Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Moral Dictatorship

Unfree Speech in Sweden Part I

Our Scandinavian correspondent Rune writes us with news from Denmark and Sweden:
    There is an American, Jonathan Friedman (fairly, in the context, potent name - here's his homepage), which you might want to read about. He has some interesting things to say about Sweden, their handling of the multicultural society and their particular virulent version of PC - as well as about the western world in general.
Jonathan Friedman is a New York Jew now living with his Swedish wife in the southern Swedish city of Malmø where he teaches socio-anthropology at the University of Lund. As an outsider living inside Sweden he sees himself in a unique position to comment both with inside insights and an outside perspective - but more to the point as foreigner he is able to comment candidly on issues which native Swedes would be quite unable to for fear of retribution for overstepping the invisible PC bounds.
He has kindly enclosed his translation of an article in Jyllands Posten, the largest newspaper in Denmark:
    The end of the Eveningland
The suppressed freedom of speech in Sweden is a symptom of something much larger and much worse, namely the last spasms of the western civilisation, so thinks a professor of socio-anthropology, American and employed at the University of Lund [large university, southern Sweden].
Jonathan Friedman is Jewish and New Yorker, and, as he welcomes you on the doorstep dressed in curly hair, hawaii shirt, khaki trousers and bare feet, he reminds you nothing so much as Bob Dylan - as Bob Dylan would have looked had he toured a little less and eaten a little healthier. The living room in the big flat in central Lund looks like the embodiment of the multiethnic vision; modern bright sofa, African art of walls and floors and the classical porcelain fireplace in the corner.
The man is professor of socio-anthropology, kind and pleasant to look at with sleepy, intelligent eyes, but make no mistakes; he says things, you can only say in Sweden as long as you're not a Swede.
"I'm pretty much waiting for all hell to break loose. But so far they seem to let me be in peace and I have only met critique internally at the university. Had I been a Swede, then I would have been decapitated, as it is, they mostly just try to ignore me."
Friedman is employed at the University of Lund, together with his Swedish wife whom is also professor of socio-anthropology. And she has not been dealt with, with the same velvet gloves. Kajsa Ekholm Friedman made the grave mistake of accepting an invitation from the organisation "Folkeviljen og Masseindvandringen" [People's will and Mass Immigration] - an organisation no longer extant, but which typically consisted of pensioners and disappointed Social democrats, whom were critical of immigration. Kajsa Ekholm is/was not a member of the organisation and does not share its views, but just the fact that she spoke in the forum resulted in a demand from 27 teachers and students at Lund that she be removed from her position at the university.
Jonathan Friedman knows a great deal about those mechanisms. He has functioned both in New York, Paris and Copenhagen before he came to Lund and has just finished a book titled "PC Worlds" an analysis of the phenomena Political Correctness.
The ecology/environment of the debate
We talk about the concept of "The Ecology of the Debate" [debattens økologi] introduced by Margareta Bertilsson, a Swedish professor of sociology at the University of Copenhagen. She wrote in Weekend Avisen [large Danish newspaper] July 12. "The right to speech must be weighted against him or those whom speak also have something to enrich the conversation with. The right to speak also entails duties to handle the responsibility. We take up other peoples' time. To take care of this public debating ecology has just as much value as taking care of freedom of speech."
Jonathan Friedman however isn't shocked. "The suppression of the freedom of speech is a powerful mechanism. You are now here during the election campaign, and you'll see that the journalists and media try to make the debate seem large and varied - by simply removing focus from the essential and talk about something else entirely, like infrastructure policies. No debate about immigration polices is possible, the subject is simply avoided."
"I believe it is a long tradition. In the US for instance, political correctness is a university phenomena, in the public and amongst common people, it is a joke. But Sweden has such a close connection between the various powerful groups, politicians, journalists, etc. - they socialise privately, they marry each other, they go to the same social events and parties. The political class is closed, isolated. And add to that, that the Social Democrats have had something like near monopoly on the power. This instills a certain amount of security and stability - but also insecurity, for whatever would happen if the bubble suddenly burst? Or their view of the world seriously challenged? The elite, in their isolation and due to their isolation, has become more and more scared of the people and what they might think and believe. The opinion is that people in general are stupid. The Political Class has moved up and on and away from the people. It is cosmopolitical in its approach and views itself as more above the nation than part of it. Economical this is supported by the fact that precisely this class sees its salaries as the fastest growing of all."
Absurd undemocratic, but is this something new?
"A major changes has taken place. When I first came to the country, it was still so that you could call your politician and talk to him. It was a healthy democracy. In Denmark, where I lived in the 70's a separate political class already existed then. It is a such which has materialised in Sweden - even more so - and they're nervous and worried to see their power slip away and at anything which can stir or shake it. And it is therefore they want to close the mouth on the critics, as for instance The Swedish Democrats [Sverigedemokraterna. Swedish rightist party opposed to immigration. Not in parliament.] It is a completely legal party, they just aren't allowed to speak. It is absurdly undemocratic. They are marginalised. They are isolated and ridiculed. . . . and then they are called undemocratic. In reality, the heart of democracy is completely turned on its head. It is said: "democracy is a certain way of thinking, a specific set of opinions, and if you do not share them, then you aren't democratic, and then we condemn you and you ought be eliminated. The People? That is not democratic. We the Elite. We are democracy." It is grotesque and it certainly has nothing to do with democracy, more like a kind of moral dictatorship."
The symptoms of the PC disease seem to be more advanced in Sweden than in the USA; still, they are quite recognizable to us here in America. To take care of this public debating ecology has just as much value as taking care of freedom of speech. Campus speech codes are useful for managing the "public debating ecology" in the campaign against hate speech. The elite, in their isolation and due to their isolation, has become more and more scared of the people and what they might think and believe. Just open the New York Times, or listen to a John Kerry speech, to know that the same is true here. The rise of the blogosphere has contributed to the fear felt by the elites, and, if they can, they will use the FEC to regulate internet free speech into oblivion.

