Every once in while a political moment springs up that makes me think a bit more deeply about what it reveals about the changing world we live in and the recent election in Sweden are, for me, just such an event.
Week after week, headlines across the world painted a picture of the rise of neo-nazis, an immigrant fueled crime wave and the end of the Swedish miracle was smugly proclaimed. President Trump famously asked if we’d heard of what was happening in Sweden. His chum Nigel Farage swiftly followed to reveal that Malmo was now the rape capital of Europe.
It wasn’t just them, the western media emphasized the rise of the dark forces of nationalism and intolerance, nothing short of paradise lost.
Implicitly or explicitly, all the reports seemed to agree that the cause of this new dystopian reality was the decision of the Swedish government in 2014 to let in 240,000 immigrants, more per head of population than even Germany. So how could the Swedish narrative have changed so dramatically and what does this reveal?
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The first and obvious answer that shouldn’t surprise anyone is that the commonly held vision of Sweden is and always has been largely a myth. Secondly, Sweden has been at the forefront of disseminating white nationalist ideas for decades. During the 2nd world war, one of Germany’s most feared military units was the Waffen SS Viking division. In the 1990s, it was a world capital of “white power” heavy metal bands. J. Lester of Buzzfeed has written an excellent detailed article on the subject here.
The need to talk up this new darker narrative is down to the need for the alt-right, led by the likes of Breitbart, Bannon et al, to advance the narrative that white culture, through the misguided belief in progressive liberalism, faces annihilation at the hands of immigration.
Anne Applebaum writing in the Washington Post suggests that Sweden has long been the focus of the far right’s attention because as she puts it “Swedes now symbolize Blondness and Whiteness for a whole host of people — American, European, Russian — who use that symbolism to tell a particular story: Blondness Under Siege. Whiteness Under Siege”
However, for those who aren’t desperately hoping for the world to be consumed in a racial apocalypse, Applebaum identifies some hope. The fact is despite the wall to wall coverage they received, the far-right Sweden Democrats didn’t win. They didn’t even come second. They did increase their share of the vote but they came third. Why? It seems for Swedish women, the Sweden Democrats were the least favoured option.
The fact that in this case, women had saved the country from lurching to the far right makes me wonder what would the world look like if we were to run an experiment and only allow women to vote and run for office. How different or not would the world be?