Tag Archive for homophobia

Ode To A Herring Sandwich

Those outside of Sweden are often spared the joy of hearing the views of the members of the Sweden Democrats, but now that one of them has been elected deputy speaker of the Swedish Riksdag it is in both the wider public interest and in keeping with this blog’s intent to share thoughts on political communication to reproduce some of their more remarkable public utterances. 

So to mark the ascension of Björn Söder to the position of deputy speaker, I have translated a blog post from the original Swedish that apparently has since been deleted. 

Söder, a senior member of the Sweden Democrat party started by neo-Nazis among others in 1988, is a man of strong views – among them that homosexuality is an aberration and that Islam is the single greatest threat to Western civilisation.

His politics could accurately be described as the kind of cultural conservatism beloved of the likes of Anders Behring Breivik and UKIP. 

In this post, Söder proclaims his love for Swedish culture through the medium of a herring sandwich at the Malmö festival, before deploring the “dark clouds” of multiculturalism. 

Björn Söder – likes herring. Dislikes gays.

The sun shone and spread its pleasant rays over my shoulders. Though it was half past seven on a Wednesday night it felt like the heat had finally arrived.

It was, after all, one of the first warm evenings, even though it was in the month of August.

The train was already in the station. Everywhere there were people walking and running who were on their way to Malmö to take part in the festival. Along with my girlfriend and some friends, I got on the train.

Outside the Scania countryside passed by.

Wonderful.

Farms and houses looked like palaces and temples of the Swedish summer heat. The trees and fields appeared one after the other and stood in contrast to the clear blue sky.

Feeling a part of that environment felt wonderful.  My thoughts began to turn to my ancestors, who along with others had worked hard to create such a heavenly realm like this.

I could feel a little pride swell in me. A pride in being Swedish. To have been born Swedish. Of having ancestors who built Sweden.

My thoughts were interrupted. The train slowed down at Malmö Central Station. We got out of the train and walked towards the city center.

There was life everywhere. People went back and forth across the streets and the cars had trouble getting around. We were met by people from some company that was about to the dragon boat competition.

They sang and whistled and the people in front of them moved out of the way to avoid being trampled upon. We followed in their wake – this way we avoided the throng of others, and were on our way to watch the competition.

It was now eight o’clock and my stomach began to rumble for food. During festivals usually it’s not a problem finding something to eat, and it wasn’t a problem this time either – if you want to eat something exotic and foreign, of course.

Everywhere there were foreign food. Latin food, tacos, busesca, falafel, Indian delicacies, Thai dishes, Nigerian specialties, kebab and more.

But where was the Swedish food? Is the traditional Swedish cooking so bad and boring that no one wants it? I searched frantically.

I had decided that if I could not find anything Swedish to eat then my stomach would have to put up with being hungry.

Suddenly. I saw a small light in the otherwise dark surroundings. “Herring Sandwiches” was written on the sign. I walked up with urgent steps. Past all the food stalls that smelled of garlic.

I felt a joy. The joy of that there was still Swedish food to be had. I threw down a twenty-crown note for my sandwich.

I received it and felt the wonderful smell of herring. Well worth the price, I let the sandwich disappear down my gullet, and a few moments later felt the satisfaction in my stomach.

Surely there is one and two other bright spots here at the festival, I thought, and proceeded to saunter.

After looking around for about another hour, we decided to head for home. You could feel the air getting slightly cooler and damper now that the sun had gone down.

We went over to Gustav Adolf Square. Outside McDonald’s, dark clouds gathered. By all accounts, it was probably a meeting place, or rather, a haunt for all the world’s different peoples – except the Swedes, of course.

Where the Swedes were gone I do not know. Then we crossed the square and went into a pedestrian area, and it was clear to me that the Swedes had fled the field.

Everywhere there were big black clouds in the otherwise clear night. The sound of the South American and Indian music mixed with languages from around the world, and the feeling that you were in a land far, far away grew.

Nowhere was there a bright cloud to be seen. The dark clouds hung everywhere.

My stomach was turning upside down and the tears started running down my cheeks. The pride in being Swedish that I had felt earlier in the evening had now given way to a hate inside.

Not a hatred of the people who were there, but a hatred of the decision-makers who caused it as my eyes now beheld. These decision-makers had not shown my ancestors any respect.

They had not taken any account of what the Swedish people – including me – thought. They had done what they wanted. They wanted to create a multicultural society.

With the tears on my cheeks, I hurried past through the darkness along with the others.

The evening had now changed from a warm, bright summer evening to a cold and dark night.

