Transcript: Thom Hartmann & Lasse Lundeberg: Swedish/American politics. January 12, 2012
Thom Hartmann: And welcome back to a very jet-lagged Thom Hartmann here, broadcasting live from Stockholm, Sweden. And actually, the suburb Nacka, Radio Nacka, 99.9 MHz, simulcasting our signal in Stockholm and surrounding areas, in Nacka and what not. And special thanks to Gagarin Miljkovich who is helping organize all of this and our friends at Silverlake Audio in the United States who are helping organize the audio and everybody else. It’s just, it’s a fascinating. And I wanted to bring in, in this hour, we’re going to get back to American politics as well, at the bottom of the hour and so if you have calls or thoughts on, you know, where this is all going with Newt and all these kinds of things, stick around.
But for a little bit, being here, Sweden is the epicenter of so many things. And I think of Sweden and Iceland as the economic epicenters of, you know, what’s going on, frankly worldwide, over the short and the long term. And cultural changes as well. And Lars Lundeberg is with us. Lars is a commentator on Swedish and American politics, he is on radio here, Radiolars.com, in fact, is his website. But he also lived in the United States for over a decade with a green card and worked there in radio and television. And so has the extraordinary and unique ability to, as a journalist and talk show host and commentator and resident of both countries, to have some thoughts on them. And Lars welcome to the program.
Lasse (Lars) Lundeberg: Thank you very much Thom.
Thom Hartmann: So very pleased to have you with us. First of all you said that you’ve been spending a lot of time looking at the culture wars. Both here in Sweden and in the United States you saw this. And the right and the racists and the xenophobes and what’s going on here, what’s going on here, what’s going on in the rest of Europe and how does it relate to what’s going on in America?
Lasse Lundeberg: That’s what I’m trying to understand. Well Sweden is a very modern country, when it comes to social things.
Thom Hartmann: Very modern.
Lasse Lundeberg: Very modern, yeah. Extremely modern. America, of course, is more traditional or conservative.
Thom Hartmann: Now how, if I may, just push back on that. It seems to me that Sweden, a lot of Swedes they are very reserved, this is the way we always did it. I lived in Germany for a year in the ‘80s, and I was astounded at how often the answer to any question was “we’ve always done it this way." And I have certainly heard that in Sweden. And there’s, you know, systems, you know we make change incremental and slow. So how, would you say it’s modern because it’s technologically modern?
Lasse Lundeberg: Well I’d say it’s very collective. We’re used to, the old culture of Sweden is everybody is following everybody. So everybody has to do the same thing.
Thom Hartmann: We’re all in it together.
Lasse Lundeberg: Yeah. It’s the flip side of equality that everybody has to act the same, say the same and live the same and being ruled and everybody follows. I guess Germany is very much alike that, which of course can be a bad thing. But this changes very quickly now because we’ve got a lot of immigration coming in, people from other cultures. And the reason for Sweden being very modern I think is because it’s been ruled that way. You know, our leaders have been wanting it to be very modern.
Thom Hartmann: And if the leaders are elected by the people, I mean you have a king here, but not so much. So your leaders are the politicians and so they’re reflecting the will of the people. Or are they bought off by the billionaires?
Lasse Lundeberg: That’s an idea. That’s an idea, yeah.
Thom Hartmann: Which is it? Is it really that they’re reflecting the will of the people?
Lasse Lundeberg: Not really. You know, in America, you’ve got lobbyists. Here, the ruling people of Sweden, you know, the people in power and the richest people, have a very good hold of the politicians. But the funny thing about Sweden is you don’t talk much about that. It’s not something that’s being talked about or whatever. I can give you a quick example. The tax laws of Sweden, maybe a couple of decades ago, made a poor little carpenter, he had hired a subcontractor and the subcontractor didn’t have his paper in order, so this contractor had to pay a lot of taxes and almost got wiped out of business because the tax laws told him, you’re responsible for the people you hire.
Thom Hartmann: Sure.
Lasse Lundeberg: But to make a long story short, so this was an outrage. Some papers brought up and it was an outrage and then the minister of finance said “Okay, come into my office." And this carpenter came into the finance, the minister of finance’s office, and the minister of finance called the tax authorities, the IRS, and fixed it.
Thom Hartmann: Wow.
Lasse Lundeberg: And everybody said hey that’s a good thing. But of course, that’s terrible. I mean the minister shouldn’t go in and rule in particularly small cases and there were like thousands of other carpenters …
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, if you have problems that are systemic they should be fixed systemically.
