On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Institute announced that President Jimmy Carter would be the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2002. In honoring Carter for his 25 years of work in humanitarian projects and peaceful conflict resolution. Many–including Gunnar Berge, the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee–have interpreted the award as not just an honor for Carter’s work, but also as a pointed challenge to the present Bush administration sabre-rattling and unilateralist war-mongering towards Iraq.
Those of you who follow this space may find this development particularly interesting, because back in February I reported on the nomination of Bush and Blair for the Nobel Peace Prize by Harald Tom Nesvik, a Right-wing Norwegian MP for–that’s right–starting a war. In reaction to the news, I launched an Internet campaign protesting the nomination and urging the Nobel Committee to give the award to a candidate who had truly worked for peace. The outcome of that action was nothing short of astounding: over the eight months between the beginning of the action and the announcement of snub of Bush and Blair, some 43,850 e-mails were sent from people all over the world to the Nobel Peace Prize committee through my web site, and many people also sent faxes and letters by international post (I reported on the remarkable outpouring of support for the action in GT 2002/02/18, GT 2002/02/20, and GT 2002/03/01).
Now, reality check: did a bunch of polemical e-mails about Bush and Blair actually affect the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s decision? It’s unlikely. They had already stated their hostility towards Bush and Blair’s promises of ever-expanding militarism. The stance of the European Left–which presently holds the majority on the committee–towards DC‘s renewed calls for a militaristic New World Order is well known to be hostile. They had already stated, in fact, that they would consider giving the prize to Bush and Blair–but only if they brought al-Qaeda to justice without bombing Afghanistan, and, well, we all saw how that one went.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but be pleased with how things have turned out on this count. Who knows; maybe the flood of e-mail did embolden them towards sharper criticism of the Bush administration. And whether it did or not, I am simply humbled by how much people all over the world put into a campaign on my little page off in an obscure corner of the Internet. It had nothing in particular to do with me, except in terms of the software; I publicized the actions on a few mailing lists and a few IndyMedia sites, and then simply stood by and watched as nearly 50,000 spread the word amongst themselves all over the world. I received piles of e-mail from people I’ve never met; I had people voluntarily contribute French transations to help the international appeal of the website. Such simple devices as e-mail forwards and listservs rallied a tremendous response from all over the world. As I wrote near the beginning of the campaign, we could be living at the beginning of a new era in using the Internet as a space for democratic political transformation. The networks that we are building–if we do the work we need to, to expand them, make them effective, make them inclusive, and use them to bring actions out to the streets–are one of our best hopes for the future. I hope that I have done some small work towards helping to demonstrate that promise. And I think that this weekend is an excellent opportunity to think ahead to how we can continue this work.
You can thank the Norwegian Nobel Institute by writing them an e-mailthanking them for respecting the worldwide outcry against Nesvik’s nomination and Bush’s militarism, and for rewarding a man who has truly worked for peace for the past 25 years.