Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘sweden

Sweden, pro-woman discrimination, and unfairness to children

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Earlier today, I wrote a text dealing, as a side-effect, with my own experiences with a knowledge competition for kids (cf. [1]). Reading up on Swedish Wikipedia (versioned link), I am met with what looks like blatant pro-girl discrimination over the last two decades:

If we first look at the years 1963–1998*, when these problems were absent or much smaller, the boys dominate the winning teams of three children. (This result is, of course, also well in line with the strong empirical observation that boys/men tend to dominate at the upper levels in almost any area.)

*Many years have no entry. I am uncertain when this implies that no competition took place and when that the data for that year is missing. Note that the years 1966 and 1975 list a winning school but not individual winners. Any claims below are made with reservations for the unstated data (and, of course, any misstated data).

We total 20 years, with 18 sets of three children, of which (going by the names, with reservations for miscounts) 13 or* 14 are girls, the remaining 41 or* 40 boys. In other words, the boys outnumber the girls roughly three-to-one. And, no, this is not a case of 1960s suppression and oppression of women (as some Feminists might claim). The first year listed (1963) saw two girls and one boy; the last two listed (1996, 1998) saw three boys each,** while the only other 1990s’ years (1993, 1994) saw one girl and two boys.

*The “or” arises from a “Conny”, which, I suspect, is/was a boy’s name in Sweden, but which might be a girl.

**To be contrasted with one sole year (1988) with three girls on the winning team—over the entire (listed) history of the competition.

Starting with the next entry in 2000, we have teams of two (excepting three years, cf. below), which are without exception one boy–one girl. It is not clear from the text, but I strongly suspect that the reduction to two was made for the explicit purpose of instituting a quota of “exactly one boy and exactly one girl”,* which is one of the two modes of how the Swedish system tends to work. (The other mode is “We must have at least 50 percent women! Let the men fend for themselves!”.) In 20 years, the girls managed to rack up 20 entries to the previous 13/14 over 18 years, despite a reduction of team size. This at the cost of having half as many boys as in the previous interval.

*Other explanations for the one boy–one girl constellations are conceivable, e.g. that the game was somehow rigged to ensure that only teams matching this constellation were allowed to win, but these seem less likely. No matter the reason, however, it would be unreasonable to claim pure chance over so many years—a literal one-in-a-million chance. (Cf. excursion.)

Past 2000, we have three exceptional years of teams-of-three (2005–2007). These include respectively two girls–one boy, one girl–two boys, and one girl–two boys.* This is too little data to say something with certainty, but I strongly suspect another quota of “at least one boy and at least one girl”. The overall proportions (four girls, five boys) are certainly incompatible with the days of yore on an “expectation value” basis (but not, over so few years, on a “statistical variation” basis).

*With reservations for the name “Jacobo”, which sounds male, but which is not known to me.

Looking at the adults*, beginning with 2000, they too come in conspicuous pairs of one man–one woman.

*A host and a referee, for want of better words. (I am not familiar with English terminology in this area.)

Of course, here we see a great unfairness towards the children, who are no longer measured primarily by what they know, but by what sex they have, while giving the girls an unfair leg up and unfairly holding the boys back. This not just with regard to the reduction of the knowledge component, but also through the greater proportion of boys in these age groups. (The few percent might not seem like that much, but when a restriction is added in a highly competitive area, it can have a major additional effect. Also note the new restriction in team size, which came solely at the cost of the boys.)

Excursion on one-in-a-million chance:
Assume* a 50–50 chance that a boy (girl) is chosen for any slot on a team. A single two-kid team will now contain exactly one of each with a probability of 1/2 (with 1/4 each for boy–boy and girl–girl). To score 20 such teams in a row has a probability of (1/2)^20 = 1/1048576 or, roughly, one-in-a-million.

*Ignoring both the earlier male dominance and the greater proportion of boys among the children. Adjusting the probability for either of these factors makes the event even unlikelier.

Excursion on the Nobel Prizes:
Note that I have speculated on a similar type of quota for men and women for the Literature Prize, in that men and women win (almost) alternately. Cf. my entries on resp. the 2020 and 2021/2022 awards. Typically Swedish.


