Love and solidarity aside: Norwegians also resort to messages of hate

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Despite all the reports and declarations about how Norwegians pulled together after last year’s terrorist attacks, many remain clearly outside the realm of compassion and solidarity. Politicians regularly receive disturbing messages of hatred and racism, forcing their advisers to remove them from their social media sites and other sources of online public debate.

“We have a high threshold when it comes to censorship, but it’s very difficult to strike a balance,” Sindre Fossum Beyer, a political adviser for Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday. “We draw the line when people make threats.”

‘Gang of dirty pigs’
Aftenposten reported how hateful messages encouraging violence and harassment, or containing racist comments and threats, are regularly sent to Stoltenberg, from Norwegians who reveal their full name and even their photos on, for example, Stoltenberg’s Facebook page. His staff feel obliged to remove offensive messages several times a week.

Norway’s high-profile prime minister has around 300,000 followers on his Facebook page. Among messages recently received was one where Stoltenberg was called an “idiot” for defending the human rights of Roma folk who have stirred controversy in Norway this summer. “It’s not strange they’re hated when they steal Norwegian citizens’ property and beg,” the message read. “You and the other socialists are a shame!”

Another message encouraged that “the whole gang of dirty pigs” should get “a proper beating with wooden bats,” while another simply wrote “A dead AP (Arbeiderpartiet, Labour Party) is a good AP.” Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) is spending more time monitoring extremists in Norway, and has reported that the number of online threats made against politicians has “increased considerably” since the terror attacks of last year.

Remarks don’t go unchallenged
Stoltenberg’s staff note that many other Norwegians sending in messages are quick to pounce on those sending in hateful and offensive remarks. Both Stoltenberg and other politicians have referred to such response as a positive sign that more people are challenging such extremists.

Per Sandberg, a Member of Parliament for Labour’s arch rival Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), also has felt forced to remove extremist comments from his social media site that come from those who may feel they’ll find more like-minded support among others attracted by Norway’s most conservative party. Not so, contends Sandberg, even though he and party leader Siv Jensen have called for the deportation of Roma folk. Sandberg said that some messages are so hateful and offensive that he feels they have no place in a public forum.

“I have often gone into the site myself and asked folks to behave themselves in a manner that I can also be there,” Sandberg told Aftenposten. “Now I feel I have some control, and the most extreme messages aren’t there any longer.” He stressed, though, that he only censors comments that leave others feeling threatened.

An Aftenposten reporter contacted the Norwegian who wrote that “A dead AP is a good AP.” He said he participates daily in online debates and that his remarks are within the confines he sets for himself regarding what’s appropriate. He hung up, however, when asked to elaborate.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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