What Purpose Does the Nobel Prize Serve?

It was only last year that the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided in all its wisdom to award its peace prize to the recently inaugurated president of a nation that has ensanguined the opening decade of the twenty-first century with aggressions against Afghanistan and Iraq – the latter aggression indisputably based on a contrived pretext. President Barack Obama indicated his respect for his peace prize by ramping up the military action in Afghanistan and by mendaciously avoiding his promised military pull-out from Iraq. Subsequently, Obama supported military coups in Honduras and Ecuador — not what one expects from a peace laureate. The Nobel Committee was left with egg on its face.1 It was not the first time, and it will probably not be the last time.

Obviously – despite whatever the original intentions of Alfred Nobel were – the Nobel Peace Prize has been serving another purpose than promoting men (and with the 12 exceptions women) of “peace.” This year, 2010, is the first time a Chinese has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite having one-fifth of the world’s population, Chinese have garnered only 0.08 percent of Nobel Peace Prizes awarded. This year’s award goes to a Chinese who is critical of the system in China.

Liu wound up imprisoned last year after calling for freedom of assembly, expression, and religion in China. Of course, Chinese citizens should enjoy all these freedoms.

Chinese citizens will not express their feelings openly about Liu, if they have even heard of him, or about freedoms. My impression is that most Chinese are more concerned about growing their economy and alleviating poverty than documents on human rights.

So when Democracy Now! turns to a questionable NGO such as Human Rights Watch,2 extreme skepticism should greet any pronouncements forthcoming.

Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, claimed, “… it’s a very big day for people in China, because in recognizing Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Committee has decided to highlight the concerns for the rule of law, democracy and human rights, that Liu Xiaobo has fought for for the last twenty years.”3

It is amusing – and of concern — how western media, even media claiming to be independent and progressive, turn to Americans to determine how the people of another country feel instead of asking people from the country in question.4

Is Worden a representative or spokesperson for the Chinese people? Whereby does she then determine what is a big day for Chinese people?

Liu has promulgated a Charter 08 calling for changes in politics and human rights – and entrenchment of property rights! (as if property had rights) — in China.

A Taiwanese News Channel quotes Charter 08 on “the absence of political reforms ‘has restrained the development of the Chinese nation and the progress of human civilization.’ Wen says without political reform as protection, the achievements of economic reforms will slip away.”5

As a Chinese citizen Liu should have the right to criticize his government. He should not be jailed for this. However, that does not mean that Liu — and his 300 to 7200 Charter 08 signatories — represent the will of Chinese people.

Charter 08 appears amiable to most hard right-wing governments. Unless every charter item is defined scrutably, clearly, and without resort to equivocation, the document would have little effect on human rights. Why should it? Why is this Charter 08 needed when China is an original signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? I have never seen this discussed. Besides, which country abides by the UDHR? And if signatories to the UDHR do not abide by the human rights enshrined, why should Charter 08 be any different? So what then is the purpose of the Charter 08?

Why is it that the Nobel Peace Committee would focus on human rights in China? Why not award the prize to the Cuban Five and highlight human rights abuses in the United States, especially after the Norwegian committee was humiliated by 2009 recipient Obama.

China is predictably upset by the Norwegian committee’s “meddling.”6

Chinese writer Lin Yutang, found pacifism to be quintessential to the Chinese character. Of the people he wrote, “[Chinese] hate war, and always will hate war. Good people never fight in China. For good iron is not made into nails, and good men are not made soldiers.”7

Yet, the Norwegian committee has seen “good” Chinese people, until now, as undeserving of Nobel Peace Prize recognition.8

The Norwegian committee has overwhelmingly recognized white, male Westerners. From reading the list of Nobel Peace Prize recipients, a Martian might deduce that warmongers were primarily non-white, female Easterners. However, it is upon the world’s most egregious war machine, the US, that the Norwegian committee has bestowed four of its war criminal presidents with Nobel Peace Prizes.