Written by michaeleriksson

December 14, 2022 at 10:41 pm

Dying connections

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One danger of leaving Sweden, those 25 years ago, that I had not considered, and that has only began to truly hit me over the last few years, is connections dying.

When I lived in Sweden, I built up a long list of cultural and other connections to Sweden, including through familiarity with various TV shows, songs, actors, TV hosts, … Some of these connections were to the current, others more retrospective (often going back long past my own birth year, 1975, just like a U.S. someone born in that year might have gained a familiarity with, say, Lucille Ball and Milton Berle).

Since I left, the addition of such references has been rare and time has flown. For instance, last Christmas, I read up on “Julkalendern”* on Swedish Wikipedia, and found a mention of some series considered one of the most classic. I was temporarily thrown, as I did not recognize the name at all. I clicked on a link to refresh my memory—and found that this alleged classic had not aired in the 1970s or 1980s, as a true classic “should” have, but in 2000-something-or-other. We now have TV classics that first aired after I moved away… That I stopped watching “Julkalendern” long before that does not help.**

*In a very long tradition, SVT (the “Swedish BBC”) broadcasts a new kids’ “Christmas calendar” series during each advent period, one episode per day. As an example, and a then personal favorite, one series dealt with the adventures of various supernatural creatures during the Swedish winter (“Trolltider”).

**Through a combination of my out-growing the age group and a few weak years—or, maybe, my out-growing the age group and becoming more discerning. I do know that “Julkalendern” had gone from one of the high points of the year to “blah” before I hit my teens.

There we have one side—I have fallen so far behind in Swedish* cultural connections that I might almost be a foreigner. The more so, as many of the younger generations will not share even my old connections, being too young, too uninterested in the old, or drowning in too much content—much unlike my situation, with the two public-broadcast channels, no private ones, and no Internet.

*I am much more up-to-date with e.g. the U.S., and I suspect that I would find some common ground even in Sweden based on U.S. references, but that is not the same. My connection to Germany, too and in this specific regard, is weaker than the U.S. connection, as I do not watch German TV broadcasts and as Internet TV has much less German than U.S., or e.g U.K., content.

Then we have the other side—the horribly heartbreaking side.

Those actors, TV hosts, whatnot of yore? Dead, dying, or old as Methuselah. (Or so it feels.)

Today (November 13th, 2022) I learned of the death of Sven-Bertil Taube, who was of considerable fame in his own right, but was also the son of Evert Taube—a true legend within Swedish culture, in general, and music, in particular. Here we have two effects that make the death the more depressing. Firstly, Sven-Bertil’s status as the son made me associate him with a younger generation.* Secondly, he spent considerable efforts on keeping his father’s legacy alive. The total lifespan of the two, going by Wikipedia, stretches from 1890 for the birth of the father to 2022 for the death of the son. Even allowing for some time for Evert to get started, this is a roughly hundred-year era that has just ended.

*Relatively speaking, as he was already middle-aged when I first encountered him. A related problem is that my image of various familiar Swedish faces is dominated by my time in Sweden and that this image has not been updated by seeing continually older versions of the familiar faces. That these faces are now several decades older still takes me by surprise, whenever I re-encounter one.

But Sven-Bertil Taube is by no means the only death, only the most recent in a very long and often saddening list. That Astrid Lindgren and Martin Ljung are gone is not remarkable—they were old* when I first encountered them as a very small child in the late 1970s. But what about Magnus, Brasse, & Eva**, who were young and hip when I first watched their teach-children-to-spell-and-count show in the 1970s? Two dead, one in his eighties. Arne Weise? Lennart Swahn? Hasse & Tage? Etc. Etc. Etc. Of course, I did not necessarily have strong feelings about all of the dead. They range from the likes of Astrid Lindgren and Martin Ljung, who truly meant something to me, to those (I will not give names) whom I might have even slightly disliked, but who had, in some sense, “been there” for most of my life—in the comparatively small entertainment and television world of little Sweden, the chances of encountering certain faces and voices a few times a year, merely by turning on the TV, were large. (And this looking at, say, actors and singers. Those actively hosting TV shows, reading the news, or even being a hallåa*** might be encountered on a weekly or daily basis for years.)

*At least, in my perception of old at the time.

**Who illustrates that not all deaths are very recent. She died very prematurely in the early 1990s, despite being the youngest of the three. Still, it gets worse with every year, as the deaths accumulate.

