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'I dream that my son has been butchered'

'I dream that my son has been butchered'

Published: 07 Feb 2013 14:00 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Feb 2013 14:00 GMT+01:00

As the Swedish media examines the climate of hatred towards women in the public eye, editor and author Åsa Linderborg recounts what happened when her newspaper Aftonbladet decided to blow the lid on Sweden’s far-right websites.

”Can’t that disgusting whore Linderborg just lie down and die?”

“She is such a whore, that bitch seems to be completely deranged. Lock the hooker in an mental asylum and throw away the key.”

“Swedes hate you, you feminist communist asshole.”

Then came the threats.

“It wouldn't surprise me if this whore ends up with a price on her head soon.”

“Åsa Linderborg should be taken out of action. Permanently.”

”It’s happened before that a propagandizing cockroach or a pig who’s hostile to Swedes has been recognized on the street or in a department store”.

(Editor’s note: Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was gunned down and killed in the street in 1986. Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was stabbed in a Stockholm department store in 2003 and died from her wounds.)

Yet another person writes that it’s not difficult to find me, before posting my address: ”This is where she lives.”

It is November 30th, 2012. The culture pages of the tabloid Aftonbladet, which I edit, have just begun publishing a series of investigative reports into far-right websites in Sweden.

The threats start coming.

My bosses tell me to go home and pack my bags. I tell my son we can’t live at home for a while. We take one bag each and head off. I leave my son with his father, I continue to a friend’s house.

That night, I dream that my son has been butchered. He is sitting in an armchair and I’m picking up his severed limbs and putting them back together, hoping they will melt back into place.

It is not the dream that wakes me, it’s an SMS from an untraceable pay-as-you-go mobile phone: ”Seriously sweetheart, when was the last time you got yourself off?”

I go check out the sites we at Aftonbladet have been investigating. There are hundreds upon hundreds of comments: “I hope a Congo negro rapes and murders you, you little c***. You're worth less than a silverfish on the bathroom floor.”

Someone else writes that it’s time to blow the Aftonbladet headquarters to smithereens.

Our head of security tells me what I already know. The people who leave comments, who email me, who call me, who SMS me are not the people I need to be afraid of. They never act on their threats. It’s the ones who say nothing who might act.

It makes it impossible to judge whether I’m in danger for real.

They install security windows at my home. I work for a newspaper that has the resources to protect its employees. It would be different if I were a freelancer.

My mum calls. She’s been in on the sites too. Some of the commentators even mention her and say, because she lives in the countryside, that they hope she’ll be gobbled up by a wolf. She laughs. Yet, she’s been identified.

That night I receive another SMS: ”I hope you’ve shaved down there because I really want to come over and f*** you hard in your fat ass and wrinkly c***.”

There are days when I cannot bring myself to talk about the threat, because I feel a bit silly and I don’t want to make myself out to be a martyr.

Then there are days when I need to rant and dissect my anxiety over the fact that I’m still separated from my child, who has stayed on with his father. My anxiety over people wanting to hurt us. Over people maybe hurting us.

To calm me down, and maybe to quell their own fears, my friends say there is no need to be scared of those kinds of people, because they’re not very smart.

I answer that I don’t want to categorize people in terms of intelligence, because that kind of argument contains an element of class scorn. Violence as a political tool has never been a question of education level, nor of social background – it’s about strongly held convictions.

There aren't many people who believe violence is the answer, but they can cause huge damage.

I know that the people who are threatening me don’t think “the communist c***” is important enough to risk going to jail for.

My friend trawls the sites. He doesn't show me most of the comments but threats of violence have to be reported to the police.

“In Russia we also had a journalist like this,” one of them writes. “Her name was Politkovskaya. Now she is dead. Killed by patriots.”

I am yet again awoken by an SMS: ”I assume it’s been a while since you got a bit of c*** as you’re so old, but let me know if you want me to come over and f*** you properly.”

I have another dream about my child. We are walking along a snow covered road towards a tower block. One floor is broken, exposed, with plants growing down from the ceiling. “This is where I live now,” my child says.

We are sad that I can’t follow him upstairs but we don’t say anything. It is what it is.