One might surmise that the Nobel Peace Prize is a propaganda tool of western imperialism.9 If so, then progressives who really desire peace and equality in the world would do better to ignore the machinations of the Norwegian committee and reporting by gullible “progressivist” media.

China certainly has a way to go before becoming a bastion of human rights, but Norway and its western allies are not beyond reproach when it comes to human rights abuses. A more principled approach would be to recognize one’s own shortcomings first and correct them before directing criticism at others — especially for what appear to be dubious ends.

  1. See Kim Petersen “Audacity in Norway,” Dissident Voice, 9 October 2009. []
  2. See Kim Petersen and B. J. Sabri, “American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery?: Part II: Is Supporting the Troops, Patriotism, Dementia, or Moral Dissolution?” Dissident Voice, 27 August 2005. []
  3. Jailed Chinese Dissident Liu Xiaobo Awarded Nobel Peace Prize,” Democracy Now! 8 October 2010. []
  4. See Kim Petersen, “Independent Media as Mouthpiece for Centers of Power,” Dissident Voice, 28 May 2010. []
  5. I cannot access information on Charter 08 in China because of internet blockage. But I manged to slip by to get to Y.F. Low, “United Daily News: Difference between Liu Xiaobo and Wen Jiabao,” Focus Taiwan News Channel, 9 October 2010. []
  6. Beijing blasts Nobel Peace Prize meddling,” People’s Online Daily, 9 October 2010. []
  7. Lin Yutang, My Country and My People (Foreign language Teaching and Research Press, 2000). []
  8. It must be noted that Tibet’s 14th Dalai Lama was also awarded a Nobel peace Prize in 1989. Tibet is nominally a territory of China, but the Dalai Lama is considered a separatist CIA-funded rogue by Chinese authorities. As for human rights and self-determination for Tibetans, see Kim Petersen, “The Tibet Question: Is Self-Determination, as a Principle, Absolute?Dissident Voice, 29 April 2008. []
  9. Vietnamese resistance leader Le Duc Tho had the gumption to refuse the Nobel Peace Prize because there was no peace in his homeland. That did not, however, hinder co-winner, then US secretary-of-state, Henry Kissinger from grabbing his prize. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.

24 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozh said on October 9th, 2010 at 7:50am #

    Giving nobel prizes has the same purpose as the rating in schools: reward some people and punish others and by doing that convincing the victims that they deserve to be punished in too many ways to list all such instances.
    Rating of people or rewarding some, punishing others, is an ancient practice.
    However, the greater mastery of people [victims], the greater use of such artifice.
    tnx

  2. Ismail Zayid said on October 9th, 2010 at 8:33am #

    The Norwegian Nobel Committee has a bizarre record in rewarding the Nobel Peace prize. As Kim indicates, where was the logic in awarding the Nobel Peace prize to Obama, in the midst of his escalating the war of aggression in Iran and maintaining the criminal war in Iraq? However, this Committee’s bizarre record is highlighted in awarding the Nobel Peace prize to those with deep records in terrorism and war crimes like Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, amongst others.

  3. Ismail Zayid said on October 9th, 2010 at 12:18pm #

    Correction:
    I meant to say escalating the war of aggression in Afghanistan. The war on Iran has not staarted yet!!

  4. mary said on October 9th, 2010 at 12:22pm #

    According to this individual at Fox News, the Afghans asked for it.

    The Afghan War, Past and Present
    10/8/10

    This week, as the Afghan War entered its 10th year, there were the usual retrospectives in the media, as well as calls to rethink the war. What’s striking, though, is how little thinking media did about the war in the first place.

