Following the rising pressure on Sweden’s renowned welfare system, ordinary Swedes are beginning to vent their mounting anxiety on social media. The rise of “socially critical” Facebook pages has spurred the Swedish authorities into action.
Recently, Swedish national broadcaster SVT rang the alarm about highly critical Facebook pages that paint an unflattering picture of the Swedish police force and the healthcare system as crumbling and collapsing, but, strangely enough, are attracting a growing following.
The most illustrious example is the “Support the Police” Facebook page, which boasts over 150,000 followers (in a nation of 10 million) and is still growing, reaching a weekly audience of one million viewers. The page tells a scary picture of the Nordic country being torn apart by lawless suburbs and a largely inept police on its knees.
A more recent example is the “Save the Healthcare” Facebook page, which SVT claims “spreads a horror-like picture” of the Swedish public health services. The page offers a grim take on Swedish healthcare by depicting it in a state of collapse.
SVT claimed anonymous Facebook pages to be dangerous for the “open public debate” and launched an investigation of its own, citing a report by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which released a new report on threats, risks and vulnerabilities in the media industry. According to MSB and SVT, such “echo chambers” may challenge Sweden’s established image with “alternative facts.” Remarkably, though, both the pages mostly relied on shared news from mainstream media, yet conjured a more apocalyptic atmosphere by carefully handpicking texts with recurring words like “chaos” and “crisis.”
While journalists have still not identified the people behind the “Support the Police” page, the man behind the “Save the Healthcare” page was recognized as a hospital attendant at the Astrid Lindgren’s Children’s Hospital, who has decades of experience working in Sweden’s healthcare system. SVT’s exposure might lead to reprisals against the man, similar to those veteran police officer Peter Springare experienced after publishing a critical piece on the authorities’ political correctness. Subsequently, Springare was branded a “hatemonger” and a “racist” by Swedish media, and charged for inciting “racial hatred” by his bosses.
Hans Karlsson, the head of the department of health and social care at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, ventured that such pages may undermine patients’ confidence in health professionals.
“Collected, they give a massive negative and one-sided picture of Swedish healthcare, which is actually of amazingly high quality compared with other countries,” Hans Karlsson told SVT.
Despite Sweden’s undoubtedly high medical standards, its healthcare system has been plagued by overstretched resources and a lack of financing. In particular, its poor maternity care, where expectant mothers are being sent to far away hospitals (and even neighboring countries) has triggered massive criticism, as did misplaced efforts to remedy the problem, such as launching courses for future mums on how to give birth in cars.
Swedish police, on the other hand, have been troubled by the burgeoning “exclusion zones,” where the safety of law enforcers themselves is compromised. Eleven out of Sweden’s 15 most notorious ghettos are currently lacking police stations, SVT reported. Additionally, other common problems include understaffing, low payment and a rising level of occupational hazards. Lastly, many find Sweden’s practice of concealing the perpetrator’s nationality for reasons of political correctness to be detrimental to establishing a true overview of the criminal situation.