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Gov. Greg Abbott vetoes funding for Texas Legislature and its staff as punishment for Democrats’ walkout on elections bill

The governor’s move comes after Democrats walked out of the House in the final days of the regular legislative session to block passage of Senate Bill 7, Abbott’s priority elections bill that would have overhauled voting rights in the state.



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He did not know that this gesture was anti-semitic because it is NOT anti-semitic. There's nothing to add — except that you people should start thinking by yourself instead of believing words coming f

When a government wants to control its population, the best way to do so is to fear its people by creating an external enemy. This way, people feel endangered by an outside menace, become more patriot

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Swedish PM Stefan Löfven loses no-confidence vote

Premier is first in country’s history to be ousted by opposition MPs and has a week to decide next move


Sweden’s parliament has backed a no-confidence vote in the centre-left prime minister, Stefan Löfven, making him the first premier to be ousted by opposition MPs in the country’s history and giving him a week to resign or call snap elections.

The vote, called by the nationalist Sweden Democrats barely a year before a general election, plunges Sweden back into political uncertainty four years after the last inconclusive poll produced a deadlocked parliament and led to months of negotiations to form a coalition.

Löfven’s fragile minority Social Democrat-Green coalition has been propped up by tacit support from two small centre-right parties and the formerly communist Left party, which withdrew its backing over plans to ease rent controls on new apartments.

The motion, voted on by all 349 MPs despite Covid restrictions, needed 175 votes to pass and got 181. The Sweden Democrat leader, Jimmie Åkesson, told parliament the government was historically weak and “should never have come to power”.

The Left party blamed the prime minister for the crisis, with its leader, Nooshi Dadgostar, saying the Social Democrat-led government had “given up on the Left party and the Swedish people”, rather than the other way round.

The political commentator Mats Knutson told the public broadcaster SVT: “For a long time it looked like the minority government would make it until the end of the term, but the built-in divisions in the government’s base have finally become too big.”

Last-ditch efforts by the Social Democrats to appease the Left party, which has 27 MPs, over the weekend proved in vain, with the party insisting the government’s plans to overhaul rent controls, potentially opening the door for landlords to freely set rents for new-build apartments, ran counter to Sweden’s social model.

Three scenarios now look possible: Löfven could resign, leaving the parliamentary speaker with the job of finding a new majority; a snap election could be called, even though the 2022 poll must proceed as planned; or a political compromise could allow the government to stay on in a caretaker capacity.

However, with the two main left and rightwing blocs still deadlocked in parliament and evenly balanced in opinion polls, it is not clear how a new administration could be formed or whether fresh elections would resolve the situation.

Analysts said they expected Löfven to resign, but added that the former union boss, who is famed for his backroom negotiating skills, could well return.

“I think nobody wants an extra election … and the Social Democrats would, according to recent polls, lose quite a lot of votes in an election right now,” said Anders Sannerstedt, a political scientist at Lund University.

Sannerstedt told Agence-France Presse that if the prime minister departed, the continuing parliamentary deadlock could allow him to rise again. Jonas Hinnfors, a political scientist from the University of Gothenburg, agreed.

“He is an extremely good negotiator,” Hinnfors said. “Given that the seat distribution is the same, the most likely outcome is that Löfven will come back.”

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The Rise of Sweden Democrats: Islam, Populism and the End of Swedish Exceptionalism



Historically, Sweden has been a generous safe haven for refugees. Of all the countries featured in this Brookings project, it has taken in the most refugees per capita, and is third in the world on this measure behind Canada and Australia.[1] In 2015, Sweden had a record-high of 162,877 applications for asylum, primarily from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan—or about 1.6 percent of Sweden’s population of 10 million.[2] This would be proportionally equivalent to over five million people applying for asylum in the United States, which in fact only received approximately 83,000 asylum applications that year.[3]

For a country like Sweden that has grown increasingly secular over recent decades, the influx of Muslims from war-torn countries has greatly impacted politics and society. The Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna), a right-wing populist party once politically verboten because of ties to neo-Nazis at its founding in 1988, is now the third largest party in the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament. It has effectively fashioned a narrative linking the surge of predominantly Muslim immigrants to a perception of an uptick in violent crimes and perceived strains on the prized Swedish welfare system. Swedes who are disgruntled by “the establishment” response to these concerns, especially regarding sociocultural issues,[4] are attracted to the populist refrain of the Sweden Democrats: “We say what you think.”[5] Unsurprisingly, the Sweden Democrats’ primary talking point is to specifically halt asylum immigration, which is predominantly Muslim.

This case study offers insight into why Swedes are joining the Sweden Democrats and the connection to their perception of Islam. Through interviews with Sweden Democrat voters and officials primarily in Skåne, the southern party stronghold, this paper provides an intimate portrait of Sweden Democrats and their frustration with a political establishment over Muslim immigration, the perceived impact on the welfare system, and the cultural fallout in secular, liberal Sweden.[6] Interviewees eagerly shared their experiences of changes in Sweden, such as the introduction of Muslim children joining their kids’ classes, witnessing crimes in neighborhoods with more immigrants, and experiencing what they think of as religious concessions for Muslims who “should” be assimilating to secular Sweden.

Sweden Democrats do not believe that problems of crime or integration stem primarily from failures of socioeconomic policy or government bureaucracy; rather, they also blame culture, both of Muslim immigrants and political correctness. The Sweden Democrats and their robust network of “alternative media”[7] offer narratives that make sense of these phenomena, regardless of whether claims might be unverified or false. When faced with allegations of racism, however, Sweden Democrats double down on the populist message that they are normal, working-class people trying to call attention to socioeconomic and sociocultural challenges posed by an influx of non-Western refugees, which they claim traditional political parties do not tackle head-on.


To understand the rise of the Sweden Democrats, it is important to first consider how the party exists in opposition to Sweden’s pre-existing political landscape, which had been governed more or less by a centrist consensus emphasizing humanitarianism and social welfare. The current ruling party, the Social Democrats, has been in power for the better part of the twentieth century with the exception of a few election cycles. Under the idea of folkhemmet or creating a “people’s home,” the Social Democrats in the 1930s were responsible for setting up much of Sweden’s robust social welfare system. It is the oldest party in Sweden and is currently leading the government in coalition with the Green Party.[8]

The second largest party is the Moderates, a center-right party and the main opposition to the Social Democrats. They differ from the latter in their support for free market principles, economic liberalism, and tax cuts. From 2006 to 2014 they were the lead party in coalition with the Christian Democrats, Liberals, and Center Party. Yet when the Sweden Democrats became the Riksdag’s third largest party in 2018, this coalition split, with the Liberals and Center Party offering support to the Social Democrats and refusing to make common cause with the Sweden Democrats to form a conservative government.[9]

There is a proud national narrative of “Swedish Exceptionalism” for welcoming refugees and providing asylum. While Swedes might have guarded their ethnic homogeneity before the 1930s, by World War II, Sweden began accepting Norwegian, Jewish, Danish, and Estonian immigrants.[10] In the decades following, they welcomed Iranians after the Islamic revolution, Chileans fleeing Pinochet, and war refugees from the former Yugoslavia. Being a safe haven for others became a point of pride.[11] As other European countries moved toward stricter immigration policies in the 1990s and 2000s, Sweden opened up.[12] With some exceptions, politicians on both the left and right supported generous asylum and immigration policies well above the EU-minimum standards.[13]

All of this changed with the refugee crisis of 2015, marking the “end of Swedish exceptionalism,” when political parties changed their rhetoric and policies in reaction to fears of a “system collapse” from the massive influx of migrants.[14] By November 2015, even the Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven noted, “It pains me that Sweden is no longer capable of receiving asylum seekers at the high level we do today. We simply cannot do any more,” the near opposite of what he said just seven months before.[15] By this time however, the Sweden Democrats had already seized the opportunity to position themselves as the only “authentic” party calling for curbing immigration not just recently but for decades.

It was against a backdrop of de-industrialization, public spending cutbacks, rising unemployment, and the violent breakup of Yugoslavia that caused an influx of refugees, that the Swedish Democrats grew up after their founding in 1988.[16] Like other radical right parties, they called for restricting immigration across the board, not just of Muslims.[17] Initially, the party had connections to Swedish fascism and explicit white nationalism.[18] They elected Anders Klarström as party chairman in 1989, who had been linked to the neo-Nazi Nordic Realm Party.[19] After photos surfaced of some members wearing Nazi uniforms in the mid-1990s, the party banned the wearing of uniforms of any kind and explicitly denounced Nazism in an attempt to present a more respectable image.[20]

Most of my interviewees acknowledged the racist origins of the Sweden Democrats but insisted that the party had outgrown them. A party official and Iranian immigrant who joined in 2013 rejected claims of racism, despite his own initial fears to the contrary: “I was afraid that when I became a member, when I was coming to party headquarters in Malmö, I was expecting like, oh, will there be a Southern Dixie Flag. But I came here and there was coffee and cookies and there was nothing like that.”[21] Other respondents claimed that while extremists still sometimes showed up to local Sweden Democrat meetings, they were summarily expelled. A few interviewees shrugged off the party’s past or denied pieces of it, saying that political adversaries draw attention to the racist past to delegitimize the party.

Despite dark origins, the Sweden Democrats have surged both in Riksdag seats and in public opinion polls. In the 2018 Riksdag election, the Sweden Democrats gained 13 seats for a total of 62, while the Social Democrats lost 13 seats, dropping to 100.[22] Since 2014, the Sweden Democrats have been the third largest party in parliament.[23] Particularly in the southern Skäne region, Sweden Democrats have made up the largest party in 21 of the region’s 33 municipalities since 2018.[24] During the writing of this paper, the Sweden Democrats tailed the Social Democrats as most popular among voters in opinion polls, at one point besting them with 24 percent of support, compared to the Social Democrats at 22 percent.[25]

Why the increased popularity? Scholars Anders Hellström, Tom Nilsson, and Pauline Stoltz describe three phases of the Sweden Democrats’ development. The first was before 2006, when the party was more or less out of public view and perceived as a small movement with neo-Nazi flourishes. In 2005, the 26-year-old chairman of the Sweden Democratic Youth, Jimmie Åkesson became the party leader, a position he still holds today. A former web developer and ex-Moderate, Åkesson strove to change the party’s image after various neo-Nazi leaders were expelled.[26] The change in leadership arguably ushered the party into a second stage (2006-2010), pushing it away from openly racist groups and toward a populist message advocating for “ordinary people” against a corrupt elite at the height of a global recession. This catapulted the Swedish Democrats into the media and public consciousness and gave the party its first significant electoral gains. The third phase came in 2010, when they entered parliament for the first time with 20 seats.[27] The party officially changed its self description from “nationalist” to “social conservative” in 2011, and in 2012 introduced a “zero tolerance for racism” policy, which expelled party members with public opinions deemed as too racist.[28]

Notably, anti-Islam and anti-Muslim sentiments were not included in this expulsion. The Sweden Democrats had been laying the groundwork for a more focused anti-Islam narrative long before 2015, identifying Islam as public enemy number one. Åkesson claimed in 2009, “As a Sweden Democrat I see this [Islam and Muslims in Sweden] as our biggest foreign threat since World War II…Leading representatives of the Muslim community will demand the implementation of Sharia law in Sweden; that the Swedish municipal health board would use taxes to circumcise totally healthy young boys; that Sweden would have a higher level of rape and that Muslim men would be strongly represented among the rapists; that Swedish swimming clubs would introduce separate timetables for women and men.”[29]

These warnings about Islam from Åkesson’s 2009 speech, such as rape by migrants and religiously segregated swimming pools, came up in many interviews, despite most interviewees only joining the party in the past five to seven years. Survey research shows that Sweden Democrats have significantly different opinions of Muslims than those in other parties. According to recent Pew Research Center polls, 59 percent of Swedes with a positive opinion of the Sweden Democrats express an unfavorable opinion of Muslims in their country. Conversely of those with a negative view of the Sweden Democrats, just 17 percent see Muslims negatively.[30] Of Swedes, 70 percent had favorable attitudes toward immigration in 2015, yet Sweden Democrats’ higher skepticism toward immigration has framed it as an increasingly important political issue.[31]

Building on Hellstöm, Nilsson, and Stoltz, I suggest there is a fourth phase in the party’s evolution, marked by the 2015 refugee crisis. In a span of three months, 114,000 predominantly Muslim asylum seekers arrived in Sweden, primarily into Malmö and small towns in the South, overwhelming the capacity of both government and civil society organizations while garnering continuous media attention.[32]

After that, the asiktskorridor or “opinion corridor” of what was socially acceptable in Swedish politics widened as discontent grew with how established parties handled welfare, immigration, and cultural concerns emerging from the crisis.[33] Leading up to the 2018 election, immigration and healthcare polled nationally as the top concerns, respectively.[34] The Sweden Democrats seized the opportunity to draw attention to the failures of the government’s approach, cultural clashes with visibly observant Muslims, and reports of growing crime—creating a recruitment mechanism for disaffected Swedes.


There is an experience of “coming out” as a Sweden Democrat, where after suppressing opinions on Islam or migration perceived as “politically incorrect,” members would reveal their beliefs more publicly, to family and friends and then to the rest of their community.[35] By 2015, the Sweden Democrats had “come out.”


When I asked Sweden Democrat members why they joined the party, most everyone mentioned the 2015 refugee crisis, violence, or strains on the welfare state. Many elaborated with personal experiences of crime or new refugees in their children’s small classes, impacting the quality of education. They generally believed that while these issues have socioeconomic dimensions, they are also connected to the nature of Muslim culture. When Islam came up, most interviewees began by emphatically stating they were not racist (“The worst thing to call a Swede is a racist”[36]), did not inherently hate anyone, and that there is a difference between “extremism” in any religion and private faith. However, they also admitted to being more than a little concerned about the scale of religious Muslim refugees introduced into Sweden’s secular welfare state and the government’s response. At least in these interviews, “Muslim” and “immigrant” were used nearly interchangeably.

These interviewees felt that only the Sweden Democrats and the “alternative media” spoke “directly” about contentious issues like religion, immigration, and crime, situating them in a connected narrative. In a recent description of their core policy goals, the Sweden Democrats highlighted four objectives: a migration policy that ends asylum immigration; a reformed welfare system; a “united country”; and a “safe society” protecting Sweden from “Islamism or any other extremism,” though the manifesto does not specify what Islamism is.[37]

Similarly, the “alternative media” profusely covers topics relating to immigration, culture clash, and crime, and may exacerbate, falsely report, or erroneously correlate these phenomena.  For instance, mainstream journalism might cover a bombing. “Alternative media” links to this coverage, but embeds it in a larger explanatory narrative emphasizing Islam or Muslims’ role.[38] This approach has been proven to impact political attitudes on immigration.[39] Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets rarely directly challenge claims made by the “alternative media.” This can leave such rhetoric to dominate digital media without the same volume of counter-arguments (at least those with good search-engine optimization) for queries like “migrants and rape in Sweden.” Additionally, these causal claims have increasingly entered mainstream discourse.[40]

This section explores, in their own words, interviewee reflections on the issues, the media environment, and personal experiences that inspired them to join the Sweden Democrats. The subsequent section then dives deeper into the role their perception of culture and Islam has in making sense of the issues in question.

The 2015 Refugee Crisis

Though immigration has since slowed significantly,[41] the political and social impact of the 2015 refugee crisis still looms large. Like many interviewees who live in the South, the Sweden Democrats party chairman in a seaside town recalled the arrival of the asylum seekers: “In 2015, when the war and all the immigrants came to Europe every 24 hours, they came from Germany by boats. We have a big harbor here in Trelleborg. Between 800 to 1,300 [came] every 24 hours.[42] These numbers may be somewhat exaggerated, and trying to confirm data in a moment of crisis can be difficult, but the final numbers were daunting.[43] For example, Sweden spent €6 billion or 1.35 percent of its GDP on the 162,877 asylum seekers in 2015—amounting to 1.6 percent of population—from predominantly Muslim countries.

Typically, the Swedish government funds language training and labor market integration of asylees in their first two years.[44] The Swedish Migration Agency website also details stipends, housing, language training, healthcare, and other support available to asylum seekers,[45] though services and applications are still backlogged because of the influx.[46] At the height of the 2015 crisis, the increasingly strained migration agency began to rely on local non-government organizations and charities to fill in gaps of services.[47]

Generally, after two years of support for new asylees, the national government then passes responsibility over to municipalities who administer most social services locally.[48] The majority of refugees in Sweden tend to be placed in peripheral and rural areas experiencing economic decline,  rapid native depopulation, and few opportunities for employment, making social and economic integration difficult for migrants, and straining already economically declining municipalities.[49]

Every interviewee cited the 2015 crisis and the government’s response to it as one of their main reasons in supporting the Sweden Democrats. Interviewees mentioned several specific policies they disliked, but the government’s ultimate sin was that it had opened its doors to large numbers of predominantly Muslim refugees while “having problems” integrating Muslims immigrants who were already in the country. Even though the government moved to institute border checkpoints, began to limit asylees as soon as November 2015, and temporarily revoked permanent residency and family reunification privileges to most new asylum seekers,[50] the Sweden Democrats positioned themselves as the insurgent voice calling the government out for acting too late and ineffectively, for too long. One participant in the local Sweden Democrats party meeting said he was “angry at every politician on television” for years, but the government’s reaction to the 2015 crisis was the last straw; after that, he joined the Sweden Democrats.

Frustrated by “the establishment” approach to immigration, one municipal councilmember in Svedala described joining the Sweden Democrats: “That’s what it’s about. We’ve been too generous. We have had immigration much too high for a long time. But I never thought about, you know, entering politics. I went to vote. I had an opinion about this and that. In 2015, we saw the large wave of immigrants all over Europe. And I was really appalled at the response of the government, or lack of response.”[51] Like all of other interviewees, he favors ending asylum migration entirely, but not other types of immigration, like skilled labor, provided these immigrants can “assimilate.”

The Sweden Democrats advocate ending asylum immigration and instead propose increasing economic aid for refugees abroad in their respective countries. This avoids the problem of assimilation, particularly Muslims who interviewees believe are hard to integrate in large numbers. Sweden Democrats argue that the country had economic, criminal, and cultural problems due to unassimilated immigrants, especially Muslims, even before 2015, and more refugees were just exacerbating the problem.


Every interviewee cited the government’s inadequate response to violent crime as a reason to support the Sweden Democrats. Data show an increase in certain types of crime over the past few years, including bombings, gang violence, and rape, which interviewees blamed on a multiplicity of factors, some socioeconomic and some sociocultural relating to Islam.  However, the reality is far more nuanced. Accurately assessing these claims and discerning a comprehensive picture of the violence is not straightforward.

Certain trends in violent crime have provoked public debate. Sweden saw over 100 bombings in 2019, twice that of 2018—one of the highest percentage increases of any other industrialized nation.[52] While the homicide rate remains one of the lowest in the world, figures of 300 shootings and 45 deaths in 2018[53] and 320 shootings with 41 deaths in 2019 shocked Swedes.[54] Though its murder rates have fallen since the 1990s, there has been a significant estimated rise in firearm-related violence in Sweden.[55] These crimes have been connected to a rise of gangs and organized crime groups, which are predominantly composed of first or second-generation immigrants, though not strongly correlated to a specific country, ethnicity, or religion.[56]

Yet a major difficulty in assessing the nature of these crimes is the limited availability of official data. For instance, the Swedish Police Authority only began to collect data on the number of non-lethal shootings in 2017. Similarly, while the government has conducted studies on the national origin of crime suspects, the most recent one was in 2005, which, among other things, found immigrants more likely to be suspected of crimes, with discrimination playing a role. Comprehensive official data on national origin of criminal suspects is not readily available,[57] even though various parties have demanded new investigations to find data that will substantiate their claims.[58]

Of the data that is available, interpretations and implications can be misleading, depending on bias. For example, official statistics do show a large increase in reported rapes, or 34 percent, in the past ten years,[59] but convictions remain low.[60] The Swedish government caveats that the increased statistic could have something to do with the nature of Sweden’s criminal reporting style, changes in the definition of rape, and a new cultural willingness to report.[61] Thus, conclusions based solely on the increased rape statistic might be at least partly misleading.

The media has stepped in with the aim of filling in the gaps, sometimes contradicting government claims. In 2018, a public broadcaster investigated court convictions and found that 58 percent of convicted rapists were foreign-born, feeding into a narrative that the rise in rapes was due to some cultural proclivity among Muslim refugees. The piece attracted endless media attention, yet this statistic does not consider the ethnic breakdown of non-prosecuted cases nor is it an official statistic given that the government does not report national origin of suspected rapists.[62] To combat this narrative, the government pointed to a 2013 study showing that the main difference in terms of criminal activity between immigrants and other populations is due to socioeconomic conditions rather than culture.[63] Yet Sweden Democrats posit that individual and cultural factors must also play a role. “Think of Social Democrats and their worldview: they have a dogma that crime is due to poverty,” a Sweden Democrat told me. “But you can’t blame everything on that! They think it is ‘society’s’ fault, not the individual. This doesn’t explain rapes and bombing.”[64]

Irrespective of the cause or severity of the violence in Sweden, the narrative that violence is getting worse and more grotesque because of immigrants is having a very real impact on political opinion. This is due in part to an “alternative media” ecosystem, one of the most robust in Europe, which shares politically slanted news primarily through Twitter and Facebook, often in closed groups. The main media sources, Samhallsnytt (News in Society) and Nyheter Idag (News Today), were founded by Sweden Democrats and another, Fria Tider (Free Times), is often viewed as the most Kremlin-friendly. They have the appearance of professional news sites and are shared at increasingly high levels. For instance, in the leadup to the 2018 elections, Swedish Twitter users shared one link from this ecosystem for every two links shared of professional news.[65]

Through “alternative media,” reports of attacks by people of color and Muslims are continuously shared and exaggerated. In one case, they were staged by a Russian television crew.[66] Many respondents discussed reading local papers in addition to the aforementioned online sources which they referred to as “alternative media,” acknowledging them as distinct from other news. The narratives from these outlets have spread through international “alternative media” sources such as Breitbart.

Violent riots in immigrant communities have captured considerable media attention, such as the 2008 Malmö Mosque Riots, the 2010 and 2017 Rinkeby Riots, and 2013 Stockholm riots, with “alternative media” dubbing these as ungovernable “no-go zones,”[67] though police say this is not the case.[68] Even U.S. President Donald Trump used Sweden as a cautionary tale in a 2017 rally, referencing a non-existent terrorist attack there saying, “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”[69] The aforementioned Rinkeby Riots occurred two days later, drawing more attention to the issue.

Complementing these media narratives are personal experiences, local stories, and a sense of injustice. A councilmember in the seaside town of Trelleborg said he joined the Sweden Democrats in 2006 after a personal experience with violence. He spoke about how his daughter had a child with a Tunisian Muslim who ended up assaulting the two, causing the baby developmental damage. He said the man was imprisoned, but on appeal was set free and given money to compensate for wrongful imprisonment. The councilman claimed that if a non-Muslim Swede committed the same crime, he would still be imprisoned, but because the man was Muslim, the court was more lenient. Trying to verify elements of stories like this with third party sources can be difficult in this information environment. As a charismatic local leader, however, his story is well-known.

