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Swedes in uproar over 'xenophobic' book ad
A picture of the DN advert that some labelled as xenophobic. Photo: TT

Swedes in uproar over 'xenophobic' book ad

Published: 09 Dec 2013 16:48 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Dec 2013 16:48 GMT+01:00

A decision by a Swedish newspaper to run an advert for a book critical of multiculturalism, immigration policy, and media reporting of the issue has been slammed by critics who argue that the ad is tainted by xenophobia.

“The advert’s design expresses a reluctance and a resistance to that which is perceived as different and the ad is therefore xenophobic,” political scientist Ulf Bjereld said on his blog on Sunday.

The book’s co-author Karl-Ove Arnstberg meanwhile dismissed criticism of the advert on Monday.

“It is just the chattering classes. They make a lot of noise and say what they want but they won’t sit down and read a 400 page book,” he told The Local.

The advert is for a book entitled “Immigration and blackout” (Invandring och mörkläggning) and is written and published by Arnstberg and Gunnar Sandelin. The advert in question was a full-page spread in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) broadsheet on Sunday and features a list of statistics.

The list included information from Statistics Sweden (SCB), the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) and a few other public bodies.

Both Sandelin and Arnstberg are established voices among those critical of multiculturalism and Swedish immigration policy and their book has been warmly received on extremist websites and by far-right bloggers in Sweden.

The second contention of their book - that the mainstream media operates a blackout around the issue of immigration and that “uncomfortable statistics” are subsequently buried is furthermore a common argument forwarded by followers of the Sweden Democrats and the extreme right in Sweden.

High-profile journalist Helle Klein called on DN to apologize for its decision to run the ad on Sunday and several other critics argued that the newspaper was guilty of spreading right-wing populist propaganda and pushing the boundaries of public discourse. Political scientist Andreas Johansson Heinö meanwhile argued that the ad was not out of the ordinary.

"In my opinion (the advert) is not xenophobic and I don't see a shift in the public discourse," he told The Local.

DN editor-in-chief Peter Wolodarski explained the newspaper’s reasoning in an article published online later on Sunday in which he defended the decision to publish in the interest of freedom of speech.

“We have gone through the allegations made in the ad, not to give the green light to what is claimed, but in order to make an overall assessment. The tone is insidious and there are a number of borderline dubious issues ... But I decided that it was within the bounds of what a commentator should be able to raise,” he said.

Wolodarski exemplified his reservations by referring to the fact that Sweden had approved 1.1 million residence permits to immigrants from 2000 to October 2013 observing that no distinction was made between permanent or temporary residence permits or the fact that many of the permits would have been renewals.

When challenged on the statistic, Karl-Ove Arnstberg declined to answer and terminated the phone call. 

According to an article in the media trade publication Medievärlden, publishers around Sweden expressed both support and disagreement with Dagens Nyheter’s decision to run the advert.

“We probably would have published… We don’t prevent someone expressing their opinions or arguing their case solely because the views are different from the paper's opinion. This applies to advertisements as well as opinion pieces, letters to the editor and columns,” said Cecilia Krönlein at the Göteborgs-Posten daily to Medievärlden.

“No, we wouldn’t have published it in Värmlands Folkblad. We would… have come to the conclusion that it lacks nuance and contains too many factual errors. It also runs contrary to the values which our owners support,” said the newspaper’s publisher Peter Franke.

The Local’s Managing Editor James Savage explained that the advert would probably have been run on the company’s websites, explaining that the advert was not “threatening”.

“We wouldn't accept ads that were threatening or that expressed an extremist point of view. This ad is neither threatening nor extremist. We're not in the business of second-guessing every ad's purpose,” he said.

Karl-Ove Arnstberg stated that the book and the advert were financed by the authors themselves and were not part of some “hidden agenda”. He explained that he was surprised, but satisfied, with the reaction to the advert and claimed that the book’s sales had increased on Monday.

“Our purpose was to attract attention," he told The Local.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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