Should one laugh or cry? That perennial question raised itself yet again on January 10 when Norway's purported newspaper of record, Aftenposten, ran what several readers, in the comments field, quite properly dismissed as a shameless piece of propaganda that, as one of them put it, "stinks" of the "red-green agenda." The headline: "People with immigrant backgrounds are becoming more like the rest [of us]." The article was based entirely on data from Statistics Norway, the government statistics bureau. Although that agency has a long record of massaging its numbers and serving up frankly absurd prognoses in order to make it look as if Islamic immigration into Norway is less of a fiasco than the average Norwegian man-in-the-street knows it is, Aftenposten's reporters, Kjersti Nipen, Øystein Aldridge, and Kjetil Østli, passed them on in the usual reverently unquestioning fashion.
"In some areas immigrants are becoming more like us," they quoted Statistics Norway researcher Lars Østby as saying, "but there are few areas in which the population without immigrant backgrounds are being influenced by immigrants." This was, first of all, a highly bemusing claim, given that a crucial element of the rhetoric churned out by the professional boosters of immigration – Islamic immigration in particular – has long been that the influx into Norway of persons with radically different cultural backgrounds enrich the country in extraordinary ways. Could it be that at least some of the longtime purveyors of that line decided that it wasn't working, and decided instead to try the more modest argument that immigration is a neutral phenomenon that doesn't really affect the native population one way or the other?