I don’t pretend to be a journalist. In case you were wondering, what you’ve been reading is not journalism. It’s just some 30-(ish)-year old white dude on the internet. I know, we’re a rare breed with few forums to speak our mind.
Even when I write about current events, it is not journalism. It’s my analysis, my rant, my bad jokes. There is no reporting here. So in that respect, I’m kind of like The Local. That was mean, I’m sorry. They try hard. And they actually do some reporting now!
Lately though, checking sources has been on my mind. Partly because of my research. I hate having to track down information because someone didn’t cite a book or article properly. Pet peeve. So I diligently check my citations and the citations of people I might be quoting in my work. Sometimes I just want to trust people though. That's why I head to the internet. Where information goes to be free and is fact-checked by the masses. Sharing! Crowd-sourcing! It's foolproof.
A year ago, the popular (and free) daily newspaper that is ubiquitous on Stockholm public transportation, Metro, came out with a site aimed specifically at proofing for the fools. They started checking the claims of viral stories on social media. Viralgranskaren is there so you don’t share that article from The Onion that might just be true like “John Boehner Calls For National Guard To Deal With Illegal Immigrants Hiding In Mexico.” It’s not true.
It's strangely comforting to know that plenty of Swedes fall for the satirical news sites and that it's not just the stereotypical slack-jawed 'Merican sitting in sweatpants with potato chip crumbs all over the bed.
Of course, there are also the sites that aren't satirical, but present themselves as the harbingers of truth. Like the (surprisingly) numerous blogs in English that purport to provide the world with the real Swedish news in English. Or the sites that give you the real story that the mainstream media just won't report because it's too real.
Real. When someone has to tell me upfront that they have the real news, that they know the real story, the real truth, I think they might be full of real shit. Especially when I start clicking on the links they cite and am met with sites that, according to the Swedish Media Council publish “racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic content.” That's a different kind of real. But it's not news. News is hard though. It's hard to define and it's almost always coming with some sort of position. From cable to state-run to the dude on the internet. They all have an opinion. Sometimes those opinions end up pretty hateful though.
Just like Viralgranskaren, there are folks trying to warn readers off from some of these sites. In other not-news, quite a while ago Politism posted a list of eight sites under the title "Racist sites you don't want to accidentally share on Facebook." They openly admit to having an agenda that leans left (how far to the left probably depends on your political beliefs). This isn't unheard of. Plenty of those racist sites warn their readers off from DN, SVD, Aftonbladet, Expressen, SR, SVT because of their perceived leftist bent, usually citing the statistic that there is a surprisingly high number of Miljöpartiet supporters in the media compared to the general population. There's probably a discussion to be had about hypocrisy, speech, expression and so on, but Politism did what they did because they believe that those sites share too much vitriol.
Now vitriol on the internet is no shocker. Just read the comments of nearly any YouTube video. Or follow prominent women on Twitter and see the kind of bile that people spew. It does not make for pleasant reading. What worries me is when that vitriol is presented as news and then consumed as news. It’s not news. Just like this isn’t news. This is my opinion. My analysis. My curation of sources.
You’ll notice I’m not linking to, or even naming, any of these sites because censorship. Whatever. It’s my blog. And that’s part of the point. This is not news. This is my opinion. You want to read hate? It’s not hard to find. You want to read feel-good lovey-dovey? It's not hard to find. But don’t pretend that it’s the only news. The real news.
Looking for Swedish news in English? Check out Radio Sweden or, I know, I know, The Local. Those sites that promise you that they have no political affiliation but then spew hatred about immigrants taking over Sweden? The ones that take a defensive tone from the start as if they have something to prove? Or the ones that rile you up because you just can’t believe someone could actually say THAT about vaccines? They might not be the best place to start.
Welcome to Sweden. I wrote this while sitting in a bed covered in potato chip crumbs while wearing orange sweats that I‘ve owned since I was 15. The internet allows me to publish this. Be smart out there.