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Earlier this month, under the headline “Words are not innocent,” the Swedish newspaper Dagbladet ran an opinion piece by its cultural editor, Kaj Schueler, which was, essentially, an attack on Sweden’s newly minted Free Press Society. It was one of several such attacks directed at the organization in recent weeks by members of Sweden’s mainstream media, all of which made essentially the same arguments as Schueler – who, early in his article, summed up his position as follows: “According to the Free Press Society, we no longer have real freedom of speech in Sweden. They are wrong – we have it. But since words are not innocent, there are limits to free speech.”
As the rest of Schueler’s article made clear, he wasn’t referring here to the kind of reasonable “limits” on free speech that prohibit, for example, direct incitement to violence and murder. No, he was talking about much broader and vaguer and more pernicious “limits” – the kind that ban, for example, “offensive” statements, or, more specifically, statements that certain groups of people might object to as “offensive.”
Which groups? Well, groups like the Muslims who are an increasingly formidable presence in Sweden, notably in the southern city of Malmö, where their presence has caused an increasing amount of what may euphemistically be described as social friction. Thanks to a rising tide of anti-Semitic activity by Muslim youth, for example, more and more Jews are abandoning Malmö for other parts of Sweden or for Israel. Schueler sought to blame Malmö’s problems not on Muslims (needless to say) but on (of all people) the Danes.
His argument? Malmö, owing to its geographic proximity to Denmark, has been influenced not only by Danish music, drama, film, literature, and cuisine, but also by political ideas that, in Schueler’s view, have poisoned Denmark and threaten to poison Sweden, too. Among these ideas: “biker-gang culture, hatred for immigrants, and so-called straightforwardness.”
Ah yes, the poison of straightforwardness! Ask any honest broker who is familiar with the looming disaster that is now Malmö and they will not mention “biker-gang culture.” They will, if they are candid enough, tell you about the proliferation in Malmö of other types of gangs with another type of “culture.” They will not talk about “hatred for immigrants” but about immigrants from the Muslim world who, with increasing audacity and arrogance, have made very clear their contempt for the West, for democracy, for sexual equality, for Christianity and Judaism, for freedom of speech and religion, for gays, and for the traditional culture and social values of the country in which they live. But no, Schueler was not about to enter that territory.
“In Denmark as in Sweden,” lectured Schueler, “it is sometimes argued that there are only certain things that should be said, thought, and debated when it comes to topics like feminism, Islam, immigrants, cultural differences, crime, and multiculturalism. If you do not take a politically correct stance on these questions, it is said, you are excluded from the media.” Schueler put this in such a way as to seem to be suggesting that such claims are ludicrous – that accusations of censoriousness on the part of the Swedish media are false – even though the whole point of his article was, in fact, to defend this censoriousness as the only appropriate posture for responsible journalists to take.
Which brings us back to the Free Press Society, which was founded precisely in response to this insidious pattern of censoriousness. The group is modeled on the Danish organization of the same name, established in Copenhagen in 2004 by Lars Hedegaard, who, as Schueler was quick to inform his readers, has “expressed strong anti-Muslim views” and “has been convicted of racist statements in accordance with the Danish equivalent of the law on incitement to racial hatred.” The truth of the matter is that Hedegaard’s “crime” was stating objective facts about Islamic belief and practice, including the religion’s deplorable treatment of women – and stating them, moreover, in a private conversation in his own home. Schueler wrote as if Hedegaard’s conviction on such charges proves that he is a disreputable character, when in fact what it proves is that, when it comes to freedom of speech, there is something rotten in the state of Denmark.
There was more. Hedegaard, it seems, gave a talk at the opening of Malmö’s Free Press Society, and Schueler quoted a remark apparently made by him on that occasion in which he acknowledged the centrality to Islam of the commandment to bring the whole world under Islamic domination. Schueler made no comment about Hedegaard’s remark – which was a simple statement of fact – presumably because Schueler was confident that for his readers, as for him, the remark itself constituted transparent proof of Hedegaard’s dangerous extremism.
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