David vs. Goliath

A friend of mine, Joakim Nilsson, an all-but-dissertation PhD in political science from Lund University, has taken on one of the Swedish welfare state’s Goliaths: the state’s “public service” television and radio networks. Joakim wrote his almost finished dissertation on polical communication, and it is from this point of view he is now taking on the giants in Swedish media.

It is a well-known fact that the public service reporting in Sweden is severely biased towards the so-called “left.” Even though most Avarage Joes in Sweden would probably deny it, it has been established in a number of reports that at least 60-70 % of the news reporters working for the public prior-to-December-1987 monopoly sympathize with either the rather hegemonic socialist party or the communist party. Another large chunk of these “news” reporters sympathize with the semi-communist green party.

Joakim, who is the only existing expert on political communication that I know of (and for sure the only expert in Sweden), recently published an article in one of the big Swedish daily newspapers: Expressen. In this article, he mentions a number of examples of the outrageous “news” reporting that heavily influences the Swedish political arena. Since the left is often very dogmatically anti-America, the examples in Joakim’s article are mainly of Swedish Television‘s (SVT) and Swedish Radio‘s (SR) reporting from the USA. The examples clearly show that there is not only a bias – the reporters, when asked, have no problem admitting that they consciously report from a certain point of view rather than communicate the facts.

But the examples are only to illustrate the main point Joakim makes in his article: that rather than pretending to be neutral (which is literally impossible) everybody gains if actors in the media clearly state their points of view. This used to be the case in Swedish media, where newspapers often reported news and published commentary from a classical liberal, conservative or socialist perspective – and described themselves using these terms. This tradition is long gone, but newspapers still like to say they are “neutrally liberal” etc, even though most articles are from the centralized news agency – the political label applies only to the opinion pages. Some habits die hard, it seems.

Joakim uses the media in the United States as a perfect example of media corporations finding new niches through clearly taking a stand and holding on to a certain set of beliefs (read: FOX News). The change towards “politically labeled” news media in the USA is hardly perfect, but it is heading in the right direction. Of course, it is all for the better if people get to choose themselves rather than being force-fed a certain set of beliefs. The media is not the only industry that this applies to – the schooling of children in state brainwashing facilities is a perfect example of how centralizing and monopolizing can become a real threat to life and liberty (even though few would admit to have seen the effects just yet, but they will come).

This point of Joakim’s clearly didn’t hit the target. In a follow-up article – “SVT and SR are unbiased!” – written by the “program directors” of SVT and SR they dogmatically claim Joakim is wrong without even attempting to show how or why. The article is in every sense of the word lacking both arguments and examples and sense. As is usually the case when someone points out that the emperor is indeed naked, those loyal to the naked guy try to get away with not at all attacking the issue at hand. Some things don’t change – the ruling elite don’t have to play the game the same way the serfs must.

A couple of days ago, Joakim had his response to the insipid defense published. Of course, Joakim has all the facts on hand and also has the expertise, so the Goliaths of status quo don’t stand a chance. In this follow-up to the follow-up, he calmly and matter-of-factly mentions another publicly known example of explicit bias and humbly asks whether the “public services” really believe they believe they are, as they claim, neutral despite these public statements of the opposite.

I sincerely doubt anything will happen after this third and final article. Things will most likely go back to normal, and nothing will seem to have changed. Actually, I sincerely doubt any Swedes have even taken notice of Joakim’s articles and the examples he presented; people will probably just take the words of the program directors as the truth, shrug, and go back to their boring, ignorant lives. The only good thing that may come out of this is that it is more likely that Joakim gets to act as “expert commentator” on news shows.

His attempt to take on Goliath would, assuming his aim is to prove a point and have SVT and SR admit their bias, therefore be a complete failure. At least, it failed as a single, separate action, and I am sure Joakim knows this. But what if we see his attempt in a context; what if we add a few davids taking on the same Goliath; what if they do it over and over again – what if they never falter, never give up, never stop? Then they will eventually be victorious; they will be the drops of water that never stop hitting the stone in a seemingly impossible and pointless attempt to break it – sooner or later the stone will give in and break.

As a single event I find Joakim’s articles somewhat entertaining, partly because I agree with him and partly because it is entertaining to see someone single-handedly taking on someone so much bigger than himself. But seen as part of something rather than something separate, I think Joakim’s articles give hope – he not only shows that one person single-handedly can, but also that he should and must.

If we all believe that it is pointless and that we are alone we can never make real change. But if we take action, do something about what is wrong with this world (whatever we believe it is) and make a whole-hearted attempt to point out that the emperor is completely naked – then there is hope for change. More so – we will become the change we so desperately long for. So what are you waiting for? There are plenty of Goliaths, but way too few have the guts to be a David.

About Per Bylund

Per Bylund

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