President Obama

Nobel Peace Prize: Historical Precedent


The Nobel Committee gave South African Bishop Desmond Tutu the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his leadership of efforts to abolish apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid wasn't fully abolished in South Africa until 1994. The committee could have waited until after apartheid was abolished to say, "Well done!" But the point of the award was to help bring down apartheid by strengthening Bishop Tutu's efforts. In particular, everyone knew that it was going to be much harder for the apartheid regime to crack down on Tutu after the Nobel Committee wrapped him in its protective cloak of world praise.

That's what the Nobel Committee is trying to do for Obama now. It's giving an award to encourage the change in world relations that Obama has promised, and to try to help shield Obama against his domestic adversaries.


But the kneejerk rush to indict the president -- on the left and the right -- for receiving this honor failed to take into consideration both history and the stated content of this year's award. It was an award granted to motivate and inspire both the president and the nation to push for nuclear disarmament and solutions for the climate crisis.

And by the way, David Sirota with his fantastical "Inner Space" shrinking machine somehow managed to pilot his tiny space ship into the brains of the Nobel committee and ascertain that, instead of following historic precedent for the award, the committee is motivated by American-style celebrity worship. Even though they're, you know, Norwegian.

Obama's fame - not his actual policy or record - is what is being honored here. And that's not surprising: As I said, we are a society that is increasingly organized not around issue, cause or movement, but around celebrity - and this reflects it.

We are a society that's organized around celebrity. Yes, America loves celebrities. America. I'm unaware of Norwegian culture, but is the committee composed of Perez Hilton types whose lives revolve around TMZ?