Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Lies: 'Sweden, who would believe this!' The image of Scandinavia in the age of fake news

15 February 2018, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

What is Causing the Rise of Rape & Violence in Sweden?

Event Information

Open to



IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

At a rally in mid-February 2017, Donald Trump said the following: 'We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.'

In fact, of course, nothing particularly remarkable had happened 'last night in Sweden'. Trump's dark insinuations immediately attracted ridicule, among others from the former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, who tweeted 'What has he been smoking? Questions abound.' As if in response to this, a mysterious figure 'Nils Bildt', credited as 'Swedish defence and national security advisor', appeared a few days later on Fox News to agree with Trump and claim that 'we are unable in Sweden to socially integrate these people.' Again, almost no one in Sweden knew who this man was, and he was certainly not recognised as a defence and national security advisor.

In autumn 2017, a crowdfunded book titled 'Last Night in Sweden' was published in Stockholm, authored by a group of press photographers and showcasing a whole array of scenes out of Swedish everyday life. The collection of photos and short narratives depicting people from all strata of Swedish society and across the whole country proved extremely popular: the book was sold out in a couple of weeks and the accompanying exhibition was seen by thousands of people.

The unexpected attention that Sweden received from Trump, and the Swedish response that focused on reframing and humanising Trump's remarks, were not isolated incidents. Rather, they fit into a larger right-wing populist discourse that seeks to depict Sweden and other socio-culturally liberal Nordic countries as weak and impotent actors suffocating under their own self-destructive virtuousness - whereas the response has typically amounted to a reassertion of own moral high ground and commitment to humanitarianism. The recent electoral successes of Sweden's own right-wing populist party, the Sweden Democrats, however, show that an increasing number of Swedish citizens are adopting the right-wing populist narrative, which might yet have a profound impact on Swedish political landscape.

This event will take the form of a conversation between Carl Marklund, Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen and Mart Kuldkepp, followed by a discussion involving the audience and a wine reception.

Carl Marklund is a historian at Södertörn University who has published extensively on contemporary Swedish history and politics. Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen is a senior lecturer in Scandinavian literature and Mart Kuldkepp a lecturer in contemporary Scandinavian history at UCL.

This event is related to the current IAS research themes Lies and Vulnerability and is funded by the IAS.

All welcome.  Please register here.