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Holmgang should walk the plank

TV 2's Holmgang with Oddvar Stenstrøm is a danger to enlightened democracy in Norway, writes editor Dag Herbjørnsrud.


Last Wednesday I attended TV 2's live broadcast program Holmgang. It was no merry affair.

On the contrary, it has made me understand what danger this program is in the long run for the Norwegian public debate. Paradoxically, today's Holmgang concept poses a threat to precisely the "Norwegian values" that this program so implicitly likes to defend.

Criticism of Homgang has also appeared in the past, among other things for the use of the junk "polls" at the end of each broadcast. But that does not prevent Finn Jarle Sæle, for example, in Dagen from frequently boasting that "we repeatedly win the votes on the screen by 90 per cent against 10 per cent" – be it homosexuality or gender quotas.

Most recently in May, Sven Egil Omdal wrote that "the debate program" Holmgang "has long since turned into a parody of itself".

Parodies are comical. But few of "Holmgang"'s over 400.000 viewers experience that they witness a comedy. Rather, it is the tragedy of reality that unfolds before the open television screen.

Like last Wednesday. The topic at Holmgang was the debate program's favorite, namely the hundred and one ways to discuss "What should we do with the immigrants"?

distorted image

More precisely, host Oddvar Stenstrøm was based on a survey from the Norwegian Social Science Data Service, where almost four out of ten young people have answered that immigration is a "threat to Norwegian identity". It is presented as if this is to be an increase from 1999, but the fact is that it was another question that was asked six years ago – so that most of the basis for Holmgang's debate on increasing skepticism falls away.

Another key point is that skepticism is least where immigration is greatest. 75 percent of young people in Oslo, for example, do not believe that immigration is a threat to "the Norwegian". The media's, and Holmgang's, representations should thus become a natural topic of discussion. Just last Wednesday's debate on this one survey should be a study in itself on how to create more fear.

For what happens? Well, one is that the invited debaters are politicians. No invited researchers should have agreed to participate. That in itself is not surprising, since people with nuanced opinions will find it difficult to take care of their perspective.

The participating politicians will then be two from the Progress Party (including Siv Jensen) and two from the Right (including defiant municipal minister Erna Solberg). The only person who can represent the red-green parties, which the Norwegian people voted for government a few weeks ago, will be Gry Larssen. Nothing negative has been said about skilled Larssen, but it is undeniably tending to have an AUF leader alone have to represent the political majority of the people against, among other things, two spirited Frp-ers.

Now it should be said that Erna Solberg made balanced statements which in normal situations should have dampened the whole debate. But that did not stop program leaders Stenstrøm and Siv Jensen, who followed suit with the same accustomed drive on crime and terror.

Feig No

On TV 2's website, and in the invitation to the participants, the following is a starting point: “Half of the boys, but only three out of ten girls believe that immigration threatens Norwegian identity. Why is there such a big difference between the sexes? ”

This was an interesting question. This could get the debate over on another track, on gender differences or on what attitudes the media and the wider community are spreading to today's young people.

But was this information about gender differences mentioned in one word during the 50 minutes? Of course not. Despite reminders from both NOAS leader Morten Tjessem and the undersigned, Stenstrøm was in no way able to stick to the debate he himself had invited to: As "usual", he turned the debate into criminal immigrants, despite the fact that everyone agree that they should be punished.

Stenstrøm has held for almost eight years as program manager of Holmgang. Predictability is touch and feel. The most interesting TV debate now would be to confront Stenstrøm and TV 2 with their own responsibility for the increasing fears of Norwegian TV viewers. I shall bet that debate that Stenstrøm does not dare to take. He fears the honest judgment of the viewer.

Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

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