***The closest English approximation, after a brief search, seems to be in-vision continuity announcer. This group was comparatively long lived in Sweden, and did add something, when done correctly.

A particularly sad example is Marie Fredriksson, who died a few years ago. I was never that big on Roxette, but she still managed to leave an early impression of young, energetic rock-star—and Roxette was the new Swedish band, replacing Abba. It feels like yesterday; it was not.

(On the upside, knock-on-wood, Per Gessle is still alive; and, as a counterpoint, Abba released a new album just a few months ago.)

Now, much of this is recognizable even to non-emigrants my age. Early childhood heroes, in particular, tend both to have a disproportionate impact on the child and to be at risk of death after some 40–50 years. Certainly, many in the U.S. resp. U.K might have had a feeling of almost personal loss after the recent deaths of Betty White, Angela Lansbury, or the Queen. (All highly popular and with careers going back to before the birth of most of the rest of the population.) But I have no continuity, no replacement, my connection is dying out as the old greats die.

Then again, this text is not truly about lost cultural connections and dead TV stars. They add to the true meaning, but they are not it.

Disclaimer: I wrote most of the above quite a few months ago, and have taken the death of Sven-Bertil Taube as reason to belatedly finish the text. I have, however, not verified that all that was true at the original time of writing still is true.

Excursion on classics:
A general tendency seems to be that humans are biased to consider those works classic that they encountered at the right age. (This age can vary depending on the field, but is usually fairly low.) An interesting example, and one overlapping with an older text on traditions and Christmas, is the Swedish Christmas tradition of watching the Disney show “From All of Us to All of You” (in my late 40s, I still find a way). My father, now in his 70s and maybe born a little too early to catch the tradition as a sufficiently young child, prefers another re-run: a black-and-white short with reading of “Tomten”.*

*A well-known Swedish poem, set in midwinter, dealing with a tomte (roughly, brownie; but “tomte” is also found in the Swedish name for Santa Clause—Jultomten). who does his work while philosophizing over life, death, and how human generations come and go in so mysterious a manner. For the short, this is wrapped in a sweet little frame story of a grandmother (who does the reading) and her grandson (who listens intently), and complemented with a live action tomte during the actual reading.

Excursion on German TV:
Why do I not watch German TV? I tried it in my early years, but the quality was usually quite low (decidedly lower than in e.g. Sweden, despite much bigger budgets and viewer numbers), there was too much advertising, and any non-German show was dubbed—in a crime against both the original makers and the audience. Not worth my time.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 13, 2022 at 9:39 pm

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A few notes on Swedish politics (2022 elections, etc.)

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A few notes on Swedish politics after the 2022 parliamentary elections:

  1. The Swedish Social-Democrats have tried to get a female prime minister (statsminister) for ages, often failing because the preferred candidate over these ages, Mona Sahlin, was a complete and utter disaster, someone who made Hillary Clinton look competent. Last November, they finally managed, through failure, when Social-Democrat prime minister Stefan Löfven lost a vote of confidence.

    He was replaced by Magdalena Andersson, who almost immediately lost control of her coalition, leading to her temporary resignation and a new round of votes in parliament. She was elected prime minister, again, with almost absurd numbers: 101 in favor, 173 (!) against, and 75 abstaining.*

    *A quirk in the Swedish rules requires the “nays” to reach a majority of the overall MPs, not just of the voting MPs, to reject a candidate. The number of “yeas” do not matter. A similar situation has arisen at least twice before: (a) With the 1978 pick of Ola Ullsten, who was gone in roughly a year—just like Andersson. (b) With the 2021 (re-)pick of Stefan Löfven, who was gone in just a few months (with the aforementioned lost vote of confidence)—doing even worse than Andersson. (Note, however, that some abstainers might well have chosen to vote in a more sensible system, making the exact numbers potentially misleading.)

    The numbers are the more annoying, as the few votes needed to block* her were available, had the traditional non-Left allies actually stood together. Generally, the entire period between the 2018 and 2022 elections was a wasted opportunity for the non-Left parties, which had repeated chances to form the government by actually sticking together and honoring their duties to their voters (also cf. below); the same partially applies to 2014–2018 (cf. below, again). Centerpartiet (“the Center Party”) has been particularly problematic, and has drifted from a traditional (claimed or real) Center–Right position to a Center–Left or even Left position.

