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The Sweden Democrats: a 'normal' political party?

The Sweden Democrats: a 'normal' political party?

Published: 03 Jul 2012 12:50 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Jul 2012 12:50 GMT+02:00

Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats took centre stage on the opening day of Almedalen. Correspondent David Linden reflects at how, if at all, the party has changed.

The Sweden Democrats were given the first day at Almedalen and hoped to use the occasion to go on the political offensive.

Jimmy Åkesson, their slick, young and charismatic leader, wants to the party to be seen as more than a one-issue (immigration) party in hopes of appealing to more voters.

He has identified a gap among socially conservative voters, and wants the Sweden Democrats to fill it, he told reporters ahead of his keynote address on Sunday night.

Stifled by the sweltering heat of a cramped hotel conference room, Åkesson quipped to journalists “we don’t want to be in here as much as you don’t”.

The Sweden Democrat leader then spoke about the need to reform Sweden's criminal justice system, proclaiming having a “criminal history should lead to a conviction” before waxing poetic about the success of trials against mafia families in New York during the 1970s.

He explained that such a phenomenon is “alien to the Swedish justice system” but insisted that we live in a “new reality” that required tough measures.

The entire atmosphere at the briefing was in many ways surreal because it felt so normal.

Here was Åkesson, the leader of what was once a party relegated the fringes of the Swedish political establishment, speaking much like the leader of any other run-of-the-mill political party in Sweden, with a normal party leader that suggested a series of plausible reforms.

The theme of his speech later in the evening echoed a theme touted in the education policy of former US president George W. Bush that “no one should be left behind”.

Suddenly, Åkesson was sounding very much like a middle of the road conservative. The question hanging in the air was: have the Sweden Democrats really changed?

The answer came soon enough, however, when party secretary Björn Söder displayed the kind of behaviour journalists are more accustomed to from Sweden Democrats as he bashed journalists in the room for the way his party is portrayed in the press.

According to Söder everything is the media’s fault.

And when journalist Björn Häger, who has written a book about the Sweden Democrats arguing they should be treated as a normal political party, suggested to Söder that the party deal with sympathizers who say outrageously racist things online and send death threats to journalists, Jimmie Åkesson's right-hand man shot back with a heated reply, protesting that people must be able to express their opinions.

In the next line, Söder argued in favour of internet regulation to address abusive language. But at the same time, the party could not be responsible for anything.

The inconsistent diatribe blossomed into a full-scale rant, and the only people clapping in the audience were a bunch of Sweden Democrat supporters huddled on the side of the room.

One left the briefing feeling that the party probably hasn't changed much after all, as the Sweden Democrats still have outright attack dogs in their party leadership.

Political junkie gossip

KG Bergström and Lena Mellin, two big beasts of Swedish journalism arrived late to the briefing and were shocked at being forced to stand after no younger (but early arriving journalists) agreed to give up their seats.

Overheard from high-ranking Sweden Democrat: "The Sweden Democrats are not evil people that want to torture journalists" ... commenting on the high temperatures and cramped briefing room. According to the person “we thought of another room but Säpo vetoed it.

Outside where Åkesson and Söder took questions, there was a car parked with an open boot revealing several cases of beer and a plenty of bag-in-a box wine.

If anything, this is clearly a sign that party is now a part of the political establishment. After all, all political parties party after their party leader’s speech, and they do it hard.

David Lindén is a PhD student in history at King’s College London who is serving as the acting political editor for Länstidningen in Södertälje for the summer 2012. Follow him on Twitter at @davidlinden1.

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Your comments about this article

13:40 July 3, 2012 by bourgeoisieboheme
Wow, guess that non-partisan journalism is not alive and well at The Local.

I understand as an immigrant, the author probably has personal views that run against SD's platform, but The Local needs to support journalism that is based upon facts, non-partisan, and upholds journalistic integrity of not incorporating ones own personal views into the article.

Now, I assume we will have article praising SD next to counter this? Exactly.
14:02 July 3, 2012 by Uncle
"According to Söder everything is the media's fault."