I’m given an alarm to carry. Almost all political violence takes place in or near the home. Björn Söderberg (a trade unionist) was murdered in the stairwell of his house. Someone placed a bomb in the car parked outside a journalist couple’s home. Four years ago, in Stockholm’s southern suburbs, a family had to climb from their balcony to the neighbours when someone threw a smoke bomb through their mail slot. Arsonists torched the independent cultural centre Cyklopen because it was branded a hangout for “culture Marxists”.

In contrast, my big byline picture means I enjoy a degree of protection. These people only attack journalists and trade unionists who are plodding away outside the limelight.

The police encourage me to remove my son’s last name from the letter box, because sometimes these people follow kids after school. They’ll say something pedestrian, like giving the child a compliment for their nice backpack, then tell them to say hi to their mother once they get home.

Or they post the child’s photograph online.

I have several colleagues who live with these threats, but we don’t talk about it much. We carry it silently with us, as we don’t want to stick out. None of us is Salman Rushdie or Roberto Saviano.

Or Anna Politkovskaya.

Maybe we also keep quiet because we don’t want to appear weak. Nor do we want to open up about the guilt we feel about putting our children in danger.

Sure, journalism is a macho profession, but we are still fragile vessels.

We think the hatred and the threats are part and parcel of the job. But they don’t affect only us – the threats made against journalists and against politicians are a threat to democracy.

One day, I receive an anonymous letter, posted from Malmö: ”When will the Swedish people hear about the first murder of a Swedish journalist?”

I’m taught to take different routes to and fro work every day. I can’t have a drink when I’m out with friends. I’m advised not to speak on the phone when I’m out walking. Told to sleep with my windows shut..

I move home for a trial period. Yet again, an SMS wakes me up in the middle of the night. Yet again, the message is sexual.

I get up and go to the bathroom to pee. I am plagued by a feeling that my private parts no longer belong to me, that they’ve been hijacked and turned into a stage where violent nationalist fantasies are played out.

It’s ironic that these people, who day out and day in use the nationalist forums online to express their conviction that immigrants are responsible for most rapes, are now obsessed with tearing my body to shreds.

The site Avpixlat starts a counter-campaign to Aftonbladet’s 30-day review of the nationalist sites. They say they are going to set up a register of every last one of what they call “politically correct journalists.”

With their us-versus-them rhetoric, they write about us as though we are a cohesive group, yet I miss a strong counter-movement to the right-wing activists whom humanists and democrats should not take lightly.

I don’t understand why people are not more worried about fascism living off social conflicts that no parliament has shown itself capable of tackling. These tensions are becoming all the more common in Sweden.

Maybe the passivity about social injustices is due to the fact that they don’t afflict any of Sweden’s well-paid opinion-makers.

My son returns home. We look at the new windows. They look like normal windows. He learns how to switch the alarm on and off.

We talk about the courage to be a radical even when it can be dangerous.

Aftonbladet's articles keep on coming, as do the threats. They contain vivid images of tying me up, cutting me up with a blunt knife, airlifting me naked into the Congolese jungle.

Fury finds me. Then tears. My family and I are becoming desensitized by all the threats.

In addition to calling me a feminist and a communist they say I am betraying my “race”. These are the words of Breivik. These three terms are being tied together - feminist, communist, race traitor - into a linguistic weave that has become all the more familiar to us all. Soon we’ll be used to it.

Our investigative series concludes. I gather all the comments that could be grounds for racial incitement investigations and prepare to send them to the Justice Chancellor (Justitiekanslern, JK).

Yet another SMS: "I’m rock hard and want to pump your a** to pieces. You game?"

I peer through the blinds, out into the winter darkness. There are no footprints in the snow.

Åsa Linderborg is Aftonbladet’s cultural editor and the author of the best-selling autobiographical novel Nobody Owns Me (Mig äger ingen).

The original version of this article was published by Aftonbladet in December 2012. Translation by Ann Törnkvist

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Your comments about this article

15:30 February 7, 2013 by bourgeoisieboheme
Nice propaganda piece against the right! Glad to see where the views of the author are. I thought journalists were supposed to be unbiased in their reporting?
16:13 February 7, 2013 by OddNewfi
Are we reading the same article, or are you being deliberately obtuse...?

I must admit to being heartily sick of the right wing, Daily Mail-esque comments spouted by the comment post-ers on the Local and when someone writes an article which shows the "unpleasant" side of the far right, the first comment is the cry biased?

