White Paper 
and a 
Black Box



Imagine a conflict that is present, yet absent. A conflict that is undeclared but
politically tangible. The structure and material remain unknown until it manifests. No human being is injured and the enemy is not yet certain.

While the melting Arctic creates access to valuable minerals and new trade routes, these are issues of political debate but not necessarily motifs for military violence. Throughout the past couple of years, Northern Norwegian territory has become the decor of shadowboxing, avoiding any direct engagement, between the East and the West. In Norway, as a NATO country and US ally, military pressure and symbolic violence has increased. The jamming, disturbing of data signals, of both military and security systems has become part of the common landscape and electronic threats are measured regularly. According to the US organisation Resilient Navigation and
Timing Foundation, “Norway can pass South Korea as the country most affected by deliberate jamming from the neighbour.” Interestingly, most jamming is measured during working days between 9 to 5, or in other words; office hours. These violent attacks, alongside uninformed military testings and trainings close to Norwegian territory, have been heavily influencing world politics as well as local politics. The rules for the citizens near the 200km long Norwegian-Russian border, have been tightened. Is it, for example, no longer allowed to talk or have any other contact across the border.

In late 2016, the Norwegian Minister of Defence states in a governmental report, with clear reference to Russia, “we cannot preclude that military force will not be used against Norway… It is no longer so that war is declared through diplomatic messengers.” One argues we are in the second Cold War, the other calls it a minor Cold War and a third claims that we are positioned on the doorstep of the second Cold War. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, was asked to reply on Russia’s military behaviour in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten: “It’s impossible to investigate everyones fantasies that are promoted without becoming confirmed by some facts. When we get the facts, we are prepared to talk. Otherwise it is not possible to take this seriously.”

It seems we can no longer discern fact from fantasy or fantasy from fact.

The  undeclared conflict might not be the real issue here, rather information might. Information is in doubt, information is denied, information is unfiltered or too filtered, information is overloaded, information is decontextualised, information is translated and paraphrased too often which ultimately all result in misinformation, disinformation and alternative truths. Not all bad, of course. But it is essential to realise that an informed citizen isn’t necessarily a better one as information too, is relative. More information does not equate clarity.

‘White Papers’, governmental reports that are intended to bring understanding and provide solutions, are one of the information channels reporting on this conflict. It presents information in a clinical way and is neatly composed to bring as much understanding as possible. Another information channel reporting on this conflict is the media, or the ‘Black Box’, a complex system of information which internal workings are hidden or not readily understood. It seeks sensational opinions and serves as the mouthpiece for both the normal citizen as the expert.

You get the picture? White papers speak of truths and innocence and the public accessibility enables every citizen to be informed. The black box seems opposite as, while it is fact based, it is also sensational, entertaining and inscrutable. Both, the white paper and the black box have a responsibility to inform and project a present conflict happening on a landscape absent of physical violence: the Norwegian Arctic.

Positioned between the East and the West, paradoxes are at the core of this battlefield. The conflict is present, yet absent. The method of presenting information on the conflict (white paper and a black box) manifests paradoxically.  And overload and emptiness are closely associated in this projection of information. This all obscures the real question: Is this conflict found in actuality? Or is it found in
potentiality?

A question that cannot be answered before history is written.
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