Nobel Prize strays from principles of peace
February 10, 2011
We’ve been taught the Nobel Prize is something to revere. In its various factions it has become the pinnacle of profession, the single biggest recognition possible of one’s work. That may be about to change.
Last week WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. When I heard this, I pinched myself repeatedly to assure myself it was not a nightmare. Assange became (in)famous for first publishing classified U.S. military documents concerning activities in Afghanistan that had been illegally obtained by his website. Since then he has continued to release cables about governments all over the world on WikiLeaks. Assange also has those pesky sexual assault allegations circling him regarding an incident in Sweden last August. For fairness in savagery he has yet to be charged with anything, but these types of accusations rarely fall on people with honorable character.
After hearing the news of his nomination, and after the initial phase of my blinding nervous confusion subsided, I set out to put this nomination in perspective. Assange is one of roughly 150 individuals nominated worldwide for the award, many of which are actually deserving, and the final selection is not made until December, so there’s still plenty of time for him to be cast off.
Let’s take one step further back. Regardless of how you feel about Assange’s character, political views, or whether or not he should publish the material he does; what qualifies him for a Peace Prize? According to the will of Alfred Nobel, a qualified recipient of the prize must “have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Assange certainly has done little to solicit fraternity between nations, and all he has done in regards to standing armies is inflame the most potent military on Earth. Finally, no journalist, apart from his or her ethics, should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. True journalistic integrity prevents a reporter from advocating anything. Reporting on injustice is how many journalists make their living, and the good ones would tell you they’re just doing their jobs, relaying what they observe. Pulitzer Prizes are for journalists. Peace Prizes are for philanthropists.
The acceptance of Assange’s nomination continues an unsettling trend regarding the prize. In 2009, President Barack Obama became a Nobel Laureate. True, his election was a major event in U.S. history, but all he wanted to do was be President. Two years prior he was just another junior U.S. Senator.
According to the award’s website, in 2007 Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were jointly awarded the prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”
An award from the Sierra Club or Greenpeace? Sure, but not worthy of a Peace Prize.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is responsible for selecting the Peace Prize winners, needs to focus less on its political leanings and more on deserving candidates. Mother Teresa devoted her life to promoting peace and goodwill. Amnesty International protects the rights of the wrongly persecuted. Mikhail Gorbachev oversaw a peaceful end to the Soviet Union. These are actions deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize.