Northern Light

Know thy enemy

Do you remember Andrei Zhdanov?

In 1946 the Soviet commissar initiated a vicious attack on the literary magazines Zvezda (The Star) and Leningrad which had published works by the great poet Anna Akhmatova and the satirical writer Mikhail Zoshchenko. Later followed similar attacks on great composers. Zhdanov denounced any disagreement and differing points of views within Soviet culture. As he put it an speech:

”The only conflict that is possible in Soviet culture is the conflict between good and best.”

I was reminded of this disgraceful figure when I learned that Sweden’s Press Ombudsman Yrsa Stenius – a better name would be Press Commissar – has called for a police investigation against Swedish bloggers with whom the commissar happens to disagree.

A few days ago she told Västerbottens Folkblad, a local newspaper, that she is worried about the development of the internet. Apparently she finds free speech to be a disturbing phenomena. In the words of the commissar everyone can say anything about anyone and nobody reacts. Things have gone to far. Yes, that’s really troubling. I am sure that Andrei Zhdanov would agree.

”At the moment I see no other solution than to report these cases to the police. We need to create a precedent.”

The commissar is of the opinion that some blogs and reader comments are lacking reflection and consideration.

Yrsa Stenius was born in Finland and belongs to the Swedish-speaking monority. She has been affiliated with Sweden’s largest newspaper Aftonbladet for the past 20 years. She was editor-in-chief from 1982-1987. She was appointed Press Ombudsman in 2007.

In 2006 she wrote a column about the publication of the cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed. Any ideological boss in the Soviet Union would be proud to read her. Here is what she said:

”For natural reasons I didn’t see the caricatures published by Jyllands-Posten. But unanimous comments by informed publicists in the West indicate that they were insulting and lacked any serious use of free speech.

In other words it was a huge misjudgement on behalf of the editor-in-chief of Jyllands-Posten to publish those images. And it was an even bigger misjudgedment of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen not to apologize on behalf of Denmark, when he was granted the opportunity. To apologize is not to introduce censorship.

How does the misunderstanding arise that people in the name of free speech are allowed to offend a culture and a civilization, and that the same freedom does not allow a prime minister to bear responsibility for the political consequenses of what happenend?

I don’t think that we in the name of free speech should be unconditionally loyal to the establishment of Denmark that has abused this freedom.”

Thank you, commissar, I think a lot of people beg that they will never receive your approval of anything. That would indeed make them uncomfortable.