The Swedish government, specifically “Afro-Swedish” Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, has launched a new initiative to support free speech. With the constant assaults on free speech we are seeing throughout our civilisation – antifa thugs beating opponents of immigration with apparent impunity, their victims charged with assault whenever they attempt to defend themselves, the takedown of websites such as the Daily Stormer – this initiative can only be a good thing, right? Wrong. Because, you see, in Sweden they define free speech rather curiously.
The voice that they consider to be in need of special protection is not that of the powerless dissident confronting the mighty elite. It that of the elite themselves, some of whom are apparently upset that plebs are able to talk back to them through the internet. In this bizarre formulation then, the exercise of free speech is a threat to free speech. Plebs expressing their harsh dissent to those who control the public sphere – the voiced class, as I call them – sometimes causes the powerful not to say things they would otherwise say. So pleb free speech must be suppressed to free the elite from the burden of having to put up with the discomfort of dissent.
The government has presented ‘Defence of the Free Word‘, an action plan to combat threats and hate against journalists, elected representatives and artists.
…One in four politicians told Brå they have censored themselves because of threats and abuse, and more than three out of ten journalists told the SJF survey that they had at some point chosen not to cover certain issues due to a risk of threats. Ten percent of reporters said they no longer published their byline on certain articles; 16 percent of those who have been threatened said they had considered quitting journalism.
This is presented as if it was a case of evil right-wingers who were threatening free speech.
Almost three out of ten elected officials (28 percent) told Sweden’s National Council on Crime Prevention (Brå) in the election year of 2014 that they had faced harassment, threats or violence that year, compared to 20 percent in 2012. This does not necessarily indicate an overall increase, as such incidents tend to peak during election years, but with only a year left before Swedes again go to the polls, it is highly relevant.
Pierre Esbjörnsson left his post as Social Democrat mayor of Skurup in southern Sweden last year after his car was gutted in an arson attack while his family slept in their home just metres away. A neo-Nazi logo had been sprayed on the house. The police investigation was dropped.
…Regional newspaper Eskilstuna-kuriren was forced to step up security after it published an investigative report this year showing how far-right hate and xenophobic fake news spread via coordinated online campaigns, and found itself inundated with harassment from right-wing extremists.
But the data shows the opposite. The most threatened politicians are in the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.
Looking at threats on a party-by-party basis, the Sweden Democrat party – known for its anti-immigration stance – comes top. Half of its respondents said they had been exposed to hate or threats, followed by the Left Party (33 percent), Moderates (31 percent), Liberals (30 percent), Greens (27 percent), Christian Democrats (25 percent), Social Democrats (24 precent) and Centre Party (22 percent).
Of course the talk is always of “threats” but when closely examined these supposed threats are almost never really threats at all. So weaselly verbal formulations like “threats and harassment”, “threats and abuse” are used to create an artificial equivalence between a real crime, a threat intimating an intent to carry out a future violent act against a person, and the mere contemptuous expression of political dissent.
But using the police and courts to crack down on threats is not easy since much of the abuse does not constitute actual threats in the eyes of the law. It is indirect – “I hope you die” rather than “I’m going to kill you” – but it is plentiful and it is constant.
“It’s difficult to legislate against things that are just hateful, and it is also a very dangerous road to go down to legislate what people are allowed to think,” says Karlsson. “I think we have to talk about this and talk about how it affects democracy and public discourse so that more and more people understand what a huge influence this has on our democracy.”
“I would say it’s a major democratic problem if one condition for having a political role is to put up with hearing that you’re an idiot who ought to go hang yourself. Of course it’s a problem when politicians, or anyone really, are exposed to violence – but the profound democratic problem is that it scares people away from politics. This means we get worse politicians and politicians who also have to become more jaded and less empathetic, which also does not make for particularly good political decisions,” he adds.
Many describe fear, concern or even just getting worn out by the sheer quantity of hateful comments, which leaves the victims with two choices: get out, or toughen up even more.