News & Politics

Rigging the Nobel Peace Prize Committee

While the winners of the Nobel Prizes for real stuff (medicine, physics, etc.) are chosen by a committee in Sweden, the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize (which, admittedly, is sometimes given out for actual accomplishments, but is often, as in the case of Barack Obama, an award about nothing) are chosen by a committee in Norway. The members of the committee are selected by the Norwegian Parliament. In recent years, they have included Kaci Kullmann Five, a Conservative Party politician; Ole Danbolt Mjøs and Egil Aarvik, both Christian People’s Party politicians; and Thorbjørn Jagland, John Sanness, Aase Lionæs, and Gunnar Berge, all Labor Party politicians. You see the pattern.

The domination of the committee by members of the Labor Party (big-time socialists) and Christian People’s Party (bleeding-heart naifs) explains why the prize has gone to fake lefty do-gooders like Rigoberta Menchú, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore. The attachment of both parties to the Palestinian cause explains how Yasir Arafat became a Peace Prize laureate.

Recently the Progress Party – the classical liberal party that has been part of the nation’s governing coalition since 2013 – announced that it wanted its 73-year-old party founder, Carl I. Hagen, to sit on the committee. It was Hagen who, decades ago, almost singlehandedly made Norway’s reckless immigration policy a political issue, thereby earning the hostility of the entire Norwegian political, media, and academic establishment – and the support of an ever-expanding percentage of the Norwegian electorate. A veteran friend of America and Israel, pro-NATO and anti-Communist, Hagen would bring to the Nobel Institute a hard-nosed understanding of the world that, in recent years, it has often seemed to lack. There seemed to be no official impediment to his appointment: while the rules prevent sitting members of Parliament from serving on the committee, Hagen is not currently a full MP but an alternate.

But the proposal to put him on the committee met with immediate outrage from virtually every corner of Norwegian society. One politician who wished to remain anonymous told the Guardian that Hagen’s “opinions are not consistent with the values the prize promotes and that much of Norway wants to project.” The director of the Nobel Institute, Olav Njølstad, said that appointing Hagen would “indicate little understanding and respect for the Nobel committee’s work.” Geir Lundestad, the Nobel Committee’s longtime secretary, said: “Carl I Hagen has no background in foreign policy, and could damage the Nobel Committee’s reputation internationally if he’s elected.”

Reputation? What reputation? The Nobel Peace Prize has been an object of ridicule for a long time, and its image has certainly been in the gutter ever since, at the aggressive instigation of then committee chairman (and former prime minister) Thorbjørn Jagland, it made Obama a laureate for no good reason whatsoever. Three years later, Jagland, a longtime proponent of Norwegian membership in the European Union, pushed through the awarding of the prize to the EU, again for no apparent reason. (Only 26% of Norwegians approved of the selection, which many of them saw as a slap in the face to their own 1994 vote against joining the superstate.) These two terrible selections ultimately led his fellow committee members to fire Jagland as chairman.

Opponents of Hagen (including the editors of Norway’s newspaper of record, Aftenposten) argued that his role as an alternate MP disqualified him for the Nobel post – even though Jagland, while chairing the committee, was also an alternate MP, and now, as a sitting committee member, is also secretary general of the Council of Europe. But the opponents had the answer to that: on December 6 came the news that a group of MPs from Labor, the Socialist Left, the Liberal Party, and the Christian People’s Party had conspired to push through a new directive prohibiting alternate MPs from sitting on the Nobel Committee. This directive was obviously aimed directly at Hagen. (Meanwhile, the same group of politicians chose Labor Party politician Berit Reiss-Andersen and Center Party politician Anne Enger to sit on the committee, and members of the Conservative, Socialist Left, and Liberal party to serve as committee alternates.)

So much for that dream, then – unless Hagen’s supporters manage to pull a rabbit out of a hat. This episode is one more example of the fact that even when Norway’s government is nominally in conservative hands, the left-wing establishment (Norway’s version of the “deep state”) still calls the shots. Of course, Hagen’s exclusion from the Nobel Prize committee is no tragedy. The prize has become a joke; it’s probably best for both Hagen and his party to keep their distance from it.