    –Some pundits were calling for indiscriminate attacks before the Afghanistan War even started, as FAIR noted (9/21/01):

    Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, the channel’s most popular host, declared on his September 17 broadcast that if the Afghan government did not extradite Osama bin Laden to the U.S., “the U.S. should bomb the Afghan infrastructure to rubble–the airport, the power plants, their water facilities, and the roads.” O’Reilly went on to say:

    “This is a very primitive country. And taking out their ability to exist day to day will not be hard. Remember, the people of any country are ultimately responsible for the government they have. The Germans were responsible for Hitler. The Afghans are responsible for the Taliban. We should not target civilians. But if they don’t rise up against this criminal government, they starve, period.”

    /…..
    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4169

  5. kanomi said on October 9th, 2010 at 2:59pm #

    The Nobel Peace prizes are a sick psychopathic joke. They are given out to genuine activists at times, when those activists happen to be opposed to be opposed to a regime that the Western imperial behemoth opposes. That shouldn’t take anything away from the activists, although it would be nice if they refused the prize. But much of the rest of the time it’s given to puppets of Empire like Obama, Begin, etc. It’s a meaningless prize. Well worse than meaningless, it’s almost Orwellian.

  6. hayate said on October 9th, 2010 at 7:57pm #

    What Purpose Does the Nobel Prize Serve?

    I suspect a similar purpose as the miss universe contests. IE: business deals.

  7. John Andrews said on October 10th, 2010 at 12:11am #

    Good piece Kim.

    The Nobel ‘Peace’ prize lost what credibility it had on the day it awarded it to Henry Kissinger. If there was any doubt about its value that was surely removed last year when it was ludicrously gifted to Obama.

    To say the Nobel ‘Peace’ prize is meaningless would be to give it too much respectability. It is obviously a political tool in the service of corporate power, and therefore must be attacked just like any other enemy weapon.

  8. denk said on October 10th, 2010 at 9:15am #

    *China’s “new status” as the world’s second-largest economy “must entail increased responsibility,” the committee said. [sic]

    funny nobody ever demand such responsibility from the world’s largest economy cum the world’s “oldest democracy” ?

    meanwhile, from one npp to another…..
    obama
    *the Nobel Committee has chosen someone who has been an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of universal values through peaceful and non-violent means, including his support for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.*

    u gotta hand it to the man, giveing lecture on democracy, human rights and rule of law with a straight face.

  9. Hafsa Khawaja said on October 10th, 2010 at 11:16am #

    Right on spot Kim!

    I think the objectives that Alfred Nobel had set for this prize and the basis on how one should be awarded it, has completely eroded with time or rather has been overcome by political factors.
    It has lost a great deal of credibility, importance and meaning due to it being awarded on absurd reasons.

  10. mary said on October 10th, 2010 at 12:01pm #

    I expect you know the history -

    ‘A pacifist at heart and an inventor by nature, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. However, the invention that he thought would end all wars was seen by many others as an extremely deadly product. In 1888, when Alfred’s brother Ludvig died, a French newspaper mistakenly ran an obituary for Alfred which called him the “merchant of death.”

    Not wanting to go down in history with such a horrible epitaph, Nobel created a will that soon shocked his relatives and established the now famous Nobel Prizes.’

    How can a pacifist think that the invention of dynamite would end all wars. Haven’t we heard that before about the atom bomb?

  11. hayate said on October 10th, 2010 at 12:14pm #

    “How can a pacifist think that the invention of dynamite would end all wars. Haven’t we heard that before about the atom bomb?”

    Some said the same about the gatling gun, as well, Mary. I guess it’s a varying mixture of stupidity, self-deception and duplicity among the purveyors of such an attitude as there is no logic to it at all.

  12. Rehmat said on October 10th, 2010 at 1:53pm #

    The Nobel Peace Prize is a political gift given to all kind of terrorists, murderers, war-mongers and racists – as long as they’re in the good-book of Judeo-Christian imperialists.

    Ben Obama has the unique position. He was given the Nobel Peace Prize to make war against the Muslim world especially the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is a Black mask on the face of America’s submission to a foreign entity, Israel.

    On October 7, 2010 – Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported that the FBI has arrested a Jew employee of Akamai Technologies Elliot Doxer for providing confidential information over 18-month to a FBI agent he thought worked for Israeli Consulate in Boston…..