Oh, no, media is so extremely objective towards SD. It is one of the most objective and fair elements in information campaign, so that 90% of the Swedes apparently "know for sure" the political views of SD, without ever entering the SD website, or never looking at statistics of immigrant support of SD that surprisingly is not differing from the big parties.

And in the LEAD of the objective media, stands dear David Linden - the brave reporter from the summit, who cares about nothing, but an unbiased review of the events. Expressions like "inconsistent diatribe", "full-scale rant", the utter amazement at the surrealistically normal feeling when listening to the leader of a party that has the support of 6%-7% of "psychos" in this country, the extremely funny story about the beers in the trunk of Jimmie, unbiased statistical statements in regards to who exactly applauded SD - EVERYTHING proves beyond any doubt that the media in Sweden is merely a cold observer.

I am dying to hear the report of the objective half-baked doctor Linden about the "brave and honest" speeches of the socialists, who objectively want nothing more, but rainbows and unicorns upon earth, as well as happiness and eternal love between all. I am all expectation whether he is going to crawl into the trunks and suitcases of the objectively correct party leaders that objectively should be the ones speaking, in mr. Linden's objectively correct opinion, instead of (as surely clinically proven) abnormal Jimmies and Björns.
14:20 July 3, 2012 by Svealander
OK, let me just say this. I disagree with SD on quite a few issues, but as someone who has done journalism work in the past I would NEVER write an article like this. To say this is an objectively written article is a joke!

I really wish the Local would start hiring some actual journalists. The quality of the articles on this site has always been low but this is pushing it.
15:43 July 3, 2012 by Erefus
Ofcourse journalism is one of the biggest factors. Consider how about 42% of journalists votes for MP eventhough they just got 7,3% in the election, or how 15% of journalists votes for V eventhough they just got 5,6% in last election. Or how about 80% of the people in Public Service voting for the Red-Greens? Meanwhile less than 1% of journalists have sympathies for SD. If you don't see a problem with this, try reversing it and imagine 40% of journalists voting for SD instead, while parties like MP and V just get 1% of journalists. There shouldn't be a witchhunt on journalists political opinions ofc, but I think it should atleast somewhat reflect on the people.

The medias are our windows to the world, so it has a big influence on how people percieve the world, politics, society, etc. Therefor I think journalists are even more influential than a politician ever will be. It's therefor important that the reporting is as much fact-based and non-partisan as possible and less opinionated which reflects on the journalists own political worldview. Or there should atleast be more diversity in opinion so that people can get a broader perspective and see different aspects to different topics.

However I don't find that to be the case in sweden. Journalists have the freedom to choose what to report and what not to report. They can also choose HOW to report something, giving it either a positive or negative spin. Swedish journalism can be very one-sided when it comes to issues like SD, immigration, swedish feminism, the Israel-Palestine conflict for example. They often also see it as their job to educate the people on what to think.

TL;DR: Sweden needs more non-partisan journalism and more diversity in editorials and op-eds.
16:58 July 3, 2012 by SOIS.COM
"Outside where Åkesson and Söder took questions, there was a car parked with an open boot revealing several cases of beer and a plenty of bag-in-a box wine. "

It is obvious the media is biased. The SD's drinking choices make them out to be a bunch of low rent hillbillies. The article should have stated, in order to be objective, "there was a car parked with an open boot revealing a cornucopia of frosty and non frosty party beverages".

Shame on Swedish media.
17:46 July 3, 2012 by Rod Munch
This article is about as one-sided as any I've ever read on The Local. Typical of The Local though. And typical of the Swedish media in general. How about just reporting the facts and leaving your opinion out of it?
17:49 July 3, 2012 by B Slick
Why is SD gaining in popularity? Simple, they are willing to discus the problems affecting Sweden. They may be right or they may be wrong but they will discus anyway, something the other political partys wont do. The other partys dont want to offend anyone and lose their vote. And they feel by ignoring problems that the problems will disapear by themselves.
18:10 July 3, 2012 by haladeen
In Sweden we have a Chinese democracy... and North Korea will be soon put to shame by Sweden :).
18:13 July 3, 2012 by Uncle
I bet this amateur wannabe journalist David Linden is sitting now all shocked and reading the comments.