Lasse Lundeberg: Yeah, by the law. That’s a good idea. Of course our King is above the law, technically. So the King of Sweden does not have to follow the law. So the good thing about Sweden is everybody is very peaceful, people don’t riot and fight. But everybody follows what you’re supposed to do and what the leaders tell you to do. So it’s ripe for being run by the big guys.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah.
Lasse Lundeberg: Which is the downside.
Thom Hartmann: So, the little guys, the immigrants, the people, people who are not, who are visibly not ancestrally Swedish, people of color, people who maybe are 3rd or 4th generation even immigrants but they’re people of color. There is a political party here that would like them all kicked out.
Lasse Lundeberg: Right, yeah, yeah.
Thom Hartmann: And Pat Buchanan in the United States, a right wing American commentator, I remember hearing a speech when he was running for president some 15 years or more ago where he was basically talking about “those people in the banking" which was obvious Buchanan code for the Jews. And “those people who are on welfare," which was obvious Buchanan code for African Americans, even though more white people are on welfare than African Americans in the United States. And he just lost a big job because he wrote a book in which he has a chapter called “The End of White America."
Lasse Lundeberg: Oh the last book’s, yeah.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. And so we have this in the United States, you have this here. How’s it doing here? What’s the situation with this xenophobia, racism, whatever you call it?
Lasse Lundeberg: Well I guess it started out, you know, back after World War II there were a bunch of Nazis, or neo-Nazis hanging on, but they were really small, but they kind of formed and built sort of an anti-immigrant party. But their base is also conservatism or against modernism. They’re really against the modernistic society.
Thom Hartmann: So they’re true conservatives in the Edmund Burke sense?
Lasse Lundeberg: Yeah, I think so.
Thom Hartmann: Keep society the way it was when Dickens was around.
Lasse Lundeberg: Yeah, yeah. Interesting though, a lot of the immigrants also were conservative. A lot of immigrants, especially I talk to a lot of Muslims, they’re split, but a lot of them are against modern society.
Thom Hartmann: In other words they think something like gay marriage is a bad idea or…
Lasse Lundeberg: Exactly, yes, yes. So and then of course, but not all, they’re split. A lot of Muslims coming here want to emulate the western world, but some don’t. So there’s a struggle going on. So yeah, that’s the old sort of neo-Nazi movement that we have seen all over the world. But then, but then they have changed. Then they’re split into two parts because usually the neo-Nazis they hated Jews because they think the Jews are the root of all evil in the whole world. And they’re racist, you know, they really believe in race, literally, not just like a slut, but race is everything. But the new anti-immigrant parties of Sweden and Denmark and some European countries, they don’t talk about race. They’re actually literally not racist, it’s not just that they’re trying to play nice, no they’re not racist. And they don’t hate the Jews. So it’s like a huge split in that …
Thom Hartmann: So are they classists? Or, what’s…
Lasse Lundeberg: Classists… well they’re still sort of conservative but not as conservative as…
Thom Hartmann: So they just want to throw society back 70 years, that’s all.
Lasse Lundeberg: That’s a good point, yeah. Because the social democrats ran Sweden forever, for many, many years. That’s been the biggest party. And the anti-immigrant party that got into the Swedish Parliament recently, Sverigedemokraterna, they’re like the social democrats were in like the ‘70s, the ‘60s or ‘70s, and the neo-Nazis, they’re like the social democrats were in like the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Thom Hartmann: Fascinating.
Lasse Lundeberg: So both want to go back.
Thom Hartmann: So, in our last hour we had a representative of the Pirate Party, this is…
Lasse Lundeberg: Oh yeah, yeah.
Thom Hartmann: Which is kind of the other end. This is fascinating. And I’d like to get into with you a conversation, Lars, about the whole situation with social democracies. What does it mean to be a democratic socialist in Sweden, or words to that effect. After this break.
Lasse Lundeberg: Okay.
Thom Hartmann: Thom Hartmann here, broadcasting live from Stockholm, Sweden. And our guest, Lars Lundeberg. And more with him and then we’ll be picking up your calls and back to American politics.
Thom Hartmann: And welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you and Lars Lundeberg is with me and Lars, the situation, let me just take this immigrant situation a little bit farther because I'm not sure that I really understood what you just said.
Lasse Lundeberg: OK, about the split? OK
Thom Hartmann:Yeah, about the split. I understand the people who are the racists.
Lasse Lundeberg: Right, right.
Thom Hartmann: Everybody knows somebody, and the anti Semites. Everybody nows that or they've read about it or whatever. They've certainly seen the consequences of it writ large with World War II and arguably forever, nations invading other nations and killing people.
