How SD is seducing you

sd affisch

Standing on the train platform this morning I was confronted by a huge poster from nationalistic party the Sweden Democrats, asking me to vote for them in the approaching election. The poster consisted of men and women, all white, smiling down at me in a welcoming unthreatening manner. ‘SD 2018’ – the simple slogan emblazoned across the poster – intended to show me that those who support SD today are not nazis, criminals, sexists or homophobes (as proven time and time again in the press). On the contrary they are presented as ordinary, happy people who just want a change of government.

As I stood there, I understood how clever SD’s PR and Marketing people are. They have a strong understanding of influencing techniques – and they’re not afraid to use them to seduce the unsuspecting general public.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini is considered the guru of influencing skills. In his ground-breaking book, ‘Influence’, he introduced six key principles on which influence is based. Based on his extensive research, he found that if we apply these principles, we are able to persuade others more easily. Used positively, they can help move us towards agreement with each other, used negatively they can be applied to manipulate and even coerce people into making decisions that might be bad for them.

As I stood on the platform and absorbed SD’s poster, I realised how artfully they are using two of Cialdini’s principles. The principle called ‘Social Proof’ and the principle called ‘Liking’.

Social Proof
This principle relies on people’s sense of “safety in numbers.” If we see that others are doing something, we are more likely to do the same. It somehow feels validated. For example, we’re more likely to work late if others in our team are doing the same, put a tip in a jar if it already contains money, or eat in a restaurant if it’s full of guests. We assume that if lots of other people are doing something, then it must be OK. We’re particularly susceptible to this principle when we’re feeling uncertain, and we’re even more likely to be influenced if the people we see seem to be similar to us. That’s why commercials often use parents to advertise household products and why SD uses smiling, happy Nordic people.

Liking
Cialdini says that we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like. Likability comes in many forms – people might be familiar to us, we might just simply trust them or they might physically look like us. We have an inherent feeling of liking when we see them. Companies that use sales agents from within the community employ this principle with huge success. People are more likely to buy from people like themselves, from friends, and from people they know and respect. Facebook, for example, builds its business model on ‘liking’. SD uses this principle to manipulate us into thinking they are just like us. They think like us. They would never do anything to harm us. We can trust them.

As in previous posts, I am trying to shine a light on how SD is manipulating us, society and the election. They are masters of manipulation – spreading fear and uncertainty in the minds of the susceptible electorate, when in fact Sweden is currently booming and economically very stable. There are problems in society, no doubt, but these are not best solved by giving power to a party that we know is manipulative and devious. Judging by the level of scheming we see when they are trying to gain favour, just imagine how this will escalate if they have power.

A vote for SD is not a vote for a better Sweden.

Do not be duped into falling for the deceit.

You are being manipulated.

Do not be seduced.

 

The dark side of Sweden

Sweden is my spiritual country.

Moving here has shaped me into the person I am today. When I moved here, I fell in love immediately with this modern country in the north. I was impressed by Sweden’s strong belief in equality, democracy, human rights, acceptance and tolerance – and it moulded me. Like Sweden, I believe in an open society where everybody is of equal value and has the right to live how they want. I believe in humanity where people respect each other. I believe in a social contract where we take care of the weaker members of society when they need it, and they take care of me if I need it. For me, this is Sweden. This is what it means to be Swedish. Swedes should be so proud of this legacy.

But is this Sweden still there? 20 years ago, it clearly was. But today? Is this Sweden just a Utopia? Just a distant memory of something good? Is my open Sweden actually shutting down?

Cold winds are sweeping over Europe yet again. Sweden is no exception. The Sweden Democrats – a right wing conservative nationalistic party, dressed in sharp suits, is spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of Sweden’s citizens. And they are gaining ground. Approximately 20% of the population now support them.

These 20% are willing to vote for a party that is openly xenophobic and clearly sexist. Members of this party have, in recent memory, stated that gays are animals, that Jews are not Swedes, that women should have their abortion rights restricted. I don’t understand why they think this is ok.

