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Swedish number hijacked by trolls - and may I say "I told you so"? Because I did tell you so, I told you that the Sweden number got trolled pretty much right out of the gate. Later I compared it to the backfired #CallBrussels number, which much like the Sweden number slowly failed. Yesterday, my opinion-piece "Swedish Number, Expensive PR" was published in Resumé. Despite the otherwise positive coverage in media, and even getting the Swedish Prime Minister involved because he has nothing better to do, the number keeps getting trolled and it just keeps getting worse.
The Swedish ad tradepress Resumé report today that talk show hosts Alex and Sigge called the number, and were greeted by a "Sweden hater".
"... (the) duo called the number that was such as PR success - but the person who answered did everything but spread the good word/advertisement for Sweden. He said instead that the media is controlled by the state and that there is no freedom of expression in the country."
You can listen to that episode of Alex & Sigge's talk show here, if you understand Swedish. In the middle of the show, Sigge Eklund pretends to be "Giorgio, from Napoli", and calls the number (check at 20 minutes in) only to break down in giggles at his own awful accent. The woman on the other end of the line hangs up.
In the next call, when asked if the person on the other end of the line is representative of Sweden. The man responds: "It doesn't mean I like Sweden. I hate Sweden." he continues to explain that while it's lovely in the south of Sweden. "The politics are bad. The health care is very bad. We have very high taxes. But we don't get very much for them. We don't have free health care like our politicians say." he adds, when Sigge turns the call to Sweden being generous with other countries and taking in refugees the man goes on a rant: "That's crazy, it's absolutely crazy. We have taken too many refugees here. We have taken too many. The refugees don't contribute anything because most of them don't have an education." Sigge asks what the result is, and the man dryly states: "A disaster. We are going to leave, we are going to move away from here because we don't want to stay here any more." he adds that most people think like this "Except for the politicians. And they don't listen to the people. And you are not allowed to state... to express your opinion in Sweden... if you have a job for example or in the media, you can only express opinion that are approved by the state and by the government - otherwise you can be fired from your job. It's really horrible. There's no freedom of speech." Sigge jumps in to retort: -"But the media is free, right?" only to be shut down by the man on the other end : -"No no no, the media will only express the opinions that are politically correct."
Journalist Alex Schulman and novelist Sigge Eklund discuss the idea of a Swedish number afterward: "Is this conversation that you just had with that person, reason enough to shut that entire number down?" they ask "I don't want this person to represent me, ever."
Now the national media is reacting to the troll-ability of this number, the national tabloid Expressen reported the story, and so did Resumé. In both articles the unknown man is dubbed a "Sweden hater" for his statement that he hated Sweden and wanted to leave. Sigge Eklund then agrees with me, and says that the idea with this number is "incredibly naive":
"It is so incredibly naive to think that people who feel proud of Sweden, our refugee policy, or our welfare, would feel compelled to make themselves available around the clock. Our little experiment indicates that it can be politically active people who see their chance to tell us what they see as the truth."
Magnus Ling, the President of Sweden Tourism, likens the number to talking to a random Swede on a bus. It's not possible to control what these people say, and that is part of the charm he thinks.
- "You might encounter a little bit of everything, just like in real life. If we had trained ambassadors and controlled the conversation, it would have lost all of the charm" he says to Expressen.
But Sigge Eklund now thinks that the number attracts a certain type of people:
- "If it's a bus, it's heading straight for the Sweden Democrats' party convention. It's not an average bus with an average Swede. It goes without saying that an average Swede have neither the time nor the inclination to answer questions about what Sweden is."
The Sweden Democrats are a political party in Sweden that captured 12.9% of the votes in 2014, making them the third-largest party in Sweden and now have 49 out of 349 seats in the Riksdag. They are also the most media-hated party in Sweden, while SD sees themselves as social conservatives they are described in the media as far-right and newspaper front pages encourage the population not to vote for them. Sigge may have inadvertently made the unknown man's point about the media.
EDIT: I have changed the headline on this article so that it doesn't get confused with our previous article regarding Sweden trolls