If not, well, that damages the argument.

  • Chezwick

    Olav Thon comes across as a helluva guy. May he live to see a conservative party governing his beloved homeland.

  • http://oldschooltwentysix.blogspot.com/ oldschooltwentysix

    Good article. It’s sad that elite Norwegians are so blinded to the reality. Or are they just hungry for power? They are out of touch with many plain thinking people who understand that theories of social science can play out in negative ways.

    I imagine the situation at the river in Oslo is even more pronounced since my time there, as is the blindness of those who actually believe they are promoting humanism, and live in an environment where to be an individual is heresy.

  • Philo Vaihinger

    “[H]e felt sorry for all the young people in Norway who –– taking advantage of the Labor Party’s generous welfare entitlements –– spend their lives on the dole instead of working, because, he said, they’ll never know what it feels like to see a dream fulfilled.”

    And the people born rich who never work a day in their lives?

    Maybe they, too, ought to be pushed into work by having that crutch kicked away?

    A suitably conficatory wealth tax, perhaps.

    Or a much, much bigger inheritance tax.

    • Bruce Bawer

      Norway not only has high income-tax rates but also taxes bank accounts. And it has very high inheritance taxes, which are an issue in the current campaign.

      Low taxes are not Norway’s problem.

      • Nils

        Incometax of 28% is not high

        • Baluba

          28% is Company tax. Personal salaries get taxed between 33-50%. VAT on goods is 25%. We also have tax on dividend, 28%, and tax on wealth in general, 1,1% pa. of everything you own. hereditary tax (deathtax) 10%, + special taxes on ie. tobacco, liquor and gas making a litre of vodka in Norway costing $60 and a litre of gas $3 ($12 a gallon). To mention some…

          All in all, effective tax in Norway for an average consumer is about 70%.

          • Nils

            Company tax is 27% now. That is why they are considering lowering the income tax to 27% as well. You are doing the mistake of including national health tax, which is 7.8%. Together with 28%, that makes up the 36% number you find as “general tax rate”. When comparing to countries like the US, the National health tax cannot be included in the total tax comparison, as they do things differently.

          • Baluba

            Well, it’s still a tax on personal salary as is what I for simplicity state in my previous comment. Also adjusted for deductible.

            When it comes to how much health you get for these 8% of your overall salary, about $8000 a year on average (whether you use it or not). We one of the the most bureaucratic health care systems in the world.
            Compared to ie. Finland we have 50% more doctors and 100% more nurses pr. capita. and still they score better than us in overall health care within OECD.

            Personally I had to wait over a year in line just to get to a freakkin orthopedic for a 5 min consultation.

            The only reason we can maintain this ridiculously inefficient socialist idiocracy is due to our vast oil resources. The production has however fallen by 5-10% a year since 2002, so this train is about to crash within the next 15-20 years…

    • Nils

      Thon wasn’t born rich. He was born a poor farmers son – he know’s what he’s talking about.

      • Philo Vaihinger

        Still, I must voice my concern for the terrible impact of inherited wealth who will “never know what it feels like to see a dream fulfilled.”

        Why does no one ever worry about the awful psychological and social effects of idleness on the idle rich, but only on the idle poor?

        • Nils

          The idle rich can pay people, the idle poor cannot. But the main problem is, we don’t have any idle rich ones in Norway.