These 20% are willing to vote for a party that have a shaky understanding of Economics, whose budget lacks 30 billion Swedish crowns to cover all of their election promises and who have no policy for the environment – as it’s ‘not that important’. I don’t understand why they think this is an acceptable future for the country.

These 20% buy into the idea that this party is anti-establishment. The ‘gang of four’ men who run the party are former university students who earn salaries in the millions and furnish their homes with designer furniture. They may come from humble backgrounds, as do many Swedes, but today they are elites. I don’t understand why their supporters don’t see this.

These 20% are willing to vote for a party they do not know much about. Nobody knows what their actions will be. Many of their voters are dissatisfied with the current state of Sweden, and they want a change. This may well be justified. However, they are willing to throw everything out, and place their bets on a dark horse. They clearly don’t feel threatened. But they probably should.

Have these 20% always been there? Was the Sweden I moved to just a lie? Was the openness and tolerance just bullshit? Was it just a neat and well-orchestrated fantasy that in fact had fear of foreigners, sexism and homophobia lurking just beneath the surface? Lurking and waiting and ready to leap out. That is a frightening thought.

I don’t believe these 20% are all racists, I really don’t. But they are willing to allow nationalists to take power in Sweden. I don’t believe they’re all stupid. But they are willing to disregard glaring faults in SD’s policies. I do believe many are disenchanted. And they are willing to gamble the safety of their country and fellow citizens just to prove a point. They are willing to literally throw many people to the sharks.

After this article, I expect to be trolled. I often am. These trolls will abuse me, they will tell me to go home yet again and they will say I am a bleeding-heart liberal.

And they are so wrong.

I am already home. Sweden is my home. And my heart is not bleeding, it is breaking.

Please do not vote SD in the coming election.

Sweden you are being manipulated

In the Second World War, one fear that the German soldiers had was being sent to the frontline in Russia which meant certain death. They feared this so much that they would be willing to do anything to avoid it. This fear has become the name of an influencing tactic known as the ‘Russian Front.’ It is a highly manipulative negative tactic that we see being used in Swedish politics today.

To apply the Russian Front tactic, we offer a person something that they will never choose but we dress it up so that it seems more real. We paint a picture of pain, then

offer them the alternative that we really want them to choose.

Example:

There is a job available in Sewage Maintenance, the last guy died. I do hear they’re looking for people in reception though. Should I recommend you?

The Russian Front is the application of a principle called ‘Hurt and Rescue’.

‘Hurting’ means making somebody feel pain of some kind, pointing out what is wrong, making them want to get away from something. ‘Rescuing’ means removing their hurt, saving them from their pains. It creates relief.

With this in mind, think now about what is currently going on in Swedish politics. The extreme right wing nazi party – the NMR – have been very vocal recently. They have been involved in homophobic, racist and sexist attacks. They have received a lot of media attention and harassed, threatened and film documented people from minority groups. The NMR are the Russian Front. They are here to ‘hurt’ us. In contrast to them, the other right wing party, the SD, look more acceptable, although they also have a racist and sexist agenda of hate. But compared to the hurt of the NMR, the SD can appear as the ‘rescue’.

This is very, very dangerous. It is extremely manipulative. It is a well orchestrated trap. It is very strategic, and well planned. Its intention is to force fearful voters into the hands of SD in September’s general election.

The key to not falling into this trap is to see it. To see it for what it is. The fear we are experiencing is not real. It is choreographed. The solution is not SD. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated. Do not vote out of the illusion of fear. This is a high stakes game, and we are pawns. But we do have the power, if we see through the manipulation tactics.

The Russian Front is not real.

SD is not the solution.

Please spread and share this message.

Sweden’s badass king

Today, 30th November is an important day in Swedish history.

And it all revolves around a stoical King, whose statue can be seen in Stockholm’s Kungsträdgården Park.

Today, Sweden is a peaceful country and hasn’t been at war for over 200 years. But it wasn’t always so. Once upon a time, Sweden was a great power, a military giant with a much larger territory than it has today. And the King of the statue – Charles XII – had a lot to do with it. If you see the statue, he is pointing his finger east. And there is a good explanation for this.