All of this leads Sweden Democrat supporters to a hyperawareness of nearby crime, alleged and real; according to one poll, respondents expressing “great concern” about crime has increased from 32 percent to 43 percent in the past ten years.[70] When asked if the problems would be visible to them if they just logged off social media, one interviewee remarked, “We see the problems with our own eyes. We can’t shut that off.”[71]

Several interviewees used to live in Malmö, but they said witnessing violence there caused them to move to small towns and later join the Sweden Democrats. Malmö is a city that is about 45 percent of immigrant background[72] and though certain types of violent crime decreased in 2018, there are still high-profile shootings, increased rape reports, as well as bombings.[73] One party chairman in Svedala, where the Sweden Democrats have the most seats of any party,[74] described his move from Malmö in 2010: “We experienced an increasing sense of not being safe. Especially my wife. […] That summer, they blew up the cash machine outside the bank. The night before we moved, a man was shot down in the parking lot just next to my house. You know, when we loaded the furniture in the truck, we could see the stains of blood.”[75] Another council member described moving 30 minutes outside of Malmö in 2010 after a person was murdered 100 meters from where he lived. Yet he did not blame the new refugees—he thought they were mostly immigrant gangs from the former Yugoslavia and not specifically new Muslims.[76]

Interviewees discerned that not all of the gang violence was coming from the most recent refugees, but many believed that adding more immigrants to already economically and socially depressed areas would create more problems. A Christian Iranian immigrant and Sweden Democrat official in Malmö joined the party when he saw a rise in anti-Semitism in the immigrant neighborhoods he grew up in. As has been reported elsewhere, he noted that some immigrants like himself were joining the Sweden Democrats because of violence in their neighborhoods.[77] He said, “[Immigrants are] usually the ones who have to live in these areas and these areas take most of the migrants when they come to a city like Malmö. And therefore, we have a lot of social problems. If we have less migration, these areas can somehow heal because we can’t have new people coming into these areas all the time. Like many newly arrived migrants, they have difficulties getting a job. So there are a lot of unemployed people in these areas. So these areas can never create some kind of community. I’ve grown up with all these problems. So I wanted to do something about it.”[78]

Strains on Welfare and Education

Given that Swedes pay some of the highest personal income taxes in the world, there are regular public concerns about any decreased quality in healthcare or education. On healthcare, for instance, recent reports show some of the worst wait times for emergency care in Europe,[79]  delays in specialist care, nurse shortages, fewer beds but an increased population, and clinic closures. Compared internationally, Sweden still has good healthcare, cancer survival, and life expectancy.[80] Yet, quality of care can range widely because responsibility for health and elder care is decentralized to the county and municipal levels.[81] This means sometimes more rural or aging areas struggle to provide care in a timely manner.

Sweden Democrats often blame the system’s struggles on immigrants, especially visibly Muslim ones. Unemployment for the foreign born is 15 percent, compared to 3.5 percent for Swedish born.[82] Yet daunting headlines in “alternative media” like “Sweden: Around 90 Percent of 2015 Migrants with Residency Status Are Unemployed”[83] can insinuate that refugees are one of the core strains on welfare. Because of the perceived strain on social services by unemployed migrants who receive an unfair share of benefits, a discourse of welfare chauvinism has set in. This term has been used in the Nordic context to describe a primarily right-wing belief that better social services should be privileged for the native-born over “undeserving” unemployed newcomers from certain cultures.[84] A perfect illustration of this is a 2010 Sweden Democrat campaign video showing a group of burqa-clad women with strollers outrunning a pensioner for government assistance.[85]

Various respondents told stories of the “injustices” of a system giving more to immigrants than native Swedes. A Sweden Democrat in Trelleborg explained that his 93-year-old father had to pay 37,000 Swedish Krona ($2800 USD)  for dentures, whereas he claimed a refugee would only need to pay 50 Krona ($5 USD).[86 ]The dentures examples was brought up in several interviews, underscoring its viral spread. Yet again, trying to verify such stories is a challenge when the search terms lead to either more “alternative media” sensationalism or government statements of general benefits that neither confirm nor deny specific cases.

Interviewees also discussed strains on education and personal experiences with refugees in the classroom. An official in Svedala discussed the challenges of teaching computer science to non-Swedish refugees.[87] A Sweden Democrat official in Hörby described why he put his daughters in a new school in Lund: “When they went to summer break, there were 15 pupils in her class. And after summer break, there were 22. They got seven new arrivals in her class. They were young men from Afghanistan, just put in her class. And they didn’t speak the language. They were illiterate. They couldn’t write. The whole educational framework, so to speak, in that class was totally demolished.”[88] Given that 70,000 children, 35,000 of whom were unaccompanied minors, sought asylum in 2015 alone, the increase of refugee children in Swedish schools impacts the education experiences of both local children and refugee children—who might not be getting the trauma, language, or integration support they need.[89]

Ultimately, several interviewees perceived Muslim immigrants as not only poorly integrated, but choosing to live in non-Swedish speaking “parallel societies” and not working because of cultural preference, not economic or prejudicial disadvantage. A Hörby council member explained his belief that previous waves of non-Muslim immigrants wanted to work and become Swedes, but not so with Muslims:

“I think that the recent waves of immigration, they are from a totally different cultural standpoint […] And you can’t ignore that. For many Somalis, they consider work as a punishment. For instance, they don’t see the virtues of working to earn your own money. It made me see that they don’t want to work in Sweden. They are just staying here and making a lot of babies. We have a welfare system that is very generous for families having babies. So they are flourishing here.”[90]

“Alternative media” sources and political rhetoric from groups like the Sweden Democrats can frame Muslims as culturally incompatible by contrasting them to other generations of “assimilated” immigrants that had come in smaller numbers or from different (but typically European Christian) cultures. This points to the deeper issue of whether or not Sweden Democrats see the presence of Muslims as compatible with Swedish society.


The Sweden Democrats portray themselves as defenders of the “people’s home” (folkhommet), a term used in the 1930s by the Social Democrats in their effort to mobilize support for a robust, class-crossing welfare regime. But who gets to be part of the “people” when the number of non-Native Swedes is growing? Of Swedes, 19 percent were foreign-born in 2018 compared to 11 percent in 2,000.[91] Muslims make up about eight percent of Sweden’s population, or around 800,000.[92] Many Muslims came from labor migration in the 1970s, refugee crises prior to 2015, or are children of those two groups.[93] Approximately half are secularized,[94] one-third are school age or younger, and about 110,000 are part of a registered Muslim organization.[95] Beyond this, reliable statistics about the makeup and practices of the Muslim population are limited.

Yet certain “types” of Muslims (and for some, all Muslims) are not included in the Sweden Democrats’ vision of “the people” in “the people’s home.” However, the defining characteristics of who the “people” are and what a Swede is are not entirely clear, even to Sweden Democrats.

What is a Swede?

When asked during interviews what it means to be a Swede, Sweden Democrats sighed and mentioned love of fika (coffee-driven snack breaks), a strong work ethic, respect for nature, speaking Swedish, and equality between the sexes. Those aside, each respondent had a difficult time describing what exactly it meant to be Swedish, which turns out to be part of what it means to be Swedish. One interview subject brought up the concept of lagom. Roughly translated as “equal” or “just the right amount,” the word was described to me by a party chairman in Trelleborg as being that sense when Swedes expect you to do something but won’t tell you to do it, it is just what should be done. This makes it more difficult for newcomers (or those born in immigrant enclaves) to discern how exactly to be Swedish. When asked what is Swedish culture and what its rules might be if you were to explain them, the chairman paused, then reflected on the reality that Swedish culture is rather muted. Unlike Islam, which has proscribed religious rules for being and living, Swedes do not have rules so much an intuitive understanding of their mild-mannered culture. As such, he said Swedes embody “lagom.”[96] The word is popular and came up several times in interviews. Lagom has been described as permeating “all facets of the Swedish psyche.”[97]

Swedes have generally been uninvolved in conflict, instead asserting their tolerance of others, acceptance of refugees, and humanitarian efforts. This has backfired, says one man in Klippan’s local board meeting of Sweden Democrats: “There’s a famous person who writes historical books and he said that the Swedes are ‘peace damaged.’ We look to the neighbor countries and they have been through something that binds them together as a people.”[98] The Sweden Democrats I interviewed did not think Swedes have a strong culture, making them vulnerable to cultures that are. One speaker in the local council who served on the education and social welfare boards in Hörby said, “I think the Swedish culture is a weak culture because we don’t have so many strongly defined do’s and don’ts. We are in danger from becoming run over by some more strong culture. I think that Islam is a strong culture because it has a very strong moral codes, strong beliefs.”[99]

In turn, according to some Sweden Democrats, the lack of specificity on what it means to be a Swede makes it difficult for non-Swedes from non-Western cultures to assimilate because they don’t know the rules. Despite efforts to build an egalitarian multiculturalism, anthropologists have noted there is a tendency in Swedish political culture for equality (jämlikhet) to connote sameness (likhet).[100] Thus, some Swedes perceive that being too “different” can threaten the equality that the “people’s home” relies on. At median growth projections, according to Pew, Muslims would not approach anything close to a majority. By 2050, they would comprise around 21 percent of the population,[101] but some Sweden Democrats fear that Islam, and what they perceive as a distinct, strong, rule-driven religious culture, threatens to displace or dominate secular Swedish culture—making it wholly different in the process.

Radical Islam vs. Muslims

Sweden takes civic secularism seriously[102] and surveys indicate it is one of the least religious countries in the world.[103] Sweden Democrats interviewed were no exception, and several expressed a distaste for all organized religion, but especially public displays of religiosity, like the burqa. There were split feelings amongst respondents about whether or not Islam is compatible with Sweden, based primarily around whether or not the respondent believed Islam could be practiced privately or if it was inherently political and public.

Some respondents asserted there is a difference between radical Islamists and Muslims. In the small town of Klippan, I was able to sit in on the board meeting of the local Sweden Democrats. The chairman, a businessman and army reservist who had served in Bosnia, expressed, “You really got to distinguish two different parts: Islam as a religion and Islam as a political agenda, which is going to extremism.” When I asked why others in the room had joined the party, one woman said, “For me it was the big problems in immigration. And I am really afraid that the Muslims will take over Sweden in the future if we can’t stop it.” The chairman quickly chimed in, “The extremists, you mean?” “Yes, the extremists” she said.[104] In some ways, this correction felt like a reaction to having a researcher in the room, and some respondents uncomfortably speaking in English, yet interviewees in different cities noted they remind other party members not to make blanket statements about Muslims—perhaps to educate against blatant xenophobic language that could threaten the party’s reputation. As one Sweden Democrat respondent in Malmö said, “People shouldn’t shout out stuff that doesn’t make sense, like ‘Muslims are taking over.’ This won’t help the party. They need more sophisticated politicians, less crazies.”[105]

Other respondents felt there was no distinction between Islamists and practicing Muslims—all were incompatible with Swedish life and even democracy. To illustrate, many pointed to Sharia law in Islam, which they see blending the political and spiritual. The party chairman in Svedala described Islam as inherently being a political ideology:

“I do not think [Islam] is compatible with Western democracy because Islamic law is a lot more far reaching than, for example, the Christian Ten Commandments. Islamic law covers a lot more of everyday life. And if you have a law that is set by God… I have seen studies that say that about half of Muslims in the West believe that religious law is above democratic manmade law. And if that is the case, you know, what’s the point of democracy? Why elect someone to make laws if you already have laws that govern important aspects of life? So I do think there is a problem with Islam and democracy.”

A Sweden Democrat from Hörby also insisted, “There is no reformed Islam. And maybe sometimes people speak about moderates or reform Islam. But there is one Islam. And when you talk to Muslims themselves, they acknowledge that there’s only one. […] The Quran, it’s a warrior manual…It’s like, kill your enemies, take their wives and rape them. Sell them as slaves. It’s spreading the word with the sword.”[106]

There is no party consensus around whether Muslims are completely incompatible with Swedish culture or whether a significant number might be able to assimilate, but all agree that the increased rate of Muslim immigration makes integration impossible. In Staffanstorp, where a council of Moderates and a Sweden Democrat made news by voting to ban burqas in schools,[107] a councilman said, “I think Islam is compatible with Sweden. It is. The big problem is that it’s going too fast.”[108]

Integration and Assimilation

Some Sweden Democrats interviewed were immigrants from Poland and Iran. Another had an Italian immigrant parent. Many insisted that they had immigrant friends and that they were open minded enough to talk to this potentially judgmental American researcher. Almost all argued that the new waves of Muslim refugees could not assimilate because there were simply too many, arriving too fast to possibly integrate into Swedish society. Some believed smaller numbers of Muslims could have integrated, but when Muslim communities were large, their “powerful” “non-Western” culture remained intact making Swedish language unnecessary and unspoken.

