Want to Discuss Sweden and COVID19? Start By Looking Backward.

Christian Christensen
5 min readApr 24, 2020
Sergels Torg, Stockholm. Holger Ellgaard (2009). Creative Commons

“A vast social experiment…”

“Committing suicide…”

“Self-inflicted nightmare…”


We have heard a lot about Sweden and its now-infamous “hands off” COVID19 strategy, and there is widespread international disbelief at a policy many consider to be tantamount to Sweden playing Russian roulette with the welfare of its citizens. The above quotes, taken from newspaper articles and directed at Sweden, would be perfect examples of this outrage.

Except for one thing: the quotes were not about Sweden’s COVID19 policy. They were written several years ago about Sweden’s intake of Syrian refugees fleeing a bloody civil war.

That the published reactions to Sweden’s policy on refugees and COVID19 are so easily inter-changeable speaks volumes. These are two events that have shaped the international image of Sweden as few others over the past half-century.

Six years ago, when Sweden began the process of accepting more Syrian refugees per capita than any nation in Europe (and far more than the US), the xenophobic right lambasted Sweden, waxing nostalgic over the loss of an ethnically and culturally homogeneous nation that existed largely in their dreams. The supposed surrender of a mythical, Nordic Disneyland to the forces of immigration was linked to the politics of Swedish social democracy: a “leftist agenda” that wallows in state power, denies cultural heritage and embraces both radical feminism and fundamentalist Islam. In short, Sweden had capitulated to the forces of multiculturalism.

In the last few years, the international right-wing obsession with all things Sweden has become borderline pathological.

So, it is with a pretty generous portion of chutzpah that many of the same right-wingers who smeared Sweden as a nation collapsing under the weight of restrictive “Cultural Marxism” now point to that same Sweden as the guiding light in the libertarian fight against COVID19. And, as the nation that has rejected Big Government in favor of keeping Sweden “open,” trusting rational citizens to do the right thing. Nothing better crystallized this absurd turn-around than the image of a US protester against stay-at-home rules…