Some thoughts

Scott said in comments to the Anna Lindh post: “They also claim that Sweden has a fairly high murder rate by European standards. Considering how often reports on this murder have evoked how safe Sweden is, and how politicians hardly need bodyguards, I found this claim very surprising.”

It turns out we’re at the EU average, but his comment did spawn these thoughts of mine:

Perhaps it wouldn’t be that surprising. The difference between crime frequency between the US and Sweden surely is huge, but I suspect the difference in how safe people feel is even greater. I know that crime was a much bigger election issue in for example France and other countries than in Sweden last year. It’s possible we have somewhat more crime than a some other countries, but feel a lot more safe and unconcerened than them.

An interesting thing I read is that residents of the poor immigrant suburbs of Stockholm felt much, much more unsafe than residents of neighbouring middle class neighbourhoods, to the point where it was seriously detrimental to their quality of life, even though the incidence of violent crimes was rougly similar.

People’s perceptions are (in this regard) more influenced by the media, by prejudice, and by the mood of the culture, than they are by actual facts.

As to not using bodyguards; we already had the Palme murder, and still it’s only the prime minister that always uses bodyguards. From what everyone tells me, most countries are different, I would guess that includes even ones without comparable experiences. It’s a cultural issue.

Partly it’s a question of our self-image and what I discussed above, but I believe it’s also because in some ways the political elites aren’t as far apart from the electorate as they are in many other countries. And what’s worth noting is that I’m not talking about the electorate’s attitude, but that of the politicians. To stop shopping in department stores and taking the train, etcetera, to stop living more or less like an ordinary middle class person, is an intolerable sacrifice for many Swedish politicians on the highest level. I’m only speculating here, but is that really as true of say French politicians?

This isn’t a minor thing, but a great strenghth of Swedish democracy, and that’s one reason why this is so horrible. On the other hand, again looking at the Palme case, maybe things will mostly stay the same after all.

7 thoughts on “Some thoughts

  1. On the question of the behaviour of Swedish politicians, I’d say it’s quite different from that of most senior British politicians, though one can still see some MPs living relatively normal lives. However, I think part of the shock at Lindh’s murder (and Palme’s beforehand) was that senior politicians in a relatively large and important country could still have ‘normal’ lives like that.

  2. This:

    Is some interesting commentary by sechenai over at the How to learn Swedish… blog on whether it was politically motivated. To quote:

    “I for one don’t think the deed was politically motivated, I think it was a junkie on rohypnol and maybe mental (which might have been brought against lindh as her face is plastered all over town, not good for paranoids) for a couple of reasons:
    – Knife (a gun is faster and more lethal and more oft used in political murders)
    – Clothing (Camouflage makes you stand out in a regular crowd, even more so in NK. It would have been more successful to by a simple thing such as low-key clothing lower any attention, if one feels to murder.)
    – NK has had its shares of robberies, abundance of pickpockets and the odd assault, it is a high profile venue with good stuff for the grey markets for the junkies.
    – description points at a typical swedish male which almost rules out major international outlines for political foulplay
    – no announced politicial tirades on scene or elsewhere. the neonazis usually work in groups and target blacks and gays (besides the nazis are under constant watch by the police and S?PO since the mid 80’s, at a minimum to know the extent of the groups). the swedish extreme leftwingers are very weak and primarily directed at talkytalky and rescuing minks and kicking skinheads.
    – Lindhs schedule is very tight all days due to her work and she is always-on-the-move, so if this shopping was planned at all it wouldnt have been that long as she most likely had somewhere else to go quite soon. although officially her schedule of the day isn’t clear I feel pretty certain she was atleast some part of the day in close contact with collegues, in Rosenbad or UD, or someplace else ‘secure’ and covered by the regular security routines of police and S?PO. a tagging recon group of one and more people would (hopefully) have been spotted, especially if in camouflage.”

    These all seem like fair arguments to me, but given that her face was everywhere for the Yes campaign, something politically motivated (but perhaps oportunistic) certainly can’t be ruled out. Very sad.

  3. My condolences to the the minister’s family, friends and the Swedish people. It really is a sad thing.

    On the political openness:

    It has been the same in the Netherlands for most part. Prior to the Pim Fortuyn murder last year most politicians didn’t have bodyguards. I might write an entry about it if I can find the time and energy.

    They said the same things like “our country will never have the same open politics anymore”, but I do think it hasn’t gotten that bad. Politicians might have bodyguards now, it’s still quite easy to approach them. For example, on the site of our parliament you can still find the personal adresses and telephone numbers of a lot of politicians( – though it’s less than before. My dutch blog colleague has had no trouble interviewing a member of the dutch cabinet and the political leader of one of our parties, even though he worked at the time for a magazine with a very small readership.

  4. As someone who was nearby when Oskar Lafontaine was stabbed in Cologne over ten years ago, I doubt that bodyguards will give more than a false feeling of safety in most cases.
    There are situations, where a murderer has good chances to come through, no matter how many Bodyguards stand around and I’d also count a situation like Lindh was (a short, private shopping trip) in. What would body guards have done? I do think, some politicians need bodyguards, because they do help, but they’re not as safe as this upcoming discussions today suggest.

  5. The Nordic countries still remain the most murder-friendly countries in the world. Should Lindh’s murderer ever get caught, he would probably be out of prison within eight to twelve years. Didn’t Fortuyn’s murderer get the same type of sentence? Far be it for Sweden not to be as magnamious: the murderer must be given a chance for rehabilitation, after all.

    I can see someone decide that such a penalty is worth the satisfaction of eliminating a hated political figure. After all, being taken care of for 12 years in Sweden’s comfy prisons, fitted with games, television, and music, is not so bad, when you come to think of it. You don’t even have to work for it.

  6. “Didn’t Fortuyn’s murderer get the same type of sentence?”

    He got 18 years, and because of our lack of cells people usually are released a third of the time earlier: 12 years. But as far as I know there are procedures that will take care this will not happen with Volkert v.d. G.

  7. Even with 18 years, with early release, the deal sounds good. I’m pretty sure that Dutch standards are stricter than those in Sweden. The Scandinavian countries remain the best countries in the world where to commit murder.

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