Dispatch International 30 November 2012
By Maria Celander
When Mikael Jalving’s book ”Absolute Sweden – A journey into the realm of silence” was published in Denmark a little over a year ago, it sparked a heated debate. Are things really as bad as this in Sweden?
Do the Swedes walk around clenching their fists while displaying a united, happy front to the outside world? In his book the author travels around a Sweden characterized by fear. People want to talk about injustices they see, but are afraid to do so. The political and media elite have decided which opinions you can air in public, and those who dare defy the sanctions are disgraced and humiliated publicly.
Author and journalist Mikael Jalving sees a Sweden where people are afraid to speak out – now his controversial book is finally published in Swedish
“Sweden is a democracy only in name,” writes one man in an e-mail to Mikael Jalving.
“Many Swedes are frustrated that our voices are not being heard. The media and politicians are continually hounding people who don’t like the immigration policy, because they want to silence future critics beforehand,” writes another, begging Jalving and other Danish journalists to shed some light on the situation.
A large Swedish publishing house immediately wanted to translate and publish the book, but changed their minds after two weeks. Only now it has been made available in Swedish, with a lightly toned-down title; “Absolute Sweden – A country in transformation”. But as I write this article, it becomes clear that the book stands without a distributor. At the last moment, Recito förlag changed their minds, and suddenly and without warning sent the following e-mail to Mikael Jalving’s publisher:
”We regret to inform you that we have decided not to distribute the book, because it would put us in a situation we do not feel comfortable with. We wish you the best of luck in finding a distributor who can help you, and hope our late decision doesn’t put you out too much.”
“I have come to understand that the book is, as you say, a hot potato, but this is bizarre. It strengthens the thesis in the book, though, as did the so-called PK-affair,” Jalving says.
Oh yes, the PK-affair. In 2011, Mikael Jalving was invited to talk about his book at Publicistklubben Södra (PK for short, a debate club for journalists) in Malmö. However, when it turned out he had talked about the book at a meeting held by the National Democrats, PK chairman Per Svensson banned Jalving from speaking at the meeting.
A poisonous argument led to PK vice chairwoman Ingrid Carlqvist, now editor-in-chief of Dispatch International, resigning in protest.
“There is some sort of ‘technical’ argumentation going on, that really serves the purpose of barring a genuine debate. But it’s easier to shut a small, foreign writer up than to silence Tryckfrihetssällskapet (The Free Press Society) and Dispatch International,” says Mikael Jalving.
As a Dane, he found a shortcut to loosening the tongues of the Swedes he met – he would simply start a discussion on Swedish versus Danish alcohol habits, and that would open the gate to heavier, more serious topics.
”Things that contradicted the official, glossy picture of Sweden slowly surfaced. People have their own experiences of reality; there’s a massive overflow of experiences that cannot be described; there is no language to describe what these individual experiences mean, no context to put them in.”
There are historical reasons why the debate climate is so fundamentally different in Denmark and Sweden, Jalving believes. Denmark has fought and lost wars, first against Sweden, then Germany. Sweden’s history during the last century is a story of unabated success. Sweden has managed to get out of every conflict without having to go to war, and yet has always come out on the winning side, apparently morally unscathed.
”Large Swedish corporations have led the way to success and created an industrial-political alliance. I believe this is the key to the apparent consensus – why fight when everything is going so well? The problem is that a deconstruction of what made Sweden so successful in the first place is now underway, the strong Swedish culture-state that generated so many good things.”
So, is it too late to turn things around? Not at all. Mikael Jalving believes that the anger now only visible as a sizzling on the internet, will sooner or later grow strong enough as to make people overcome their fear of speaking out.
”After I’ve spoken to people, I’ve sometimes gotten the feeling that Sweden has given up, there’s a widespread apathy. But in the end, when enough people are affected by the consequences of what’s happening now, then the debate will come. After all, the Swedes are only human,” Jalving says with a smile.
Lives in: Copenhagen
Family: Wife and two children
Occupation: Author and columnist at daily conservative newspaper Jyllands-Posten
Current: The book Absolute Sweden – A country in transformation
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