    *Note to Feminist readers: The issue is that she is a Social-Democrat—not that she is a woman.

    In September 2022, the next election was held—and she lost. This implies that there still never has been a female elected-by-the-people prime minister.*

    *Formally, of course, the people/the voters elect members of parliament, who in turn elect the prime minister. However, as with the U.S. electoral college, it is understood in advance what vote-by-a-citizen will indicate what preference for prime minister and deviations from this “understood” are rare (but possible). Her situation is somewhat similar to that of Gerald Ford.

  2. Yesterday (October 18th), the new non-Left government was installed with prime minister Ulf Kristersson.

    Centerpartiet failed to support this government, losing what little credibility as a non-Left party it still had. However, for the first time, the support of Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats) was “accepted” by the other non-Left parties, ending an era of wasted opportunities. Sverigedemokraterna were still not granted the opportunity to be part of the new government in exchange for their support.

    Unfortunately, the anti-nationalist and anti-whatnot attitudes are so strong that the non-Left is now criticized for this arrangement, despite there being far more to object against in e.g. Vänsterpartiet,* which has long been accepted in similar arrangements with the Social-Democrats. For that matter, both the Social-Democrats, themselves, and the “Greens” are more dangerous and extreme from a rational point of view.

    *A formerly Communist party, which still adheres to far Left ideas and which went from Communist to “We have never been Communists—honestly!” more-or-less overnight with the fall of the Soviet Union.

    Note the parallel to this unfortunate situation in Germany, where the Left-dominated media throw a fit every time AfD has a minor success and AfD is blocked from government, while the renamed SED, the dictatorial Communist Party of the DDR, actually co-governs in several states and has a long-established presence in the national parliament. (This also has parallels in e.g. the U.S., as with Biden’s recent speech/hypocritical hate-propaganda, but rarely with so large effects, likely because the U.S. has a two-party system.)

  3. What about the two previous elections, in 2014 and 2018? Well, in 2014 the traditional non-Left block and Sverigedemokraterna had an outright majority, but this majority was wasted, as noted above. 2018? The same fucking shit! That it is 8 (!) years gifted to the Left through irrationality, disregard for both the voters’ trust and the good of the people, and horrifyingly poor priorities.

    (And do not get me started on the German parallels and Merkel’s failures.)

Note on sources:
I draw on Swedish Wikipedia to complement my memories, most notably on the pages for the 2018 and 2022 elections, but have not kept detailed references, as I jumped back and forth between, maybe, a dozen pages, most of which proved of little value to the text.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 19, 2022 at 11:25 am

TV and defamation of the dead / Follow-up: Sweden, murder, and murder of justice

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Almost exactly fifteen months ago, I wrote about the absurd and grossly unethical attempts to paint a dead man as the murderer of Olof Palme. (Also see several other follow-ups.)

Among other things:

Here we have a potentially innocent man who will be considered the murderer by great swaths of the population and many history books—who has no chance to say anything in his defense.

This fear now risks being cemented: Netflix has released a TV series, which appears* to push this very angle—he did it. For those who can read Swedish, great amounts of discussion can be found in the comments to a Swedish article ([1]).

*I have not, and will not, watch it myself. I go by claims by those who have seen it, including in [1].

This is the more absurd, as my readings since my original text point very strongly to the accusations being faulty. To the degree that they are not faulty, the evidence is so slim that the prosecution would have been laughed out of court, had the alleged murderer still been alive and been brought to trial. Of course, not even all Swedes will have done corresponding readings, and international viewers of this series are quite unlikely to have done so.

No, for many, it will be “I know that he did it—I saw it on TV”.

Excursion on “based on a true story”, etc.:
Generally, even when no immediate fear of major defamation is present, I tend to avoid series and movies that are “based on a true story”, as they tend to be poorly made, necessarily will contain at least some (often considerable) distortion of reality, almost necessarily will be partial, and as they tend give grave mischaracterizations of at least some of the characters.

Similarly, I often react negatively to the inclusion of real historical characters in otherwise fictional works.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 12, 2021 at 7:52 am

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Krister Petersson not off the hook (murder of Olof Palme)

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I have repeatedly written negatively about prosecutor Krister Petersson and his defamatory claims towards a dead suspect (Stig Engström) of the Palme murder. (Cf. at least [1], [2], [3].)