Given economic realities, many immigrants end up in poor neighborhoods with other immigrants. The council member in Staffanstorp said, “They get put in ghettoes [by the government]. They don’t feel Swedish. They feel left out and get into criminality.” Not discrediting the impact of prejudice, he reflected that these immigrants might self-select into these neighborhoods to “move where they feel at home.”[109] To this point, debates are underway about the nature of state-supported religious education and how it impacts assimilation;[110] many Muslim immigrants send their children to religious schools less for religion and more to escape disrespect, racial prejudice, or a general lack of cultural understanding at municipal schools.[111] Some interviewees thought the multi-faceted failure of integration, a result of both poverty and “two-way” prejudice, makes it even more difficult for immigrants and their children in the long term, who “might dream of their home countries, which they might see as superior.”[112]

Yet, at the heart of the assimilation debate is the issue of gender. Across the board, interview subjects felt that certain customs among some Muslims such as gender segregation, marriage practices, and treatment of women was incompatible with something as central to Swedish culture as gender equality. A council member from Hörby described his belief: “I fear that this natural assimilation is not possible for Muslims because they don’t tolerate assimilation. Basically. For instance, if a man meets a Muslim woman, it’s not possible for him to marry her. But if I were to marry, I must convert to Islam. And it’s not possible for that woman to become Christian.”[113] I asked if the 1970s wave of Turkish labor immigrants[114] had integrated into Swedish society and  he insisted their fewer numbers and secularism promoted by Turkish leader Kemal Atatürk mitigated the impact of Islam. Studies show, however, that more time spent in Sweden is a core factor in increasing labor force participation of female immigrants, though origin country culture does impact their rate.[115]

Some women say they join the Sweden Democrats because they fear rape by Muslim migrants or because they think Islam is a cultural threat to gender equality. In the Klippan town hall, one woman said she joined the party because she wanted her daughters to be strong and independent, citing arranged marriage in certain Muslim cultures that had come to Sweden.[116] In another story, a female former Sweden Democrat in a Stockholm suburb, left the party with her husband to join an even more right-wing party modeled after Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland called the Alternative for Sweden, which has no seats in the Riksdag. She felt the Sweden Democrats were sexist and leaving women out of power but also not tough enough on immigration by not calling to repatriate migrants. She thinks Islam was simply incompatible with Swedish society, which is why Muslims chose to and wanted to live in unassimilated, non-Swedish speaking parallel communities and “no-go zones.”

She brought up an experience of going to a bath house during a “women’s only” time, which she thought of as an un-Swedish concession to Muslims. Like many Western countries, swimming pools are mixed-gender in Sweden. The local council had agreed to make certain hours of the bath house “women only” to accommodate cultural and religious needs of Muslim women who do not want men to see them in immodest dress. When she went on the women’s-only day, she described fights with Muslim women. She said she pointed out the Swedish norm of not wearing clothes in the sauna for hygienic reasons. She described their response: “They told me to my face: We don’t listen to you. We don’t care about you. We’re sitting in the sauna with clothes on. And you can do nothing about it.”[117] While this appears to be a dramatic retelling, pools and bath houses have become a hot button and newsworthy issue in Sweden. The debate has brought up questions on how to accommodate different cultural practices regarding gender that might conflict with the more progressive, secular status quo. Swedes are debating if it is appropriate to make religious accommodations like gender-separated swimming in public pools, with those in favor supporting the needs of a multicultural society and those opposing encouraging cultural assimilation.[118]


Sweden Democrats do not deny that Europe has historically experienced the movement of people and cultures. Yet, one interview subject reflected that the recent influx of Muslims is non-European, making it different: “We’re going to cope with them, but we have to find the means to make them European in style, because in Europe, there have been people coming for millennia and they have all, so to speak, formed their own nations and their own societies. I think this time it’s a danger. These volumes [of people] are going to change Europe for good.”[119]

Sweden Democrats are aware of other European parties fighting to counter Muslim immigration, “political correctness,” and the elite; a few get a newsletter from the party each day telling them about the “family” abroad.[120] A couple from the Alternative for Sweden advocated adopting the sort of hardline anti-immigration policies overseen by populist leaders in Italy, Hungary, and Poland.[121] Another party leader in Haninge enumerated his respect for President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy.[122]

Like other European countries with growing right-wing populist movements, Sweden is asking itself what egalitarian multiculturalism looks like if immigrants live in “parallel” societies. As a Sweden Democrat who immigrated from Iran pointed out, “When I was growing up, there was no reason to define your Swedish culture. Nobody talked about that. But today, people are questioning  a multicultural society. People are questioning what is the dominant culture.”[123] Another party member from Svedala asked, “The society we have today, Sweden? I’m not even sure it should be called multiculturalism. We have parallel cultures that don’t mix.”[124] As more and more immigrants grow up in what police call “vulnerable areas,” unintegrated in Swedish economy or culture, more questions emerge as to what the Swedish “mainstream” culture is and how and if immigrants should assimilate to it.

Sweden Democrats believe their party will continue to grow, especially if it is continuously left out of the national conversation; they semi-joked they were a political culture not included in “politically correct” multiculturalism. One official cited a beer hall cancelling an event reservation once they discovered it was for Sweden Democrats.[125] The couple from the Alternative for Sweden funds some of the alternative media and is using the building from their former label factory to make a meeting space for those “discriminated against” for their beliefs. Many interviewees pointed out that the Sweden Democrats were not invited to participate in a recent national working group on crime in which all the other major parties participated.[126] When this happens, Sweden Democrats retort they are just “ordinary people, not bred politicians”[127] trying to solve problems but that the dominant parties try to squash their dissent. The party chairman in Klippan invoked Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg’s idea of “Demokrator,” a Swedish word that blends “democracy” and “dictatorship” to describe a government that poses as a democracy, but like a dictatorship, suppresses anti-establishment speech. He said leaving out the third largest party from conversations gets people suspicious, and thus Sweden Democrats “are benefiting and earning and growing by the fact that [the establishment parties] don’t want to involve us.”[128]


The humanitarian doctrine of “Swedish Exceptionalism” might have been a point of national pride and a marker of Swedish identity. That capacity has now been challenged by taking in the most refugees per capita of any European country. As the government moderates its more ambitious and idealistic commitments, what will inspire Swedes as time goes on? What are sources of national pride as they face 21st century challenges of accommodating aging populations, strained welfare systems, and greater ethnic and religious diversity? What duty do they have to “the other?” What are Swedish values?

Interviewees saw themselves as Swedish humanitarians, but by other means. They expressed they did not hate Muslim refugees and wanted to offer significant aid in their countries of origin. They stressed that they needed to fix their own existing problems before inviting new challenges in the country. These “plain talk” populist talking points challenge the reputations of other parties for charity and humanitarianism by offering alternative policies that satisfy Swedish values of peace, tolerance, and humanitarian efforts—just on other territory. This does not mitigate deep prejudices and xenophobia in the ranks of Sweden Democrats. As for Muslim immigrants already in Sweden, they will continue to confront Islamophobia and discrimination as the Sweden Democrats continue to hold up the 2015 refugee crisis, its daunting statistics, and visible media spectacle as the epitome of government failure.

Socioeconomic explanations for crime, poverty, or strains on the welfare system can give hope to more progressive voters that there are technocratic solutions, fulfilling their commitment to values of tolerance, equality, justice, charity, and human rights. Yet there are many ways for a society to understand and fulfill these values. Sweden Democrats think these values have not only material and economic dimensions but also cultural ones—inviting uncomfortable conversations about cultural differences which at best can be constructive but at worst can invite ugly racism. Right now in Sweden, there is a battle between parties to define and own these values. One cannot write off the Swedish Democrats’ attempts to persuade a growing number of voters of their own particular interpretation.

As indicated by these interviewees, the spirit of lagom might not sustain a cohesive national culture especially when other new, competing cultures—nationalist or Muslim—disrupt the status quo whether by Internet or immigration. The Sweden Democrats themselves are challenging a political status quo and a centrist consensus, by offering something different with new faces. In an age of confirmation bias, where at least some dirt can be found on any political party with just a click, voters can more easily accept overlooking egregious past rhetoric or affiliations. Many new voters supporting the Sweden Democrats appear to be attracted to this new political alternative as they experience what can feel like new dynamics of immigration, crime, religiosity, lagging social services, or cultural clash. They feel the Sweden Democrats are slowing down the change, instead of hastening it and leaving them behind–not unlike other populist parties in this Brookings series.

Establishment parties risk distancing themselves from average and prospective Sweden Democrats if they downplay the challenges of immigration or dismiss perceptions of social problems in immigrant neighborhoods as purely racist extremism. Similarly, assuming that Sweden Democrats are “misinformed” dupes, instead of people with fundamental disagreements (however “illiberal”) on definitions and values, might lead to reductionist thinking that fact-checking or banning “alternative media” on social platforms will “solve” the problem of populism. In turn, Sweden Democrats must take seriously and acknowledge that some of their amplified rhetoric can inspire xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism which risks turning violent, as it has in other parts of Europe.[129]

Only if the Sweden Democrats have any real governing power will their rhetoric be tested against the results they create, and considering their growing popular support, such an outcome isn’t nearly as implausible as it might have once seemed. Until that happens, if it ever does, there will likely be a near continuous stream of sensational stories about cultural clashes with Muslims, outrageous examples of government welfare injustice, and blistering critiques of mainstream parties and leaders. As the Klippan party chairman said, “We always try to show the crises. We always want to push the panic button.” This could mean that in the media and rhetoric of the Swedish Democrats, Muslim immigration will continue to feel like a crisis, even well after the crisis subsides.

Edited by Vesper
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a yank perspective on the clown in Number 10:

Boris Johnson on a Roll, Downwards



After “BoJo” Johnson hosted the G7 summit in Cornwall, where he was little more than a “tour guide” (in the words of the Labour leader Keir Starmer), BoJo joined that part of the G7 circus that moved on to Brussels for the NATO summit.

As with the G7, Joe Biden, seeking to restore alliances that had been undermined by Trump, was the centre of attention, while BoJo was again the side show.

BoJo’s visit to Brussels peaked immediately and went downhill instantly after his arrival.

BoJo was said in social media to look as though he had come to Brussels straight from sleeping on the beach in Cornwall, crashing-out on the sand by a bonfire after a beach party with super-abundant libations.

The Washington Post reported that when the G7 summit drew to its close, after-dinner participants relaxed “around bonfires on the beach as they were served hot buttered rum, toasted marshmallows and baked brie, and were serenaded with sea shanties”.

At the press conference when he arrived in Brussels, the dishevelled BoJo could barely string a sentence together. Once again comparisons were made with another Boris– the drunken Yeltsin who led Russia for a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union before resigning in 1999, when his increasingly erratic ways resulted in a subsequent electoral defeat.

The not quite unspoken aim in the western alliance is for the EU and NATO to dovetail seamlessly into each other, so that NATO (or its replacement) becomes the EU’s de facto military wing. Having exited the EU, the UK was never going to have a major say in NATO’s future development, even while remaining a member of the military alliance.

At home, BoJo wasn’t facing good news either.

The Liberal Democrats managed an astonishing victory in the leafy Buckinghamshire seat of Chesham and Amersham, taking one of the safest Tory constituencies in a byelection. The election was called after the death of the local MP who had represented the constituency since 1992 and held it in 2019 with a majority of 16,223.

The Lib Dems obtained 21,517 votes, the Conservatives 13,489 votes, the Greens 1,480 votes, and Labour a humiliating 622. The Lib Dem majority was 8,028.

The shock result is attributed to the upcoming Tory developer-friendly planning “reforms”. The Tories have been in the pockets of property developers for years, and voters in the well-off shires are renowned for being NIMBYs—a good way to destroy the “value” of your £2mn/$2.8mn house is to have a developer who donates to the Tories put up a cookie-cutter housing “development” in a field adjacent to your property. Tactical voting augmented the desertion of traditional Tory supporters.

Concerned senior Tories are now calling for BoJo to ditch his proposed planning reforms.

The former Speaker of the House of Commons and Tory MP John Bercow defected to Labour with a scathing attack on BoJo. He said the Conservatives under BoJo were “reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic”. The government “needs to be replaced”, Bercow went on to say, adding that BoJo is “someone who has only a nodding acquaintance with the truth in a leap year”.

The Speaker is required to be politically impartial, so on his election in 2009 Bercow had to resign from the Tory Party. He had been a Tory MP for 12 years.

Bercow, who stood down as Speaker in October 2019, made procedural decisions over the Brexit process during his time as Speaker that were a constant irritant for pro-Brexit Tories. He gave unparalleled powers to backbenchers to hold ministers to account as they tried to ram Brexit decisions through parliament. He also had several clashes with the Conservatives, and in 2015 he survived an attempt by Conservative whips to oust him just before the election.

