Benjamin R. Teitelbaum: Labeling of Sweden Democrats was incorrect |

Benjamin R. Teitelbaum: Labeling of Sweden Democrats was incorrect

A reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today described the Sweden Democrats political party — whose chief ideologue spoke Tuesday, Feb. 26 in town — as a party with “neo-Nazi” roots. This terminology is incorrect, and I say so fancying myself the leading English-language scholar of the party worldwide.

The Sweden Democrats do indeed have troubled roots. When introducing the party at last Tuesday’s event, I noted this, describing how one of its predecessor organizations in the 1980s was ethnonationalist. Disturbing, no doubt. But, we’d be foolish to gloss the difference between that and neo-Nazism, the latter being defined by its theorized anti-Semitism, nostalgia for the Third Reich, organized violence and revolutionary rather than democratic agendas.

The predecessor organization lacked these features, and therefore shouldn’t be called “neo-Nazi.” There were isolated individuals in the party’s past that could be labeled in that way, but I’m afraid this and more is true of a great deal of political organizations throughout the Western world.

That’s why, as a citizen and a scholar, it strikes me as not only inaccurate but also nefarious to direct hyperbole at parties like the Sweden Democrats. There’s an “othering” going on here — as we like to say in academia — one that exaggerates the faults of an opponent in order to avoid a reckoning with the self.

Benjamin R. Teitelbaum, Ph.D.

Assistant professor of ethnomusicology, international affairs at the University of Colorado Boulder

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