The Nobel Peace Prize is chosen every year by five Norwegians. The Nobel Prize for Literature is chosen every year by five Swedes. How did they get so important, at least in terms of media coverage? It's not the excellence of the selection committee or the selection criteria. As major awards go, the Oscars draw on a much larger pool of people with expertise in the area they're voting on, and American Idol is much, much more democratic.
It's all about money -- the peace prize now grants something like US $1.4 million to the winner.
This year's Obama win is interesting, though. The right wing in the US, which the last time I checked is not all that favourably disposed towards Europe, and really shouldn't be favourably disposed at all to the perennially leftist Norway and Sweden, nonetheless foams at the mouth over Obama's win. And it really does seem as if he won simply for Not Being George W. Bush.
But this is an award chosen by five people, and previously handed out to such weasels as Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat. Compared to those lapses, the awarding of the Oscar for Best Picture to Oliver! or The Greatest Show on Earth looks brilliant and well-observed by comparison.
So, basically, who should care? No one, really, but we've been told for so long that the Nobels mean something that most of us now actually think they do mean something other than a cash prize and a couple of weeks of publicity.
But if President Obama needs somewhere to send the money, I am right here.