"Moral dictatorship" indeed.
(More on Jonathan Friedman in upcoming posts)


Jude the Obscure said...

I agree that the so-called 'elite' and their protection of income and privileges is eroding the freedoms of western civilisation. This 'elite' is international and over-rides race and religion.(Imams and mullahs will soon be welcome.) Qualifications for joining are an overweening love of power, and a disdain for the sheeple who are viewed as little better than animals. The rewards for being invited to join are the use of the world as a playground and its population as playthings. Read Paul Theroux's 'Ozone', see Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil'.
Tis the times' plague, when madmen lead the blind.

Baron Bodissey said...

It's important to remember that the elites, at least at the lower levels, are also trapped within the system. The system is not of their devising, but they subsist in it like a tapeworm in the gut of the state, and, like a tapeworm, cannot live independently. Hence their fear of true systemic change.

Annoy Mouse said...

Good work Rune,

I love the term ecology of debate. Let’s define the bounds of the debate and frame the outcome in advance so that we can all sing along the same line from the PC hymn book.

More from the fyords:

Scandinavian Crime Epidemic
“The number of rape charges per capita in Malmö is 5 – 6 times that of Copenhagen, Denmark. Copenhagen is a larger city, but the percentage of immigrants is much lower. And it’s not just the rape statistics that reveal a scary increase in Malmö or Sweden. Virtually every kind of violent crime is on the rise. Robberies have increased with 50 % in Malmö only during the fall of 2004. Threats against witnesses in Swedish court cases have quadrupled between 2000 and 2003.”
"So in the end, the safety of young Scandinavian women is sacrificed in order to keep the glossy image of a multicultural society intact. It is a chilling demonstration of an Eurabian continent that now appears to care more about not upsetting relations with its immigrant population than about protecting its own citizens".

Sometime I wonder if my Scandinavian relatives have been hitting the glug a little too hard. Rune excepted.

truepeers said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
truepeers said...

It's great to see Rune has taken up your invitation to correspond. (As a Canadian, I wonder if there is something about long, dark, winters that lends itself to dreary PC elites...) I had never heard of Friedman, until now. But he reminds me of Tom Bertonneau, another student of political correctness you might be interested in. Here is Tom's essay on the anthropological and psychological origins of PC

Baron Bodissey said...

Truepeers -- when I went to your link (http://www.literatevalues.org/prae-2.1.htm#Anthropological), the page failed to load properly. It seems to cut off in the middle of the text, before Bertonneau's article. So, alas, I couldn't read it.

truepeers said...

Baron, the link seems to be working now. It is supposed to load halfway down the page, where you will find Bertonneau's article, since they put the whole edition of this journal on one page. After my previous comment, I re-read the article and was reminded that it is largely a review of Howard Schwartz's The Revolt of the Primitive: An Inquiry into the Roots of Political Correctness. (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2001).

It is a very un-PC article. I am not even sure if it is all correct, the nature of ostensibly matriarchal cultures being something I am unsure about. Still, it is intellectually provocative in the right kind of way, I believe.