Here is a personal view of the way the media in Sweden covered
Tuesday's events in the United States. I should warn you that my
selection will be somewhat skewed, in that I don't have a TV at
The events in the US happened during the afternoon Swedish time.
A colleague of mine happened to check the website of Aftonbladet
(an "evening" newspaper) and saw the first telegrams of an incredible
accident having just happened in New York. He rushed over to the
Technology department who have access to satellite television
- they were already watching BBC World. They quickly patched this
in to our video conferencing system.
A few minutes later I came out of the lab and saw a small crowd
of people staring at the smoking view of Manhattan. My errand was
forgotten and I joined the others, watching. It was quite clear
that the BBC news anchors didn't really know anything and didn't
have anything to say, but still had to keep talking, mixing platitudes
with various rumours. By this time the newspaper websites were overloaded
with requests - one of my acquaintances said he followed the events
through the site of Upsala
Nya Tidning (smaller local newspaper). During the afternoon,
the major newspaper websites handled the issue by simplifying their
web sites, removing graphics, etc, to minimise bandwidth requirements.
At one point the local cellphone network became overloaded for some
period of time. People started sending email messages to colleagues
in the U.S., checking on them.
I went home to prepare food for my children -- on the underground
train, in the shop, there was only a single subject of discussion.
As I got home, I turned on the radio, expecting that there would
be news there. Sveriges Radio channels P1
and P4 did a
shared emission until midnight that day with commentary, analysis,
statements and news every full hour. Already then it was clear that
even while people were extremely upset and saddened by what had
happened, many worried that the U.S. would respond by violence,
directed at anyone or anything, just to ease the pressure. Even
the Prime Minister's statement that evening hinted at such a worry.
[In the edition
of Monday, September 17th, Dagens Nyheter had statements from
all parliamentary parties that they were worried about escalated
Already, at this point, there was a feeling that Moslems probably
were involved in the attacks. Representatives of Moslem
organisations in Sweden outspokenly condemned terror actions such as
these (though still pointing out that their brethren in the Middle
East and elsewhere were quite used to being at the point of such
attacks), and considered those in Palestine who rejoiced at the news
as being misguided.
Television commentators later said TV4
(commercial TV channel) handled the reporting best, by completely
reordering their schedule and putting in a similar, all-evening
commentary program. The public
TV channels apparently did not do such a good job of it.
The next day, I think Aftonbladet's news bill [poster] was the best.
It simply said: WHO? WHY?
Both evening papers (yes, they do come out in the morning)
-- Aftonbladet and Expressen
- basically consisted of huge 50-page special editions covering
all that was known about the events, and quite a bit of speculation.
The morning papers (which also come out in the morning, but are
considered to be more sophisticated), Dagens
Nyheter and Svenska
Dagbladet, also spent most of their news space on the attacks.
Both morning papers are liberal (i e, right-wing) papers, though
SvD rather more so. (That is, DN is social liberal (though the journalists
not uncommonly stand somewhat to the left of the editorial page),
whereas SvD used to be conservative but today should rather be classified
as neoliberal.) They have in their editorials placed themselves
behind president Bush and strongly criticised those who have suggested
that it is unfair to be more upset by the, in comparison, considerably
fewer that were killed in New York, as opposed to civilians in Iraq,
Still, I believe that not even Svenska Dagbladet advocates military
force very strongly. (I'd have to read through their editorials a
bit more carefully to confirm that, though.)
On Wednesday afternoon, our mail server was overloaded (though it's
always been on the margin of adequate performance).
Now a few days later, there are the starts of a bit of debate on the
issues, but I think most are still so overwhelmed that they are
weighing their words and treading very softly. There have been a few
scattered incidents (that have reached the media, at least) of people
with Arabic names or appearance having been harassed or even beaten,
but so far it seems these have mostly been committed by such that
need scant excuse to beat up immigrants anyway...
(A personal comment: I think it is fairly expectable that horrendous
events in New York are given larger coverage than similar ones in,
say, Sudan, as so many fewer of the media consumers have any ties
whatsoever to Khartoum. Note that while there may be quite a few
Sudanese people living in Sweden (I have no idea of the actual number),
they are in general not consumers of Swedish mass media,
but rather of satellite television and newspapers in their own language.
Kai-Mikael is a graduate student at the Department
of Numerical Analysis and Computer Science of the Royal
Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.
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