A reader, DC, wrote Gates of Vienna this week. The Baron was out of town and since he is our Swedish interface, I didn’t feel confident in my responses to DC’s assertions.
As I said to our reader, what I know about Sweden comes from what people send us – plus information supplied by Conservative Swede in on-going email conversations.
And then there is Fjordman. Back in 2005 Fjordman was my first introduction to Sweden’s predicament. Remember when he had a blog? It seems a million years ago since the first time the Baron showed me a post from the dark prophet of Norway.
Remember the disinformation spread in the blogosphere about Sverigedemokraterna? What I learned about this political party came about due to ill-informed and scurrilous attacks by LGF following the Brussels Conference in 2007. These charges were first raised and then sustained by questionable sources such as the EXPO Foundation (eventually those charges were simply dropped. They were never amended nor was an apology ever forthcoming). Attempts by members of SD to address the topic were simply dismissed or held up for ridicule.
Like the Irish referendum dissent, SD survives in spite of concerted governmental efforts to destroy it. That says something for what is transpiring in Sweden, and it gives one hope.
With my agenda thus stated plainly, here is our reader’s email:
First let me say that I like the blog and follow it. I am with you all 100% when it comes to the problem of Islam in Europe. However, I am on the verge of leaving the blog, and here is why.
We complain about propaganda done by the left media and Islamists, but this blog is turning into exactly the same — propaganda only from a different angle. The things that have been posted about Sweden are absolutely exaggerated and really ludicrous. The media portrays things from one way, and you guys seem to be portraying it from another — both are very far from the truth.
Does Sweden have a problem with Islam? Yes but no more than other places really. Here are some interesting facts, starting with the juiciest statistics…
|Fact:||50% of Swedes want the headscarf banned. Source: http://www.dn.se/DNet/road/Classic/article/0/jsp/print.jsp?&a=697077 (Swedish)|
|Fact:||Over 1/3 think immigrants come here just for the welfare. It is true but the new government has actually been very strict about welfare abuse issues and has limited many benefits as well as managed to get welfare payouts to go down by a lot.|
|Fact:||The economy, unlike most in Europe and especially the US’, is still doing quite well. Salaries are high, standard of life is very high. Crime rates, compared to most countries in the West, are still very low. I do not and have never felt unsafe while walking around late and alone through the streets of Stockholm or any other Swedish city, though there are of course suburbs where I would not do this, but this is no different than in any other city in the world.|
|Fact:||25% of Swedes are ready to vote for a party that restricts immigration. Almost half want to limit Muslim immigration, and this percentage is growing. Source: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1842592/posts|
|Fact:||In some polls I’ve said (sadly I have no source), about half of all Swedes want to CLOSE the borders altogether to immigration.|
|Fact:||Malmö is overall still a perfectly fine place. Its crime rates may be higher than the average Swedish ones, but they are still much lower than many places throughout the Western world. The worst neighborhood in Malmö (and Sweden) won’t even come close to even just average quite bad neighborhoods in the US. Malmö has many nice areas (most of the city) and I have never felt afraid while there. In fact it is a booming city, becoming part of a big Öresund metro area along with Copenhagen. Business is booming and lots of Swedes are moving there for the opportunities — and many Danes are living there and many more thousands are moving there every year.|
|Fact:||I’ve been to Stockholm’s worst neighborhood several times to see what it’s like. Yeah, the demographics there is disturbing and it is a shame such a neighborhood even exists. But, like with Malmö’s worst, is not bad, internationally seen for the Western world. There is still paint on the buildings. There are stores and a mall. It’s no ghetto. (But I wouldn’t mind bombing it and similar neighborhoods, but that’s another story.)|
|Fact:||Overall Sweden is still very Swedish. The immigrant % is on par with many countries like the US and in fact a huge percentage of this rate are Finns (still the largest immigrant group). There are also quite a few of Western immigrants (like Dutch). My Stockholm suburb is 17% but 10% of those are Finnish, which isn’t exactly a group I am worried about.|
|Fact:||Swedes do not hate themselves. I am not a Swede myself (I am an American who has been studying here for a few years) and have seen Swedish pride quite clearly. On the national day, which is kind of new to them, you see tons of flags and people celebrating Swedishness on the streets. Just look at anyone celebrating midsummer (or watching a soccer game) and you will see Swedish pride is still well and a live.|
|Fact:||A huge percentage of the large immigration numbers lately Christian Iraqis, which though still somewhat problematic, are easier to integrate in the long run. In addition, estimates show that a large percentage of the Muslims that do come aren’t very religious, which is especially true among their children who grow up in the very liberal society.|
Do I want to limit — even better, end — Muslim immigration here? Yes, of course. It is a problem. But it is not the problem that this blog tries to portray it to be. Sweden=hellhole, Denmark=heaven is far from the truth. The two are still very similar in more ways than you would think.