He was probably sure that in a newspaper that is read mainly by foreigners his childish article would be paraded as the best piece of literature ever written and a sure candidate for a Pulitzer.... Good lesson. He should go writing for Aftonbladet. He would blend nicely with the bunch of failures there.
21:31 July 3, 2012 by cowboykodp
How quaint... Uncle and his buddies feel so proud of themselves.

Do you know why no one besides your hate crew is commenting?

Because 95% of immigrants along with 95% of native Swedes and 95% of all sane people agree with the writer.

The truth needs no defending.

Good job David Linden. Keep up the good work and expose these scum SD for what they truly are.

Ciao.
21:49 July 3, 2012 by Rod Munch
Hey, Cowboy- Still waiting for your response as to why Sweden would be a living hell if it was predominately Muslim?
22:24 July 3, 2012 by Chloe Monroe
I am massively anti SD, but I am just as anti lazy journalism - and this article sets new trends in this respect.

Highly opinionated and biased thus giving away any moral high ground, and littered with grammatical errors to boot.

C'mon guys, pull it together.

Clo
23:27 July 3, 2012 by Uncle
Ohh, poor little cowboy... He did not notice that the opposition to SD is also here and the criticism is towards the high quality journalism displayed here (yep - the one cowboy loves so much from Al Jazeera and North Korean News Agency).

How befitting that it is only YOU who appreciate the apparent excellence of this journalist ! I expected nothing less. Eating any kind of feces as long as they are labeled "hateful SD" and thanking with tears in the eyes... You have got some left in your teeth...

It's OK, cowboy.. Your dear David's future objective review of the Socialists shalt seed happiness in your heart and thou shalt rejoice!
23:46 July 3, 2012 by HenryPollard
A really weak, biased piece.

SD have acheved rapid growth because for all the parties who make up Riksdagen these days, they tend towards a status-quo preserving doctrine of neo-liberalism.

Basically, anything goes so long as it benefits Sweden's largest corporations. This doctrine has been applied across the board from the nation's education system to its handling of immigration.
23:56 July 3, 2012 by Chloe Monroe
This piece would be better placed amongst the blogs, where the writer has the right to express an opinion - what it is doing listed with other news stories is anyone's guess.

The fact that it is even described as journalism is quite laughable.
05:37 July 4, 2012 by godnatt
It's really funny to watch the multiculturalist clowns react to the natural response to what they've created with their naive and ridiculous fantasies of how things "should" be vs. how they've actually turned out...

What's not funny is how they would all like to crush the freedom of speech to criticize their ideas and try to propagandize their fantasies with thinly veiled "journalism".

Clearly people are waking up to the facts all across Europe. Don't be so surprised that not everyone wants to live in fantasyland.
06:50 July 4, 2012 by calebian22
I was just having this conversation (not the comments) the other day with two of my Social Democrat (life long social dems) friends. They were saying that they would vote for the Sweden Democrats if the party focus was a little broader. While they agree that integration is a problem, SD's one armed drummer approach is a bit of a turn off. Apparently Jimmie overheard us. I see double digits in 2014 if SD keeps this going.
08:16 July 4, 2012 by RobinHood
Come on guys, it wasn't that bad. Dave had two points: first the party tried to represent itself as mainstream and respectable, but when provoked, party secretary Björn Söder, reverted to type and gave a Munich beer hall type rant. It's reasonable for Dave to highlight the irony. Secondly, the party was loaded up with booze for its annual Almedalen beer fest; but, as Dave conceded, all the other parties do that too.

Why all the fuss?
09:53 July 4, 2012 by Chloe Monroe
Personally, I'd have liked to have seen it written as a news story, with far more quotes and less opinion, the idea being that the reader is left to judge the party with no added bias.