Charles (Karl) was king in Sweden 1697-1718 and a bit of a badass. Apparently never registering physical pain, in the space of a few years, he transformed the small nation of Sweden into a formidable power, crushing his enemies under him. And then he lost it all. At this time, Sweden covered modern day Norway, Finland and other Baltic regions such as Lavonia.

Charles ascended to the throne age 15 and his youth was subsequently exploited by neighbours Denmark, Poland and Lithuania who decided to snatch land from him. In retaliation, he quashed Denmark’s invasion of Sweden and put an ally on the throne. Then, he responded to Russia’s attempt to occupy Livonia and Estonia, and won a sweeping victory at the battle of Narva, under the cover of a blizzard.

After later defeating Poland and Lithuania, he then turned his sights again on Russia. Like his statue, he pointed East. This was a mistake. Up until now, it seems like he just retaliated but this time he waged a war. Hubris perhaps? It was to be his downfall.

Unfortunately for Charles, Peter the Great had regrouped and, in a grueling cold battle, the Russians beat the shit out of the Swedes. Rather like what happens on the ice hockey rink today. Charles fled to the Ottoman Empire but made himself unpopular there so fled back to Sweden, riding across Europe on horseback in just 14 days. Obviously not on the same horse.

Back in Sweden, he saw his nation crumble. Russia took Finland. Denmark took other Baltic regions.

On Nov 30th, 1718 he was shot and killed in modern day Norway, thus marking the short period of Sweden as a great European power. The ‘Swedish empire’ crumbled and territory was taken.

In modern day democratic, peaceful Sweden, Charles XII is sometimes criticized as a blood thirsty tyrant. His war-mongering contradicts strongly with the Swedish Brand of today. But history is history. Rewritten, retold and reinterpreted.

Whatever Charles was, there is no doubt he was a hard core ass kicker. On a historical website I found, the writer describes Charles XII in the following way:

‘Charles was pretty badass.  He completely abstained from alcohol and sex and was pretty much uncomfortable doing anything other than leading his troops to victory or being stoic as fuck.  He lived fast, died young and when he went down he took the entire fucking country of Sweden with him.  What more can you ask for from a historical badass?’

Why Nazis are welcome to Gotland 


When I went to university in the U.K., there was a policy called ‘no platform’. This meant that students were allowed to demonstrate, hold rallies and meetings about any subject they liked except with one agenda – racist. The university claimed it was democratic but also allowed ‘no platform for racists’. I personally do not hold right-wing views, but this policy never sat easily with me as I saw the clear paradox that it created and it raised the question of what a democracy is. This is a question that raises its head very frequently in today’s culturally and politically polarized society. 

One very recent example in Sweden is the annual politics week that finishes today on the Baltic island of Gotland. This is a week where political parties gather and debate the current political landscape of the country. It’s a tradition that started in 1968 under the initiative of legendary leader Olof Palme. This year, for the first time, a Nazi group were allowed to participate  with a tent and speeches. They, course, were condemned by all parties and many voices to ban them were heard – ‘no platform for Nazis’. 

This is the dilemma for any modern democracy. If democracy means that everybody has the right to exercise their own ideas and beliefs, then society can not ban or intervene when people have the ‘wrong’ beliefs. We can’t just stop somebody from participating because we don’t like their point of view. It is different of course if they are breaking the law. But being a nazi is not breaking the law in Sweden, just as it is not illegal to be a civil rights activist, a communist or a feminist campaigner. 

We shouldn’t forget the very foundation of a democratic society means the right to hold whatever belief we want and go wherever we want with whoever we want. That is our liberty. If we start to infringe on it with bans, or ‘no platform’ policies, we are heading down a slippery slope of state control, elitism and autocracy. 

For me, Nazis should not be forbidden to go to Gotland. To ban them is to undermine our democracy. Threatening behavior, nazi symbolism, Hitler salutes, encitement of violence are however illegal and should not be accepted or allowed. 