From what I can see, the article quotes facts - at least about the abuse received.

Disregarding my own opinions, however and whether one agrees with the opinions of the author, the fact that someone can be abused for exercising their right to freedom of speech, should be offensive to persons from all sides of the political spectrum. The communications received can hardly be considered to be rational comment or counter argument?

Or am I missing something...
20:01 February 7, 2013 by johan rebel
Lindeborg is a diehard communist. As a lifelong supporter of a whole cast of reprehensible mass murderers, she should give some thought to glass houses and stones. She feels really sorry for herself as a victim, yet has never given a damn about the millions of victims of the looney left maniacs she sujpports.

None of this of course excuses the threats and abuse she has been subjected to,. This just proves that there are far too many primitive people out there who lack the intelligence and verbal skills to express their feelings in a sublte and civilized way that still delivers a punch.
23:56 February 7, 2013 by muscle
I dont know how you guys can politicize this article :S its generally almost every where around the globe, you will always find some a@@holes commenting in a threatening way while others might be rude, like me my self, and also there would always be some who would take it as neutrally!!!

why is it so difficult to agree if someone says something right, and you know it its true!
12:55 February 8, 2013 by grymagnusson
Perhaps because The Local is 'Sweden's News in English' Hedegaard is Danish and was shot in, Denmark.
14:41 February 8, 2013 by tadchem
The Human Race, on the whole, is not as civilized as we would like to believe.

We have similar problems in the US with insults and threats against the right from the left, and from both sides against the middle.
22:58 February 8, 2013 by theobserver
Aftonbladet? Who would admit of working for this trash paper which is not even worth for cleaning your dirty shoes. Aftonbladet? Really? I would keep it a secret if I had to work for this almanac.
12:33 February 9, 2013 by Geoff52
I don't think it matters what anyone's political persuasion is. We are all entitled to have an opinion. The problem with the comments in the article is that if they are real, they are insulting and are inciting violence.

Personally, it is fine to have views but better to keep them to oneself. Those who put forward their views publicly do so for gain. Åsa Linderborg has a right to her views, but no doubt wants to sell her books. That's fine by me. Those who are purported to have written about wanting to dispose of her have a right to their views but, honestly, the threats are ridiculous.

One view I would share is that being in the EC is doing more harm than good and we (the UK and Sweden) would be better off outside of it. The problem would be repatriation of those who have come to our countries for economic purposes. I would want the Eastern Europeans and those from African and Asian countries to go hom.
12:50 February 9, 2013 by Frobobbles
@muscle, you write :"I dont know how you guys can politicize this article". For starters, the author is a Leninist that thinks, explicitly, that hatred between classes is better than mere struggle.

http://www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/article14883057.ab
11:59 February 10, 2013 by godnatt
These people are real a--holes who are opposing the sacred principles of free speech that leftists like Linderborg and their Islamist bedfellows are so opposed to.

She has the right to express whatever she wants and anyone harassing her for it is no better than she and her Communist/Islamist comrades. Leave her alone.

But of course to put things in perspective...

Theo van Gogh WAS butchered by Islamists for his work.

Lars Hedegaard WAS shot at in his home by Islamists.

Using threats and intimidation makes you no better than those animals.
05:35 February 12, 2013 by prieten
I always sing the praises of Sweden here in the USA as the most civilized, well-run country in the world which we should try to emulate. But this abuse that Ms. Linderborg must live with and some of the benighted comments made right here prove that Sweden is also home to many crazies. It worries me that despite Sweden's prosperity and social safety net, some people will never be satisfied. They will still look for excuses to threaten violence for perceived slights. I wish they would consider that if they invested the same amount of energy they do in their hate campaigns instead into activities like getting to know their neighbor or volunteering to help old people or teaching Swedish to foreign youngsters, their lives would take a turn for the better. The feeling one gets when someone says "thank you" is so much more wonderful than the feeling you get threatening someone anonymously with rape and then pressing the send button.
10:12 February 12, 2013 by Scambaiter
Internet bullying is vile, and it's predominantly practiced by extreme right-wing xenophobes, islamophobes, bigots and other assorted trolls, who are perfecty aware that their views are abhorred by the vast majority of the population. The only way they can get away with it is by skulking around anonymously on the Internet hiding behind a username.