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/israel-country-x/

  13. Unga_Khan said on October 10th, 2010 at 8:06pm #

    How often does DV have articles written by Chinese or Asian writers about the political, economic, and social situations in their region?

    Kim writes:
    “It is amusing – and of concern — how western media, even media claiming to be independent and progressive, turn to Americans to determine how the people of another country feel instead of asking people from the country in question.”

    A quick search of DV for the word “China” yielded the most recent article published on Aug 18th, written by the very Caucasian Eric Walberg. The next most recent article, published April 24th, “China and Cars”, dealt with the market for automobiles in China and was again written by Western outsiders, Bianca Mugyenyi and Yves Engler. The other 2010 China-focused articles were written by James Petras.

    The lack of articles dealing with Chinese affairs on DV, and their overwhelmingly Western perspective when they are presented, makes this piece very hypocritical. If nothing else perhaps the Nobel Prize this year serves to makes progressives more aware of the contemporary political situation in China.

  14. shabnam said on October 10th, 2010 at 10:32pm #

    {One might surmise that the Nobel Peace Prize is a propaganda tool of western imperialism.9 If so, then progressives who really desire peace and equality in the world would do better to ignore the machinations of the Norwegian committee and reporting by gullible “progressivist” media.}

    I agree with you that we should not be fooled by this phony ‘award’. But this ‘award’ was widely celebrated by the Iranian fifth column at their funded websites by the Western intelligent agencies, CIA, Mossad and MI6.
    No one can understand the nature of these phony awards better than the Iranian people. But I want to know why this kind of post was not written WHEN THE WEST GAVE NOBLE PEACE PRIZE TO a SERVENT OF THE WEST, Shirin Ebadi?

    Today, majority of the Iranian people know who this political stooge is working for. Those who have Persian language skills know what Iranian people are saying about her at many websites in Persian.
    Iranians who are at the service of the West have received award after award. The aim of the Nobel Peace Prize is to make the person, who is pro West, known to everyone in the world so others can be encouraged to follow the same against their government, like Iran. Iranian 5th column has received thousands or in some cases millions of dollars from the criminal West in the form of an award. Majority of the Iranian ‘opposition’ groups have turned into the voice of the Zionism and imperialism in Iran and abroad. Majority of their WEBSITES is funded by the Western intelligent agencies, CIA, MI6 and Mossad.
    Today, posing as an Iranian ‘opposition’ is a profitable business to gain a GREEN CARD or a petty job in propaganda industry of the West, because the criminal west has impose illegal sanction against Iran where makes job difficult to find, like Iraq, therefore, the most educated are the first to seek opportunity, which is mainly to sell your soul, in the west.
    Who have supported these illegal sanctions?

    The Zionist enablers, RUSSIA AND CHINA have supported all the Zionist sanctions imposed on Iran. Today, Russia is a Zionist enabler where the ‘progressives’ prefer to ignore it because Russia has close military cooperation with Israel. Russia and China have made fortunes from the status quo, meaning Iran as a target, and they want to continue with the status quo to expand their economic interests further. Russia is seeking to expand her influence in the Middle East by expanding her military cooperation with Israel at the expense of Palestinians, Iranians, and even Americans, but American political elite is too dumb to understand it.
    Russia has made fortune keeping the status quo in place, means undermining Iran’s interests. Russia has looted Iranian people, because the dumb foreign policy of the ‘Divided States’ towards Iran gives Russia a power to manipulate Iran and to squeeze the US for more concessions using Iranian card at the same time with the help of the Zionist Lobby. In fact, Zionist Lobby has done a lot of damage to the interest of the Divided States and the population of America has said nothing but supporting the crimes of the most hated government in the world, the Divided States.