Government sources dismissed Bercow’s decision to defect to Labour as the choice of someone who has always been strongly anti-Brexit— one source said it “shows Labour is still the party of Remain”.

Dominic Cummings, BoJo’s erstwhile chief of staff, had given evidence to a parliamentary committee in which he excoriated his former boss for his handling of the Covid pandemic. During the hearings Cummings said he would produce textual evidence to back up his claims about BoJo and the Tory cabinet.

Last week Cummings released his evidence— a batch of shared photos of his WhatsApp conversations with the Prime Minister and documents from national security meetings, which confirmed his testimony before the parliamentary committee, and what the informed public has long known.

BoJo chaired cabinet meetings on key issues where he told “rambling stories and jokes”, and that “as soon as things get ‘a bit embarrassing’ [Boris Johnson] does the whole ‘let’s take it offline’ shtick before shouting ‘forward to victory’, doing a thumbs-up and pegging it out of the room before anybody can disagree”.

At the parliamentary hearings Cummings had been dismissive of BoJo, saying “Fundamentally, I regarded him as unfit for the job, and I was trying to create a structure around him to try and stop what I thought were extremely bad decisions, and push other things through against his wishes”.

The WhatsApp releases showed BoJo describing his health minister, Matt Hancock, as “totally fucking hopeless” during the early days of the pandemic.

In another text message, when NHS staff were running out of vitally-needed masks and gowns, BoJo said the PPE shortages were “a disaster”, and suggested removing Hancock from oversight of PPE supply. “Wtf do we do?”, Johnson wrote. The UK still has the highest number of health-worker Covid deaths in Europe and the third highest in the world.

When asked during Prime Minister’s Questions whether Cummings’s WhatsApp messages were genuine, BoJo did not respond.

BoJo’s official spokesman said his boss would not answer to every allegation made and that BoJo’s focus is on delivering for the public. The spokesman then earned his salary (and more?) by saying BoJo had full confidence in his health secretary.

BoJo had declared 21 June to be “Freedom Day”, the presumed final stage in the lifting of all of England’s Covid lockdown restrictions. However, this has now been put back to 19 July due to the rise in cases of the Delta/India variant.

The UK’s Covid death toll stood at 128,000 as of 19 June. UK daily Covid cases reached 11,007 on 17 June– this was the highest figure since 19 February, and prompted some experts to say the UK is now experiencing its third wave of the virus.

The prime minister deemed by those who know him (and not just Dominic Cummings) to be “unfit for the job” is of course still be in charge.


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The Disgusting Tucker Carlson

Ben Smith’s latest piece in the New York Times confirms that Tucker Carlson really is one truly evil bastard.



Last week on The Banter Podcast, Mike Luciano and I discussed Tucker Carlson’s latest repellent conspiracy theory about the January 6th insurrection (more on that later). During the conversation, Mike reminded me that back in 2020 I had warned readers of Carlson’s growing power and influence in Republican circles, and pegged him as the most dangerous face of the growing White Nationalist movement in America. With Carlson’s latest little pantomime fueling yet more hatred and anger on the right, my prediction Mike recalled, was unfortunately coming true.

A stunning article published in The New York Times this week has provided terrifying insight into Carlson’s professional life, where he simultaneously promotes dangerous conspiracies to his audience of angry white men, while feeding inside stories to journalists in the liberal media. Carlson’s Sith like control over the MAGA masses is now turning out to be more insidious than you could ever imagine.

I have always believed that Carlson has been playing a very twisted game with the political and media elite, but Ben Smith’s latest piece in the Times confirms the very worst of my suspicions. Carlson really is one truly evil bastard. His unique role in post-MAGA America is having a chilling effect on politics, and I now fear he is amassing unprecedented levels of influence and power that could have deadly consequences in the near future.

A conspiracy theory for fools

According to Carlson, the FBI was actually responsible for the attempted coup, not the tinfoil hat QAnon zealots and MAGA terrorists who broadcast themselves live on social media doing it. As Aaron Blake summarizes in the Washington Post, the False Flag theory circulating in right wing circles is so stupid it isn’t worth paying any attention to:

Carlson’s theory is essentially that the presence of unindicted co-conspirators in the Capitol riot indictments means those people are government agents and that this, in turn, means the FBI was involved in organizing the riot. The idea has since caught on with conspiratorially minded congressional Republicans….

The theory follows Carlson’s well-established style of asking extremely suggestive questions with little basis in evidence — and which are easily disputed — and then treating the answers he likes as fact to build a narrative he prefers.

Carlson of course doesn’t believe a word of what he is saying, but he does know what effect it will have on the conservative base.

How to control the mob

During the Trump years, Carlson helped successfully transform regular conservatives into conspiratorially minded fruitcakes loyal to the Mad King. Carlson’s formula was simple: blames liberals for everything wrong with America in order to cover up the crimes of the Trump administration. In the post truth Trump world, Carlson had great latitude to feed his audience all sorts of conspiratorial nonsense without repercussion.

This latest piece of red meat tenderized for his audience however, is uniquely dangerous.

If the FBI is to blame for Jan. 6th, then Donald Trump’s much vaunted “Deep State” really is the terrifying power the Alt Right believe it is. Not only are the QAnon believers and Trump loyalists innocent, but it was in fact the evil forces of government in cahoots with the Democrats and Joe Biden. Carlson’s dangerous new theory is designed to not only agitate his audience while ridding them of any responsibility over the events of January 6th, but prime them for another violent assault on the government at some point.

Why is Carlson doing this? My guess is that in his latest incarnation as a Trump apologist/ethno-nationalist, Carlson has come to truly understand the power of the mob. Carlson witnessed the implosion of the GOP under the weight Trump’s fascist movement, and saw the total acquiescence of conservative media up close. Colleagues, confidants and co-workers fell into line because they were genuinely scared. Carlson saw an opportunity to side with that mob, and now he has learned to control them.

Still a friend of the elite

While fanning the flames of White Nationalism and wild Q-adjacent conspiracy theories, Carlson, it turns out, has been amicably passing on conservative secrets to his liberal chums in the media. As Smith reports in the Times:

Mr. Carlson, a proud traitor to the elite political class, spends his time when he’s not denouncing the liberal media trading gossip with them. He’s the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about Donald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself).

I won’t talk here about any off-the-record conversations I may have had with him. But 16 other journalists (none from The Times; it would put my colleagues in a weird position if I asked them) told me on background that he has been, as three of them put it, “a great source.”

“In Trump’s Washington, Tucker Carlson is a primary supersecret source,” the media writer and Trump chronicler Michael Wolff writes in his forthcoming collection of essays, “Too Famous.” Mr. Wolff, who thanked Mr. Carlson in the acknowledgments of his 2018 book, “Fire and Fury,” explained, “I know this because I know what he has told me, and I can track his exquisite, too-good-not-to-be-true gossip through unsourced reports and as it often emerges into accepted wisdom.”

It was barely reported that Carlson thought Trump was completely incompetent and that his administration was doomed all the way back in 2018. He revealed his secret thoughts to a Swiss newspaper of all places, no doubt calculating that only media insiders and real political junkies would pay any attention to it (MAGAs after all, don’t speak Swiss). Carlson has been playing both sides for quite some time knowing full well that most of his audience is too dimwitted to catch him, and the rest believe he is a mastermind committed to furthering the needs of white Europeans.

Smith’s piece however, reveals that Carlson really isn’t on their side. Carlson, it turns out, is a really just a self promoting charlatan riding the wave of White Nationalism for as long as he can with a stellar backup plan should it all go wrong. As Smith notes:

Mr. Carlson’s comfortable place inside Washington media, many of the reporters who cover him say, has taken the edge off some of the coverage. It has also served as a kind of insurance policy, they say, protecting him from the marginalization that ended the Fox career of his predecessor, Glenn Beck, who also drew a huge audience with shadowy theories of elite conspiracy.

“It’s so unknown in the general public how much he plays both sides,” marveled one reporter for a prominent publication who speaks to Mr. Carlson regularly.

Carlson’s position is one of real power: he controls the MAGA mob while maintaining close ties to those he pretends to rail against. This means he terrifies the GOP establishment while being extremely useful to liberal media pundits who rely on his inside intel.

He is in many ways completely unassailable at this point.

This can all go horribly wrong

The problem with saddling up to White Nationalist movements is that they can, and will resort to violence at some point. January 6th was something of a trial run that went spectacularly badly, but there is no indication that ethno-nationalist movements in America are abating. To the contrary, they appear to be gaining steam and have now infiltrated the Republican Party at the very highest levels. Observers of GOP politics have been increasingly alarmed by its rapid transformation into a party that focuses almost exclusively on White grievance politics. The Biden administration is making White terrorist groups a national priority, and for good reason.

Tucker Carlson clearly sees what is happening and is now upping the ante with increasingly crazy rhetoric to ensure his relevance with Trump’s base. Unfortunately for the rest of us this means the culture war in America is becoming ever more deadly. Carlson might be able to escape to his rural mansion in Maine, but society has to deal with the conflict he continues to pour gasoline on.

The new information we have learned about Carlson’s double life won’t bring him down, but it is a crucial blow against him. Carlson is a malevolent actor who has learned to manipulate centers of power in American politics for his own ends. The more these games are exposed, the more difficult it becomes for him to play them.

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The Democrats’ Dead End on Voting Rights

They claim that democracy is under threat, but they lack the collective will to save it.


A Democratic donkey with the "typing" dots in its thought bubble

Democrats have cast in dire terms their push to protect and expand voting rights before the next national elections. “Failure is not an option,” Senate Majority Chuck Schumer has repeatedly declared, making the oft-broken vow that leaders in both parties assign to their tippy-top priorities. This afternoon, Schumer brought up his party’s broad election-reform bill for an initial procedural vote, and it failed.

That the legislation, known as the For the People Act, would fall to a GOP filibuster has been clear for months. Democrats, of course, have vowed to press forward and try again. Yet they approached today’s doomed vote without any apparent fallback.

“There better be a Plan B. I just don’t know what it is,” Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii told me last week in the Capitol. When I asked the Senate’s second-most-powerful Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, what the party’s next step would be, he was similarly stumped. “That’s a good question,” Durbin replied. “I don’t know,” conceded both Representative Jerry Nadler of New York, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and, separately, Chris Coons of Delaware, President Joe Biden’s closest Senate ally. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, after first suggesting that Democrats might narrow the bill if it couldn’t pass in its current form, soon acknowledged the obvious. “There’s a top-secret plan in place that I can’t share with you that will eventually get [the bill] passed in totality,” he said with a chuckle.

These headshakes exemplify the party’s quandary as it confronts both the limits and the precariousness of its slim majorities in Washington: Democrats claim that democracy is under threat, but they lack the collective will to save it. Self-interest is also at play. Aggressive attempts by Republicans at the state level to restrict voting in advance of the 2022 midterm elections have led many Democrats to believe that their only chance to retain power is to pass voting-rights legislation in the next few months. Their resulting desperation, in turn, has invited GOP attacks that the election bill’s aim is partisan in nature.

The For the People Act would represent the biggest overhaul of federal election laws in more than half a century, setting national standards for early and mail voting, banning partisan gerrymandering, and creating a new public-financing system for campaigns. Knowing that Republicans would not provide the 10 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, the Democrats’ initial strategy has centered on a single member of their own party, the fulcrum around which all of Washington seems to revolve, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Their goal is to persuade Manchin not only to vote for the bill but to back it so strongly that he would support an exemption to filibuster to get it passed. Until recently, Manchin had rebuffed them on both fronts: He declared his opposition to the original and most expansive version of the election bill, and he’s vowed again and again that he will “not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”

Read: Democracy is already dying in the states

Manchin has insisted that voting-rights legislation garner bipartisan support, nudging Democrats to prioritize the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a separate bill updating the 1965 Voting Rights Act that currently has the backing of exactly one Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. That bill is on a separate track and won’t be ready until the fall; Democrats have said they must first hold hearings to build an extensive evidentiary record to present in an inevitable challenge before the Supreme Court, which, in 2013, invalidated a key portion of the original Voting Rights Act. The final bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats last week, “must be passed in a way that is constitutionally ironclad.” Pelosi has also said that though the Voting Rights Act is a necessary part of the Democrats’ agenda, it is not a substitute for the far broader For the People Act.

