Yesterday evening I happened to be on Nytorget, a square in Stockholm, at the same time as the extreme right wing party, Sweden Democrats, were having a rally. Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of the party, which is gaining favour in Sweden, was signing his newly-released book and a queue of people were standing there to get their copies signed. There was a large group of anti-fascist demonstrators there chanting and protesting their opposition. The whole thing was monitored by armies of police and, despite this, one demonstrator managed to squeeze past security and throw a cake into Jimmie Åkesson’s face. Now, while I in no way condone the thowing of the cake, in fact I think it’s undemocratic and counter-productive, it is a sign of anger and frustration at the politics the Sweden Democrats are trying to enforce in Sweden.
On the way home, I walked past the now-deserted location of the demonstration and saw a lot of trampled flyers on the floor. I picked one up to read what message was being preached by this party. And I was struck by the excellent rhetoric, the smart marketing and the smooth packaging. I don’t care to repeat the message here as I don’t accept it, but needless to say the PR included in the flyer complained about the cost of immigration and appealed to the major concerned groups in society – to the sick, to the elderly, to families and those scared about crime and national security. At the same time, the material promotes ‘safety and tradition’ and the maintenance of the fallacious Swedish identity.
The effective rhetoric is remniscent of a time in the not-so-distance past and the success of the 1930’s Nazi party. Hitler was a clever rhetorician and had the ability to appeal to the masses and exploit their fears in order to gain power and introduce a disgusting politics. All over Europe today, other right-wing rhetoricians are manipulating the citizens and gaining power to implement cynical policies in their respective countries. And they are on the rise in Sweden.
For those of us who are against their xenophobic, homophobic and mysogynistic agenda, we can take a stand by exercising our freedom of speech and our democratic vote. Throwing cakes is not a way to win this argument, it just fuels the sympathy for them. The way to win is in dialogue, debate and discussion – with our parents, our colleagues, our children.