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How Far-Right Sites in Norway Perceive 'the' Mainstream Media

The next session at Future of Journalism 2017 starts with Tine Ustad Figenschou, whose focus is on media criticism and mistrust in far-right alternative media in Norway. How do such groups express their criticism, and is this a continuation of more traditional forms of press criticism, or is the approach here more cynical, sceptical, and fundamentally distrustful?

Media criticism in alternative media has traditionally perceived 'the mainstream media' as a bloc, driven by commercialism and pursuing its own political goals while romanticising alternative media. This study observes such criticism as it is expressed in five Norwegian far-right sites; it examined 100 articles from each of these sites that evaluated the news media or individual journalists, notably from before Donald Trump was elected as U.S. President. It examined what problems with the media they identified; what they saw as being at stake; who they blamed as responsible for these problems; and what solutions they offered.

Key themes were characterisations of 'the media' as deceitful, and systematically downplaying facts that did not fit an official narrative; of freedom of speech as conditional, and awarded only to actors supporting the societal consensus position; of journalists as lazy, biased, and politically correct, favouring insiders within their own tribal communities; and of journalists as distanced from the realities of 'real' life. At stake from these failings were seen to be a Norwegian distinctive character, peace and freedom, equality and freedom, and rationality and diversity.

The media were seen here partly as an uncritical platform that is being exploited by other interests, but also as part of a powerful elite. The articles offered few concrete solutions for addressing these purported failings: they did contain repeated calls for more transparency in editorial processes, as well as for a discontinuation of Norway's generous subsidies for the national media.

So, these articles combined criticism and cynicism; they saw themselves as exposing failures in an emotional, urgent style, but did not engage in a particularly constructive dialogue with the media they sought to criticise. There was also a lack of self-criticism, as these articles were largely written by insiders with knowledge of the journalistic field but still positioned themselves as outsiders to the industry; as a result, the authors also placed themselves above standard ethical codes and professional ideals in journalism.