Some Democrats want the John Lewis bill expedited, both because of its substantive importance in restoring federal oversight of elections in certain states and because the legislation now named for the late civil-rights icon has a more recent history of bipartisan backing. The last reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act cleared the Senate unanimously in 2006, winning the support of 10 Republicans who remain in the Senate today. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—who voted for the 2006 bill—has already come out against a rewrite in response to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, and voting-rights advocates doubt it could overcome a filibuster this time. “There aren’t 10 Republican senators who are going to support any voting-rights legislation,” Fred Wertheimer, a longtime advocate for political reform, told me.

I could find no Republican senators willing to join Murkowski in committing their support to a reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who crosses the aisle as frequently as any GOP senator, told me she wasn’t prepared to announce her position. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who was one of seven GOP votes to convict former President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial, was similarly evasive. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama supported the 2006 bill and isn’t running for reelection, but he told me he was “skeptical” of the Democrats’ plans for updating the 1965 law, saying they were trying to “overrule” the Supreme Court in the process.

Another major challenge for Democrats is that as far-reaching as their election bills are, they are, to some extent, already outdated and ignore recent state laws that election-law experts say pose the most urgent threat to democracy. The For the People Act, also referred to as H.R. 1 or S. 1, was written before the 2020 election, and it does not address changes recently enacted by Republican-led states that give state legislatures more power to overrule or remove election boards or supervisors responsible for counting and certifying votes. Nor does it revise the Electoral Count Act to make overturning the will of voters more difficult for state legislatures. Democrats told me that discussions were under way about tackling those laws, and a group of Democrats this week introduced a bill to do so.

If there was a breakthrough as today’s vote neared, it came from—who else?—Manchin, who last week outlined the changes to election laws that he would support. His proposal would jettison the creation of independent redistricting commissions (while retaining a general prohibition on partisan gerrymandering) and a public-financing system. He also called for instituting a voter-ID requirement—a mandate that Democrats have loudly opposed as racially motivated voter suppression when Republicans have proposed it on the state level.

Yet with nowhere else to turn, Democrats responded positively to Manchin’s memo. They were pleasantly surprised by his embrace of national voting standards such as two weeks of early voting, automatic registration, and a ban on partisan gerrymandering. “We might squabble about one or two things, but I’m not about to sacrifice all the good in favor of the perfect,” Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia told reporters in the Capitol, summing up a view expressed by several Democrats. Stacey Abrams, the voting-rights advocate likely to mount a second gubernatorial campaign in Georgia next year, said she would “absolutely” support Manchin’s compromise. Even Manchin’s call for a voter-ID requirement (allowing citizens to produce alternative proof, such as a utility bill) was not the poison pill many might have assumed it would be.

Democrats discussed Manchin’s proposal in a private meeting on Thursday, and they emerged believing they were at least one modest step closer to success. “It was one of the more constructive conversations we’ve had in a long time,” Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii told reporters. “I left much more optimistic.” The discussions appear to have yielded something tangible: A week after declaring his opposition to the For the People Act, Manchin stuck with Democrats in today’s procedural vote to bring the legislation up for debate, allowing the party to present—at least for the moment—a united front against the Republican blockade. But Democrats have made no discernible progress on persuading Manchin (and a few other less vocal holdouts) to make a much bigger shift on the filibuster. Without 10 Republican votes or a plan to change Senate rules, neither election bill has a path to becoming law. “This whole thing’s about getting unity on voting rights,” Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia told reporters after the meeting. And what about the filibuster? I asked him. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Inside the Capitol last week, amid the Democratic deliberations on voting rights, Congress was offering up more evidence of how long it can take to reach consensus, and the haste with which it can act once it does. The House finally voted to repeal an authorization for the use of military force first enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when some current lawmakers hadn’t yet reached high school. And in the span of three days, Congress created a new federal holiday in honor of Juneteenth that the nation commemorated on Friday, ending with remarkable speed a push for recognition that began decades ago.

Some Democrats and civil-rights leaders told me they had not completely given up on Republicans or Manchin and wanted to spend the summer building pressure on Congress to act on voting rights. One idea under consideration would be to take the federal elections standards in the For the People Act and graft them onto the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act when it’s introduced in the fall. Why they think that would win any GOP votes, however, is unclear. If that is Plan B, then Plans C, D, and E for Democrats are probably outside Congress. They have brought lawsuits against every GOP-led state that has moved to restrict voting, hoping that the courts will strike down the most odious changes. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said he would soon double the staff of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and use what authority it has to scrutinize new state laws for possible violations of federal statutes. But the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to invalidate part of the Voting Rights Act sharply limits how far the Justice Department can go.

Beyond those efforts, Democrats will turn to public outrage, relying on the voters themselves to punish Republicans with a strong turnout against them next year. Yet in the aftermath of today’s ill-fated vote, the plan that seems likeliest to win out is, well, Plan F. The F could stand for “filibuster,” or maybe just “failure,” the same result that Democrats had achieved from earlier pushes—on gun control and climate change, for example—where defeat had supposedly not been an option until, in the end, thanks to the rules of the Senate, it was the only one left.

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Joe Manchin Was Never a Mystery

It’s always been pretty obvious who he is: a middle-of-the-road guy with good electoral instincts, decent intentions, and bad ideas.



The failure of the For the People Act in the Senate yesterday evening didn’t provide much drama. All 50 Democrats backed the voting-rights bill, but with no Republican support, they didn’t have enough votes to break a filibuster. That Democrats didn’t have the votes was clear from the start of the Congress.

But journalism requires drama, which means that over the past few months Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has been the subject of extensive coverage. The problem with this coverage is not that Manchin is unimportant; as the most moderate Democrat in a 50-person caucus, he is crucial. It’s that there is no mystery to him.

Trying to figure out who Manchin is and what he wants, or how he’s changed—the natural and reasonable defaults of political-profile writing—assumes there’s something more than meets the eye. Really, though, Manchin is who he’s always been: a middle-of-the-road guy with good electoral instincts, decent intentions, and bad ideas.

Manchin made the bill’s fate explicit on June 6, when he published a column in the Charleston Gazette-Mail announcing he’d vote nay, and would also not vote to weaken the filibuster. Given Democrats’ thin margin, that meant they would be unable to overcome a Republican filibuster, even after Manchin announced yesterday afternoon that he would vote to open debate on the bill. (Some other Democrats reportedly privately opposed parts of the bill, meaning it might have failed eventually even if there were no filibuster too.)

Adam Serwer: Joe Manchin can’t have it both ways

“Nobody who knows Manchin well was surprised by his decision,” The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos writes in one of the latest and deepest pieces on the senator. But nobody following national politics at all should have been surprised by his decision, either. Manchin has said all along—though not always clearly—that he doesn’t want to eliminate the filibuster. His tendency to speak off the cuff to reporters and colleagues means that Manchin sometimes muddies the waters and creates openings for progressives to project their own hopes onto him.

At one point in March, he seemed to go through several different visions of tweaks to the filibuster in the course of barely a week. On March 1, he snapped at reporters who asked him under what circumstances he’d agree to lower the filibuster: “Jesus Christ! What don’t you understand about ‘never’?” Six days later, he said he’d be fine with using reconciliation—which allows fiscal-related legislation to pass with a bare minority—if Republicans had a chance to weigh in first. He also suggested he’d be open to the “talking filibuster,” a tweak to the rule. But when a reporter quizzed him on that the next day, he recoiled. “Jiminy Christmas, buddy!” he said. “That’s why I even hate to say anything to you.”

Reporters and pundits engaged in a frenzied hermeneutic quest to decode what Manchin wanted and what he’d allow. But trying to make sense of it all was a waste of time. The important thing was he was against nuking the filibuster then, and he is now.

Read a few Manchin profiles and you start to become familiar with the tropes: the houseboat. The ever-ringing cellphone, with a number the senator hands out prolifically. The high-school-football heroics.

Christopher J. Regan: What the media are missing about Joe Manchin

But searching for a Rosebud to explain his mentality will get you nowhere. Manchin is not the first senator to hold a high-profile swing vote, but the path by which he arrived here is not so interesting as that of some of his predecessors. He doesn’t bring the elaborate psychological baggage to the role that John McCain did: the weight of paternal expectation, the time as a POW, the Keating Five mess, the 2008 presidential loss, the animosity with Donald Trump. Manchin seems chummy, if not close, with President Joe Biden.

He doesn’t bring the political baggage, either. While Manchin is more conservative than other Democrats, he is still more in line with the rest of his party than, say, Jim Jeffords was before he left the GOP to become a Democrat in 2001. Unlike Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, the other super-swingy Senate Democrat and an enigmatic politician with an erratic ideological history, Manchin has kept the same basic approach for most of his career.

He works hard. He believes in moderation and bipartisanship for their own sake. As Christopher J. Regan, a fellow West Virginia Democrat, wrote in The Atlantic this spring, Manchin brings “a keen sense of what issues and bills are popular at any given moment and of how he can be seen as being on the right side of those issues for the electorate—no matter which party is in favor of them.”

Manchin’s recent support for many of the voting-rights reforms that Democrats want—but not all of them, as well as some changes that might appeal to Republicans, including a national voter-ID requirement—is a perfect embodiment of this. A voter-ID requirement is bad policy, because it solves a problem, in-person voter fraud, that doesn’t exist. It is also relatively harmless; though many such laws are transparently designed to target minority voters, multiple studies have found relatively little effect on turnout, making it a good exchange for the other reforms. Moreover, it is wildly popular with voters.

Sinema (like McCain, whom she revered) seems to relish the status that being the 49th or 50th vote gives her. Manchin says he does not. If he just wanted power, he could get more by agreeing to kill the filibuster and become the deciding vote on everything. Instead, he has forsworn that power in his quest for bipartisanship.

That is where the trouble comes in. Manchin hasn’t changed, but both the Democratic and Republican Parties have. Manchin’s own party has moved left, which leaves him more isolated. The change in the GOP, by contrast, is more drastic, with Republicans now coalescing around antidemocratic (with a small d) tendencies.

Read: Will Kyrsten Sinema change her mind?

Manchin professes to back both ballot access and bipartisanship. These two impulses may have been reconcilable at one time, but they are not today, as my colleague Adam Serwer writes: “If the right to vote is fundamental, then it cannot be subject to veto by partisans who benefit from disenfranchisement.” Manchin’s own voter-ID proposal illustrated the futility of his quest for bipartisanship. The idea annoyed some Democrats, though they bit their tongue and agreed—but it didn’t win the support of a single Republican.

The most illuminating profile to read about Manchin today was published three years ago, in GQ. The journalist Jason Zengerle recounted the story of Manchin doggedly tracking down a GOP senator to kill Manchin’s own amendment to a bill, as a favor to Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, so the ailing Isakson didn’t have to come to the floor. In return for Manchin’s trouble, Isakson donated to Manchin’s Republican challenger in the 2018 race.

Looked at one way, in 2021, the joke in this anecdote is on the Republicans: Manchin survived the 2018 race, and Isakson’s old seat is now held by the Democrat Raphael Warnock. But what’s the point of holding these Senate seats and their power if not to enact Democratic Party priorities? Manchin hasn’t figured that out yet, which means the Democrats won’t have a chance to do so either.


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1 hour ago, cosmicway said:

One people, one nation ...
That translates to "ein volk, ein reich".
Ein Boris next ?

Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer

Boris Johnson presents his plans in the race for the Tories party leadership.  |  AFP

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When capital relinquishes ownership

As the ownership of firms becomes transferred to algorithmically-controlled index funds, why not put their human employees in charge instead?



History shows us nothing is forever. Sooner or later, most social systems bite their tails. The saying that each system contains the seeds of its own downfall seems quite true. Perhaps this is now the case with the system we have come to call capitalism—which can be understood as meaning that those who own the capital used in production also hold power over companies.

The Swedish Companies Act, for example, stipulates that those who sit on the board of a company must only have the interests of the owners in mind. This ownership interest is then superior to the consumer, employee and general interest. For this to work, of course, one thing is required—that there be owners. And it must also be possible to affirm, for those who represent them on the board, what the interests of these owners are.