We got on the train to go home. The train was full of people. Many others had apparently also planned to go home.

I understand them.

Caught with our Pantis down

Fearless journalist/broadcaster Brendan O’Connor executes the most embarrassing climbdown in Irish TV history.

This week’s fallout from the Panti Bliss interview on RTE has once again put Irish media to the test.

Once again Irish media has failed with flying colours.

Last night Brendan O’Connor made a pained apology for any offense caused by comments made on the show, pointing out that they were not the views of RTE.

Well, duh.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Irish Times – the paper of record – made no link between the resignation of John Waters from the board of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and his alleged threats of legal action against RTE.

Contrast this with the brave stance of the Guardian, which has suffered all manner of threats from David Cameron’s government due to its publication of Edward Snowden’s revelations.

But rather than display a bit of backbone, it seems that, thanks to the the flurry of solicitor’s letters from Iona, it has now become the elephant in the room in Irish media – the discussion that cannot be discussed under any circumstances.

Silent in all this is David Quinn, founder of the odious Iona Institute. I have asked him several times on Twitter about his legal threats to RTE and Rory O’Neill (aka Panti Bliss), but he hasn’t yet responded.

Nor has he answered my query about RTE’s offer of a right to reply to the allegations that the Iona Institute is a homophobic organisation, which was allegedly turned down by Quinn.

The intention of all of this is to kill the debate in Ireland as to what constitutes homophobia and whether or not Iona and journalist John Waters are homophobic.

Whatever way you look at it, the disappearance of the debate from mainstream media – a debate that has raged for two weeks on social media – suggests several things.

RTE has been cowed.

The Irish Times – which publishes Waters’ musings – has looked the other way.

And the rest of Irish media is in no hurry to draw the attention of Iona’s legal eagles to itself.

That would force you to wonder who wrote the apology read out by O’Connor on Satruday night.

It’s an important part of democratic debate that people must be able to hold dissenting views on controversial issues.

… as long as they agree with those of the Iona Institute, it would seem.

Rather than being cowed by legal threats, surely the media has very valid questions to ask – starting with exactly who Iona represent, and where they get their money.

The views expressed by Iona – especially in relation to gay people – are very much at odds with the liberal secular society that Ireland has become. Indeed, Rory O’Neill suggested that the only time he experiences homophobia is online or at the hands of Iona and Waters.

When they’re done with that, they can ask why Iona is given so much room in the media. In any other country in the world, an organisation as litigious as Iona would never be asked to participate in anything. Nor would anybody else with their solicitor on speed dial.

When all that is over, perhaps someone would sit down and ask Quinn, Waters et al to explain how their utterances – perceived by almost everyone apart from themselves and their supporters as being homophobic – are acceptable.

For Iona, Quinn and Waters, it might be a hard sell. Take this quote from an interview with Waters:

This is really a kind of satire on marriage which is being conducted by the gay lobby. It’s not that they want to get married; they want to destroy the institution of marriage because they’re envious of it…

Now if you believe – as Waters suggests earlier in that interview – that marriage is a fundamental building block of society, then he is essentially accusing the gay lobby (many of whom are presumably gay themselves) of trying to destroy it.

How, exactly, is that not homophobic?

Is it reasonable to suggest that gay people are, in trying to secure equal treatment in the eyes of the law, trying to destroy the very fabric of society?

No, it isn’t.

So what should they have done?

Well, if he disagreed with the apology, O’Connor – a columnist with the Sunday Independent and thus not without either power or a platform to exert it – should have resigned.

In the interests of public service, RTE should have stood by its man. If they were to go to court – as evidenced above, examples of the irrational fear of homosexuality displayed by both Waters and Iona are not hard to find – they wouldn’t be without hope of winning.

But it is the Irish Times and the rest of the media that is probably deserving of the most criticism. It is one of the functions of mass media to provide a platform for debate, but yet again they have abdicated this responsibility.

It may be expensive to defend oneself against even the most frivolous of libel accusations in Ireland, but the price for not doing so is the ability to report and to comment without fear or favour.

The views expressed by Rory O’Neill are not those of RTE, but they are those of many people in the gay community.

His airing them on an RTE program is the very point of public service, and of mass media in general – to provide a platform for debate and scrutiny, and for holding people to account.

It should be remembered that Ireland has, since its inception, struggled in terms of holding those in power to account, whether it be politicians, religious leaders or captains of industry.

All have at various points used the solicitors to muzzle reporting and debate.

But in the end, all of them were eventually caught with their Pantis down.