Things the Nobel Committee Doesn’t Want You to Know

Posted: Oct 17, 2007 10:09 PM
Things the Nobel Committee Doesn’t Want You to Know

Poor Al Gore. He’s been in a downward spiral all year long.

First, he received an Oscar for his documentary (or was it a “mockumentary”?), An Inconvenient Truth, from the out-of-touch motion picture industry. Then he received an International Emmy from the out-of-touch television industry – the international branch, no less.

Now he’s received the Nobel Peace Prize, which ranks right up there with the Daytime Emmy – or it should.

Al Gore now joins as a Nobel laureate former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who won the prize in 2001 for, among other things, his work for a “better organized… world.” You may remember some of Annan’s better world organizing: The Oil-for-Food Program.

Other past honorees include Mikhail Gorbachev (1990), who received the honor for helping end the Cold War (by losing it); Yasser Arafat (1994), who supposedly advanced Mideast peace by adopting a terrorism-with-a-smile approach; Rigoberto Menchu (1992), who opposed abusing indigenous peoples, except, of course, when oppressed by communists (a feat accomplished, in part, through a self-serving and largely fictitious “autobiography”); and Le Duc Tho (1973), communist North Vietnam’s negotiator during the Paris Peace Accords, a treaty to end the Vietnam War that the North violated before the ink was dry. Le Duc Tho at least exercised more sense than the Nobel Committee – he declined the “honor.”

One wonders if the Nobel Committee is made up of comedians.

It’s not, but that’s not far off the mark. The Committee is made up entirely of politicians.

The Nobel Committee consists of five people appointed by the Norwegian parliament, or Storting, who serve for six-year terms. Its membership is supposed to reflect the relative strengths of Norway’s political parties. This has meant the Norwegian Labor Party has had enormous influence over the Committee for decades, as it has been dominant since World War II.

To ensure the committee has at least a thin veneer of independence, no active member of government is permitted to serve on the committee.

This hasn’t always been the case. The Storting banned government officials from serving on the Committee in 1936 after controversy erupted over its selection of Carl von Ossietzky, a German-Jew peace activist languishing in a German concentration camp, as the 1935 Nobel laureate. The choice didn’t sit very well with Adolph Hitler, who viewed the selection as a statement of Norwegian foreign policy.

The Norwegian government didn’t flinch, of course. It exhibited unwavering courage and pretended it no longer had anything to do with the Nobel Prize.

The Norwegians’ cowering did them precious little good. Hitler’s fleet and paratroopers paid Norway a visit in 1940 anyway.

Today, the Nobel Committee’s membership includes one representative each from the Christian Democrats, the Socialist Left Party, the Labor Party, the Conservative Party and the Progress Party.

All but one member is a former Norwegian parliamentarian and all five have held elective office. To suggest that the Nobel Committee is anything other than a reflection of the Norwegian government’s opinion (albeit a delayed one, due to staggered terms) is as absurd as suggesting that Al Gore’s work is what Alfred Nobel meant by the contribution of “greatest benefit to mankind.”

At first glance, the Nobel Committee’s present composition appears favorable to rational decisions. Three of five members come from what are – for Norway – center-to-right parties.

But, as Paul Harvey says, here’s the rest of the story.

Norway’s Christian Democrats are more green than even Norway’s Labor Party.

In 2000, Kjell Magne Bondevik, a Christian Democrat, allowed his three-party minority government to fall over its opposition to construction of new gas-fired power plants in Norway. Bondevik argued that construction should be delayed until new technology could be developed to remove 90% of carbon emissions – effectively delaying construction indefinitely.

The Labor Party joined Conservatives in supporting the power plants to meet the country’s growing energy needs, defeating Bondevik and sending his government to the bench.

Bondevik had a second chance to form a coalition government in 2001. He opted to form a minority three-party coalition government rather than a majority three-party one by including the left-leaning and environmentally-activist Liberal Party instead of the free-market oriented Progress Party. The Liberal Party had won just 2 seats in parliament while the Progress Party had won 26. That’s a statement.

With three votes essentially locked in for the radical environmentalism, it’s not surprising that Al Gore received the Nobel Committee’s endorsement. Since the Nobel Committee’s rules specify that its proceedings remain secret and members abstain from speaking publicly, we may never know how the vote came down, but it is all but certain to have been a divided one. Where are the left’s cries of censorship when you need them?

Americans now recognize that the Oscars and the Emmys are self-serving and inconsequential. They are abandoning their annual awards broadcasts in droves.

It’s time they do the same with the Nobel Peace Prize.

The honor is not in being nominated, but in losing.