The dark side of Swedish society

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The dark side of Swedish society

Postby semper occultus » Thu Jul 15, 2010 5:53 pm

The dark side of Swedish society

As the film version of 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' opens, Stephen Armstrong reports on some shocking truths about Sweden.

By Stephen Armstrong
Published: 7:00AM GMT 13 Mar 2010

www.telegraph.co.uk

Image
The film adaptation of the first book in Steig Larsson's trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, opens in Britain this week Photo: ALLSTAR

"Part of Sweden’s problem overseas is that everyone thinks we’re like Abba and Ikea,” says Stockholm-based stand-up comedian Magnus Betner. “We’re a nation of beautiful people singing happy songs in stylish modernist apartments. But that’s not how we Swedes see ourselves. We have a very, very dark side, and I think you’re only just finding out about it now.”

<snip>

Now there’s a surge of interest in Swedish crime fiction, perhaps prompted by the BBC’s wildly successful adaptation of the Wallander series of crime novels by Swedish author Henning Mankel, which stars Kenneth Branagh as the grumpy policeman. Mankel’s comptatriot, Steig Larsson, meanwhile, died from a heart attack before seeing his international bestselling Millenium Trilogy catapult him to the rank of second-bestselling writer on the planet.

This week sees the film adaptation of the first book in Larsson’s trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, released in Britain. So far, more than 2.5 million Europeans have seen the movie, and No Country For Old Men producer Scott Rudin has just inked a deal to make the Hollywood version. By the time Rudin has finished, many millions more will have followed the story of investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist and chaotic, freewheeling computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. What they find at the end of that story, however, may shock them.

Tattoo begins as a slow-moving, gently unfolding detective story but ends with scenes of horror beyond anything Hannibal Lecter could imagine. Throughout the book version, Larsson keeps dropping genuine figures relating to violent crimes against women in Sweden. The Swedish title for the book is Men Who Hate Women, and footnotes quote real-life incidents to explain how the fictional Salander – whose civil rights are removed at the whim of a judge – is based on real incidents.

Larsson, as with Betner and Mankell, spends much of the time pulling apart the stereotype of happy-ever-after, perfectly educated, socially democratic and joyfully tolerant Swedes enjoying wild sex lives and perfectly cooked meatballs. The Millennium Trilogy tracks Blomkvist and Salander’s attempts to uncover mysterious murders in neo-fascist billionaire families as well as state-sanctioned violent sexual abuse, paedophilia and rape. Larsson himself was a campaigning anti-Nazi journalist who set up his own version of the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, so you can see why he’d take this path. Mankell, however, was a well-established mainstream author before he created Wallander. He did so in order to investigate pedophile rings at the heart of Sweden”s security services and expose public and institutionalised racism. “Wallender was born in May 1989 out of a need to talk about xenophobia. So the story came first, then him,” says Mankell. “I was writing the first novel out of anger at what was happening in Sweden at the time – the rise of xenophobia. That was my ambition. And, since acts of xenophobia are a crime, I needed a police officer.

“Even after the second and third books, I really wasn’t thinking of a series. Then I realised I was creating a tool that could be used to tell stories about the situation in Sweden in the Nineties.”

Wallander and Blomkvist also wade through some of the extremely unpleasant undercurrents beneath Sweden’s tranquil social order. In Larsson and Mankel’s stories, both men encounter Neo-Nazis who collude with Sapo, the Swedish version of MI5 and MI6 combined. In their version of Sweden, racism is rife, violence against women is commonplace, while the trafficking of children for sex is facilitated by highly placed lawyers and doctors.
One would be forgiven for dismissing these plotlines as pure fantasy. After all, in 2007 Sweden was rated best practising democracy by The Economist, least corrupt nation by Transparency International, most equal in gender relations by the World Economic Forum, and most generous donor of overseas development aid by the OECD. Even the legend that the country has an unusually high suicide rate isn’t true. Coming about 35th in the world, Sweden comes in lower than France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. And yet, can it merely be coincidence that last year’s runaway Swedish movie hit, Let the Right One In, portrayed a child vampire as a more innocent and sympathetic figure than the bullying, ignorant authority figures she encounters in 1980s Swedish society?

