Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for the ‘Swedish politics’ Category

Swedish Media: Naive contributors to growing anti-Semitism

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Swedish media mean well. They really do.

swedish media

They’re a fading breed of champions for the downtrodden, the impoverished, and the misunderstood. They aim to slay socio-economic injustices and inspire the collective to repent when our societal stragglers fall behind. They might think they speak for the collective social conscious of Swedish society. Whatever the motive, they mean well. But then, defenders of the perceived moral majority don’t always get it right. And maybe it’s because their hearts are in it that the righteousness sometimes backfires. And when you know that you fight against evils like anti-Semitism, you’re probably among the last to realize that you contribute equally to anti-Semitism.

The road to anti-Semitism is paved with good intentions. Olle Wästberg seems to agree. In his February 2015 newsletter (in Swedish), under his headline, “Anti-Semitism – Swedish blind spot” he writes, “Sweden lacks self-awareness when it comes to seeing anti-Semitism.”

Nothing has been more obvious than just after the Copenhagen attacks, Sweden made worldwide news when a reporter from one of its state-sponsored media arms, Radio Sweden, asked the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman,“Do the Jews themselves, have any responsibility for the growing anti-Semitism”?


Upload the uncensored interview and listen here.

Since the interview the reporter, Helena Groll, and the editorial leadership of Studio Ett from Radio Sweden all apologized for the line of questioning. The apology goes so far that in a historical decision, Sweden Radio has edited the archived interview. The insensitive question was ‘doctored’ to remove offense. The sentiment is right, the censorship is questionable.

Apologies were certainly in order, but has this moment opened up Swedish media’s eyes and will help prevent future passive anti-Semitism? I doubt it.

One of her peers in Swedish media has come to her defense. Mats Svegfors writing in Sweden daily, Dagens Nyheter, defended Groll for her use of “journalistic] method to ask contradictory questions.” After which, he quickly qualifies, “I think it’s hair raising to hold ‘Jews’ or ‘The Jews’ individually or as a collective, responsible for the political decisions of the State of Israel or for the opinions of a number of confrontational Jewish activists express.”


swedish israeli flag pin
Two nations. Not the flag of Jews in Sweden.

But why doesn’t he or nearly no one else query the Swedish media’s choices when representing Jews in Sweden or Denmark? Why was Studio Ett interviewing the Israeli Ambassador at all? And why did Aktuellt use an image of the Israeli flag when discussing the rise in anti-Semitism in Sweden?

Jews in Sweden (and Denmark) are NOT Israelis and the Israeli flag is NOT the Jewish flag.

Swedish Jewish flag

A proposed flag to represent Swedish Jews.

The one voice bucking the trend is in an opinion piece in Sweden daily, Svenska Dagbladet written by Maria Ludvigsson. Its headline says it all, “There is no Jewish flag“. Ludvigsson was critical to the passive anti-Semitism during a Swedish Television Aktuellt news broadcast from Copenhapen when the Aktuell reporter, Thomas Lundström called the Israeli flag, “The Jewish Flag.” Ludvigsson wrote, “The ignorance seems widespread and a most often needed reminder that not all Jews are Israelis and all Israelis and not Jews either. That this ignorance is also reflected in our public service channels is bad.”

I don’t live with a daily threat of being hated, threatened or attacked for being a Jew because, well, I’m not Jewish. Not ethnically. Not religiously. Most Jews are both.

I’m not an expert on anti-Semitism, but the “good guys”, even if they mean well, have got to educate themselves and stop the passive contribution to the growing anti-Semitism plaguing Sweden, the Nordics and the rest of Europe. Now.

The editorial above was first published here.

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Roma band to Almedalen: We beg your pardon

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Over in the news section of The Local, an article’s headline proclaims: “Beggar symphony to play at Almedalen”

roma musician

The Roma in Sweden have been in the Swedish news quite a lot of late. (quick search on TL for “roma”)Mostly, it’s about the influx of beggars, who are primarily from Romania. The new trend is tight on the heels of discoveries of police registers by the Swedish police of Swedes of Roma ancestry. And then there’s the political spin featured by the über nationalistic Sweden Democrats.