Lasse Lundeberg: Right, yes.
Thom Hartmann: But the people who are aligning themselves with them and call themselves conservatives, what do they really want?
Lasse Lundeberg: I don't know about the second immigrant wave.
Thom Hartmann: No, I mean the second anti, the second group of Swedes who are aligning themselves with the racists but they're not really racists.
Lasse Lundeberg: Ah, OK. They are basically against Muslims. it used to be that ...
Thom Hartmann: So they're religiousists. Pardon my interruption.
Lasse Lundeberg: Mmm, yeah, maybe, or maybe it's against, well, yeah, in a way. No, but first they're not racist, they're not anti-Semite any more, they're Zionist and pro-Israel, so that's a huge shift you're talking, you know, anti or for the Jewish state or anti or for race, so it's a really big shift.
But anyway, instead of hate all groups now they hate Islam and Muslims the most and they welcome Christians immigrants for, especially from countries where Muslims and Christians have been at odds with each other. So they kind of welcome people coming in who also hate Muslims, from other countries. I'm talking abut the new, the party that got into the Swedish parliament recently with something like, I don't know, 5 or 6% of the vote.
Thom Hartmann: The party is named?
Lasse Lundeberg: Sverigedemokraterna. The Sweden Democrats, which is the basic group. And the other part, the true neo-Nazis, they're more left out in the cold. They're still there but few, I think the biggest party got something like 1200 votes in the last election. Sweden has something like 9 million people.
Thom Hartmann: So there's not much there.
Lasse Lundeberg: There's not much there, but you know, I started following these guys maybe 9 years ago. I read everything on the Internet and I subscribe to one of their newsletters and I try to understand everything about them and I thought I should grow tired of that story, you know, after 3 or 4 years but it's fascinating to watch a group that sees yourself, that sees society from the outside.
I was born and raised in Sweden, I lived for 10 years in the States, which means I saw the States from the outside, and I was there for 10 or 12 years. And I started to see Sweden from the outside. So it's really fascinating to learn and watch how other people see your things.
And I used to work, I spent all my time working on radio and TV with a lot of journalists and neo-Nazis, well both anti immigrant groups, they really hate journalists,, so I get their view on the media and on everything.
Also, Sweden used to have really strong communist, real leftist parties, several of them, and some of those ideas from the old left from like the 50s and 60s, all the way from the 30s to the 50s and 60s are now being taken over by those neo Nazis and what I sense, my nose is picking up, I think those neo Nazis are going to grow and i think a lot of the militant Muslims are going to grow and they have some things in common. Thy hate, oh they hate the Jews and they hate modernity.
Thom Hartmann: We have to take a break.
[end of commercial break]
Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you, broadcasting live from Radio Nacka, 99.9 fm, in Stockholm, or Nacka, suburb of Stockholm. And Gagarin Miljkovich and all the good people here, Karen, thank you all for all your help and everything that you’re doing, we’re so pleased to be here. And to the good folks at Silverlake Audio for helping make all this happen. So, with me in the studio is Lars Lundeberg who has this unique perspective as somebody who has lived in the Untied States, for over a decade, worked in the United States and as a Swedish commentator, a Swedish essentially talk show host and commentator and journalist. Radiolars.com his website. And, Lars, just to summarize the conversation from the last segment, you said that the thing, this new group that has emerged, which is called the Swedish Democratic Party, but how do you say it in Swedish?
Lasse Lundeberg: Sverigedemokraterna.
Thom Hartmann: Sverigedemokraterna.
Lasse Lundeberg: Close enough.
Thom Hartmann: That this party is, they’re not racists and they’re not anti-Semites and they’re not friends with the Nazis on those bases, but they are aligning themselves with the Nazis because they hate Muslims. And it’s their hatred of Muslims, and then the other guys hate Jews and people of color, and so the two of them are getting together and saying we’re the people who hate people. Right? I find that incredible.
Lasse Lundeberg: Haha.
Thom Hartmann: Now, with regard to the United States and Sweden, Sweden is world famous for being a social democracy, a democratic socialist society, a society where from the moment you are born, arguably from the moment a woman is pregnant until the moment you die, you never have to fear that some disaster, whether it’s a car accident that disables you, or cancer, or you know, whatever it may be, or being born with some sort of a birth defect or something like that. You never have to worry that having that happen is going to wipe you out. In America, half of all bankruptcies happen from people who simply got sick. And half of those people were insured and they still wiped them out. And then fully a third of bankruptcies in American are the result of women getting divorced and they don’t have an independent income high enough to cover the bills that they have, the half of the bills that they walked out of the divorce with. None of that would ever happen here in Sweden. So what lessons does Sweden have for America, and how do the Swedes think about this? I mean looking at us, what do they think we’re crazy? Or do they think that maybe we’re on to something, or, you know, what?