Two problems have arisen. The first is that more than 80 per cent of share capital on the Swedish stock exchange is now controlled by ‘institutional’ owners, such as pension funds and many different equity funds. The situation is similar in most western countries. The absolute majority of those who have invested capital in these funds cannot be said to perceive themselves as owners of the companies concerned—even less to have opinions on how they should be organised and function.

The professional staff managing equity funds also generally do not have much knowledge of how companies should be run. Their role as ‘deputed owners’ is usually limited to involvement in appointing the people who sit on company boards—and the grounds on which they do so are usually unknown to those who have put their savings in their hands. Transparency and accountability are thus in practice minimal.

Index funds

The second problem is that these so-called actively-managed equity funds have been challenged by a new type, ‘index funds’. In a relatively short time these have become very large asset managers—a trend described by stock-market analysts as ‘explosive’. During the 2010s, the proportion of fund capital on the Swedish stock exchange managed by index funds increased from 8 to almost 20 per cent.

Internationally, by 2019 on European stock exchanges index funds held 39 per cent of fund capital and in the United States almost 50 per cent. A US-based index fund is now the second largest asset manager in the world and two others are, together, the largest owners of share capital on the Swedish stock exchange.

Index funds differ in two crucial ways from actively-managed funds. First, no considered decisions are made about which companies’ shares to buy. Instead, the investment strategy is deliberately broad and proportional to the majority of the large companies on the stock exchange. The development of capital is intended to follow the entire stock-exchange index—hence the name.

Secondly, index funds do not exercise any ownership power at all. These funds are characterised by very low fees and, among other things, they do not devote any resources to involvement in appointing members to boards. If equity funds in general can be said to be ‘faceless’ capital, index funds are ‘headless’: an algorithm is responsible for decisions about share purchases.

Sharply attacked

A few months ago, a relevant debate took place in a leading Swedish business newspaper (Dagens Industri). Representatives of certain Swedish actively-managed funds sharply attacked their index-funds counterparts over their lack of interest in the nomination committees which in practice appoint companies’ boards, claiming this showed irresponsibility on their part.

The growth and popularity of index funds however stems from their low fees—and, probably even more, from their having proved very successful financially. Most actively-managed equity funds, in which extremely well-paid stock-market specialists seek to invest where profitability is highest, perform worse than a random number generator. Over the past ten years, meanwhile, in the US stock market index funds have yielded higher returns than the average for actively-managed funds.

In a market as transparent as the stock market, all legal information about a company’s value and future return opportunities is already discounted in the prevailing share price. So statistically there are only three ways to beat the index: illegal ‘insider’ information, luck or clairvoyance.

Given existing trends, there are strong reasons to believe that the share of capital on the world’s stock exchanges held by index funds will continue to increase. But what will this increasing percentage of ‘headless’ ownership mean for our businesses and society at large?

One thing is clear: if nothing is done, given increasingly weak and uninterested owners, financial rewards for the business-leadership layer can only become more astronomical. They will have no strong counterweight of active owners against such rent-seeking.

Hiring capital

So if capital is increasingly abdicating de facto from governing companies, who will govern them? One possibility, of course, is their employees. Companies that are managed and/or owned by their employees have been studied empirically for four decades. Overall, such companies are doing very well financially and, especially, in terms of staff wellbeing and commitment.

The idea, found variously in Karl Marx and Milton Friedman, that the power of a company is based on the ownership of the capital used, is, as the ingenious American economist David Ellerman has shown, completely wrong. In a market economy, capital can hire (that is, employ) labour and then the power lies with capital. But in a market economy, those who want to start and run a company can equally rent (that is, borrow) the capital and then the working staff decide on production.

Index funds, increasingly in the ascendancy in modern economies, serve as lessors of capital to companies. The corporate-governance vacuum they reveal provides an opening to advance the conversation about the genuine democratisation of working life. The best candidate for stepping into that vacuum is the force of those who are actually governed day to day in our business enterprises—the white- and blue-collar employees in the workplace. 

Trade unions have been strangely ambivalent about taking on this challenge to date. New civil-society organisations which glimpse the potential of a more substantial economic democracy should also enter this conversation on the side of employees and help make it happen.


An earlier version of this article in Swedish was published in Dagens Nyheter

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The platform economy—time for more democracy at work

The platform economy has intensified power imbalances between companies and their workers, which only collective voice can redress.


The pandemic’s evolution has demonstrated the growing significance of the platform economy in providing essential services to local communities, while also highlighting the intrinsic vulnerabilities and precarity of platform workers. While the platform economy is expanding in size and importance, however, uncertainty around what to expect remains.

Before the pandemic, as part of a research project funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies, I conducted fieldwork with colleagues in four European countries (Switzerland, Germany, Greece and the United Kingdom) on the conditions experienced by workers in the platform economy and social partners’ responses. Consistent with the literature, we found that the contingent and non-standard work arrangements prevailing in the digital labour market had exacerbated power imbalances between workers and employers. In all four countries, workers reported (to varying degrees) intensified exploitation stemming from practices and mindsets deeply embedded within the platforms’ modus operandi.

Severe criticism

Since the launch of the platform economy a decade ago, the companies at its heart have faced severe criticism, over inadequate employment protection (unfair work), free-riding on conventional businesses (unfair competition) and inadequate consumer protection. The pandemic has further exposed this dark side.

During the early lockdowns, digital platforms successfully externalised responsibilities on to governments for financial support and on to platform workers for their own protection. Some even increased surveillance of workers during the pandemic—with the potential for this to become ‘normalised’ in its aftermath.

Our fieldwork also confirmed another strong argument in the literature—that platform workers feel they are losing the voice they need to enforce their social-welfare and employment rights. Platform workers’ capacity to organise and build collective voice is being increasingly questioned by the general weakening of industrial relations in many countries and a tendency towards the individualisation of employment relationships.

Unique barriers

At the same time, platform workers face unique barriers when it comes to collective agency. During rapid economic and labour-market changes in the past, workers formed organisations to advocate in support of their interests. But that organising often presumed a single employer, a single workplace and a set of duties and obligations that could be structured around a contract which stayed in place for several years. In the platform economy, given the moves away from full-time work and direct employment, these conditions are no longer apparent.

Another important factor complicating the capacity to organise is the disparity of work performed by different segments of the workforce across various platforms. Workers are often tied to a multitude of platforms, which translates into starkly heterogeneous worker motivations, experiences and claims, constraining the leverage offered by effective collective action and representation of interests.

Moreover, platform companies do not generally want to be viewed as ‘employers’. This further complicates the picture, since it denies the existence of a bargaining partner.

Disciplinary power

Reduced bargaining power, combined with excessive surveillance through algorithmic controls, effectively undermines the freedom the firms tout and their workers desire, while further reinforcing workers’ inability to influence their working environment. These findings reinforce Polanyi-inspired accounts in the literature on the platform economy: it represents a ‘dis-embedding’ of the market from such institutional surrounds as welfare systems and strong trade unions, so that labour is ‘re-commodified’, intensifying the disciplinary power of labour-market competition.

Mobilising and organising collectively when work is digital, discontinuous and globally dispersed poses challenges. Yet all Uber or Deliveroo workers should be entitled to unionise, claim their rights and gain control over their work. 

On the positive side, despite undeniable difficulties, fresh approaches are being developed by trade unions to adapt to the changing conditions of platform work: opening membership to platform workers, establishing new initiatives and unions and/or negotiating collective agreements with platform companies. Such efforts need to be strengthened and sustained, while the concept of democratising platform companies and the platform economy should be given serious consideration.

Social dialogue

As demands escalate for more ‘democracy at work’, collective bargaining and social dialogue are increasingly seen as part of the solution. Empirical evidence shows that co-ordinated bargaining systems are linked with less wage inequality and higher employment. Whether considering issues of workplace adjustment to new technologies or of job quality, workers’ representation and collective-bargaining arrangements constitute key tools enabling governments and social partners to find and agree on fair, tailored solutions.

Furthermore, due to its deliberative and reconciliation-building attributes, social dialogue can suggest avenuesfor tackling the more problematic aspects of platform work in mutually beneficial, and therefore sustainable, ways. It can address power imbalances between platforms and their workers—by enforcing the correct classification of workers and fighting misclassification, by promoting transparency and fair treatment over working conditions, by enabling access to social protection, training opportunities and occupational health and safety and by dealing with algorithmic discrimination and data transparency and justice. (Workers’ demands for access to data held by platforms about them are likely to be among the most confrontational issues in the years to come.)

In this context, mobilisation on the part of trade unions—with their valuable, sector-specific knowledge—is vital to level the playing-field, by bringing pressure for more fine-tuned regulation or by pushing digital platforms to come to the negotiation table. All this requires, on one hand, global trade union co-operation and, on the other, country-specific action.

Inclusive future

In a nutshell, for platform workers in unbalanced power relationships, social dialogue, worker organising, the development of agency, voice and representation and its expression through collective bargaining are the surest route to a more inclusive future. Beyond the academic literature, this has been confirmed by the work of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Labour Organization, as well as by the European Commission’s discussions with social partners on how to regulate platform work.

More research and policy action would help shape future momentum, setting in place national or global frameworks for structured dialogue and collective bargaining among governments, platform businesses and workers. This should be part of a broader strategy to democratise the platform economy as a whole—from its governance to the ability of individual workers to organise and make decisions together about their work.


This was first published by the Graduate Institute Geneva’s Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy.

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50 minutes ago, Vesper said:

This was first published by the Graduate Institute Geneva’s Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy.

Is it undemocratic to say five long ass articles take up  whole page and are tiresome to read 🤓

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30 minutes ago, Jap Si. said:

Is it undemocratic to say five long ass articles take up  whole page and are tiresome to read 🤓

if you think that article you referenced was 'long ass' then I cannot help you

as for tiresome, well clearly the subject of structural inequities in the gig economy (inequities that affect tens of millions of marginalised workers) is not for you

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roflmaooooooooooooo (Matt Hancock affair)

best line:

'though she hasn't had her vaccination, she got a little prick from me'

Matt Hancock has been caught having a secret affair with his top aide


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Trump Organization Could Face Criminal Charges in D.A. Inquiry

An indictment of the Trump Organization could mark the first criminal charges to emerge from an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into Donald J. Trump and his business dealings.


The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that it is considering criminal charges against his family business, the Trump Organization, in connection with fringe benefits the company awarded a top executive, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

The prosecutors had been building a case for months against the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, as part of an effort to pressure him to cooperate with a broader inquiry into Mr. Trump’s business dealings. But it was not previously known that the Trump Organization also might face charges.

If the case moves ahead, the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., could announce charges as soon as next week, the people said. Mr. Vance’s prosecutors have been conducting the investigation along with lawyers from the office of the New York State attorney general, Letitia James.

Any indictment would be the first to emerge from the long-running investigation and would raise the startling prospect of a former president having to defend the company he founded, and has run for decades, against accusations of criminal behavior.

Prosecutors recently have focused much of their investigation into the perks Mr. Trump and the company doled out to Mr. Weisselberg and other executives, including tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for one of Mr. Weisselberg’s grandchildren, as well as rents on apartments and car leases.

They are looking into whether those benefits were properly recorded in the company’s ledgers and whether taxes were paid on them, The New York Times has reported.

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6 hours ago, Vesper said:

if you think that article you referenced was 'long ass' then I cannot help you

as for tiresome, well clearly the subject of structural inequities in the gig economy (inequities that affect tens of millions of marginalised workers) is not for you

My English not great but I know u should start sentence with capital letter 🤨. I don't kno what a structural inequities is being is it a damaged building ?

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18 minutes ago, Jap Si. said:

My English not great but I know u should start sentence with capital letter 🤨. I don't kno what a structural inequities is being is it a damaged building ?

Structural inequality occurs when the fabric of organizations, institutions, governments or social networks contains an embedded bias which provides advantages for some members and marginalizes or produces disadvantages for other members. This can involve property rights, status, or unequal access to health care, housing, education and other physical or financial resources or opportunities. Structural inequality is believed to be an embedded part of the culture of the United States due to the history of slavery and the subsequent suppression of equal civil rights of minority races.