It is in the shadow that their presence casts that a counter balance can be demonstrated. And exactly that happened on Gotland in the form of a well-visited Diversity Parade. Thousands of people marched for a plurastic society and in protest of the views propagated by right wing parties. This was a fantastic manifestation representing the majority of Swedes. And this could only happen in a democratic society. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not undermining anybody’s discomfort or fear. I am sure that the presence of the Nazis was horrible to experience. But if history has shown us anything it is that we cannot put our heads in the sand and ignore these destructive forces. We must face them head on in debate, in demonstration, in democracy and in massive, massive resistence. 

Bringing politics to the people

 

politikerveckan

If the election in the UK and USA has shown us anything, it is this. Bring politics closer to the people and you will win.

In the USA, it meant successfully manipulating the beliefs of the disillusioned and the sceptical.

In the UK, it meant focusing on the issues closest to people’s hearts and putting a fire under the asses of young voters.

Politicians in Sweden are, in my opinion, too often remote from the electorate and their reality. This is with one notable distinction in a quickly-growing, right-wing, populist party. This party has now taken the position as the second largest party in Sweden and poses a real threat to the other established parties and their ability to form governments in the future.

Every summer in Sweden, politicians hold a politics week on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. This week brings together all the parties and they discuss and debate the current issues at hand, all televised to a broader Swedish public. I am all for politics and media debates but recently the Gotland Politics Week sits a little uneasy with me. In many ways, it is fantastic but it has moved far from its initial intention of putting politics in focus for the ordinary person. Today, it is more of an elitist gathering of lobbyists, journalists, aides and corporate partners standing in tents sipping free rose wine and partying until the early hours. How can people of the electorate relate to this? How can they even participate when, for example. it costs a lot to travel to remote Gotland and is difficult to find affordable accomodation?

As an alternative to this, a new Politics Week has risen. Initiators from the Stockholm suburbs have decided to bring politics to the people and have arranged a week of political debate and discussion on a football field.

On their website, they write:

‘The purpose of Järva Politics Week is to reduce the distance between politicians and citizens, create better conditions for ordinary people to engage themselves in politics, and put the issues of the local residents on the political agenda. This week gives politicians the opportunity to put forward their policies on exclusion, education, security and marketplace integration directly to the groups who are most impacted.’

It seems like all of the parties have accepted the invitation and most of the party leaders will attend this event to hold a speech.

Hopefully, in the suburbs, looking the real electorate in the eyes, they will realise what is needed to create positive integration, positive change and a positive future for everybody in Sweden.

What kind of streets does Sweden want?

majority-rule--1

Yesterday, hundreds of people gathered for a peaceful manifestation in the centre of Stockholm. They listened to live music and speeches and they sang and danced. The manifestation was being held to shine a light on the rights of unaccompanied refugee children in Sweden.

About 30 people from a right-wing group decided to attack the demonstrators with verbal abuse, threats, kicks and punches. Many of the victims were teenagers who were left shocked, scared and even more isolated from the society that is hosting them.

Is this what we want the streets of Sweden to be like? Groups of thugs attacking peaceful demonstrators and youngsters? In my world, this is totally unacceptable.

Democracy in Sweden is about having the right to express your opinion, whatever the political colour. It is about creating change through dialogue and activism. It is about getting involved and giving your opinion. It is not about employeeing violent methods to subdue and placate contradicting points of view. It is not about threatening and trolling and spewing hate. It is not about spreading fear in others just because I am fearful myself.

As members of an open, democratic country, each and every one of us should verbally and actively condemn what happened yesterday in Stockholm. A few short weeks after the love manifestation that filled the streets of the capital, we should not accept this attempt to drag our democracy into the shadows. This is not what we want on our streets, in our homes or in our society.

Yesterday, after the attack was over, people stayed behind to console and comfort the teenagers who has been brutally attacked. According to a witness, one of the teenagers found a thread of strength from within. He stood up and held a heartfelt, dignified speech – in Swedish. And he finished with a song – ‘Sverige’ (Sweden) by pop group Kent. One of the lines goes something like this:

‘Welcome, welcome here. Whoever you are, wherever you are.’

In that one song, this teenager showed us all what is means to be dignified and strong in the face of adversity. Violence and hate is not welcome here.