Norway’s cultural elite loved Obama – until he actually did something terrific.
In today’s Aftenposten, Norway’s #1 communications consultant, Kjell Terje Ringdal, who founded the country’s first PR firm and runs the Washington Seminars (which takes Norwegian politicians to Washington and teaches them about “politics and PR”), offers up a “rhetorical analysis” of Obama’s speech about killing bin Laden. The speech, Ringdal says, was “a hymn to revenge,” a “cowboy action,” a rationalization of state terror. By announcing that the U.S. had Osama’s remains, Obama sought “to humiliate”; it was “a kind of Indian reference – a moral scalp.” (In other words, Obama taking Osama’s corpse was like cowboys scalping Indians.) When Obama referred to the 9/11 victims and families, it was to justify the killing – for only by citing the suffering of mothers and children could he hope to make such an atrocity seem acceptable. The speech’s closing flourish – in which Obama said that “we can do these things not just because of wealth and power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” – “sums up the entire psychology and politics of Americans.” Ringdal does not mean this as a compliment.
One plus: though Obama, says Ringdal, has proven to be, like Bush (and like all Americans), at heart a “cowboy,” his rhetoric is at least more “elegant,” more – yes, yes, wait for it – “European.”
Meanwhile, Dagbladet reports that after Osama’s death Norwegian novelist Elin Brodin tweeted: “R.I.P. Osama bin Laden. No matter what one may otherwise think of him. Achtung: I will not tolerate any crude and flippant chitchat here.” In an interview with the newspaper, Brodin expanded on her tweet: bin Laden was “brave,” an “idealist” who “put his life in danger for what he believed in.” He was David, she said, taking on Goliath: “We don’t listen to those who don’t think the ‘right’ way; it must be very frustrating for them. We must learn to see things from other people’s perspectives even if we don’t agree.”
David taking on Goliath: what a brilliantly original analogy! Boy, those novels of hers must be dazzling.