Doublethink in Norway
It's all about sharia law...except that it's not.
(/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/02/norsk-flagg-islam.jpg)These people! Over and over, they mock the idea that there exist such things as stealth Islamization and the appeasement thereof, and viciously demonize as bigots, racists, and Islamophobes those who speak frankly of such matters. And over and over, they engage in that very appeasement themselves.
Case in point: Norway. Let’s start by going back to 2009, when Siv Jensen, head of the Progress Party, used the term snikislamisering – “stealth Islamization” – in a speech at her party’s annual convention. Noting that even ambulance crews, firefighters, and police officers didn’t dare to enter certain parts of the heavily Muslim neighborhood of Rosengård in Malmö, Sweden, where sharia law has largely supplanted Swedish law, Jensen warned that there were already unsettling signs of similar developments in Oslo. As examples of stealth Islamization, she cited, among other things, the aggressive clamoring for the accommodation of hijab in the public square and demands for halal food in prisons.
The media and political establishment, of course, reacted with outrage. Pronouncing it “quite simply untrue that any kind of Islamization of Norwegian society is underway,” Per Kristian Foss, a leading Conservative politician, compared Jensen’s attitude toward Islam to pre-World War II anti-Semitism. The editors of Aftenposten agreed: in an editorial headlined “Stealth Accusations,” theyaccused her of “openly appeal[ing] to xenophobia and to the notion that minorities are taking power.” In the view of Aftenposten’s editors, the very idea of stealth Islamization was manifestly absurd.
Cut to two years later. On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people – and members of the cultural elite quckly grabbed the opportunity to pile on to the Progress Party and others who’d warned against Islam, saying that they’d helped create the mass murderer. Pushed against the wall, Jensen nonetheless vowed that she would continue to use the term “stealth Islamization.”
Fast forward two more years. The September elections resulted in a Conservative-Progress Party coalition government – and worldwide scare headlines proclaiming that a bigoted, racist, Islamophobic party was about to become a partner in Norway’s government. Consequently, the Progress Party’s second-in-command, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, sought to publicly distance the party from the expression “stealth Islamization,” a term he described as “unfortunate.” When the party’s top man in Oslo, Christian Tybring-Gjedde, insisted on the term’s continuing usefulness (adding that he was opposed to every kind of Islamization, “stealth or not stealth”), he was assailed from almost every direction for using rhetoric that was “polarizing” and “anti-Muslim.” Among those who abhorred the term, it was reported, were leaders of the Christian People’s Party, the home of Norway’s religious right, who view Muslims as fellow “people of faith” deserving of their support and protection.
During all these years, while these controversies over the term “stealth Islamization” raged, stealth Islamization itself has proceeded apace. Recently, the Agriculture Minister, Sylvi Listhaug, a member of the Progress Party, expressed concern about the increasing tendency of Norwegian public institutions, such as day-care centers and hospitals, to remove pork from their menus. “We’ve been eating pork i Norway for years,” she said. “It would be totally wrong to stop because Muslims have come to Norway.”
Enter, again, the sage editors of Aftenposten. In an editorial the other day, they said that in places like prisons, pork was being given less priority “for practical reasons.” Which “practical reasons”? One might have expected that the editors would go on to acknowledge what those “reasons” were – especially given that immediately after mentioning the existence of those “practical reasons,” they asked directly: “What is this really about?”
Yet the ensuing text contained no mention whatsoever of Muslims or Islam. Rather, the editors insisted that what’s important in the face of mass immigration is not the role of pork in Norwegian culture but “universal human values” such as equal rights and freedom of speech. (Although after the Danish cartoon crisis, Aftenposten was quick to insist on the importance of limiting free speech in order to avoid offending immigrants.) Also, the editors emphasized that everyday Norwegian traditions, including eating habits, “are in constant flux,” as exemplified by twenty-first-century Norwegians’ enthusiasm for such non-Scandinavian fare as pizza and tacos. Plus, they added, health authorities say pork isn’t that good for you anyway. And why, the editors asked, is the anti-regulatory Progress Party sticking its nose into the formulation of prison and day-care-center menus, anyway?
That, then, according to the editors of Norway’s newspaper of record, is what this story is “really about”: universal values, changing tastes, health considerations, and freedom of choice. Now, surely they know that what it’s really “really about” is the Islamic teaching that pork is haram – and the Islamic compulsion to try to force infidels into living by Koranic restrictions as well. In short, stealth Islamization. And the editors of Aftenposten must know that their readers know that, too. So what to make of this editorial? Exactly what is the editors’ rationale here? How do their minds work? I mean, it’s not just that Aftenposten’s editors avoided the Islamic elephant in the room (that’s something we’ve seen hundreds of times); the relatively fresh twist here here is that they’re declaring, in effect, that there’s an elephant in the room – and then offering a list of pretty much everything that isn’t the elephant in the room.
I suggest that the answer may be this: that every editorial and op-ed like this in Aftenposten is yet another effort in a long-term campaign not just to encourage the appeasement of Islamization but, beyond that, to create a society in which pretty much everybody appeases Islamization all the while denying, to others and even to themselves, that they’re doing anything of the kind. A society, in other words, that has reached a stage of pure Orwellianism by fully internalizing the process of doublethink, which, just to remind you, was described as follows in the third chapter of 1984:
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink.
Is there a single word of this passage that does not apply perfectly to what is going on in the Aftenposten editorial? In the minds of that paper’s editors, the impulse to appease would seem to have become utterly reflexive – along with the ability to deny effectively, even to themselves, in precisely the way Orwell outlines, that they’re acting on such an impulse.
No question about it: Orwell was the prophet of our times. But did he ever imagine that Orwellianism would begin to take serious root in the West not as an outgrowth of European fascism and Communism but as a cowardly response to the religion of Muhammed?
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