A year ago I made a decision to start writing for Norways most controversial online newspaper. A paper that is accused of being racist, intolerant and all sort of phobic. There is no hold in this generalization. What it is, though, is a reflection of society. Our actions, our thoughts, the small and the big voices of our time, the events and the opinions that shapes us and our fellows. Both good and bad. Everyone is welcome. But we must also realize and understand that criticism might occur. It will occur. It’s political criticism. It is cultural criticism. It’s criticism of standards and how we shape them. We might not agree with everything, nor are we supposed to. We don’t even have to like it, but we cannot silence voices due to personal preferences.
I no longer write for them, but that has nothing to do with their reputation. My time with the paper has been an amazing journey in more ways than one.
Why am I bringing this up, you ask? There are two reasons:
- It’s a frequently asked question amongst my Norwegian following on different platforms, what my experience was writing for them.
- The importance of staying true to yourself and living your life the way you want to, even when the collective askes you not to.
In the beginning, when I decided that this was what I wanted to do, I got all sorts of advice I never asked for. Family and friends alike were concerned about my reputation, my prospects, my future. I was recommended to use a pseudonym, an advice I politely declined. My take on that was the following: If I cannot stand by my thoughts, opinions and my utterances, how can I expect anyone else to take responsibility and account for theirs? I appreciated and understood their concern. As humans we have a tendency to view the world in two sets of colors. We like to categorize, we need to, that’s how we think we control our surroundings. You know, so that we always know what to expect. I, on the other hand, refuse to let others set my limits that way. Has that made for an easy life? Absolutely not. Is it worth it? Yes.
But. I was scared. Frighten of what might manifest. I had some idea of what I might expect, being a somewhat experienced opinionated, stubborn being in the minor league, but at the same time I had no idea at all. I was diving in to something inflamed, publicly inflamed, head first. Surprisingly the mayhem never arrived.
The lack of negative response after my first published articles was eery. I waited. Time passed. I waited. I met with people. I called people. My job was to be out and about, to reach out, to engage in conversation. To interview. To dig. To criticize. And I waited. But the mayhem never arrived. Not by web, nor in person. I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding: I have met people who have given me criticism for my choice in employer. People who have declined to engage in conversation for purposes of being published in the paper. I have met people who disagree with my me and/or my employer. But I never met the hate I witnessed every day through the internet towards my employer. The hate that fired up a campaign to strangle our finances. To kill off our voices. To bury us. What I did encounter was people eager to appraise. People who told me in confidence that they were secret subscribers. People who felt someone finally spoke their thoughts out loud. Thoughts and opinions they were to afraid to stand by themselves. People who wanted to engage in conversation. People who wanted to understand. And people with curiosity.
This experience is still, to this day, a surprise to me, and to those who ask for my experience with meeting the liberal world as a conservative journalist. Not because I lack faith in people, because people have shown me time and again in meeting with them as an opponent that we have more in common than we realize, but because my colleagues from the same branch has had such different experiences to mine. Maybe I don’t fit the stereotype of «white male aged 50+» and take people off guard, maybe it’s a happy coincidence. I don’t know.
Has my choice it impacted my life as it is? Yes. I still meet surprised faces, prejudices and praise. There might even have been more doors closing than opening due to my choice in path, but I know within myself that this was the right path for me to take. Will my time with the paper have an impact on my life to come? Most definitely. In what way is yet to be revealed.