For a long time, it looked as if there would be no formal consequences of any kind—no matter how many, including experts on law and/or the Palme murder, were protesting.

Today, there seems to be a minor improvement, as JO (see excursion) Per Lennerbrants has objected strongly. To paraphrase one Swedish source:

JO is harshly critical against Krister Petersson, and believes that he has for all practical purposes pointed to Stig Engström as the guilty party, despite Petersson’s claims that this was not his intention. Particular criticism was directed at Petersson’s failure to mention exculpating things (“sådant”).

This is particularly gratifying to me, because I saw a potential weakness in my own criticism, namely that Petersson might have made sufficiently many disclaimers to, so to speak, be freed on a technicality. This does not appear to be the case, after all.

However, JO appears to be more in agreement with Petersson than I was on the issue of naming names: JO does not necessarily see a problem with the naming, per se, but objects to the strong categorization as “guilty”, not mere “suspect”.

I have not dug into the direct statements by JO, and rely on the claims in the source. The source, however, is known as extremely conscientious and knowledgeable. (And the rest of the blog, for those who understand Swedish, provides an enormous amount of analysis and debate on both the Palme murder, in general, and Petersson’s behavior in particular.)

Excursion on JO:
JO/Justitieombudsmannen is a position that has no obvious-to-me equivalent in the English-speaking world, but which, broadly speaking, is a parliamentary “righter of wrongs”, open to petitions from the public and serving as check on the behavior of governmental institutions and civil servants. (And possibly a slew of other things.) On the downside, I suspect that the findings of JO amounts to “Bad boy!” more often than to “Go directly to jail!”.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 22, 2021 at 12:06 pm

Odd language use / Swedish journalism

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This text turned out to be much thinner than I had anticipated. I would normally have foregone it entirely or waited until I had more material. However, as I explicitly mentioned it in the linked-to text, I prefer to get it out of the way.

The poor style and grammar of many journalists often annoy me. Recently, I have become increasingly annoyed over the Swedish use of “då” (roughly, “then”, in at least some meanings) as a sentence or even paragraph opener. Unfortunately, this is not even limited to journalists.

For instance, consider a sentence quoted earlier today:

Då menar jag att med hänsyn till dessa omständigheter har det varit försvarligt av Krister Petersson att i sitt beslut namnge den personen.

Here the word is used to imply “in light of this”, “considering this”, “in this situation”, or similar; while a literal translation might be “then”, or something like “at that time” or “in that [sic!] situation”. Looking at the logic of language, not the typical actual use, this seems quite odd.*

*This is not a unique example. Consider e.g. the English use of “since” to imply causality instead of timing; or the French “sans doute” to imply “probably” instead of the literal “without doubt”. Indeed, such small traps are so common that an attempt to save writing from them might lead to unrecognizable texts. Some uses are worse than others, however, and “då” is quite bad.

However, this is a comparatively harmless case. Common uses include e.g. the pattern:*

*I have kept no specific example. The quote is hypothetical, put directly into English for illustration. The division into two paragraphs is deliberate and matches the pattern used; however, the actual examples tend to be a little wordier.

Last year, boxer-X and boxer-Y fought to a controversial draw. Last night, they met again.

Then* boxer-X won on knockout.

*In a past sense. The English “then” is actually less misplaced than “då”, because “then” can be used for sequencing in another manner, as with “I went to the movies and then I went home”. In Swedish, this would likely have been resolved with “sedan”: “Jag gick på bio och sedan gick jag hem”. The same sentence with “då” would likely have been taken as something simultaneous, as with “I went to the movies and while I was there I went home”.

Unnatural, contorted, and with some risk of confusion? It is the same in Swedish. Even “now” (“nu”) would have been better, and something like “this time” clearly so. Moreover, the entire construction is dubious. I might have gone with:

Last night, boxer-X defeated boxer-Y on knockout in a re-match of their controversial draw from last year.

(Of course, many other variations are possible—but few as poor and odd as the original.)

Still, this type of pattern appears again and again: A first paragraph with background information. A second paragraph, beginning with “Då”, with the event. (Optionally, followed by further paragraphs with more details.) This is the odder, as someone reading about a sports event in a newspaper will want to see the result in the first sentence of the first paragraph.