    Why the so called ‘progressives’ have not gone after Russia which is an enabler to Zionism and imperialism or China? No one can do a damn thing if these countries, Russia, China and India, are in bed with the Judeofascists and war criminals.
    Russia openly is in bed with the war criminals against Iran and will support their aggression against Iran should the opportunity comes, because Russia benefits.
    China, on the other hand, is focusing on her economic development, thus is happy with the status quo because Iran as a targeted country, leaves China off the hook. Therefore, when China kills more than 160 Muslims in 2009 riot due to oppression, the West goes along and does not use it as an opportunity to go after China. China, like Russia, can kill Muslims as many as they want without any criticism either from the war criminals in Washington or the so called ‘left’ in the west.

    NO ONE, INCLUDING THE ‘LEFT’ wrote anything about this massacre, but at the time, the Iranian election was used by the war criminals and their fifth column in Iran to overthrow the government using election ‘fraud’ HOAX. Many weeks of street violence by both sides led to number of deaths, less than half of what the Chinese government killed in a few days, which created a golden opportunity for a worldwide propaganda campaign by the Judeofascists and its stooges in Washington including Obama and Hillary Rotton Clinton.

    A review of the media in the west, including Zmag, shows a double standard concerning Iran, China and Russia. I am glad that these events have taken place to expose the criminal West fully where leaves no room for doubts. You must be dumb not to arrive at the same conclusion.
    How many ‘leftists’ supported the color revolution in Iran? We know many closet Zionists and Iranian traitors who have written NO WORD ON either AMERICAN WAR CRIMES or ZIONIST CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY posted articles after articles at the ‘progressive’ sites to bring fools on board. They even attacked people like James Petras who did not support election ‘fraud’ hoax. Noam Chomsky, a closet zionist, participated in the ‘green’ demonstration at the UN and wore ‘green’ pin and took a picture with Akbar Ganji, a Charlatan who later received $500,000 from Cato Institute, under phony MILTON FRIEDMAN AWARD for his services to the criminal west.

    http://zamaaneh.com/news/2009/07/post_9836.html

    China cannot have it both ways. Why has China repeatedly voted against the legal enrichment of Iran nuclear program where is a signatory to NPT, while China herself is sitting on hundreds of nuclear bombs like ISRAEL does?
    China cannot use Iran as a dumping market for its garbage and then cooperates with Judeofascists at the same time. Iranian people are fed up with Russia, China and racist India who is in bed with racist Israel and expects Iran to offer India very cheap energy to help Indian economy so India can stab bigger knife on Iran’s back next time to fool the Western population for her hoax ‘largest democracy’ with only 56 percent literacy rate, to help Indian economy. Damn with India. We are fed up with these countries’ population who are saying nothing against their government’s cooperation with Zionazis and expect to call India, ‘largest democracy’, while they are killing Kashmiris every day and receiving NO CRITISM from the criminal West, instead, they are showered with more concessions like Russians who kill Chechen with no criticism from the West and the phony ‘left’ which is led by the zionist Jews. In fact all these countries have done the same and received no criticism either from Washington or the phony ‘left’ in the West.

    Iran has continually supported the right of return for Palestinians for the past 31 years; no state in the region has done that including Turkey. Turkey had close military cooperation with Israel and has continued her relations with Israel although said otherwise. This has made Iran a target of the Judeofascists and its lobby including ‘the left’. The enemy is trying to CONSTRUCT an Iranian ‘opposition’ group, a fifth column, who recognizes Israel’s supremacy in the region and is willing to lick Israel’s behind. Green as a Zionist stooge does, thus, the closet Zionists have good relations with these traitors.

    People of the Asia, Middle East and Africa cannot rely on the population of the West, because they have benefited from murdering other groups including Muslims. They are cooperating with their criminal governments. We must be united and cooperate with each other to force all the war criminals out of our region. Americans, Canadians, Europeans are too FAT to be able to help us. They are fooled easily because they have no knowledge of our civilization and history. Their knowledge is limited to Judeofascist propaganda which is display daily on TV and the radio.