The blog tries to portray Swedes as a bunch of self-hating people that do nothing other than to call themselves racists all day, and Sweden as a horrible hellhole with just immigrants going around raping people, both of which are SO far from the truth that just reading that makes you wonder if this blog is really trying to work for a cause or if it’s just a joke. The comments to the posts, in particular, are ridiculous.
– – – – – – – – –
Like I said, I support you all and I agree with you all. But please, try to stick to the truth. Most of you have gotten a very wrong picture of the country. Your sources are a few blog posts that use a few very carefully-selected articles by very few people and translated with a slant as well by one or two people. You also haven’t seen all of this in person, either. So, just as you’ve learned not to trust all that comes from the AP, learn to do the same here too.
It’d be great if you could actually post this.
Thanks and keep up the good work.
I’m surprised you don’t get on the comments section at GoV and argue your point of view. There are Swedes who would discuss your findings with you and perhaps a consensus would emerge that was more to your liking.
The Baron has been far more involved with Swedish authors than I have. Unfortunately, he’s away on business so what I can respond to is limited.
However, I do know that SD has been shockingly persecuted for its politics in a way that could not happen here. I have had some correspondence with the treasurer (if he still holds that post) and his view was not sanguine about Sweden’s closed political system.
Doe it not seem strange to you that union members were threatened with expulsion if they joined SD, and that SD has been vilified in the press repeatedly?
SD was not permitted by the post office to mail its political brochures so they had to be delivered by hand. This is Swedish “democracy” in action.
I don’t consider 50% of the population wanting the headscarf banned as a very good indicator. That means half either want the headscarf or don’t care.
Sweden hides the increase in rapes country-wide, and for public consumption is “puzzled” by this statistic. It also refuses to collect the data that would show plainly that Muslim immigrants are responsible. In fact, the perpetrators are quite willing to say they see Swedish women as whores.
If you were a woman walking around at night, how safe would you feel? Why are some girls dyeing their hair to a dark color? I’m not saying that the whole country has to do that, but it shouldn’t be happening at all. A polity which fails to protect its young ones doesn’t have a good future.
Swedish Jews in Malmo don’t feel safe at all. They have been warned not to wear *anything* religious or the police won’t be responsible for their welfare — as if they would be otherwise.
The police have also refused to help with security during temple services so the congregation spends 25% of its income on guard services. In fact, guard services are a growth industry in some places.
How about the refusal of the authorities to let the Jews erect a secure bomb deterrent structure in front of the temple? Obviously, the Jewish population is decreasing as they leave for safer places.
Fjordman is a gifted writer and well educated, both in Scandinavia and abroad. It was he who came to us with the information about the dystopia that exists in Sweden and Norway. And the Baron has met personally with him to discuss Sweden and Norway’s predicament.
Conservative Swede is a strong personality with great integrity. If he says that his native country is failing, I will tend to believe him. Again, he and the Baron have met in person. Like Fj, he deeply concerned with the future of Sweden.
Here’s Bruce Bawer’s opinion on Sweden, and he’s hardly a conservative:
The approach of the New Year [he means 2007] and departure of the old inevitably brings a flurry of “year’s best” lists. This even applies to nations, which some organizations make it their business annually to rank in order of wealth, quality of life, and what-have-you.
Surprisingly often, the Nordic countries come out on top. This placement is usually a reflection less of objective reality, however, than of the list- makers’ enthusiasm for the Nordic welfare-state model. The criteria, in other words, are formulated in such a way that the Nordic countries will inevitably end up on top. Hence Norway, for example, is repeatedly named by the United Nations as the world’s richest country – forget that prices and taxes are so high that even business executives lunch on dry sandwiches brought from home in aluminum foil.
