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Turning around disillusionment.
As I argue that press must at least adopt some subjectivity so that I may engage with it, I ask myself what exactly I would engage with? Is it the press which reflects the political ambiguity of Scandinavia (on the one hand US allies and the other Palestine sympathizers) or am I as a reader adopting that understanding?
Political discourse sets the journalistic agenda as much as it determines what I read into articles. With the awareness that what follows is in no way constructive; would it not be reasonable to contend that perceived objectivity is no more than a political subjectivity? When Francis Fukuyama declared the end of history, this claim (however crazed or hailed it may be) was based on the notion that one ideology was superior to another and that this had now been proved. I do not pretend to understand Fukuyma's trail of thought, only that his declaration may be illustrative of my point. His contended superior ideology was superior in his political environment. That sense of superiority was a result of perceived political reality, truth or, if you will: an objectivity. It was therefore the result of a specific political discourse, it was, if you will: subjective.
"There is no Truth. There is only the truth within each moment"
- Ramana Maharshi
Where to turn to? Scandinavian press and disillusionment.
Have you ever seen the British television programme, The Inbetweeners? It’s about four classmates who are neither cool nor nerdy, but caught somewhere inconsequential and, well, in between. In many ways they are like Scandinavian states. They do not have nuclear weapons, they also have no desire to acquire them. They are Western, US allies and (except Sweden) NATO members. But Norway also has Fellesutvalget for Palestina (FuP), an umbrella organization comprising trade unions and political parties in support of Palestine’s struggle against occupation. One of its member parties is in coalition government and one of its member unions represents reporters in Scandinavian newspapers. The story in Denmark and Sweden is very much the same - the population is largely and openly what one, in want of a better word, labels pro-Palestine.
Nearly half of the articles examined cite AFP, AP and Ritzau. Their writing is generic and in obvious want of what academic articles fear: flowery language. The articles might well have been bullet pointed lists. One is inclined to wonder whether this desensitization is a reflection of Scandinavia's "inbetweenness". Scandinavians are well aware of their status. Despite the lack of hesitance to voice opinions within their borders, when it comes to larger geopolitical issues Politiken, VG and Aftonbladet remain reserved. By relying on the wire they are simply projecting information from "out there" and need not engage with it while simultaneously fulfilling their mission to keep their audiences up to speed on world affairs.
What of the other half of articles then? Does the traditionally strong association of Scandinavian newspapers to political parties and ideologies push through? Not really. The writing is more engaging in these articles with journalists cited and yes, one does end up with the impression of slightly more sympathy for the Lebanese and a whisper of a reprimand for the Israeli. But I must confess myself disappointed. Scandinavia has nothing compared to the USA's interests in the region. Some sell weapons, provide a relatively large chunk of aid and there is the Oslo Accords. The Scandinavian governments would not loose significant domestic support nor Middle Eastern interests (Norway has enough oil) by openly declaring what the population already shouts. With little strategic to loose and with a population as educated and opinionated as it is, why does the region's newspapers not mirror this and provide them with some foundation for debate?
There are several possible explanations. Perhaps the assessed border incident was not considered big enough to incite another round of protests? But the newspapers declared this the most volatile incident since the 2006 war. Maybe the relation of one governmental party to the FuP is not strong enough to out cry the voice of the coalition government's other, larger party? The Norwegian foreign minister did ensure Secretary Rice of his continued disapproval of FuP's boycott of Israel, but the finance minister went on national TV to encourage it. Either way, Scandinavia remains stuck in between. In between the USA's interests and few of their own. And if the newspapers will not, where will people seek debate but with interest groups online, blogs and television. By this account, no wonder news on print is running out of ink.