In 2007, the US State Department recorded 6,192 cases of child abuse in Sweden by November of that year. It also reported homophobic crime was on the rise, and tens of thousands of rapes and domestic violence incidents in a population of just nine million. “Violence against women remains a problem,” its report concluded. Likewise, a 2006 report from the group Global Monitoring on the commercial sexual exploitation of children found systemic faults in Sweden, including allowing child pornography to be viewed, although not downloaded, and failing to care properly for children caught up in sex trafficking.
Little of this would come as a surprise to Larsson, Blomkvist or Salander, who encounter all of this and more while investigating the brutal murder of a child, apparently at the hands of her rich, Nazi-sympathising family. “Sweden has yet to come to terms with its Nazi past,” says Anna Blondell, who runs a Swedish restaurant in London. “We were neutral during the war, and our Nazi party still lives on. In fact, I think it will do well at the next election, under a different name. Many people in the older generation were very sympathetic to Nazi ideas like eugenics but, unlike Germany, we have not so open about this.”

Certainly the country practised forced sterilisation of women deemed unfit to be mothers until as recently as 1975. Branded low class, or mentally slow, they were kept in Institutes for Misled and Morally Neglected Children, where they were eventually “treated”. In 1997, the government admitted that 60,000 women had been sterilised.

Meanwhile, Ikea founder and Sweden’s richest man Ingvar Kamprad revealed his youthful Nazi sympathies in 1994, confessing to a nine-year friendship with Per Engdahl, the openly pro-Nazi leader of the Neo-Swedish movement. Kamprad claimed he couldn't remember if he’d joined the Nordic Youth, Sweden’s equivalent of the Hitler Youth. He apologised to staff in an open letter: “Perhaps you find something in your youth you now, so long afterward, think was ridiculous and stupid.”

Kamprad also admitted to a widespread Swedish vice – alcoholism. In a bid to restrain binge drinking, the government has a monopoly on off-licences and closes them at 7pm. Drinking in the streets is illegal. Copenhagen, just over the water from the Swedish town of Malmö, receives hordes of booze-cruise Swedes every weekend.

So have we got Sweden all wrong? Is it still essentially a nation of Vikings? Mankell bristles at the suggestion. “I would like to emphasise that Sweden is a very decent society to live in,” he insists. “It would be ridiculous to say anything else. But we could have been better today if we had been different before – if we hadn’t thrown a few babies out with some of our bathwater. I would like to change that and we can only change by discussing. We know that if our system of justice doesn’t work, democracy is doomed. I think we are worried about that, so maybe that is why detective stories are so popular in Sweden.

“Until recently it was a very cold isolated culture. Our art can’t bring about social change, but you cannot have social change without arts.”
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby Alaya » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:13 am

I am reading the 3rd in the trilogy right now.

While Larsson is not a great writer, I admire his spunk in taking just about everyone to task.

It is hinted that his unlikely heroin, Lisbeth Salander, has Asperger's Sydrome which I found interesting.

At first I thought his premature death from a heart attack was highly suspicious, but it seems he had some horrendous habits, bad diet etc.

I got the first video from Amazon today :jumping: but haven't watched it yet.
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby norton ash » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:35 am

My view now is, that everything is shit. No way out. The skein is too tangled to be unravelled. It can only be sheared. The building is too solid to be pulled down. It can only be blown up.

August Strindberg, 1884

I grew up experiencing Strindberg and Ingmar Bergman, and have known a few Swedes and many Swedish North Americans. I never thought the dark side of the Swedes was ever 'hidden.'

But if some chucklehead reporter gets his impression of Sweden from Abba or Ikea, I guess, and decides to run with it by making a false comparison with some new pop fiction and movies ... hmmm...

fuck him.
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby norton ash » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:48 am

Maybe the chucklehead reporter figures that "the dark side of Swedish society is due to its Irish-Egyptian" roots.


Bwa-haw! Buy you a shot of Absolut, a Guinness and a nice, fresh falafel for that one.
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby Simulist » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:51 am

Thanks, Norton. :)

I actually deleted the original post, because I was afraid I'd probably piss people off without really meaning to. Glad I didn't.
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby Iamwhomiam » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:56 am

Irish-Egyptian roots... Please, Egyptian-Irish roots, if you will. That first bit locked a thread earlier. Darned racists are everywhere.
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby Montag » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:00 am

I grew up experiencing Strindberg and Ingmar Bergman, and have known a few Swedes and many Swedish North Americans. I never thought the dark side of the Swedes was ever 'hidden.'

But if some chucklehead reporter gets his impression of Sweden from Abba or Ikea, I guess, and decides to run with it by making a false comparison with some new pop fiction and movies ... hmmm...