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August 19, 2020 at 1:45 pm

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No defamation charges against Krister Petersson (murder of Olof Palme)

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In an earlier text, I noted that prosecutor Krister Petersson risked prosecution, himself, for defamation of a dead suspect for the murder of Olof Palme ([1]; cf. [2] for more context).

It appears that he will remain unprosecuted:

A (likely paywalled*) Swedish site cites the överåklagare** Anders Jakobsson as saying:

*This newspaper usually is. Currently, 2020-08-19, it claims that all articles are free until September 1st.

Min bedömning är att Krister Petersson visserligen pekat ut en person på ett sätt som kan vara förtal enligt brottsbalken, men sedan är frågan om det var försvarligt att lämna ut namnet. Och det anser jag. Mordet på Olof Palme och den utredning som sedan har genomförts har varit föremål för ett betydande allmänintresse, och i massmedierna och av så kallade privatspanare har den så kallade Skandiamannen vid flera tillfällen pekats ut som mördaren. Då menar jag att med hänsyn till dessa omständigheter har det varit försvarligt av Krister Petersson att i sitt beslut namnge den personen.

My estimation is that Krister Petersson did point out a person in a manner that could be defamation according to brottsbalken [roughly, “criminal code”], but then the question is whether it was justifiable to provide the name. And I am of that opinion. The murder of Olof Palme and the investigation that followed has been of considerable interest to the public, and in mass media and by so called privatspanare** the so called Skandiamannen*** has been pointed out as the murderer on several occasions. Then**** I opine that, with consideration of these circumstances, it has been defensible for Krister Petersson to name this person in his decision.

*The original is in overly complicated and poor “government language”. I have not made any greater attempts to provide additional clarity or to translate into a more English idiom (governmental or otherwise).

**A term that probably arose during the Palme investigations, to refer to amateur investigators with an interest in the Palme murder. A somewhat literal translation is “private scouts”, but “investigator” is likely more idiomatic than ‘scout”. These, however, are typically not “private investigators” in the U.S. “P.I.” sense.

***An anonymizing alias commonly used for the man whom Krister Petersson mentioned by name.

****Translation of the idiomatically awkward word “då”, which I will discuss in a later text.

I am far from certain that I would concur with the above, as I am highly skeptical to “the public has the right to know” arguments,* as fingering Skandiamannen seems unnecessary to me, and as there was no true gain from mentioning him by name (as opposed to alias). Note that Anders Jakobsson, himself, uses the alias and not the name. Krister Petersson could simply have said something like “Personally, I favor Skandiamannen, but as things stand, we can never know for sure.”, but he went a fair bit further and did mention the name. I stress that I would see a considerably stricter standard for a public official speaking in his official capacity than I would for a private individual expressing his private opinions, including the privatspanare.

*Excepting matters that are truly of public interest and public nature, say governmental policy, professional misbehavior by politicians and civil servants in office, and similar. The fact that Palme was murdered qualifies, that this-or-that celebrity has a drug problem does not, and whether Krister Petersson’s statements is on the right side of the border is disputable.

As an aside, I would not necessarily reason “it is very easy to find out the name of Skandiamannen; ergo, there is no harm done in mentioning the name over the alias”, as Anders Jakobsson might have. The opposite might be more reasonable (“[…]; ergo, we should not mention the alias either”).

Written by michaeleriksson

August 19, 2020 at 12:17 pm

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Sweden and COVID

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A recent article on UNZ is very interesting both with an eye on the situation in my native Sweden and with regard to issues like journalism and public policy.

Broadly speaking, the article amounts to Sweden (which has imposed far less restrictions than most other countries) having done much better economically done others and having paid at most a small or tolerable price in terms of health effects, yet also being torn down by international media.

