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There's no culture but Norwegian culture

"Cultureless" is the striking title of Gudleiv Forr's opinion piece in Dagbladet about how Orkla is willing to throw what he dubs 'the Norwegian Enlightenment project' over board by selling its newspaper arm to cultureless foreign owners such as the Brits (represented by Mecom).

Who is Gudleiv Forr? Hmm... the name rings a bell from my childhood. He must be someone famous but I must admit that now, fast approaching the magic 30 and having spent the best part of my twenties in England, I seem to have forgotten..........ah, something is starting to come back to me: I think he's a radical Norwegian commentator who's always championed the cause of New-Norwegian*

He writes (my translation): "The smoke signals from Karenslyst Allé in Oslo are anything but soothing... From Orkla's boardroom reports are issued indicating that the objective of the sale is to achieve the biggest possible gain – not for Norwegian press, not for Norwegian culture but for Orkla's owners. Should the consequence of the sale be that the newspapers end up with a British media proprietor, who represents a totally different media culture than the Norwegian, it seems to be of no consequence to those responsible for the sale."

What is this 'Norwegian Enlightenment project' he's talking about? To paraphrase Mr Forr it's something that has made the Norwegians 'more educated than they used to be, more knowledgeable and more democratic than most other (nationalities?)'. Now forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I always thought that the Enlightenment, and the ideas that brought it about, was something the Norwegians copied from the French and the English a few centuries ago (though ideas have always reached these distant shores a bit later than most other places). In fact, I distinctly seem to remember reading that this was the case while attending the University of Oslo – though they do teach many funny things in Uni these days. Perhaps I should have read Rune Slagstad's "De Nasjonale Strateger" more thoroughly for the original ideas of Norwegian enlightenment rather than all those continental philosophers they had us read in Intellectual History. Mr Forr's conclusion certainly seems to be that the Brits lack both culture and enlightenment – in contrast to the Norwegians.

Further, Mr Forr implies that selling Orkla's newspaper arm to uncultured foreigners is symptomatic of the rampant capitalistic forces at play in today's Norwegian society. Media are vital democratic institutions and should be about love and public spirit rather than profits, right? Well why don't we just nationalise all newspapers, assign proprietorship to the state and introduce a new license fee to finance the whole shebang? There is this small issue of having a free and impartial press, a press which is not just acting as a mouthpiece for the Government, but judging from the current debate calling for more active State ownership in Norway, this is not an argument which would be too hard to swallow: after all the State is so much more of a responsible owner than any nasty corporation...

Come to think of it, it's actually rather ironic how Norwegian press, who like to present themselves as scions of objectivity - which in the past has meant that they have only ended up reinforcing status quo, and issues that didn't abide by the dictates of political correctness fell off the agenda - traditionally has been politically owned and heavily subsidised by political parties, political interest groups and the State.

*Funny Norwegian language that nobody actually speaks in its pure form. Constructed as a synopsis of many Norwegian dialects by an ardent national romantic Norwegian (in a pang of longing for his etymological roots?) after the Danes had ruled Norway for a good many years and corrupted the 'civilised classes' with Danish. The only subject I was taught in school which to this very day I deem a complete waste of time.


If Norway has such "rampant, capitalistic forces at play", why are there no rampant capitalists buying Orkla Media? Maybe because ... there really aren't all that many rampant capitalists in this "capitalist" country of ours?

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