However, as regards regular trolls, IMO the best tactic to employ against them is to ignore them completely. Most trolls are only looking for a reaction. Giving them one only gives them affirmation.

As regards the more sinister right-wing elements that threaten violence etc, report them straight away. Even if they're hiding behind a proxy server/GPS Internet, the authorities can get a warrant and force the service provider to cough up their IP address. Then PROSECUTE!

We don't need any massacres like the one on Utoya.
15:37 February 12, 2013 by Corvinus
Hehe Scambaiter makes it sound like it's only right-wing crazies that throw out threats of violence online. Both extremes are as bad as each other. There are plenty of scientists getting death threats from these militant vegan nutjobs...
08:19 February 14, 2013 by RobinHood
Wasn't it Åsa Lindeborg who wrote all that embarrassing nonsense about Israel harvesting the organs of Palestinian children?

How on Earth did she keep a job in journalism?
16:25 February 14, 2013 by Hisingen
(RobinHood

Wasn't it Åsa Lindeborg who wrote all that embarrassing nonsense about Israel harvesting the organs of Palestinian children?

How on Earth did she keep a job in journalism? )

I would adjust that to read:- How on Earth did she GET a job in journalism?

But then the journalists of this world are generally know for their left-wing bias. Even those writing in the DM.
14:50 February 16, 2013 by Frobobbles
#15 RobinHood "Wasn't it Åsa Lindeborg who wrote all that embarrassing nonsense about Israel harvesting the organs of Palestinian children? " It wasn't her. It wasn't specificially children. But Aftonbladet did have an article about the organ thefts. First it was denied by Israel, but later it was found to be true, and you will find articles about it in everything from Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Israelian TV to world media like CNN and even notices in swedish media. Example http://www.dn.se/nyheter/varlden/organ-stals-fran-patienter
09:04 February 19, 2013 by RobinHood
@Frobobbles

Åsa Lindeborg was a senior editor at Aftonbladet at the time of the organ harvesting fiasco, and bears a major share of the responsibility and embarrassment.

I am afraid you have misinformed us. There is no evidence the state of Israel harvested organs from Palestinians. There is a small group of conspiracy theorists (you seem to be one of them) who persist in this nonsense, but they are of the crackpot and cone head variety, and ignored by everybody. The organ harvesting that occurred in Kosovo and Azerbaijan, is unconnected, please do not bore us with it. So is the mad Doctor Hiss who harvested organs from just about any stiff he came across, including Israeli soldiers.

Aftonbladet's current position is that its story of the state of Israel harvesting Palestinian organs is unproven, which is journalists' speak for "We made it up".

Aftonbladet now stands accused of anti-Semitism for spreading the story in the first place, an accusation it has, so far been unable to refute. I accuse you of anti-semitism, for the same reason. It is for you to now prove to us you are not anti-semitic. If you can.
17:02 February 19, 2013 by Frobobbles
@RobinHood " It is for you to now prove to us you are not anti-semitic." I already gave everyone a link to Dagens Nyheter. I also referred to Israelian papers like Haaretz and Jerusalem Post. Are you insinuating that those papers are antisemitic? Is this piece from Dagens Nyheter antisemitic? "Israelisk teve hävdar att det har förekommit stölder av organ från avlidna israeler och palestinier på landets rättsmedicinska institut Abu Kabir utanför Tel Aviv." You can very well claim that the whole israelian press and tv is lying, but do not blame me!
00:49 February 20, 2013 by Scambaiter
Well said Frobobbles.

I've never ever seen the very inappropriately named "RobinHood", who for what it's worth isn't even a resident of Sweden, ever post any links or evidence to back up his half-baked opinions.

But he's a bit of a one for trying to browbeat commenters at the Local.se.
08:20 February 20, 2013 by RobinHood
@frobbobles

What part of "do not bore us .... with mad Doctor Hiss" did you not understand?

If you have evidence the organ farming story stands up, you must tell Aftonbladet immedietly. Right now, even they admit they have none.

I'm afraid you have yet to convince us you are not anti semitic. Would you like to try again?
15:56 February 20, 2013 by Frobobbles
#21 RobinHood I don't understand your argument, except that you seem bored. I won't bore you any more.
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