Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Chaos Muppet Looses Herself on Europe

(This fits into the general thematic concerns of the blog in that it intersects with the use of new media for popular historical inquiries and the history of European anti-Semitism. The unified theory of chaos muppets comes from here.)


To: Sweden

From: Me

Re: Your PR problem

As an academic, I travel to Europe and the Middle East sometimes to do research. More than once I’ve had the experience of taking a deep breath when someone asks where I’m from and saying: “Well… I’mAmericanbutIdidn’tvoteforGeorgeWBush.” Or, “I…amfromtheUSbutIswearIbelieveinevolution.” Or of just kind of giving my inquirer a wearied look and saying, “Listen. In spite of anything Justin Beiber says, most of us know that there’s a difference between North and South Korea. But yeah, I’m an American.”

So, listen, Sweden. What I’m saying is that I know that we wouldn’t do much better if we, as a country, tried what you are trying: Creating a national Twitter account and letting one average representative of your population take control of it each week, and narrate their experience as average Swedes and share every passing thought with the greater universe in an effort to share what life in your country is like and what typical Swedish concerns are. It must have seemed like a great idea.

Only, you’ve authorized a national spokesman and turned him loose with no plan, retaining no control. And instead of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington meets The Network, it’s turned more into Bye Bye, Birdie meets 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This week’s average Swede, the first one to take over the blue bird’s reigns since many Americans became aware of this project via a Sunday New York Times feature spent the second day of her tenure 1) musing about how childbirth is kind of like strangling your children with your vagina; and 2) using her platform to finally find out what Jews are and why people hate them.

When Justin Beiber says he really opposes the kind of government they have in Korea, we all have the recourse of saying, “We’re not all like that!” Even if he is, we can still try to defend ourselves by saying that Justin Beiber is not the typical American. Your government, on the other hand, declared this woman to be completely representative of Swedish people. She is officially the average Swede. And I have absolutely no interest in visiting a European country whose average citizens obviously don’t have to study European history in any way and don’t have enough command of basic logic and rhetoric to discern that resting a question on the premise that everyone hates Jews might be a flawed way to approach whatever it was that she was trying to accomplish. Sweden, if this is your average citizen, I’m sorry honey, but you seem kind of scary, especially to someone like me, a history-class-appreciating American Jew. Maybe I should be thanking you for the honest heads-up.

There’s a reason that 14-year-olds don’t get to drive cars here. It’s the very same reason we don’t just hand over the keys to the national twitter account for any old Dick or Jane to take a spin on the — well, the spin machine. There would just be really bad carnage and nobody would be able to look away. I’m sure that the average American would say dumb, uneducated stuff if we let him take over the national twitter account. So we don’t have a national twitter account. We’re at least smart enough to protect ourselves from our average citizens.

This, Sweden, is exactly why we don’t nationalize private utilities and resources. It’s a slippery slope there. Universal healthcare one minute and then suddenly you turn around and there are bloody genitals and anti-Semites all over your internet and nobody wants to visit your country anymore.

Or, with tongue not quite so firmly in cheek, seriously, Sweden? Find some above-average Swedes or scrap the project. You’re not doing yourself any favors.


The world helpfully informs her that Jews are things with big noses, but that you still can't tell 100% because Jewish women aren't circumcised:

Back to her merry life:

An al-Jazeera journalist calls her out on brushing off the whole kerfuffle, but not before another Swede helpfully defines Jews as "Germans of a different faith":

Not to pass up the opportunity to make it worse, she compares *herself* to a Nazi on trial:

Not really a save:

Updated at 7:55: Unconscionable question from the Tweetosphere to @sweden. Yet she still manages to one-up the bad with her reply. I'm framing it this way only because she brought Hitler into it first but, seriously, is she trying to offend every single group of people Hitler tried to eradicate?

Updated again at at 9:08, 6/14: Sonja, just drop it. Seriously. If I send you a copy of the Very Short Introduction to Judaism, would you be willing to go the whole rest of the week without tweeting the word "Jews"?

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