A few meta-issues:

  1. Looking through the article and the comments, it is clear that a great uncertainty exists on what the true situation is.* The truth might well be out there, but how do we outsiders get at the truth? One way is to look into varying sources and to give dissenting voices a hearing, but that takes a lot of time and doing so on all important issues would be more than full-time job. Here there is a niche where journalists could truly provide “value added”: have a strong critical thinker go through various sources, debates, and whatnot, and have him summarize the overall sets of opinions and arguments, determine the currently dominating opinion, and give his own take on plausibility and whatnot as an extra protection. What journalists actually do is pretty much the opposite … Too often, they grab a single source, often a government agency, another media outlet, or a professor of the social “sciences”, and blindly trumpet that one viewpoint to the world. Indeed, in many cases, they deliberate try to squash dissenting opinions to prevent the readers from forming their own opinions, lest they come to a different conclusion or perception than the journalists want to push.**

    *And I am not necessarily saying that the data and interpretation in that article are the superior ones. My impressions go in the same direction, but my leg-work is not even remotely up-to-date.

    **See e.g. a recent text on NYT.

    This problem (and this wasted opportunity) is by no means restricted to epidemics. Consider e.g. the current heavily distorted U.S. reporting on alleged racism, including an often highly incomplete picture of the George-Floyd case.

  2. Chances are that both governments and journalists suffer from a can’t-retreat-now effect: even admitting the possibility that Sweden had made a better choice could lead to a horrifying loss of reputation and credibility. For instance, what politician wants to be known as the “guy who tanked the economy for no reason” or “the guy who cost me my job for no reason”. (Vice versa, I strongly suspect that an early fear in the other direction increased the panic-making: no politician wants to be known as “the guy who let millions die because he did not follow the example of everyone else”.)
  3. Sweden’s policy would have been a good thing, even had it backfired: In order to handle situations like this one, we need information and we need to be able to compare strategies. When more-or-less everyone uses a tight lock-down strategy, how are we supposed to get this information and how are we to compare strategies? (Even aside from complications like inconsistent data gathering, testing, attribution of death, whatnot, between countries.) As is, we do not actually know that more than non-trivial counter-measures were needed, because there is no true benchmark to tell us whether an no-restrictions policy would have led to the equivalent of four-flu-seasons-in-one or the Spanish Flu.* Looking e.g. at Germany (alone), there might not be enough data to allow anything but a second major shut-down, should a second wave of even specifically COVID occur—the room to draw important lessons has simply been too small.**

    *I still suspect the former. Also remember e.g. the SARS and swine-flu scares that eventually had a trivial impact, far less than COVID, even without massive lock-downs.

    **And I suspect that the one lesson (or “lesson”?) will be an immediate introduction of face masks, as opposed to the delayed one that took place this time.

    Imagine instead that there had been an international agreement that different countries* should apply different levels of restrictions. Take something as trivial as varying where masks are mandatory, how large gatherings are allowed, or whether old people should be isolated. When the next epidemic comes, we would have a better idea of what counter-measures bring what benefit or damage* to health and what damage to e.g. the economy. Indeed, as even this wave has hit the world at a stagger, controlled experiments with the first countries hit could have given some help to countries hit later.

    *Or, in e.g. Germany or the U.S., different states of the federation.

    **To this, remember that e.g. involuntary isolation can have negative health effects of its own, as can unemployment caused by the counter-measures, etc. It is not a given, in advance, that even the net health effect will be positive. In my own case, it has almost certainly been negative through weight-gain and damage caused by an idiot neighbor (cf. e.g. portions of an older text, which also address the general issue in a little more detail).

    Sweden’s heretic road gives us at least some chance of comparison.

Excursion on “we can’t risk it”:
Looking at the last item, some might argue that we simply cannot take the risk and that it would be a callous risking of human lives. With this I would disagree on several counts, including that the same argument would apply in a great many other cases and result in a crippled society, that we could equally argue that the opposite would be a callous risking of the economic well-fare of the people, that neglecting to gather this information is a callous risking of future lives, and that policies can always be changed, should the situation turn out* to be unacceptable.

*One of my complaints with how the situation has been handled is that the gun was jumped—extremely far-going restrictions were applied before it was clear that the situation would actually turn out badly without restrictions. (Something that we still do not know …)

Excursion on my take on the core issues:
This few-restrictions policy is in line with my own recommendations (if in doubt because adults should themselves decide what small or moderate risks they do take) and the economic advantage is a near given. That the health effects are small* is in line with my expectation, but confirmation is good. The treatment by media is not unexpected, but I would have hoped for better.