In other words, mention ROMA, Romanians or beggars and you’ll get people’s attention.

The project, Tunnelbanan till Almedalen, will bring a dozen Romanian street musicians to Sweden’s largest political event, Almedalen, to perform Sweden’s national anthem. They will play on Tuesday, the day the Sweden Democrats are hosting. Yep, we’ve got some political posturing going on, and nicely chosen if you ask me.

The estimated cost to transport and house the (all-male?) band to Almedalen = 15,000SEK. The funding source? Crowd funding.

That’s all good. The more we get the everyday Svensson involved the more awareness we raise and the stronger the message becomes.

However, the cynic in me walks on the scene when I read that its organizer, Max Valentin, an entrepreneur (yay for entrepreneurs) is the founder of the crowd funding site of choice; What has read as an act of socio-political activism now starts giving off whiffs of promotional/guerrilla marketing.

My comment “Sounds more like a marketing ploy to promote his crowd-funding site. If he really wanted to bring them there, 15,000 would be peanuts to write off as a company cost.” was challenged by Max Valentin on Twitter.

When I pointed out that he via the promotion of his site would benefit from the attention, he clarified:

I applauded Max Valentin for his effort to address his critics and to stand his ground on his cause. We agreed that a continued public dialog would be beneficial. I expect he’ll be available and amiable to address comments.

While I like the idea of the Metro to Almedalen, I still have issues with it, e.g.

1. Street musicians and begging are not intrinsically linked.
2. Playing the Swedish Anthem is provocative, yet are the musicians Roma from Sweden? There are two issues; bigotry and resentment towards the ethnic Roma in Sweden and the public view of Roma from Romania coming to Sweden to beg. Is there an advantage or a disadvantage to conflate them?
3. Most (if not all?) of the Roma musicians are men. Yet we see as many women trying to eek out an existence.
4. Is sensationalizing the topic going to do more than get headlines?
5. The crowd funding site asks for repeat donations. What else will the money go for if the 15,000SEK is exceeded?

What are YOUR questions?

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Swedish Pirate Bay Shanghaiing to North Korea?: Hoax

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Swedish piracy is testing the rule of law in the social media-sphere. The Swedish file-sharing website has announced they had found refuge in North Korea.

I think they may have demanded a “Parlez”.

pirate bay

Well, their announcement did make you wonder if they were trolling or failing their political geography lessons. They mentioned the Republic of Korea (aka South Korea, or the good guys who bring us Samsung) but announced from Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea where Dennis Rodman just hung with his hommie, the despot).

I am no expert, or even very savvy on this topic, but the flurry of WTFs and similar expressions of disbelief did catch my attention.

A little poking around on Twitter turned up some more knowledgeable sleuths than I could ever be. Gizmodo’s position seems to doubt the validity of the move and refer onwards to super geek Will (in the most positive definition of geek) who can discern the routes of several acronyms even under the cloak and stealth of a Harry Potter invisibility cape.

It is all right there Will points out, “It is actually pretty easy if you have an understanding of BGP and BGP transit links.”

And if you do, you can follow the transit link trail here.

So, what do I know? Not much, but as the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.” Not that I have an opinion about whether a move to North Korea is good or bad for Pirate Bay, but the wow, shock and awe factor of a move like that would be absolutely delicious to observe with a box of popcorn.

Mythbusters would say, “BUSTED”.

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Hen: What’s in a pronoun?

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Is it a boy or a girl? Normally, that excitingly anxious question is reserved for the imminent arrival of a new born baby. But it is nearly equally exciting when awaiting the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The announcement will come today at 1pm Stockholm time (7am EST).

