The joys of being a cultural interpreter

That Fjordman post reminded me of how tempting it is to be a cultural interpreter.

A cultural interpreter is someone who explains their culture to outsiders who know little else about it. This is a powerful role to play. You can be marginal voice inside the culture, but a great authority to people outside it. You can shape the worldview of the outsiders in a way you could only dream of doing with insiders.

A language barrier makes the interpreter particularly powerful, but the barrier can also be that there’s not much information available at all, or that your audience is too lazy to check other sources.

Fjordman, the anti-Muslim version of Johan Galtung, often plays this role in his descriptions of Norway’s descent into a Muslim hellhole. So does the commenter “kritisk borger” when he explains to the readers of Gates of Vienna that “the majority in Norway believes that they are being overtaxed, by unscrupulous politicians”. Which is stupid. But who there is going to contradict him?

I’ve played this game myself, back when I had mostly foreign readers. It frightened me to realize that I could write almost anything about Norway, in an authoritative voice, and nobody would know if it was bullshit. I’ve written a lot of stupid things. I don’t want that power.

Which means: Don’t be fooled by marginal interpreters from other cultures. The reason they’re talking to you may be that you don’t know enough to tell that they’re nuts.

One Response to The joys of being a cultural interpreter

  1. Konrad says:

    Excellente observations and analysis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s