News & Politics

In Norway, a Torch Extinguished: Sylvi Listhaug Steps Down

Norway's justice minister Sylvi Listhaug announces her resignation in Oslo, Norway, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Hakon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix via AP)

Well, it was too good to be true. This morning, Sylvi Listhaug stepped down as Norway’s Minister of Justice and Immigration. To those Norwegians with their eyes open to the crisis facing Western Europe, Listhaug has been a hero. She’s condemned the hijab, criticized fake refugees and fake Muslim moderates, and warned against the jihadist enemy within. While other members of Norway’s purportedly center-right coalition government pander and appease, she speaks the truth. Last August I called her “a diamond in a dungheap.” Well, now, she’s been forced out of the government, and all that’s left is ordure. For those of us who have hoped that her rise to power might mark the beginning of a new political order with the cojones to turn Norway around before it’s too late, her resignation marks a black day in modern Norwegian history.

To show just how black a day it is, some context is in order.

A couple of decades ago, the Norwegian political and media establishment kept a tight lock on open discussion of the country’s immigration and integration policies — and of Islam. Widespread public awareness that Norway was headed down the wrong road led to the growing success of the small, classical liberal Progress Party, which under longtime head Carl I. Hagen became a voice for citizens who had had no say in the formulation of these policies. The party’s gradual move from the margins to the center was fought at every turn by the establishment, which cynically smeared it as fascistic and racist.

Then, on July 22, 2011, as most of the world knows, a nutcase named Anders Behring Breivik bombed the principal government building in downtown Oslo, where the prime minister and other leading officials have their offices, and then carried out a shooting spree on the nearby island of Utøya, where, at the time, members of the Workers’ Youth League, the junior division of the then-governing Labor Party, were holding their annual indoctrination and fun camp. Breivik killed a total of eight people in Oslo and 69 at Utøya.

Before going out to commit murder, Breivik posted online a “manifesto” that ran to several hundred pages. It consisted largely of material by other people, including critics of Islam. He presented himself as a counter-jihadist warrior.

Now, by the time Breivik came along, Islam had become a hot topic in the Norwegian public square. His actions changed all that — for a while, anyway. In the weeks after July 22, Norwegians, who are usually quite emotionally restrained, wept and held hands in public with total strangers, including jihad-friendly Muslims. Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg gave speeches in which he called for national unity across party lines. He talked about love. He swept Islamic terrorism under the rug and portrayed Muslims as victims.

At the same time, Stoltenberg’s party pulled the most disgustingly cynical, devious, and anti-democratic move in modern Norwegian history. It systematically sought to link Breivik to the Progress Party — as well as to every outspoken critic of Islam in the country, the present writer included.

None of the counter-jihadists whom Breivik cited in his “manifesto” as role models had ever suggested murdering anybody. But that didn’t matter to the Labor Party or its tools in the media, who were eager to make it look as if Breivik was no lone lunatic but, rather, the face of counter-jihadism. If the post-Breivik official line turned Muslims into victims, it turned Islam’s critics into villains. For a while there, the newspapers were filled day after day with op-eds by writers and politicians arguing for a merciless crackdown on “hate speech” against Islam.

It was, admittedly, scary. Freedom of speech in Norway seemed seriously endangered. But the moment passed. Gradually, a degree of sanity and civility reasserted itself. Then, finally, Breivik was put on trial, and the more he was allowed to speak, the more obvious it became that he wasn’t a dedicated counter-jihadist — or a dedicated anything. He was just crazy.

Things seemed to go back to normal.

Fast forward to 2018. Norway has a center-right coalition government. When it comes to Islam and immigration, the senior coalition partner — the Conservative Party — is pretty much as bad as Labor ever was. The junior partner, the Progress Party, has mostly toned down its criticism of Islam and reckless immigration policies since entering the government. The solitary exception, until Monday, was Listhaug. It was as if everyone in the Progress Party had agreed that after all the anti-Islam noise that the party had made to gain power, one of them, at least, should keep the torch aloft.

That task fell to Listhaug. As the Norwegian government’s token truth-teller about Islam and immigration, she earned the enmity of the mainstream media and of the entire political class.