In David Lindén's defence, he does not claim to be a journalist which begs the question, why was a journalist not sent to cover this?
10:35 July 4, 2012 by Uncle
@RobinHood

Look at the TITLE! The "journalist" is getting you to deduct that there is a discussion in regards to normality of a party in Rikstag from the very start. Look at the applause description. Look at the personal opinion of this "reporter" in regards to Jimmies speech (what? is this abnormal animal trying to look normal, when ALL of us know who he is?). Look at the vomit inducing personal opinion about the speech of Söder.

Is this a report of the ONLY "The Local" journalist from the event?

All of this at the same time, when describing Söders "ridiculous attempts" to claim that media is biased? is this Linden absolutely nuts?

In regards to what was in the trunk of SD members. Why wouldn't he go an dig in the personal bags of these people? maybe he would find some porn and then admit that other people also may have porn. How is it even an attempt to political reporting???

This is why all the fuss... When the only reaction to an article written of wannabe reporter is in regards to the writing style, rather than the events described, I call it a failure.

The Local should recall him from there, describe that they are very thankful for his services so far and that his contribution will no longer be required, pay him the expenses and send him back to Länstidningen in Södertälje. Then it would be way cheaper just to translate the reports of real swedish journalists from other media sources.
10:37 July 4, 2012 by Rod Munch
An important point that the "journalist" failed to mention was that 58.7% of Swedes feel that SD has the best immigration/integration policy according to a recent You Gov poll. Check the discussion boards for a source.
14:34 July 4, 2012 by NyDag
Yes they are normal. There is nothing abnormal about wanting to preserve the safety of your country, or drinking a few beers for that matter. Linden, kindly keep your amateur articles to yourself until you learn how to write.
15:43 July 4, 2012 by cogito
Rubbish article. This wannabe should be moved to the blogger section.

He'll probably find employment teaching at journalisthögskolan, the Swedish government's school of so-called journalism.
07:16 July 5, 2012 by robban70226
mmm Maybe somebody look into the ''affairs'' of the Green Party people being paid by Taxpayers, Lot's of skeletones in closets there with homosexual affais being imported with special ''favours'' from migration.. shame behaviour..
11:14 July 8, 2012 by KFF
It's important to understand how swedish journalism works. It isn't even close to a free dissemination of information. The journalists have a weekly called Medievärlden that's about journalism and the work of journalists in Sweden. This is quotes from their articles:

"If the ambition is consequence neutral reporting then it's easier to see how the treatment is unfair. For journalists (the vast majority of them) that don't believe in consequence neutrality it isn't as clear. And for the journalist that want to influence the society to the better then partisan support of societal developments weights heavier than the information needs of the readers".

http://www.medievarlden.se/blogg/axel-anden/2012/07/far-sd-en-rattvis-behandling-i-media

"We also need more prejudicing convictions. Professor of Law Mårten Schultz have suggested that is would be possible to charge the Avpixlat writers with known names for contribution to hate speech. That would be an effective way to destroy the immunity of net anonymity".

The meaning of hate speech here is the unmoderated comments below articles. That is one would be charged for crimes for posts strangers make on your blog or newspaper article.

http://www.medievarlden.se/blogg/lisa-bjurwald/2012/07/utan-utgivare-star-de-over-lagen

"They come with charges about different immigrant groups, crime, in Malmö foremost, where they come with charges we know are true. We can control them, know them, but we don't publish it because it would to a large degree harm the societal developments we strive for.

- Jan A Johansson, Editor in charge of Skånska Dagbladet

That's one of the largest newspapers in Skåne.

The unions were throwing out swedish democrats in large numbers. All of them did ... I remember that the talk was and I contributed to that to repress reporting on this so close to the election since we suspected that would help sd in the election campaign.

- Niclas Orrenius, Sydsvenskan

High shot in one of the largest newspapers in Sweden.

The last two quotes are from a recently published book by Björn Häger.
03:16 July 11, 2012 by Rod Munch
That was a world-class post by KFF. Well done, sir. Everyone who posts here should read it.
16:32 July 11, 2012 by libertarianism
Agree - thanks for posting #25.

Mr. Linden, how about a doctoral-quality article on the subject of post 25? And/or a detailed book review?
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