Structural inequality can be encouraged and maintained in society through structured institutions such as the public school system with the goal of maintaining the existing structure of wealth, employment opportunities, and social standing of the races by keeping minority students from high academic achievement in high school and college as well as in the workforce of the country. In the attempt to equalize allocation of state funding, policymakers evaluate the elements of disparity to determine an equalization of funding throughout school districts.(14)[1]

Combating structural inequality therefore often requires the broad, policy based structural change on behalf of government organizations, and is often a critical component of poverty reduction.[2] In many ways, a well-organized democratic government that can effectively combine moderate growth with redistributive policies stands the best chance of combating structural inequality.[2]

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How I Left Academia, or, How Academia Left Me

How I Left Academia, or, How Academia Left Me


“Universities are madrassas for woke stupidity.” -James Delingpole

When I first encountered the discipline of Philosophy as an undergraduate at West Point some twenty years ago, I was put into a state of awe. Encountering the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, Kant and Hume, Berkeley and Russell for the very first time felt like I was being let in on some ancient and esoteric form of knowledge, some sort of secret language invisible to the uninitiated. Leaving the classroom each day, debating and conversing with other students over these new and earth-shattering concepts and questions felt like a kind of drug trip; like I was Neo being shown the code for the Matrix. For those years and for who I was at the time, it was truly a mind-altering and life-changing experience. And while the questions shook my sense of certainty to the core, filling my head with all sorts of doubts, I nonetheless remained certain of one thing; that Socrates was ultimately right and that the unexamined life was indeed not worth living.

I was compelled so much so by these philosophical questions and ideas that I would later be moved to terminate what was, at the time, a fruitful career as a U.S. Army officer, to turn down several lucrative white-collar jobs thereafter, and to shove all my chips into the center of the playing table, in hopes of one day becoming a professional analytic philosopher. Now, after a decade of being within the ivory tower, of seeing how the sausage is made and witnessing first-hand the business that academia really is, I’ve determined, quite sadly, that the discipline of academic Philosophy, and the university system more generally, has become little more than an indoctrination center for ‘woke’ leftist ideology and the antithesis of its original aim and purpose. That being said, this essay is my explanation of how and why I’m leaving academia, or, more appropriately, how academia ended up leaving me.

My cynicism towards academia was not always this way, however. Coming away jaded from the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war in my mid-twenties, believing that we as American citizens had some basic duties to look out for animals, the environment, and for the poor, and thinking that African Americans still had some reasonable and justified grievances because of slavery, I found myself entering into graduate school at the beginning of the Obama years as a self-described ‘center left’ liberal.

The beginning few years of my time in grad school were a combination of exhilaration, possibility, and most of all, vindication. Unlike my time in the stifling, hyper-conformist atmosphere of the military, now I was finally home, around my people; people who were thoughtful, open-minded, knowledgeable, worldly, lovers of ideas and appreciators of the life of mind. No longer the odd-duck soldier who thought too much, I felt, for the very first time in my adult life, like I was finally accepted.

For the most part, many of my professors and my graduate peers found me to be somewhat of a refreshing anomaly. I was the thoughtful, philosophical soldier, critical of our country’s recent wars. During that time period, I could also sleep easily at night with a clear conscience knowing I was now one of ‘the good people’ on the left, a proud ‘bleeding heart’, no longer immersed among the religious nut-jobs, the money obsessed corporate shills, the war-hawks, and the racists who comprised the ranks of the right. I was none of these things. Rather, I was the open-minded, compassionate, slightly left-leaning, ‘nuanced centrist’, who could just as easily have a chat with the frontline infantryman from Nebraska as I could with the Ivory tower academic from Oxford and serve as a kind of bridge between these two worlds, synthesizing a dialogue between left and right, mind and body, theory and practice. At least this was the story that I told myself.

In retrospect, the cracks in the liberal dam were always there from the very beginning, but I was either too distracted, too busy, too intimidated, too career obsessed, or just too willfully ignorant to truly see let alone acknowledge them or their ultimate ideological direction of travel. At first, such fissures were easy to dismiss or handwave away. Certainly, the more fringe versions of the left, what Richard Rorty referred to as the ‘cultural left’, I could openly critique with the tolerance or even support of my professors or graduate peers. “We do analytic philosophy here, arguments from arm-chair first principles,” I was re-assured, “not that postmodern nonsense you find on the edges of some anthropology or lit crit department. That’s the far left. We’re on the moderate, sensible left. Have you ever read Rawls?”

For a certain moment in time, I could arguably get on board with such thinking. What barbarian didn’t believe that we had some duty to animals and to the environment? To future generations? To fellow citizens who were most vulnerable? To soldiers and civilians alike? Somewhere around spring of 2017, however, amidst the cultural backlash against Trumpism, coupled with the mainstream explosion of transgenderism, intersectionality, critical race theory, and mass campus protests against perceived ‘far right extremist’ speakers, the academy I once knew and loved seemed to go completely off the rails. The mask of the ‘tolerant’, ‘open-minded’ left suddenly fell off and, for the very first time, I came to realize that the ivory tower and so-called ‘free market of ideas’ was not above and beyond or as immune to the present social zeitgeist as I once had thought.

With few exceptions, present-day analytic philosophy and academia more generally exhibit hardly any of the values and virtues that they explicitly profess to care so much about: tolerance, open-mindedness, regard for different perspectives, epistemic charity, a willingness to entertain pluralistic viewpoints, rational and dispassionate assessment of arguments, lack of ad hoc justifications, lack of ad hominem attacks, operating from arm-chair first principles, and a willingness to follow the entailments of premises to their logical conclusions come hell or highwater. Nearly all of these epistemic virtues are markedly and demonstrably absent in present-day academia and present-day academics save for a Hillsdale or a Claremont, a Peterson, Boghossian, Lindsay, or Sowell.

Rather, academics on the left now make their arguments primarily by means of social pressure and stigmatization, intimidation, group struggle sessions, virtue signaling, and online reputational assassination in the form of labelling their opponents as ‘extremists’, ‘racists’, ‘phobes’, ‘bigots’ or worse, rather than engaging with their opponents’ arguments on their own merits. More perplexing still, such folks often do so having fully convinced themselves that they are somehow oppressed victims, scrappy underdogs ‘speaking truth to power’ against impossible odds as part of some revolutionary underground resistance movement while garnering support from nearly every major western institution imaginable from Hollywood, to big business, to the Queen of England, to Oreo cookies.

Mark Bray, for instance, author of the Antifascist Handbook, nearly openly calls for overt violence against anyone who disagrees with his group’s political vision while promoting his work on Amazon’s bestseller list and enjoying the safety of a professorship at Rutgers. Feminist journalist, Laurie Penny, promotes her ‘radical’ viewpoints, too disruptive and controversial for everyday consumption, at the “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” officially sponsored by the Sydney Opera House and the city of Sydney. And LGBTQ philosopher, Rebecca Kukla, is able to tell her opponents on Twitter to ‘suck her queer cock’ while maintaining a comfortable tenureship as Senior Research Scholar of Ethics at (nominally Catholic) Georgetown while suffering zero professional backlash. Meanwhile veteran suicide rates in this country get shoved behind a superficial veil of ‘Thank you for your service’, but please someone stop the presses, because ‘trans people are dying’, whatever the hell that even means. Still these folks are somehow ‘the marginalized.’

If not actively taking part in ceaseless woke attacks as part of the small but highly vocal far left vanguard, the majority of academics, I’d wager even a super-majority of academics, have now been completely cowed into silence and complicity by the intersectional ideologues, burying their heads deeper in the sand, promising themselves that on some far-off future day, once the professional and social climate somehow improves, once someone else has stuck their neck out and cleared a safer path, once they achieve tenure, department head, emeritus status, enough grant money, etc. then the gloves will suddenly come off, then they will magically turn into a fire-breathing lion, then they will finally speak their minds.

If human psychology and human history are any guide, then the trend suggests that such a day will never come for such persons, since feeding that muscle of complicity and inaction only serves to strengthen it, and ‘tenure’ will most likely become swapped out with some new placeholder excuse to put off standing up and speaking the truth for just one more day. Maybe the cannibalization will somehow miss them if they just stay silent, just bend the knee, and just disavow long enough. The writings of Arendt, Niemoller, and Solzhenitsyn to name just a few, suggest the supreme folly and ultimate end-state of such a strategy of never-ending appeasement. This however, is the new normal within the ‘free market of ideas.’

Stay within the safe lanes of extremely clever, overly technical, and ultimately inconsequential intellectual discourse, and you will likely be able to make tenure and have a long and prosperous academic career. Say something the least bit critical of the current intersectional orthodoxy or conversely, say something the least bit positive about Christianity, men, the free market, liberty, merit, America, or the values of Western civilization and you are instantly relegated to persona non grata. Here is the blueprint for anyone seeking success within academia in 2021. Spine not included.

All this being said, it isn’t even as if these folks somehow possess arguments that are clearly and decisively better, more coherent, or sound. Indeed, some of the more blatant contradictions and hypocrisies found on the left warrant our explicit acknowledgement. Western science is an oppressive structure of the white male patriarchy that we are dutybound to oppose and deconstruct, but we must trust the latest Covid biomedical data. We must trust the latest Covid biomedical data, but the biomedical categories of male and female are just social constructs. The categories of male and female are just social constructs which can be chosen at will, but the category of race cannot be similarly chosen at will because race is ostensibly an objective natural kind. But race is also just a social construct. But neither of these previous claims are true since race doesn’t refer to anything at all because there is only one race, the human race. But whites oppress blacks.

Objective evolutionary data discredits God and objective morality, but that same evolutionary data as it relates to heritable features due to race is suddenly just a social construct again. We are in a radically relativistic, post-truth world, but we must guard against conservative fake news. There is no historical meta-narrative, but the events of slavery and colonialism are undeniable objective facts. The patriarchy of Christianity is bad, but the patriarchy of Islam, of the very same Abrahamic tradition, is to be lauded and venerated. Obesity is a social construct but also a marker of objective health at any weight. Atheist materialist science proves that life is fundamentally meaningless and worthless, but for heaven’s sake, will someone please think of the rights, dignity, and intrinsic value of animals and future generations threatened by climate change. A priori Mathematics and Logic are just socially constructed systems of oppression. There is no such thing as objective truth, but CNN reports just the facts. And what do we even mean by ‘truth’ anyway? And so on. The amount of mental gymnastics required for these folks to simultaneously hold such blatant and obvious contradictions all while walking, talking, and even sometimes operating heavy machinery is truly a sight to behold, impressive as it is horrifying.

What’s more, such arguments are often deployed from such folks with a self-satisfied air of condescension and a near total lack of gratitude for anything and everything their fellow countrymen or forebears have sacrificed on their behalf, making the luxury of sustaining such superfluous and nonsensical arguments even possible in the first place. I can honestly say now, having seen both sides, that during my time in the military I met folks who were markedly less conformist, far more open-minded, and far less vindictive towards peers and colleagues who dared to entertain or voice alternative viewpoints. My academic peers should reflect upon that last sentence carefully.

To quote H.L. Menken, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” This essay constitutes my best and most earnest attempt at communicating such understanding to my now former colleagues. Some may call me an alarmist, a bigot, an extremist, etc. So be it. Such ad hominem attacks do not constitute a counter-argument nor do they do anything to take away from the one-way intersectional steamroller and one’s own fixed position within the victim hierarchy. Those overly quick to dismiss what I’ve said here simply because I’m a straight, white, male should pause and take a moment to seriously reconsider their own presumed immunity from similar cancelling, silencing, and cannibalization later on down the line.

That being said, I sincerely apologize to my fellow American citizens, family, friends, comrades at arms, and former colleagues for my complicity and silence on such matters for this long. No longer. It is my hope that this essay will inspire others in academia, students and professors alike, to also begin speaking up loudly and vocally and to continue to speak up against this pernicious woke ideology until we bat it out the door of academia and society at large. Until then, I will continue to sound the alarm for any of those with minds and hearts open enough to hear. Listen to or dismiss these words at your own peril. However, when the woke mob comes to cancel you, when the HR department calls you into their office for mandatory remedial pronoun training, or when the agents of the pink police state come to knock at your door in the middle of the night, don’t say I didn’t warn you. So farewell academia,

I disavow you.

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