Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Swedish American in the US… Still

I’m back. On the blog at least. Took a bit of a break but figured a post would be necessary to keep everyone’s interest. And also to comment on the new laws in Sweden going into effect in January of 2009. Granted this was voted through about three weeks ago but I’ve been on vacation remember?

Basically, a new law is going to allow the Swedes to look at every e-mail and message that crosses their borders, incoming and outgoing. Which means they will know everything about me. If they want. And they should. I am a very interesting person. Because, being a Swedish American in Sweden, quite a bit of my communication is directed at people in the US. Outside of the border of Sweden. The idea is that by doing this they will be able to monitor certain key words associated with terrorist dealings. I understand the need for intelligence. I do. You have to know what s going on if you are ever going to overcome or stop or prevent the bad guys from getting you. But there are limits. Because infringing on the freedoms and liberties of the very people you are trying to protect seems only to insult everything that they stand for and believe in. In this case, some semblance of privacy for an entire nation. And that’s where my problem lies. This is for everyone. Not just those that may be perceived as a threat. Or have some sort of connection to something that could be perceived as a threat. Everyone. I suppose that’s the Swedish way, don’t single anyone out.

Now, I’m no terrorist. I’ve knocked down a few port-o-potties (or honey-buckets as they are sometimes called in Eugene) in my day. And I suppose if one found themselves in the port-potty at the time of the tipping that may be considered an act of terrorism. So I suppose I have nothing really to hide. But that’s not really the point. I should be able to write and say whatever the hell I want in my private conversations without having to worry about some sort of Orwellian 1984 Big Brother checking up on me.

And let’s be honest here, I don’t know which key worse will act as warnings and get you searched. I suppose I could probably test that by throwing in “bomb” or “al Qaeda” or “kill the infidels” in a few of my e-mails and see what kind of rise I get out of the Swedish government. But honestly, I’d like to think that the FRA and terrorists for that matter are a bit more sophisticated and use some sort of code. Because Osama would have to be a real idiot to send an e-mail to his Swedish counterpart asking him to “round up al Qaeda, bomb the hell out of Stockholm during the tourist season, and kill all the infidels who caricatured Mohammed as a round-about dog.” Because come on… anyone worth looking into for terrorist activities can’t be that stupid right?

Now, the thing that I find amazing is that this is Sweden. A country that prides itself on its liberal attitude in basically every aspect of life. In my weaker moments, I may have referred to Sweden as a police state because they require me to check my car every year and apparently a back door that doesn’t open is grounds for failure but this is different. Now they are reading my e-mails. Reinfeldt says that Swedes maybe don’t understand the law and that’s why they are pissed. He seems to think that Swedes are interpreting the law to be a tool to be used domestically. That wasn’t the impression I got. I got the impression that Swedes understood damn well that this was meant to be used internationally. And they still got fired up. Because they have friends abroad. Or travel abroad, especially in the winter when darkness descends. Granted, the measure passed by only a few votes. And people can complain all they want about this being the result of the moderate party being in power. The Social Democrats are promising to rip it up if they are elected in 2010. But it passed.

But in a beautiful display of democracy, freedom of speech, demonstration and everything else that makes a country great the Swedes did not sit idly by. They demonstrated, blogged the hell out of it, made phone calls, wrote newspaper articles, debated on TV, and wrote e-mails to the government. Lots and lots of e-mails. Twelve days after the law had passed about half a million e-mails had been sent. In a country of nine million. And by the 3rd of July about six million e-mails had been sent. In a country of nine million. I know that a lot of people probably sent hundreds or even thousands of e-mails by themselves. But still. That’s damn impressive.

The question is what will happen now. Because the debate continues. And demonstrations continue. And blogging continues. And phone calls. And newspaper articles. And court attempts. And every other form of non-violent protest imaginable.

Welcome to Sweden. Where both Big Brother and democracy are alive and kicking.

For those of you interested in reading up on it here is a link to a search query on Due to the insane amount of articles written about this I just searched for FRA. It is sometimes referred to as “the snoop law.”

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  1. Right now, one analysis of the current debate regarding FRA, have come to the conclusion that the Swedish political "blogosphere" got its first real breakthrough during the debate. The blogosphere woke up the Swedish national newspapers and other media. Before the blogosphere brought the debate up, the media didn't seem to put much attention towards the FRA debate.

    So even if the law itself is disaster, the blogs have become another Swedish medium to take into account when following the national Swedish debate thanks to the FRA law.

    Another thing; remember that both the social democrates and the environmental party (Miljöpartiet) promises to break the law up, not to remove it. So they'll make some small changes, and then vote through the law again. This is just a trick to collect votes, cause none of the parties in the Swedish "riksdag" have discussed this matter much before the whole debate started..

  2. Tobias JohanssonJuly 10, 2008 at 4:02 AM

    And lets remember that this law was originally designed and proposed by the sozial democrats during their last time in power. They just voted no because they are annoyed by not being in power at the moment.

  3. I´m impressed by the Swedes' reaction. In Spain people would sit idly by...

    PS. I´m reading your first posts, so I´m not worried if you dont update, haha...I need to catch up!!

  4. I hope you're kidding, Hairy... Since when has Sweden been a police state? Since the year they introduced the annual bilbesiktning? Sweden has less policemen than most countries (at least in Europe) and we have relatively few surveillance cameras, compared to UK, for example. What makes Sweden such a police state? Again, is it the bilbesiktning?

    To make this short: Yes, the FRA-law sucks and is very "police state-ish" but it stands in sharp contrast to the policy that the Swedish government has been keeping for most of the last (and this) century. The prevailing values in Sweden in modern time has been very protective of the individual rights and freedoms. So, if anything, it's surprising that the law was passed through in Sweden. The large amount of protesting that has been going on is surely a sign that what I just said is true. By the way, don't you have something very similar to this in the USA? The patriot act, or something?

  5. wow. I need to keep up with the Swedish news when I'm on the west side of the Atlantic..

  6. time for a new post... we're dyin' here!

  7. I hope your vacation has been going well. I'm not sure what it is like where you are, but here in St. Louis the weather has been sick nasty hot. Better stock up on your Old Spice and peanut butter!

  8. @magnus - good point. it was amazing to watch how the bloggers came out in full force and played a role. it will be itneresting to see how this blogging power plays out in the future.

    @tobias - a good point also. its easy to promise things when you dont have the power to do anything about it.

    @ruth - hope you got caught up.

    @robban - that was definitely tongue in cheek there about the police state, Im just annoyed about getting by car checked.

    and yeah the tapping laws and all that good stuff in the us with the patriot act is constantly being challenged in the courts.

    but youre right the surprise is that it was passed here in sweden. which is exactly what I meant when I said that I was amazed because this is sweden. that sort of thing doesnt happen here.

    @mikaela - some exciting things going on here.

    @anonymous - I did it. I posted finally!

    @rinalyn - vacation was glorious. and hot. and I have enough old spice to last me quite a few more hot months luckily.

  9. Yeah, I read that part of your post just now... Good point. Yeah, bilbesiktningen is certainly a bit annoying but "police state" was a bit of an exaggeration.

  10. very much so, but thats the beauty of it really.