*Compared to e.g. the overall death toll from all causes or total loss of life-years, not necessarily “raw” COVID death cases from comparable countries with a more restrictive policy. (Note that COVID still only provides a fraction of all deaths and that many of the dead were so old and sick that they lost only a small portion of their lives—unlike e.g. that middle-aged chain-smoker who died in lung cancer or that child who died in a car accident.)

Written by michaeleriksson

July 26, 2020 at 1:22 pm

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with 9 comments

I find myself, again, wanting to reference the Swedish concept of tolkningsföreträde. To make this easier, I publish this text as a considerable modification of an excursion from an older text:

An apparently international problem with many members of the Left is that they presume to have, using a Swedish word, “tolkningsföreträde”—it is their way or the high way: They decide what a word should mean. They decide what is sexism, racism, xenophobia, whatnot. They decide what is acceptable. They decide what is fair and unfair. They decide what is science and what quackery.* Etc. Often, they even presume to decide what someone else meant by a statement and what his motivations were.** Have the audacity to question this right in Sweden,*** even by pointing to the possibility of another interpretation or by pointing out that their use does not match the established one, and what happens: You (!) are accused of demanding tolkningsföreträde …

*Often mixing the two up in a manner that would be comedy if it was not so tragic, as with the blanket condemnations of anything related to IQ or the influence of “nature”, despite solid evidence, and the blanket acceptance of e.g. “gender studies” claims and a “nurture only” view, despite very severe problems with lack of proof, ideological bias, an adapt-the-facts-to-fit-the-hypothesis attitude, and whatnot.

**Not to be confused with the often observed (and it self disputable) attitude that it is solely the subjective perception of the “target” which counts to determine e.g. whether a statement is offensive: Here I mean the case of e.g. unilaterally deciding which interpretation of a statement the speaker intended and unilaterally deciding that the speaker was motivated by e.g. racism or sexism—not e.g. by concerns over sustainability of this-or-that or by the wish to make a joke. For instance, someone who says “White lives matter” is actually a racist shit who means that Black lives do not matter—not someone who, just maybe, might try to point to problems with the current attitudes against Whites or who wants to push for a more inclusive approach.

***The principle holds internationally too, if to a lesser degree and without use of the word “tolkningsföreträde”. Consider e.g. the very deliberate misdefinitions of “racism” pushed by some groups, which are simultaneously illogical and contrary to established use, but where even the attempt to push the correct meaning can lead to condemnation.

The behavior often goes beyond what can be taken as good faith based in stupidity and ignorance, and moves into outright Orwellian areas, where deliberate attempts to manipulate the debate and suppress dissent must be suspected. This especially when the Left reverses the accusation by complaining about tolkningsföreträde in others. Then again, the level of hypocrisy and blindness is often disturbingly large, and, even here, I cannot rule out an inability to see the hypocrisy.

The word, it self, means roughly “precedence of interpretation” and originated as a legal term* implying that one person/organization/whatnot has the power of interpretation of e.g. an agreement or a set of rules or by-laws, in case of ambiguity or dispute.

*An English/U.S./common-law equivalent might well exist, but I am not aware of it.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 21, 2020 at 10:32 am

Blogroll update / Follow-up: Sweden, murder, and murder of justice

with 2 comments

After a recent text on absurdities around the Palme murder I did some reading on other people’s reactions (and the murder in general). Gratifyingly, for once, most debaters seem to have agreed with me.

Indeed, some have even attempted to have Krister Peterson, the prosecutor* in charge, prosecuted … For instance, a Swedish source, claims that three notable Palme debaters have filed a complaint concerning “förtal av avliden” (“defamation of the dead”) with Riksåklagaren**.

*A word that did not occur to me during the writing of the original text. (Should someone wonder at the inconsistency.)

**In U.S. terms, a hypothetical “Prosecutor General”.

Generally, this blog has a wealth of information and discussion around (lately) the Krister Peterson fiasco and why he was wrong to proceed as he did, and (for years) the Palme murder and investigation. The author, Gunnar Wall, has himself written several books on these and other topics (that might also be discussed on the blog).

While I have not attempted to go through more than several of the older posts, it can make a worthy blogroll entry—especially, if it it makes the pressure on Krister Peterson a little higher.

The blog is entered on my Swedish blogroll:


Written by michaeleriksson

July 2, 2020 at 8:51 pm

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