Note that most of the references in this article are to source material in Swedish – this to ensure authentication of my sources. This article was first published in The Times of Israel on 24 September 2012.
Middle East democracy faces enemies in the form of regimes such as those of the mullahs in Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and various Arab and Muslim dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia (the only country in the world with apartheid roads), Pakistan (where churches are routinely burned to the ground) and Syria (whose Alawite regime is currently massacring a sizable proportion of the country’s Sunni population). These are all issues on which the Swedish media either soft-pedal or refuse to report.
Swedish media warfare
Recent Swedish research published by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs indicates that “68 percent of Swedes have a negative perception of the Jewish state, compared with an average of 51 percent among EU citizens and 32 percent of Americans.”
Swedes are not anti-Semitic or anti-Israel by heritage. Sweden’s White Buses saved thousands of Jewish concentration-camp survivors at the end of World War Two, including this writer’s mother-in-law; Swedish hero Raoul Wallenberg saved thousands of Jews during that same war; and Sweden’s bilateral business dealings with Israel today are valued at 4 billion kronor a year.
But Sweden has two forces whose agenda transcends the interests of its people and government: the media, and a significant proportion of the country’s Muslim minority. It goes without saying that there are exceptions in both cases.
‘A message to the police’
Breaking the mould, the Swedish daily Sydsvenskan publishes articles, editorials and op-eds that spotlight media bias and the often-abrasive Muslim immigrant sub-culture. On September 13 it ran an article entitled “A message to the police” – a quote from rampaging Arab youths bent on terrorising the country’s third-largest city, Malmö, into submission. One youngster proudly claimed “People are determined to drive out the police”.
It’s not an article that would be published in any other Swedish paper. In fact, it’s not a story most other Swedish media would even report. Partly because they do not want to be targeted the way the Swedish police, fire service, ambulance service, postmen and everyday Swedes are targeted in certain Muslim-majority suburbs. And partly because it does not dovetail with their anti-Israel – which for them means automatic pro-Islamist – agenda.
However, not even the Swedish media could ignore the story when US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three colleagues were murdered in Benghazi. Most of the Swedish media gleefully published what quickly proved to be a lie, that “an obscure film made by an Israeli Jew” had affronted the Libyans and “caused” their violence. Thankfully, there were exceptions: Swedish journalist Mats Tunehag wrote that this was as absurd as claiming that “The girl’s mini-skirt caused her to be raped.” Per Gudmundson in Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) also correctly attributed the blame for the Benghazi attack, writing that “The murder of the US ambassador shows just how remote democracy is in the Arab world.” Gudmundson wrote earlier, on September 6, an article entitled “Sweden in the dock at the UN regarding human rights in Malmö.” The English-language Tablet Magazine highlighted the issue in “Sweden’s Damn-Jew Problem.”
The media dam started cracking
Following this lead, the rest of the Swedish media started publishing in a similar vein. GP ran an editorial stating that “Muslims in the West must make their voices heard.” An SvD editorial asked “Why should only Sweden provide a haven?” for Muslims fleeing their homelands. Ten percent of all Syrian refugees, 33 percent of all Somali refuges and 50 percent of all Iraqi refugees in the EU end up in Sweden, whose population totals just 9 million. This represents not only a financial burden on the Swedish economy but also an increasingly significant demographic for the Swedish media, who for some reason feel obliged to pander to the fundamentalist element.
And then the dam burst completely. Nima Gholam Ali Pour wrote “So let the Islamists feel insulted.” SvD published an op-ed entitled “There’s no simple path to good integration.” The author, Thomas Gür, revealed that the Swedish Migration Board expects a 40 percent increase in the number of asylum-seekers in 2013. Bitte Assarmo opined that “Swedish journalists kowtow to Islamic fundamentalists,” and Lars Åberg wrote “Call a murderer a murderer” with reference to the Swedish media’s propensity for excusing Muslim oversensitivity and violence. Signature Avpixlat reported that another 100 million kronor in tax revenues is being diverted from essential Swedish infrastructure to finance the failed “Arab Spring.” Annika Borg said it is “One-sided to blame the (Muslim) rioting on the West.” And this author wrote an article entitled “A few words about carefully orchestrated ‘spontaneous’ Islamic rage.”
Bloggers lead the way
The point of this long list? They are all bloggers. Writing as usual, but now gradually being admitted into the mainstream media. The Swedish media have not suddenly decided to prioritise journalistic integrity. They are merely responding to a groundswell of public opinion – reader demographics – in the wake of the Benghazi outrage.
No longer can public opinion be bottled up by the old media. With the impact of social media, that old monopoly is dead. Newspapers either have to embrace keen, edgy bloggers – which means reporting the news and not just what suits their editorial agenda – or shut down.
So no real change of heart in Sweden; more a healthy evolution, one where editorial bias can no longer be passed off as journalism. Because, post-Benghazi, Swedes are finding the courage to speak their minds. There finally seems to be a dawning understanding that what happened in Benghazi could easily happen in Stockholm. After all, it was just two years ago that a Swedish Islamist detonated a suicide bomb in Stockholm.
Undercover in Malmö
The question is whether this evolving Swedish media climate will welcome Israeli Channel 10’s revealing TV series “Allah, Islam” in which Israeli reporter Zvi Yehezkeli went undercover to document first-hand the thinking and attitudes of Swedish Muslims. This exposé of Islam in Malmö and elsewhere is probably too honest for Swedish media barons to stomach. Meantime, the series is going viral in social media. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before the Swedish media are forced to acknowledge that despite attempts to bury the truth about Islamist fundamentalism in large swaths of its non-integrated Muslim population, the problem is spiralling and Swedes are finally talking openly about the issue, forcing the country’s media and ultimately its politicians to do the same.
On September 2 simultaneous manifestations in support of Israel and democracy were held in Stockholm and Gothenburg (another report on the Gothenburg event can be read here, in Swedish). Apart from two Christian newspapers, no Swedish media covered the event. Swedish bloggers did the job instead, with immense national and global success. A fortnight later, following the Benghazi murders and subsequent global Muslim violence, Islamists held manifestations of their own in Stockholm and Gothenburg. There were al-Qaeda banners, Kalashnikov-emblazoned Hezbollah flags, cries of “heil Hitler” and Nazi-style clenched fists raised in the air. Both events were covered by the Swedish media. The media did not ask the participants a single penetrating question, they tried their best to edit out all the Hizbollah flags showing the Kalashnikov machine-gun symbol, and somehow they all managed not to record a single person shouting “heil Hitler”. But they were there, and that marks a change in the Swedish media mindset.
So a change is in the air.
But is it a lasting one? Time will tell.