The came the fateful events of March 9. After the Labor Party rejected a proposal that would empower the government to rescind terrorists’ Norwegian citizenship, Listhaug wrote on Facebook that “the Labor Party thinks the terrorists’ rights are more important than the nation’s security.” Verdict: true.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg leapt into action, apologizing for Listhaug’s post because it “hurt people.” The next day, Bjørnar Moxnes, head of the Red (Communist) Party, proposed a motion of no confidence in Listhaug; the Labor, Green, Center, and Socialist Left parties announced that they would back the motion.

Labor Party head Jonas Gahr Støre went further. He brought up Utøya. On July 22, 2011, he said, his party had been “struck by terror” — the point apparently being that because Breivik had targeted Labor Party youth, it was somehow wrong for Listhaug to accuse that party of being soft on Islamic terror.

In fact, the party has long been soft on Islamic terror — and, in fact, on all things having to do with Islam. Knut Storberget, a Labor Party politician who served as Minister of Justice from 2005 to 2011, fought to let Muslim policewomen wear hijab while on duty. While Støre was Foreign Minister from 2005 to 2012, he ordered diplomats to initiate talks with Hamas. He also backed Norwegian funding for Fatah TV, whose notorious children’s programming consisted largely of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Obviously, by slapping Listhaug with Utøya, Støre and company were trying to silence free discussion of Islam.

Last Friday, it was reported that several hundred Norwegian citizens, as a show of support for Listhaug, had sent flowers to her; the media ran a picture of her in her office, surrounded by a sea of bouquets. A new poll showed that support for the Progress Party had risen. Later that day, Helen Ingrid Andreassen, a survivor of the Utøya massacre, tweeted that fellow survivors were weeping in despair because Listhaug had been sent flowers by spreaders of “hate.”

To express a reasonable concern about Islamic terrorism, you see, is to spread “hate.”

Meanwhile, appearing on a TV news discussion show, Støre announced that, far from being apologetic for having brought up Utøya, he and his party planned to mention it more frequently in the future. “We have been too gingerly about pointing out the connections” — he said, apparently referring to the connections between Breivik’s supposed “ideology” and the political positions of the Progress Party. Fortunately for him, a new movie about Utøya is now playing in Norwegian theaters, and another, directed by Paul Greengrass, will be released in November; both films will doubtless provide Støre and co. with plenty of opportunities to talk about the island massacre and to link the killer to critics of Islam.

The motion of no confidence was scheduled to be discussed in parliament today. On Sunday came reports that Prime Minister Solberg, surprisingly, was prepared to go to the mat for Listhaug — in other words, if a parliamentary majority voted no confidence in Listhaug, Solberg would resign on behalf of the entire government rather than accept the power of non-ruling parties to question the makeup of her cabinet. All weekend, everybody in Norway was speculating what would happen today. Would some of the supporters of the “no confidence” motion back down? Would the Solberg government actually fall?

No. Instead, it all ended with a whimper. Well, not exactly a whimper. Explaining at a press conference that she didn’t want her party to lose power on her account and didn’t want to bring about the formation of a Støre government (which, she said, would be a disaster), Listhaug quit her cabinet post — abruptly, and apparently voluntarily. NRK reported that both Solberg and Progress Party leader Siv Jensen were entirely caught off guard (although Helge Lurås wrote at the alternative news site Resett that Solberg pushed her out).

The resignation itself was classy and blunt. Lamenting that Norwegian politics had turned into a “kindergarten,” Listhaug said in that it was now her responsibility to act like an adult. She described the attempt to destroy her as a “witch-hunt” intended to crush free speech. “Ordinary people who have supported me, who don’t have extreme views but who are concerned about their country, have been smeared in the most disgusting way because they have supported me and supported the Progress Party’s asylum and immigration policies,” she said. “I want to do what is right for the Progress Party. I want to do what is right for the country. I want to do what is right for me. And I want to do what is right for freedom of speech in Norway, for which I will continue to fight.”

It was gutsy, eloquent even. But what a dark day! Listhaug’s departure from the cabinet (she remains a member of parliament) underscores that even though Norway’s government is currently in the hands of the Conservatives and Progress Party, the political establishment that always and ever centers on the Labor Party still has the power to force out the one woman who speaks for Norway’s deplorables. Basically, it’s the same kind of undemocratic, deep-state mischief with which American voters have become so familiar. One can only hope that Listhaug continues to be the face and voice of the resistance to Islamization, and that she can — before it’s too late — return to power as the head of a newly revitalized movement to rescue Norway from its reprehensible elites.