Now it’s Sweden’s turn. The Economist Intelligence Unit, associated with the Economist magazine, has awarded the title of world’s most democratic country to Sweden. For many observers, this is not only wrong – it’s staggeringly, outrageously misinformed.
Sweden is, after all, a country in which the people are fed by their political, press, and intellectual establishment an unvarying diet of propaganda promoting the socialist welfare state, demonizing Israel, and whitewashing Islam. As for America, the official view was neatly captured in a post-September 11 editorial in the nation’s largest newspaper, Aftonbladet, which assured readers that the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington weren’t Sweden’s enemies but simply hated “U.S. imperialism,” a reasonable position given that “the U.S. is the greatest mass murderer of our time.” Such views, taught in Sweden’s classrooms and enshrined in Sweden’s state-approved schoolbooks, are reiterated daily by Sweden’s mainstream press organizations, all of which are either government-owned or government-subsidized.
Dissent is powerfully discouraged. In Sweden, whose murder rate is currently twice that of America and where Muslims now constitute over 10% of the population and are disproportionately unemployed and prone to violence, the Swedish press routinely depicts America as crime-ridden. Polls show that the majority of Swedes are deeply disturbed by their country’s dramatic social changes and highly critical of the policies that brought them about. Yet the crime and violence generally go unreported, so only rarely does any of the criticism seep into the press. Though two-thirds of Swedes question whether Islam is compatible with Western society, this issue is simply not open for public discussion.
To quote Jonathan Friedman, a New Yorker who teaches social anthropology at the University of Lund, “no debate about immigration policies is possible” because Sweden’s “political class,” which controls public debate, simply avoids the topic. Recently, the city of Stockholm carried out a survey of ninth-grade boys in the predominantly Muslim suburb of Rinkeby. The survey showed that in the last year, 17% of the boys had forced someone to have sex, 31% had hurt someone so badly that the victim required medical care, and 24% had committed burglary or broken into a car. Sensational statistics – but in all of Sweden, they appear to have been published only in a daily newssheet that is distributed free on the subways.
Instead of reporting on such worrisome findings, politicians and the press alike focus on the evils of America and Israel. Last year, for instance, Sweden’s state-owned TV network ran a series of “documentaries” about America that included Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine.” Viewers were protected from the fact that it had been shown to contain lies and fabrications. The series also included a sympathetic account of Stalin’s atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, whom Swedish TV described as having been executed not for history’s most colossal act of treason but “for their Communist sympathies,” and something called “Why We Fight,” which explained America’s military actions as motivated by the avarice of military contractors.
Swedish book publishing is similarly unbalanced. Recently Michael Moynihan, an American writer based in Stockholm, toted up the English-language political books that had been translated into Swedish since September 11. His long list included several works apiece by Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore, plus volumes by the communist historian Eric Hobsbawm, the anti-American journalist John Pilger, and the “Holocaust industry” critic Norman Finkelstein. On the entire list, only one author was not a leftist.
When voices of dissent do break through in Sweden, they’re often punished. During the run-up to the Iraq war, the Swedish government censured the independent TV channel TV4 for running an “Oprah” episode that presented both pro- and anti-war arguments. TV4 was charged with violating press-balance guidelines when in fact its offense was being too balanced – it had exposed Swedish viewers to ideas from which journalists had otherwise shielded them.
Only one sizable party in the country, the Sweden Democrats, articulates most Swedes’ concerns about their country’s immigration and integration policies. Again and again, it has been the object of breathtakingly undemocratic treatment by the political establishment. Earlier this year, for example, the government closed down the Sweden Democrats’ Web site because it had published a cartoon of Muhammad. Stig Fredriksson, head of the free-speech organization Publicistklubben, complained bitterly. But the incident was hardly reported in Sweden – and, of course, barely caused a ripple abroad. If the Bush administration had closed down a Democratic Party Web site¸ there would be scare headlines and editorials thundering about dictatorship – and rightly so. But when Sweden’s rulers did it, it was apparently acceptable – because they did it in the name of political correctness.