The current buzz is focused not as much on who, but on whether the author is a man or a woman. The internet is awash with blips and blurbs about how it’s time for another woman. Only 12 of the 108 Nobel Literature Prizes handed out since the start in 1901 have gone to women.

With the raging debate (the use of a “raging debate” with any topic in Sweden always makes me giggle. No debate ‘rages’ in Sweden. Some controversial debates heat up to high simmer) over the usage of the constructed gender neutral preposition “hen” (see The Local’s article) I found the first applicable usage on the cover of yesterday’s SvD:


The proponents for and against the introduction of “hen” in mainstream Swedish should not be waging war over a replacement of the traditional gender specific “han” and “hon” (he and she) but instead adding it to the language and ousting “man” (one) as the neutral and replacing it with “hen”.

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Stockholm sighting: Urban assault on “pink army”?

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Obama came out in support of gay marriage and Swedes like it. Probably because Sweden legalized gay-marriage in 2009 and prior to that recognized same-sex registered partnerships already in 1995.

Rush Limbaugh said on his show yesterday, “the president of the United States is going to lead a war on traditional marriage”.
This was a sighting yesterday in Stockholm near Slussen. Could this be a counter-assault on the pink army? Has Limbaugh taken the war on the “pink army” to the streets of Stockholm? I think the ‘enemies of traditional marriage’ are about as ominous as this little band of preschoolers.

pink army photo by Carolina Åkerlind.

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Children bashing politicians, literally. Earn candy prizes.

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Bash a politician’s face. Score some candy. That was the children’s activity planned by the Left Party in Malmö during the May 1st Labor Day events. Complete with thug-in-training baseball bats.

Not sure if I should weep or wail with laughter over this new political-decision-gone-wild moment. In the picture, the face of Anne Lööf, leader of the Center Party, is the “decoration” on the piñata filled with goodies.

According to one of the organizers, Patrik Strand, “We had [Fredrik] Reinfeldt and [Anders] Borg, too. I think it looked like fun and afterwards candy and play money tumbled out,” quoted in an article in Sydsvenskan (in Swedish).

Well, I can suppose it’s not the same as slicing into a cake’s vagina. But what is the message the children are supposed to learn? If you don’t like their politics it’s ok to take a baseball bat to their heads? After all…you will get candy!

It seems the bar is exceptionally low for political party involvement or there’s absolutely no budget for political PR advisers. It’s a trite phrase, but it applies here:
What were they thinking?

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Scandinavian solidarity: Swedish minister sings to annoy killer on trial.

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Norwegians are pretty much Sweden’s cousins with cod, coastline and oil. When the right-wing, white supremacist (pick your own version of evil white guy who hates non-white) Anders Breivik, killed 77 people, most of them young adults and teens, in Norway last summer, all Swedes mourned with their cousins.


Yesterday, about 40,000 people joined voices to sing together. Their purpose: to annoy Breivik. They sang
“Children of the Rainbow” by Norwegian folk singer Lillebjørn Nilsen. It is Nilsen’s adaptation of “My Rainbow Race,” written by American folk singer Pete Seeger.

The satisfactory charm of the protest was the reason behind why they chose this particular song. During the ongoing trial, Breivik had cited the song as an example of Marxist influence on Norwegian culture saying the song was “typical of brainwashing Norwegian student.”

In the Norwegian version of the song the chorus goes, “Together, we will live, each sister and each brother, small children of the rainbow and a green earth.”watch the event on YouTube. According to TheLocalNorway

The Swedish Cultural Minister, Lena Liljeroth, more likely in the news these days over her infamous FGM political gaffe, was among the community singers.

Liljeroth could use some good press about now. I just hope she didn’t sing in blackface.

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Opening a dialog: “I never imagined I would ever receive so much praise for saying that people should be allowed to be more racist”

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

The American Club of Sweden just held its first of a series of Intercultural forums. This evening’s topic was “America, Sweden and Violent Extremism.

