The partiality of the news media, heaven knows, is an international phenomenon. But there are few places on this fragile blue planet of ours where consumers are forced to shell out so much money to be fed so much outright, shameless, and (not infrequently) downright vile propaganda as is the case in little Norway. At present every Norwegian household that owns a TV must pay an annual "license fee" of $451.00 a year to subsidize NRK, the government-owned TV and radio network. (Next year the fee will climb to $568.57.) You have to pay, even if you never, ever watch NRK, most of whose programming is not unlike a triple dose of Ambien. Take the schedule for Wednesday, October 24, which consisted of a blizzard of national and local news programs (one of them in Sami); "Murder, She Wrote"; reality shows, one set on a remote Finnish island, another on a Danish chestnut farm whose proprietors run it "the good old-fashioned way"; an investigative program that asked why the number of moose in Norway has tripled in the last decade; and a musical tribute to United Nations Day by the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. (You may not know that October 24 is United Nations Day, but I can assure you that every kid in Norway does.)
But what's worst about NRK is not the comical dullness of much of its daily menu but, well, two things: first, the day-to-day, knee-jerk, petty mendacities of its news reporting, which is almost invariably tilted against the U.S., Israel, capitalism, and so on; and, second, the larger, grander, more sweeping, and even, at times, utterly breathtaking duplicities of some of the few high-profile prime-time programs that NRK actually produces itself. Case in point: Brennpunkt, or "focal point," a series that pretends to be devoted to investigative journalism, and that, on the evening of October 23, served up an hour entitled "Intet kommer i en lukket hånd." It was explained that this title, which literally translates as "Nothing comes in a closed hand," was a quotation from Indira Gandhi; a quick Google search established that the original quotation was: "You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist."