• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'The Danish narrative on Sweden is based on a lie'

The Local · 22 Jul 2014, 13:23

Published: 22 Jul 2014 13:23 GMT+02:00

In Sweden, the public debate is defined by niceties and self-censorship, while in Denmark it is free and without taboos. 
 
That is the story we love to tell each other. So much so that part of the Danish media licence money is currently funding a program on Radio 24syv that is broadcasting ‘free speech’ to the Swedes. Denmark’s Voice (Danmarks Röst) is the name of the program in question and the right-wing commentator Mikael Jalving is the man behind the microphone. 
 
 
The irony is that this popular Danish narrative says more about Denmark than it does about Sweden. That was also pointed out recently by Lars Dencik, a professor at Roskilde University, who said in Information: “It is a defensive position which uses the theory that a good offence is the best defence… In reality, it is an attempt to defend Denmark’s ills.”
 
One example that disproves the myth that Swedes are hampered by taboos while Danes are not is that Sweden has dared to criticise the United States, Nato and other international actors while Denmark just falls in line without debate. That explains why we see Helle Thorning-Schmidt being considered for a top EU post and not, for example, the more outspoken Swede Carl Bildt.
 
You could also add that for the same (centre-left orientated) Thorning-Schmidt, it is a complete no-go to send warm wishes to Denmark’s Muslim residents celebrating Ramadan, while the British (and conservative!) David Cameron did it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. 
 
A few weeks ago, a story circulated in the Danish press about a whole school class in Sweden in which all the girls were of non-Swedish background and had all undergone genital mutilation. This was right up the alley of the columnists who write for Berlingske and other conservative media. Here was yet more proof of the real-life consequences of the Swedes’ oppressed pubic debate. Except, of course, that the story turned out to not be true
 
That they were so wrong and built their conclusions on incorrect information funnily enough did not lead to any debate or self-examination, which is strange given their professed fondness of free speech. 
 
The truth of course is that the debate is extremely small and narrow-minded in Denmark and they only thing we are ‘free’ to do is to criticise others and above all to take aim at one type of minority or another. 
 
The Danish narrative is based upon a lie, which is most clearly seen when it comes to the refugee and immigrant debate. We love to tell each other that we dare to speak freely, while the Swedes stay silent. 
 
We act as if we are discussing difficult topics like women’s rights, distorted gender and beauty ideals, personal freedom and the fight against social control and exclusion, but in reality we expose our glaring ignorance while remaining completely silent on other issues.
 
Okay, you want to talk about social control? In the Danish context that’s synonymous with taking yet another trip on the headscarf and/or honour killing merry-go-round. These are important issues, but why do we never discuss the fatal consequences of distorted gender and beauty ideals amongst the majority population? 
 
That some Muslim women feel obligated to wear a headscarf is a record that is played on repeat in Denmark, but that tens of thousands of Danish girls feel so badly that they contemplate suicide and/or practise deliberate self-harm never leads to a heated debate.
 
But it is a fact: More than one in five young (ethnic Danish) girls struggle with the above-named problems. Every doctor, psychiatrist and psychologist knows that, but because it’s about ‘us’, it is therefore taboo. 
 
“It’s become a part of our culture,” psychiatry professor Bo Møhl told Politken earlier this year. “I call it a new pathology because it isn’t just about individual high school students, but rather a whole graduating class who harm themselves.”
 
Note the term ‘our culture’. It is precisely that which we fail to reflect upon when a large portion of our youth cut or burn themselves. 
 
Story continues below…
This is just one example, but it illustrates a dynamic that exists in many areas in Denmark. We run around in circles having pseudo debates while constantly avoiding difficult self reflection. 
 
When that is not the case in, for example, Sweden, we need an explanation. But we never once seem to consider that maybe they have the answer over there on the other side of the Øresund. 
 
 
Dear Swedes, and the rest of our nearest neighbours, we need you. 
 
There are so many taboos that we should address but we just aren’t able to do it. It is not the Swedes who need Denmark’s (Smug) Voice. We are the ones who need to hear others’ voices, so we can broaden the narrow and predictable Danish debate. 
 
Brian Esbensen is a journalist, debater and political commentator. This op-ed wasoriginally published in Politiken and has been translated and republished with the author's permission.

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Eight teens suspected of child rape in Sweden
A police car investigating a separate incident in Gothenburg. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Eight teens suspected of child rape in Sweden
2 hours ago

Eight teenage boys have been arrested in connection with an alleged gang rape of a child in Gothenburg in western Sweden.