    Thank you for exposing the nature of phony ‘Noble Peace Prize’, a tool in the hand of the war criminals against the targeted countries.

  15. shabnam said on October 11th, 2010 at 12:01am #

    There is a rumor that Obama might replaces Vice President Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton. The Judeofascists are determined to wage a war against Iran, so they want their servant who have build stronger relationship with through bedroom channel, Hillary Clinton, to be Vice President to make it easy for them to copy assassination of John F. Kennedy where made their puppet, Johnson, the vice president, the President. When will American people wake up and throw these traitors out?

    Obama vs the left
    http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2010/10/10/obama-vs-the-left/

  16. Kim Petersen said on October 11th, 2010 at 12:35am #

    Unga_Khan,

    With all due respect, your comment is completely ill-founded. DN! chooses their guests to appear. So DN! consciously went out and chose an American (an American aligned with capitalist institutions) to appear on its program to speak about China.

    DV chooses from submissions it receives. It would welcome submissions from an Asian perspective.

    As to your comparison, this DV writer is currently living in China whereas the DN! guest is currently living in the USA, who although having lived in Hong Kong, I am unaware of her having lived in “mainland” China. This has relevance when one presumes to speak for the Chinese people. This DV writer did not presume to do.

  17. mary said on October 11th, 2010 at 1:00am #

    Hello Dolly Lama has weighed in against China now!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11512775

  18. Jonas Rand said on October 11th, 2010 at 1:13am #

    Chinese people do not have the right to free speech against their government and to deny that is wrong. About the Charter: many people possibly felt intimidated by the threat of dictatorial repression and did not sign it for that reason. Just a thought.

  19. Jonas Rand said on October 11th, 2010 at 1:17am #

    Yes the Nobel Peace Prize is a joke – why else would they give it to a man who committed genocide and supported Pol Pot, as well as a man who waged a war that mainly serves to murder Pashtun tribesmen. I agree that the charter should be viewed with scepticism due to its possibility for use as a way to re-install the KMT or promote support for US-style “democracy”. Since there is little free speech in China, however, there is no way to discern whether the charter represents the majority of the Chinese people’s demands and visions for society.

  20. 3bancan said on October 11th, 2010 at 2:16am #

    Unga_Khan said on October 10th, 2010 at 8:06pm #

    “If nothing else perhaps the Nobel Prize this year serves to makes progressives more aware of the contemporary political situation in China.”

    The Nobel Prize shows the mentality of its awarders…

  21. Deadbeat said on October 11th, 2010 at 2:25am #

    What this years Nobel Prize suggest is that the “war of words” against China is ratcheting up. Take a look at Joe Klein crap coming out where he crisscrosses “Middle America” claiming that its biggest worry is China. It’s the 1980′s all over again when the boogieman was Japan. The Nobel Prize is nothing more than crap propaganda.

  22. hayate said on October 11th, 2010 at 3:32am #

    “I worked on a political talk radio program for several years in LA”

    Morton downey jr, I thought I recognised your style.

    :D

  23. Unga_Khan said on October 11th, 2010 at 3:39am #

    Jonas Rand said on October 11th, 2010 at 1:13am
    “About the Charter: many people possibly felt intimidated by the threat of dictatorial repression and did not sign it for that reason. Just a thought.”

    A good thought. Somehow I think more than 350 out of China’s 1.3 billion people would’ve liked to sign the Charter.

  24. Unga_Khan said on October 11th, 2010 at 4:00am #

    “and entrenchment of property rights! (as if property had rights)”

    I think this may have something to do with the constant eminent domain seizures of peasants’ land to build more factories or high-priced urban sprawl. The peasants’ land sells for millions, the money goes to the local government (which still technically owns the land) and they see little if practically any of the money while the developers make a fortune and the authoritarians pockets the rest.

    It’s very easy to call for the weakening of property rights when you’re safe and comfortable in a Western democracy that has firmly entrenched property rights at the core of its law.