Can We De-Platform the Nobel Prize?

Alfred Nobel managed to transition to being a “philanthropist” after a lifetime of building munitions. Usually, when people talk about Nobel’s legacy, they say he felt guilty for inventing dynamite (probably because of the branding: “dynamit nobel”) but he also owned and operated the Swedish steel-maker Bofors, [wik] which he turned into a cannon-maker so successful it’s still very much in business.

To the disappointed surprise of his heirs, he left his entire fortune to the creation of his eponymous prize; in today’s terms about $250 million which has been well-managed and grown considerably. His will, of course, was contested legally, which took a while to settle. I have to admit I was surprised to see that the early nobel prize committees weren’t packed with nobel heirs (making it a tax shelter, like the carnegie foundation).

The prize has been important, and it has been conferred on many geniuses. And, a few flops.

Most notably, until recently, was Barack Obama’s receiving the prize for saying he wouldn’t be as bad as George W. Bush – whereupon he proceeded to expand the surveillance state, endless wars, and drone strikes that he inherited. Thus, another war criminal US president took his place in history along with The International Campaign To Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and The Organization For The Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Obama bears favorable comparison to a Kennedy or a Nixon, but the prize committee jumped the shark that day.

I doubt very much that this one will go forward, but Alan Dershowitz has decided to burn on the altar any remaining credibility he might have had by nominating Jared Kushner and the guy who carried Kushner’s briefcase. [guardian] Kushner’s signal achievement (other than utterly screwing the pooch on the US coronavirus response) was to create a mideast peace treaty in which Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain agreed to keep talking diplomatically. Note: they were already talking diplomatically, so it was less of an achievement than Obama’s fooling a generation into hoping for change. Absent from the treaty, of course, are the Palestinians, who were not considered to be part of the equation for middle east peace.

Former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and his deputy, Avi Berkowitz, have been nominated for the Nobel peace prize for their role in negotiating four normalisation deals between Israel and Arab nations known as the “Abraham Accords”.

Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, and Berkowitz, who was the Middle East envoy, were key figures in negotiating deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

“Normalisation deals” is journalist-speak for “agreeing to business as usual” which is important, to be sure, but hardly ground-breaking.

Jean-Paul Sartre refused the prize in 1964, saying he “did not want to be institutionalized.” Then there was Bob Dylan, whose touring schedule did not allow him to appear in person to accept his prize, and Dylan – as is his wont – remained loudly skeptical about the value of such things. Personally, I think he deserved recognition, but the recognition of tens of thousands of other musicians, who have covered his songs, and millions of fans like myself, is heavier and more lucrative than what can be conferred by some committee in Norway.

Donald Trump allegedly went around trying to encourage someone to nominate him for the prize, but instead Nancy Pelosi gave him a place in history that is more unique: the first president to be impeached twice.

From here on, I am going to consider the committee to be “just another bunch of trolls” albeit trolls with money, like the Templeton Foundation. They ought to pack up and re-think how they do their nomination process, and change the name from “Nobel” to, perhaps, “Participation Trophy.”

Currently, Kushner is nominated along with Alexei Navalny and Greta Thunberg. You can’t make this shit up.


  1. JM says

    Trump was nominated at least twice. Any national level leader can nominate somebody for the Peace Prize so the list is always packed with garbage. There are 200+ nominations every year.

  2. Jörg says

    Thunberg would be a good choice, because she likely would give the prize money to some environmental organization.

  3. DrVanNostrand says

    While I certainly disagree with a lot of their previous winners, I can’t get too worked up about nominations. I’m sure the committee takes the Kushner nomination about as seriously as I do. I would be on board with refusing to accept future nominations from asshats like Dershowitz though.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    You can’t blame the Nobels for what bullshit chancers come up with for nominations. Blame them for the Obama fiasco, sure. But doesn’t the most egregious one have to be the one Tom lehrer immortalised? “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize”.

  5. Ketil Tveiten says

    Keep in mind that almost anyone can submit a nomination: any senior academic in a humanities or social science discipline, any member of a national assembly or government, any member of one of a long list of peace orgs, any member or former member of the awarding committee. Whenever you hear «such-and-so has been nominated for the Peace Prize», it is ALWAYS because the person submitting the nomination rang up the press and told them he did it, which he did because he wants to show support for said such-and-so. The Committee keeps nominations secret for 50 years and never discusses them at all.

  6. Ketil Tveiten says

    Also, don’t confuse the Peace prize with the other ones, like the Literature prize which Sartre tried unsuccesfully to refuse and Dylan kind of ghosted.

  7. Bruce says

    It’s sad that Kushner couldn’t get a promise to not attack Israel from the country of New Zealand. Let alone Chile and other Mideast frontline states. Everyone knows those countries are just daggers pointed at the heart of Israel or Antarctica or wherever.

  8. Tethys says

    Maybe the Nobel committee should get in touch with the Hugo and Nebula awards committees? They may have some advice on how to deal with the sad and rabid puppy infestations.

    There really is no bottom to their sense of entitlement. I doubt Jared has ever done an honest days work in his privileged life. He is a good argument for massive increases in inheritance taxes.

  9. brucegee1962 says

    Also — I hate to fall into the Republican trap of “This person I loathe did something, so it’s automatically bad or unworthy.” When I play the flipping game in my head, where I imagine that someone I like had done the exact same thing, I’d see myself in that circumstance being pretty proud of politician-I-admire’s nomination.
    There’s nothing wrong with getting a bunch of Arab nations to stop saying Israel needs to be pushed into the sea — their unwillingness to even recognize Israel’s right to exist has been a real obstacle for peace (including for the Palestinians) for many years. What’s shitty is the way they did it — by promising to dump lots of shiny new American weapons into these countries that they can then use on local rebels and one another.

  10. Owlmirror says

    I dunno, the Guardian page itself says (my bolding):

    The bar for nominations is low, as they are are accepted from thousands of people, from members of parliament to former winners and heads of state. There were more than 300 nominations for last year’s award, which was ultimately won by the World Food Programme.

    Nominations, which closed on Sunday, do not imply an endorsement from the Nobel committee.

    Technically, Barack Obama could nominate Joe Biden (maybe for not being Donald Trump? Low bar, right?)

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    To the disappointed surprise of his heirs, he left his entire fortune to the creation of his eponymous prize… His will, of course, was contested legally, which took a while to settle. I have to admit I was surprised to see that the early nobel prize committees weren’t packed with nobel heirs (making it a tax shelter, like the carnegie foundation).

    Lawyers on both sides surely noted the difficulties of seeking seats on boards of organizations while in litigation against same.

    … Barack Obama’s receiving the prize for saying he wouldn’t be as bad as George W. Bush …

    I read at the time the Nobel Committee gave the Peace Prize to BHO in recognition/encouragement of his anti-nuclear-arms-race statements, in which case they got their money’s worth for about seven years, but then were owed a refund with interest and penalties for his last year in office.

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