Traffic woes as Sweden's snowy weather returns
A frozen car in Stockholm last month. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Traffic woes as Sweden's snowy weather returns
3 hours ago

Thought spring was on its way? Who did you think you were kidding? It's Sweden in February!

Julian Assange
'Sweden is a country with fair reputation for justice'
Julian Assange at Ecuador's London embassy. Photo: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

'Sweden is a country with fair reputation for justice'
4 hours ago

British PM David Cameron has backed Swedish prosecutors, saying Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should hand himself over and "end this sorry saga".

'Dildo T-shirt' photo defended by Swedish newspaper
Does this really look like a dildo? Photo: Peter Palmquist

'Dildo T-shirt' photo defended by Swedish newspaper
5 hours ago

Can you see a dildo in this photo?

The Local Guide
Who is the shy Swede behind all those global smash hits?
Taylor Swift, Max Martin and Katy Perry. Photo: Matt Sayles/Chris Pizzello/Felipe Dana/AP/Invision

Who is the shy Swede behind all those global smash hits?
7 hours ago

You may not know his name, but you have definitely heard his music. This is Max Martin, the Swede behind your favourite pop hits.

Teenager arrested after asylum housing stabbing
Swedish police investigating a different crime. Johan Nilsson/TT

Teenager arrested after asylum housing stabbing
9 hours ago

A 17-year-old is being held after a man was left seriously injured following a stabbing in Västervik in southern Sweden.

Swedish hitmaker Max Martin takes home top music prize
Swedish producer Max Martin. Photo: Axel Öberg/Polar Music Prize

Swedish hitmaker Max Martin takes home top music prize
10 hours ago

Introducing the 2016 winners of Sweden's prestigious Polar Music Prize.

Border checks
Swedish coast guard prepares for spring refugee dockings
The Swedish coast guard in action this week. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

Swedish coast guard prepares for spring refugee dockings
11 hours ago

Staff say it will become more difficult to patrol waters between Sweden and Denmark when locals start sailing for pleasure in the spring.

The Local List
Six tales that prove romance is far from dead in Sweden
Could your Swedish romance start like this? Photo: Ulf Lundin/Image Bank Sweden

Six tales that prove romance is far from dead in Sweden
12 hours ago

Dating can be tough in Sweden, but love stories still exist, so if you're single ahead of Valentine's Day, read this!

Julian Assange
Will Swedish prosecutors question Assange in London?
Julian Assange at Ecuador's London embassy. Photo: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Will Swedish prosecutors question Assange in London?
19 hours ago

UPDATED: Julian Assange's lawyer has said he "cannot answer today" if the Wikileaks founder will agree to let Swedish prosecutors interrogate him at Ecuador's embassy.

Sponsored Article
How to set up shop in the 'Silicon Valley of Sweden'
Travel
Why are people so happy in Malmö?
Sponsored Article
US taxes and FATCA: 'The time for hiding is over'
National
Less than one percent of Swedish crimes linked to refugees
Features
Single? Here are the ten Swedish words you have to learn
Blog updates

9 February

Förr, förut, förrän, före and … innan! (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! A long time ago, I got this question: It would be a huge help if you could…" READ »

 

5 February

Editor’s blog, February 5th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, A friend of mine wrote from abroad this week to ask me if international media…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Swiss hospitality: The ladder to your international career
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Lindesberg, Örebro
Sponsored Article
Ice magic at north Sweden island lodges
Lifestyle
VIDEO: What's the fuss about Sweden's semla bun?
Culture
Ten fab Swedish hits for February
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: February 6th-7th
Sponsored Article
Just landed? Here's the secret to finding work in Stockholm
Travel
Stockholm's eight REAL no-go zones
Sponsored Article
Stockholm's secret ski resort: Kungsberget
Gallery
People-watching: February 3rd
National
'How confronting the man who robbed me gave me closure'
Sponsored Article
Luleå: 8 winter must-dos in Sweden's far north
Analysis & Opinion
DEBATE: Why are Swedes so obsessed with Nordic skiing?
Culture
See which Swedish museums are now opening up for free
Gallery
Property of the week: Insjön, Nacka
National
VIDEO: Tensions caught on camera inside Swedish asylum home
Gallery
People-Watching: January 29th - 31st
International
How will Sweden deport up to 80,000 failed asylum seekers?
Sport
When you gotta go... Swedish racing dog does poo and then takes gold
Sport
Guess who just got a HUGE pay rise?
Travel
WATCH: Five top tips for safe ice skating on Sweden's gorgeous lakes
Gallery
People-watching: January 27th
National
'Sweden could be at war within years'
Gallery
Property of the week: Öjersbo, Kungsbacka
International
Why is the Pope coming to Sweden?
3,465
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se