I think the right just loves to attack Scandinavia and social democracy... I think that's all that was going on here.
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby Alaya » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:08 am

So y'all think he is just talking about Sweden?

Well, excuse fucking me for being so pedestrian.
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby 8bitagent » Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:38 am

I saw Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, AKA "Men Who Hate Women". Was kind of meh on it...never really sucked me in, like say a film like Old Boy, The Game, or Mystic River does.
The rape scene alone almost had me stopping the movie.

I think European cinema is just brutal like that. Anyone here who has seen the 2002 French film "Irreversible" knows what I mean when I say that movie is beyond extreme in parts. I think thats what makes European dramas a thousand times more frightening than American horror.

And then the new film coming out from Serbia, titled "Serbian Film"...dear lord, long time movie critics are saying its the most unimaginably horrific film ever put to cinema. Looks like a David Fincher film gone terribly wrong(trailers, tho not for those that could be triggered by stuff or easily upset: http://www.brutalashell.com/2010/03/sxs ... mely-nsfw/ )

As far as exposing the dark side of Northern Europe, they should make a film exposing the dark shit thats gone on in Belgium.
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby semper occultus » Fri Jul 16, 2010 8:16 am

I think the right just loves to attack Scandinavia and social democracy... I think that's all that was going on here


except that the "attack" isn't arising from the right :

says Mankell. “I was writing the first novel out of anger at what was happening in Sweden at the time – the rise of xenophobia.


Larsson himself was a campaigning anti-Nazi journalist who set up his own version of the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby Montag » Fri Jul 16, 2010 8:59 am

semper occultus wrote:
I think the right just loves to attack Scandinavia and social democracy... I think that's all that was going on here


except that the "attack" isn't arising from the right :

says Mankell. “I was writing the first novel out of anger at what was happening in Sweden at the time – the rise of xenophobia.


Larsson himself was a campaigning anti-Nazi journalist who set up his own version of the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight


Mankell is a lefty, I think, I think he was even a Maoist at one point (he was on the Gaza Flotilla). IMHO the Telegraph's interest in this movie/article is to sully Sweden, and any idyllic notions that people might have about it.

p.s. I'm not saying there's anything unfair about the article (or the film), I'm just saying if there was another movie out there about Sweden and the Telegraph had to pick one of the two to give space to it would be this one. I looked at some American conservative papers that reviewed this movie and they just had straight reviews, they didn't delve into the dark underbelly of Sweden.
Last edited by Montag on Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby brekin » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:32 pm

Not Swedish, but Danish, I remember the film "The Celebration" as being quite an eye opener. Anyone who has seen it gets the wind knocked out of them usually at the same scene.

Warning: Triggering
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Celebration
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby Stephen Morgan » Fri Jul 16, 2010 2:38 pm

How does one view pronography without downloading it?
Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible. -- Lawrence of Arabia
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby semper occultus » Fri Jul 16, 2010 3:47 pm

....I'm just saying if there was another movie out there about Sweden and the Telegraph had to pick one of the two to give space to it would be this one. I looked at some American conservative papers that reviewed this movie and they just had straight reviews, they didn't delve in the dark underbelly of Sweden.


yeah....there could very well be an agenda along those lines.

It's also not a particularly outstanding piece of journalism - I was just a bit staggered that we didn't seem to have a single posting about Larsson or his work on the board.

How does one view pronography without downloading it?


:? seriously ?

come to think of it whilst it sends a highly dubious message there is an element of common-sense legal reality to a law that doesn't try to criminalise something on a computer screen isn't there ?
If you're just sitting there looking at pictures on a screen without saving any to your hard-disc ( hint to Stephen ) then you've got no possession & it becomes quite difficult to prove intentionality without that - esp if they've got utilities to clean-up browsing history ( I assume most consumers of on-line child-porn would ).
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Re: The dark side of Swedish society

Postby Stephen Morgan » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:35 am

semper occultus wrote:
How does one view pronography without downloading it?


:? seriously ?

come to think of it whilst it sends a highly dubious message there is an element of common-sense legal reality to a law that doesn't try to criminalise something on a computer screen isn't there ?
If you're just sitting there looking at pictures on a screen without saving any to your hard-disc ( hint to Stephen ) then you've got no possession & it becomes quite difficult to prove intentionality without that - esp if they've got utilities to clean-up browsing history ( I assume most consumers of on-line child-porn would ).


You have to download for it to be seen on your screen. It gets stored in your temporary internet files folders.
Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible. -- Lawrence of Arabia
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