Norwegian Prime Minister’s Taxi Stunt Involved Paid Actors

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Updated: Aug. 13, 2013.

It appears Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s taxi stunt may have been a little less incognito than previously thought. The Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang (VG) revealed Monday that five of the 14 passengers involved were not random citizens looking for transport, but instead were specially recruited for the video by a production company.

The selected passengers were contacted via a casting call and paid 500 kroner ($85) for their services. While the passengers were not told the PM would be their driver, they were informed that the video would be for the Labour Party, of which Stoltenberg is the lead member.

Officials for both the Labour Party and Try, the firm behind the video, tried to play down the tabloid’s revelations. “They’re five ordinary people who were asked if they wanted to take part in a video for the Labour Party and who knew nothing else, except that they were going to be picked up in a taxi,” said Labour spokeswoman Pia Gulbradsen. “Their spontaneity was real when they realised that the driver was the prime minister.”

Kjetil Try, owner of Try and friend of the Prime Minister, told Verdens Gang that a casting call was required to obtain a diverse array passengers and to ensure that they were available at specific times.

Stoltenberg also defended the use of paid riders, highlighting that no one was told he would be driving the cab. However, the Norwegian PM also emphasized to VG that he was only told about the use of planted passengers after the video was already made.

“I did not know that when the film was made, but I learned that they were paid afterwards,” said the Prime Minister. “That was the decision of the production company. They told me that it is normal, and I trusted them and believed that it must be OK.”

Original story follows below:

From English King Henry V to Haroun Al-Rashid, the ninth-century A.D. Caliph in Baghdad, there’s a rich historical tradition of leaders going incognito in order to find out what their troops, subjects, or constituents really think.

Last Friday, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg joined this illustrious group, disguising himself as a taxi driver in order to get the unfiltered opinions of Norway’s voters. Passengers were not told the identity of the driver, and their reactions were recorded as they complained about government, discussed politics, eventually learned that the cabby they had been speaking with was really the head of their government.

Stoltenberg is serving out his second consecutive term as Prime Minister. In 2011, he made international headlines for his stoic response to the Utoya massacre: a grisly killing spree perpetrated by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik that resulted in the deaths of 77 people. 69 of the dead were teenagers at a youth camp on the island of Utoya.

In a speech to the nation following the attack, Stoltenberg’s re-affirmed Norway’s commitment to its democratic principles: “We must never give up our values. We must show that our open society can pass this test too. That the answer to violence is even more democracy. Even more humanity,” he said.

The taxi stunt comes just weeks before the country’s next parliamentary elections on Sept. 9. Despite being credited with steering Norway through the financial crisis, Stoltenberg’s Labor Party has suffered a drop in support as voters have grown tired of the government’s long time in power. According to a poll published Monday, Labor lags behind its main opponents, garnering 41% of the public support compared to the Conservative Party’s 53%.

Those who entered the faux-taxi largely enjoyed Stoltenberg’s stunt, but did not admire his driving. The Prime Minister had not piloted his own car in eight years, and the rust showed as he bumbled through Oslo’s streets, sometimes stopping abruptly. “I think that the country and Norwegian taxi passengers are better served if I were a prime minister and not a taxi driver,” Stoltenberg admitted afterwards.

75 comments
varskog
varskog

@TIME No actors, no payment! They were recruited, but didn't know it was the PM driving or what was going to happen. It's genuine!

Myridana
Myridana

@TIME One of them is actually an acquaintance of me.

ronnyhugo
ronnyhugo

In Mother Norway, the Taxi pays YOU. 

FcTomlinson
FcTomlinson

@TIME Typical...I should have known it was just another political stunt

Toque Terapeutico
Toque Terapeutico

un ejemplo a seguir, trabajarsobre realidades y como decimos hay que ponerse las botas

may_tove
may_tove

@TIME That is incorrect, there were no actors involved.They were asked to participate, but knew nothing about the Prime MInister. Fee:500NOK

justmebeingme4
justmebeingme4

@TIMEWorld Instead of using PAID ACTORS....why not just GENUINELY go out there and really talk to the PEOPLE..It is NOT rocket science!

Louise Borg
Louise Borg

would have been nice if there were subtitles!

Sicelo Alex Lokothwayo
Sicelo Alex Lokothwayo

wise leader...wants to know what the people think without the government censoring

Pandoro Ciccio
Pandoro Ciccio

great... it reminds something about Peter the great

Bjørn Hjelmerud
Bjørn Hjelmerud

Half of the passengers knew they were filming a commercial and they were payed. Stoltenberg is the biggest liar in Norway.

Craig Waitforit Palmer
Craig Waitforit Palmer

it was a paid for stunt by the party PR people. The passengers were paid to participate. Perhaps they did this due to the Parties lack of actual policies?

Ramachandra Menon
Ramachandra Menon

Imagine our MMS going in the attire of a cab driver in the streets of Delhi. He will be instantly recognized. Because he wont speak.

summerlilybee
summerlilybee

is there any english version/sub-title for the video?

Kim Tan
Kim Tan

PM Najib, will you do the same? what a noble idea it will be..to get first hand opinion on you and your Team...from the grassroots.. do seriously seriously consider!

Pita Smit
Pita Smit

Somehow I can't see King Obama doing that...

Martha Goff
Martha Goff

Pretty funny even though I don't understand a word of Norwegian.

Epifanova_S
Epifanova_S

@vadim1141 наш может просто проехать в автобусе. Пусть очки наденет ))

Bob Rohr
Bob Rohr

Perhaps this should be a requirement of all political representatives everywhere, typical rather than unique.

K Ravi Shanker
K Ravi Shanker

First they drive everyone mad and then take up taxis!

Patri Magu
Patri Magu

now THIS is an idea some can do in their districts/States while Congress is in recess again in the USA. (not holding my breath)

Blade Snyman Lawrence
Blade Snyman Lawrence

I think it's a good idea, but why has nobody commented on the fact it might be a tactic to improve his popularity for the upcoming elections? The video shows most immediately recognised him so it isn't SO unfiltered... Seemed like a publicity stunt to me

mortk
mortk

@PiaGulbrandsen Har lest om det, referte her bare til den internasjonale dekningen jeg linket til. Stuntet var gøy det! :) @NRKesp1

vadim1141
vadim1141

@Epifanova_S и желтые курточку )) очки у него как у пчелы Маи))