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'Military mouthpiece' sets off WikiLeaks backlash

'Military mouthpiece' sets off WikiLeaks backlash

Published: 23 Apr 2013 10:51 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Apr 2013 10:51 GMT+02:00

"These WikiLeaks people are so convinced they are right that they end up preaching in a way that's very tiresome," David Heibrandt, who manned the @Sweden account last week, told The Local.

@Sweden was created by the Swedish Institute, the Swedish equivalent of the UK's British Council or Spain's Instituto Cervantes. It passes from one Swede to another and was devised to invite dialogue with people abroad who may be curious about Sweden. Its "curators" have discussed everything from masturbation to Judaism.

Last week, the former PR consultant was at the helm. Almost from the get-go, he started getting questions about the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted for questioning in Sweden over rape and sexual assault allegations.

"As I understand it, almost all the curators have been affected by this," he said, adding that he did not really have an opinion about the Assange case but soon tired of the questions.

"If you don't answer all their questions 24/7 you're basically against them," he said.

So a few days into his tenure on Wednesday night, admittedly after a few beers and a bitter defeat suffered by his favourite football team AIK, Heibrandt did not hold back.

"Someone asked me what I thought about WikiLeaks in general and I responded that they were mad tinfoil hatters," he says. "It didn't go down very well."

His response quickly spread on the social media site.

"People were incredibly upset. But it's also an overarching strategy on behalf of WikiLeaks, that they share with the Sweden Democrats for example, where they have bands of angry trolls out there attacking everything related to them but which the central organization can officially say have nothing to do with them," he said.

As Heibrandt wrapped up his @Sweden stint on Sunday, he asked his followers if there were any final questions - but added the caveat that he would block anyone who asked about Assange. The news soon reached WikiLeaks, which quickly asked him about it in a tweet. He retweeted their message together with the word "BLOCKED".

The @WikiLeaks account responded by saying he was a publicist for the Swedish Armed Forces and linked to Heibrandt's CV - readily available on the professional networking site LinkedIn.

@WikiLeaks wrote: "We have discovered some very interesting information about @Sweden".

The tweet backfired, however, as people on Twitter lambasted them with their own revelations about Sweden.

"Sweden can only defend itself against Russia for a week. After that, we will have to throw lingonberries at them," one person responded.

"You may take our freedom but you'll never take our snus!" was one more, while another asked for confirmation that footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic was king of Sweden.

"Sweden is the world's largest consumer of folköl. They are also the only consumer though," said one about Sweden's medium-strength beer folköl.

"Julian Assange (minus one of the a's) is an anagram of 'Genans i julas' which is swedish for 'embarassment at christmas'," read another.

The hashtag #swedenfacts quickly trended on the social media site.

Heibrandt told The Local that the "shitstorm" his actions had unleashed had in no way sullied his time as @Sweden, and he laughed at how WikiLeaks had chosen to describe his work with marketing and web project management for the Swedish military that ended almost six years ago.

"Describing me as a 'military PR agent' sounds a lot flashier than what I actually did."

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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