The Swedish government is now officially questioning free speech. A government agency has declared so-called Swedish "new media" -- news outlets that refuse to subscribe to the politically correct orthodoxies of the mainstream media -- a possible threat to democracy. In a government report, tellingly called "The White Hatred" written by Totalförsvarets forskningsinstitut (Total Defense Research Institute), a government agency under the Swedish Ministry of Defense, Swedish new media such as Samhällsnytt (formerly known as Avpixlat), Nyheter Idag and Nya Tider are lumped together with neo-Nazi media such as Nordfront.
"Hate" is defined broadly to include violent extremism, "hateful expressions", jokes, internet trolling and even the use of certain quotation marks. For instance, in the report, placing the word "refugees" in quotation marks, as well as "unaccompanied children," is supposedly an expression of "hate". (Many, if not most, migrants classified as "unaccompanied children" have turned out to be grown men).
"One might find," according to the report's conclusion, "that pluralism of information sources... is a positive addition in a democratic society where freedom of speech is an important foundation", but "the new media... stretch the limits of free speech," which "threatens other democratic values". The report further alleges that society risks becoming tolerant of the intolerant. That is rather rich coming from the authorities of a European country that has accepted Islamic intolerance to an astounding degree. There is even a proposal from a government minister to reintegrate returning ISIS fighters, who might still wish to destroy the tolerant society that houses them.
The report is part of a series commissioned by the Swedish government to conduct quantitative mapping and analyses of violent extremist propaganda spread in Sweden by the internet and social media. The survey is supposed to include violent extremist environments in Sweden: right-wing extremism, left-wing extremism and Islamic extremism.
A previous report, "The Digital Caliphate," supposedly looks at Islamic extremism, but is rendered useless in a Swedish context by explicitly refusing to engage with concrete ISIS propaganda in Sweden for "ethical" reasons:
"It is not in itself illegal to sympathize with violent ideologies. Our work is not about mapping the views of private people, as that would be incompatible with an open democratic society. Our analyses have therefore been limited to protect the integrity of private persons. No data has been collected from pages protected by passwords, closed Facebook pages or other types of Facebook pages or social media where the user has sought to keep the material within a closed group. All the material comes from open sources... this means that the material analyzed is limited as a large part of ISIS propaganda happens in closed channels..."
Government agencies in charge of national security, in other words, are going out of their way to protect the "integrity" of possible jihadists out of concerns for a "democratic society" -- the society that these jihadists want to subvert and destroy. Meanwhile, these agencies are using their government platform to smear non-mainstream media for matters as small as the use of quotation marks. What about the "integrity" of Swedish citizens and their right to not be blown up? Furthermore, this desire to protect the privacy of potential jihadists means that the most vital part of the work -- mapping the extent of Islamist violent propaganda in Sweden -- is still left undone.
At the same time, the Swedish establishment has its own private vigilante mob acting as the thought police. A 76,000-member closed Facebook group, called "Jagärhär" ("I am here"), is a private initiative founded by journalist Mina Dennert to attack opinions on social media with which its members disagree. "She noticed that there were people around us who had been frightened into believing all these images painted by 'alternative media' of people of foreign backgrounds as violent criminals... " explains Dennert's husband, one of the group's administrators, who works for Swedish state television. The network has already won four prizes for its "work" in Sweden, including a prize from the Swedish group "Equalisters" ('Rättviseförmedlingen'), which awarded the network their annual prize, naming it the group that had done the most for equality in 2016. Dennert was also awarded the Anna Lindh Prize.
The methods of "Jagärhär" vary. One tactic is to send mass complaints against a Facebook profile, causing it to be removed by the social media giant. This verdict by mob rule is what happened to the Swedish-Czech author Katerina Janouch, whose profile was shut down several times by Facebook -- the apparent result of publishing, among other things, a satirical guide to political correctness. The network, which is one year old, is believed to be closely associated with Sweden's national public television and the Social Democratic party.
Mina Dennert, also with close connections to the Swedish government, had her network apply for half a million Swedish kroner (nearly $60,000) government grant to support its work, which involved shutting down dissent on social media. Her network, however, recently withdrew its application after its dubious "work" had been revealed by none other than the new media in Sweden. The Jagärhär network has apparently inspired similar projects in other countries, such as #IchBinHier in Germany.
Meanwhile, Islamic extremists in Sweden continue their work. In Malmö, Group 194 -- a Swedish-Muslim group that glorifies terrorism and actively sympathizes with the Arab terrorist group Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) -- participated in one of the DFLP's activities in Malmö in 2016. At the meeting, in which Swedish socialists apparently also participated, the participants reportedly celebrated the Ma'alot massacre, an Arab terrorist attack on an Israeli school in 1974 in which 115 hostages (including 105 children) were taken and 25 were murdered. The group, it seems, also routinely carries posters of Arab terrorists when it marches in the streets of Malmö on International Workers' Day. Group 194's entire work is focused on virulent anti-Israeli activism, as evidenced by its Facebook page. Sweden clearly has no problem with allowing hate speech from DFLP terrorists in Malmö.
This Swedish-Muslim group, bizarrely, is part of an initiative to make Malmö safe (Trygg Malmö or "Safe Malmö"). As part of this work, it is responsible for patrolling Rosengård -- one of the most problematic no-go zones in Malmö -- at night. The group was awarded SEK 10,000 (about $1,000) recently by the Malmö municipality -- together with the other groups in Trygg Malmö -- for its work in Rosengård. Why is a municipality sponsoring an organization that supports terrorists and even awarding it prizes? It appears that glorifying terrorism is acceptable in Sweden, so long as its victims are the Israeli children.
Originally, a Swedish administrative court, in a recent decision, ruled that there was no basis for denying the Muslim organization Young Muslims of Sweden (SUM) its state subsidy. Young Muslims of Sweden, which is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, had been denied state subsidies by the Swedish Ministry of Youth and Civil Affairs, as Young Muslims of Sweden and its member organizations "have been identified as an environment" where some individuals do not respect the ideas of democracy. The Swedish court did not think that there was sufficient evidence for taking away the state subsidy, so Young Muslims of Sweden may soon find its activities funded by taxpayers once more.
Far from countering "hate", Sweden appears to be doing all it can to strengthen Muslim extremism.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.