Within a day of the award being announced, I was hearing jokes about the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize going to the European Union. Could they use the prize money to bail out Greece? How would they stop arguing long enough to choose someone to accept the prize on their behalf? And the killer, an acceptance speech that begins:
Firstly, I would like to thank Adolf Hitler, without which none of this would have been possible.
The Nobel Peace Prize is often contentious. For every Aung San Suu Kyi or Desmond Tutu, there is a Henry Kissinger or Yasser Arafat. The Committee often uses the prize to try to tweak current events, because its prestige lends clout to the recipient – Jose Ramos-Horta, for instance, became much more widely recognized as a result of winning the prize, and this probably helped the cause of East Timorese independence. But the risk is that it’s hard to pick winners before they have done anything: Barack Obama got the prize for not being George W. Bush.