This week the public advisory board of NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting, roughly modelled after the BBC) reprimanded the editors of a late-night talk show for posting a controversial segment on Youtube (but not in the actual program, since removed from Youtube) in which a noted blogger opined (my translation):
“Yes, yes, yes. I am jealous of the Jews. They were gassed, and then afterwards, for f***’s sake, they just bought everything. They just bought everything. Yeah, they are the richest people everywhere.”
The advisory board criticized the editors for letting the segment see any light of day, noting that the views were defamatory of Jews in general and the tiny Norwegian Jewish community in particular.
At the time the segment was published, the editors defended their decision, saying that the program is intended to bring out points of view that don’t typically get air time in the Norwegian media, and that the blogger was deliberately overstating her point, expecting an argument to ensue. One of the editors said these views, provided they had the right context, was within boundaries of acceptable public discourse.
People who overstate their point, particularly in a forum where attention is the precious currency, will commit gaffes, generalizations, and slips that are patently offensive. Sometimes they do it for dramatic effect, sometimes they are impolitic but candid. These draw crowds but rarely inform anything.
The real issue is: Why would editors think that this view – however badly it was overstated – is a valid premise for public debate? What do Norwegians in general and NRK editors believe about economic activity among Jews? Is it a widespread belief that Jews somehow grabbed restitution through financial success? Do they believe that jealousy of Jews is somehow justified?
In my view, NRK’s biggest mistake wasn’t that they aired the segment, it was that they haven’t followed it up. They haven’t investigated how prevalent perceptions about these and other antisemitic canards are, they haven’t hosted discussions on such bigotry, and they haven’t elaborated why they thought these views were within acceptable boundaries.