After weeks of debate and some harsh criticism, the Norwegian research foundation Fafo has decided to withdraw a recent report on Norwegians’ views on racism. Fafo announced just before the weekend that it plans to correct the report and publish a new version.
Fafo wrote on its own website that the highly disputed formulation of a question on race “did not function in accordance with its intention.” The report had written that 25 percent of those questioned either totally or partially agreed with the statement: “I think some human races are simply smarter than others.”
The response generated headlines in Norway, because of the initially wide interpretation that an alarming percentage of Norwegians could be considered racists. The report also, however, attracted sharp reaction from critics including social commentator Kjetil Rolness, known for conservative and often provocative views of his own.
Rolness questioned how Fafo defined menneskeraser (human races) or even “smarter.” He lashed out at the Fafo report’s author Guri Tyldum, claiming that her formulation of the question was “loaded.”
Tyldum has accepted criticism for the question linking race and intelligence, telling state broadcaster NRK that she would have formulated the question differently if the survey was conducted again.
Fafo will thus go through the report and correct the portion with the disputed question. Fafo stressed that the research Tyldum conducted was meant to be a study of Norwegians’ attitudes towards equality, hateful rhetoric and methods of compiling public policy.
Critic accused of ‘bullying’
She had her defenders, with others lashing out at Rolness for “bullying” Tyldum. Christopher Bratt, a researcher at the University of Kent in the UK, wrote in a commentary published in Aftenposten (where Rolness is a columnist) that whereas others felt sorry for Tyldum, Rolness had “found a new victim.”
Bratt conceded that “this time Rolness was right,” and that Fafo’s disputed question was “unsuitable.” He objected mightily, however, to Rolness’ equally controversial decision to write about the contents of correspondence he had directly with Tyldum, and which Aftenposten published.
“We all make mistakes from time to time, and we learn from them,” Bratt wrote. “But we should be able to expect that it’s not legitimate to bully those who have erred.”