It was a very interesting panel (the link above lists the participants) and a great number of interesting elements around how to prevent the existence, rise and spread violent extremism (right, left and Islamic) in our societies (both the US and Sweden). Without trying to summarize the panelists’ viewpoint, one common point of agreement they all shared was the importance of the open dialog.

open dialog

During the Q&A follow up, an audience member opened up what became an opinion floodgate. He pointed out that open dialog requires that the speaker can say whatever is on her mind without fear of retribution. He reminded us all that in Sweden, Swedish anti-hate laws (hets mot folkgrupp) curtail the individual’s opportunity to, and he pardoned his language, “be an asshole in public.” In less colorful words, it’s against Swedish law to express hateful opinions about specific groupings of people.

It triggered a flurry of eager participation to join a collective dialog (ironically).

The event was unfortunately limited in time so the discussions perhaps didn’t satisfy many people’s interest in the contradiction of Sweden’s strong belief in opening a dialog to prevent the rise of violent extremism while simultaneously restricting the same extent of free speech extended to citizens of the US.

Many people thanked the audience member who highlighted the contradiction to which he replied “I never imagined I would ever receive so much praise for saying that people should be allowed to be more racist.”

It’s not exactly what he meant, but it is one way to boil it down.

There’s a difference between hate speech intended to incite violence and expression of hate in its ugliest form. Sweden needs very seriously to review its current laws restricting expression of opinions even when they are disgustingly racist or hateful. It is only when we are allowed a dialog can we refute and hopefully, persuade.

You can’t open a dialog if you won’t let people speak.

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Swedish mainstream shop: Alternative lifesytle?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

When homosexual wedding greeting cards are unceremoniously displayed in mainstream shops we’ve shaken the “alternative lifestyle” label tagged on to gay marriage. At least in Sweden.

Same-sex marriages have been legal since May 1, 2009 and registered same-sex partnerships were recognized already from 1995.

I found these cards on display at one of my favorite stationery [chain] stores,
Ordning & Reda
wedding cards.

Now you have all options covered for your next wedding invitation needs.

Just don’t drive yourself nuts by converting the 30kr cost of the card (OK, if you have to, it’s just under $5.)

Oh, and if you’re attending a gay wedding, I highly recommend buying the Leatherman Multitool for the happy couple. Especially if it’s already on their gift registration list.

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Norway bombing/shooting: “Don’t mess with my baby brother”

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Sympathetic outpouring for Norway from Swedes and anyone I know linked to Sweden is all over my social media regarding the bombing/shooting in Norway Friday afternoon (TL article link.)

While the attacks took place in Norway, Sweden is shaken as if the bombs were on Swedish soil. Norwegians are readily regarded as brothers and sisters to Swedes (as described by blogger CC Champagne this evening — link to entry).

Indeed, even foreign minister, Carl Bildt, tweeted earlier this evening, ”Terrorism has struck. Police confirms bomb in Oslo. We are all Norwegians.”

I’m still glued to CNN and BBC and Swedish news sources. I’m currently fascinated by the CNN need to untiringly speculate about the potential for an Al-Qaeda link despite repeated reports from all media that the man in custody is a 32-year old ethnic Norwegian. After all…a blond Norwegian could be sympathetic to Muslim extremism.

*insert saddened sigh*

Now, I know I don’t know who (if anyone) is behind this sole suspect but I’m guessing it’s a domestic protest. If you really want to cling to a fanatical Muslim connection you can hold out for a desperate hope to connect a very obviously political motive (well, of course the blond Norwegian could be protesting Norway’s involvement in Afghanistan or its ties to Danish/Swedish cartoons) I suppose you still have hope.

People will be trying resolutely to make this about crazed “others” rather than crazed “us.”

After all, “We are all Norwegians.”

For what it’s worth, I think it’s funny to hear the clarification that the Norwegian man is white and ethnic over and over again.

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