Lasse Lundeberg: When you’re born and raised with something, you don’t appreciate it. So a lot of people just take it for granted, just like Rick said. Also what I discovered, or experienced in America, was that life could change more quickly and you had to be really responsible for your own life. So the good thing is that you feel that you’re alive more because you constantly have to, and also money. We can’t understand why Americans think so much about the dollar. Well of course, you’ve got to have those dollars otherwise you’re on the street.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah.
Lasse Lundeberg: And I imagine myself being on the streets, you know, a couple weeks after the next paycheck, so I could have, I felt that feeling myself.
Thom Hartmann: When you were in America.
Lasse Lundeberg: Yeah, when I was in America. It never happened, but you know, I could feel that feeling and sometimes had to choose between you know, paying the rent or buying cans of food or whatever. And so when you don’t have that, when you don’t have that you can, well sometimes maybe you don’t live as close to reality or maybe you start dreaming away, which is a good thing. Because the thing about America is that everything is much tactical. You’re more focused on the small nitty gritty details in the moment. And the good thing, the best thing about maybe Sweden, is that, and I’ve talked to people coming from Russia, is that you have this luxury in a way of thinking big thoughts but you can’t change your life that much. It used to be if you work real hard, you got to taxes he couldn’t get any much more money, although that’s changed a little.
Thom Hartmann: But Sweden doesn’t have as many millionaires and billionaires relative to its population as most other countries, in fact you only have a handful. And you don’t have poor people here, I mean desperately poor people.
Lasse Lundeberg: Right, yeah. No, not that much, no. So in a way, the bad thing is you don’t feel like you can change your life.
Thom Hartmann: So everybody is stuck in the middle class.
Lasse Lundeberg: Yeah, in a way. I mean that’s, I’m not trashing it, I think it’s very good. And I think of course, just like anybody, I can call the cops or the fire department now matter how many times you’ve been burglarized, you should be able to get medical care, no matter what, I think. Of course it’s a problem because good medical care is about how you live your life. What you eat, if you exercise, and you don’t really want the government to tell you, you know, what to eat, or how to live your life. So there’s a problem with it.
Thom Hartmann: Well but with everybody paying for it, isn’t there a social pressure not to smoke, not to become obese, not to, you know…
Lasse Lundeberg: A little bit. There was a Swedish talk show who brought that up. Some callers called in and said that way, if they eat, and eat fatty foods and drink, it’s their problem, we shouldn’t be paying for it. But basically, it doesn’t really, it doesn’t really work that way. People just expect the government to be there.
Thom Hartmann: There’s very much a sense here that we’re all in this together, we’re all Swedes, we take care of each other, I am my brother’s keeper.
Lasse Lundeberg: Which sounds very good. But I’ve got to say, there’s a down side to it, because it went back to, in Sweden, everybody has to be the same. Those anti-immigrant parties I talked about, they’re reflecting Sweden a few decades back where everybody had to be the same. And of course people come here from other cultures, they’re different. So there’s, there’s a lot of things happening. People coming in with new cultures, different cultures, and people here have to adjust and they have to adjust. So there are a lot of things going on. And I hope it’s for the better, I hope it’s not a powder cake, whatever, waiting to …
Thom Hartmann: In the minute we have left, is the immigrants, is this the result of being part of the European Union, it’s easier to get into and out of Sweden if you’re from another EU country?
Lasse Lundeberg: I think it’s basically the result of the Swedish politicians pushing it that way, EU or not EU, no matter what. And I think Swedish politician have started looking more towards America, we’re becoming more and more like America, actually, in the modern sense, of the modern stuff. Of course in America being an immigrant is scary.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Except there’s no way that you would have a political party have as a platform, you know, do away with Obamacare, which is just the smallest step towards a national healthcare system, you know. It’s just, or you know privatize Social Security. George Bush ran, you know, in 2005, when he was re-elected, his first priority was to take social security and hand it all to Wall Street. I don’t think anybody in Sweden would do that.
Lasse Lundeberg: No. Well, the big banks and the big guys, they still run the show over here, actually. Actually Goldman Sachs is in here too, so…
Thom Hartmann: Oh my. Lars Lundeberg, thanks so much.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.