Sweden Democrats have been the targets of events that recall China’s Cultural Revolution. Staged “people’s protests” by members of the “youth divisions” of other parties have led to the firing of Sweden Democrats from their jobs. A few weeks ago, a junior diplomat was dismissed when it became known that he was a member of the party and had criticized his country’s immigration policy. On several occasions, thugs loyal to the ruling parties have broken up Sweden Democratic meetings and beaten up party leaders. And this is a nation in which a party led by an admitted communist was, in recent memory, part of the ruling coalition. [my emphasis here — D]
The Sweden Democrats enjoy considerable public sympathy. But given Sweden’s oppressively conformist political climate, that sympathy is of necessity largely sub rosa. Mr. Friedman has suggested that one reason why the party has no seats in Parliament is that Swedish elections aren’t really secret – other people at the polling place can look at your ballot and see which party you support. The stigma attached to voting for the Sweden Democrats is just that strong. Another reason is that the major parties have worked together vigorously to keep the Sweden Democrats out of the public square. The success of this collaborative effort is reflected in the fact that Sweden is the only major Western European country whose legislature contains not a single representative of a party critical of its immigration policies.
In 1972, the British historian Roland Huntford titled his book about Sweden “The New Totalitarians.” He is echoed by a number of observers today who describe Sweden as an example of “soft totalitarianism.” Are they right? That’s a matter for debate – though it’s a debate that won’t take place in Sweden.
Bawer wrote that at the end of 2006.
The book he mentions was written in 1972. The closure of public discussion started a long, long time ago and it continues.
I know the qualifications for Bawer, Conservative Swede and Fjordman. I also hear from Swedes ranging in age from 17 to 75+ who write to us very concerned about their country. For the older people, it is a kind of despair, for they live on very limited government incomes that are too small to allow ownership of a car, yet they see newcomers thriving on government benefits. The oldest of our correspondents can no longer manage a bike and walking has become problematic so his life is quite limited now.
These folks not only write to us, they translate material and send it to us. Their outlook does not coincide with yours.
What I will do is send your list on to Fjordman. He is a most reasonable person and will think through what you have to say. If he responds, I’ll send it on to you.
If he responds at any length, I will combine them and make a post. If he doesn’t have time (he is in the process of getting his book together) then I will post your comment as is. Obviously, I don’t agree with you, but I believe in promoting civil dissent, so one way or another, your words will go up.
All this will take a few days, so I probably won’t have anything to put up before, say, Monday. Meanwhile, I suggest you join the comment section.
PS Here’s an old post from when Fjordman had a blog. It concerns Sweden’s eventual collapse.
Here’s a more recent guest post of his, which ends in a sad, disturbing piece of news:
As a final note on this whole sorry state of affairs – the Swedish parliament passed a law yesterday which orders comprehensive electronic surveillance of all citizens:
Swedish lawmakers voted late on Wednesday in favour of a controversial bill allowing all emails and phone calls to be monitored in the name of national security.
This law will make Sweden more totalitarian than even the former Communist dictatorship of East Germany.
DC, I am glad your Swedish world is one of safety and harmony. Many native Swedes would demur. The professor in Lund, mentioned by Bawer, had this to say about the tolerant Swedes:
“Weekend racists”, is Friedman’s term for many Swedes, whom drink themselves senseless during the weekend, whence it is generally accepted to – and then all the suppressed hatred is let loose. He mentions a leading politician whom daily spoke warmly for greater immigration and integration, but who simply had to be thrown out of Grand Hotel one Saturday evening because he shouted and screamed his racist opinions for the world to hear. While being drunk. Racism while under the influence of alcohol.”
I welcome Swedes – or other Scandinavians — of all persuasions to weigh in on this.
You know the drill by now: keep it civil and stay on topic. Limit individual comments to about 500 words. If you don’t, readers will tend to scroll past your words, no matter how cogent and enlightening. Of course if your point is not to be read but to get your point of view up there, then obviously a plea to limit your verbosity will not carry much weight. At that point, I may or may not invoke a blog administrator’s prerogative to delete what does not keep the discussion going forward.