These last few months there has been quite a focus in media on what’s called web-hatred. Last night I went listening to a discussion at Inkonst about this phenomenon. The journalist and writer Mattias Hagberg from Gothenburg had during December 2012 and January 2013 mapped out some hate sites and also interviewed a few of those who pour their hatred on others on the web. Mattias Hagberg had been invited by his colleague Petter Larsson, a free lance journalist that sometimes works for Aftonbladet and who had arranged this lecture at Inkonst. We were a mix of both women and men, young, middle aged and old in the audience and about 30 head strong. From the discussions and questions from the audience afterwards it was quite clear that these issues provoked many thoughts and feelings from many bright people present.
The lecture was not about the other forms of web hate where kids or adults attack others, such as the case recently when a girl in an upper-secondary school in Gothenburg had slandered some younger girls, published their pictures on Instagram and called them 14-year old sluts. Nor when e.g. grown-ups who have broken up from each other and in some hateful agony attack each other. No, this study was aimed at the organised haters, those who appear in the comment fields on newspapers and blogs, but also on other sites, such as Flashback. Flashback is not a particular hate-site, but a mix of every subject imaginable. All the same, there are parts even here where hateful attacks are aimed at immigrants, politicians, journalists and others in what the haters call the pc-maffia, (the political correct-maffia). Mattias Hagberg had studied the few international surveys made in the United Kingdom and USA on web haters, but also some Swedish study and then dived into the web-haters fora. Since most of them are anonymous we can’t say exactly who they are, but the general picture of a Swedish web-hater is a white male between 20 and 45 years old, he could be anything from a left wing communist to a conservative, but disappointed in life and the society. He might be unemployed or be working, but frustrated that nobody listens to him. He is also frustrated that his male ego is hurt and the macho-domination is in decrease. Male journalists and other men who take a stand against racism and for gender equality etc might be attacked by the web-haters, but the female journalists, female politicians etc are much more attacked and always targetted with lots of sexual harrassments in a way that their male counterparts aren’t. Åsa Lindeborg, culture editor at Aftonbladet, recently published in an article some of the many hate-mails and comments she has got, among them: “You disgusting little cunt. Hope that a Kongo-nigger will rape and murder you instantly”. The web-haters often accuse men from other cultures than our own for being rapists and misogyns, but these men themselves are strongly anti-feminists and obsessed with attacking women, their gender, their sexual parts and of rapes. The foulest attacks are always reported to the police, but the attacks on women have increased enormously in recent years. Of course this affects all those women who are targeted. It doesn’t matter if she is a social worker, politician, journalist, editor, lawyer or something else. The hate affects you.
Petter Larsson talked about that he had studied Nazi home pages and sites closely connected to the Swedish Democrats, SD, a party in Parliament which has Nazi-roots. Avpixlat and National.nu are two of those sites. In the middle of November I wrote on this blog about the hateful attacks aimed at Behrang Miri on these two web-sites, comments that I read and was utterly disgusted by. The extremists on the extreme right found their way to internet very early on and are often well versed when it comes to computer use. Some are real computer-savvies. Already in the beginning of the 1990’s they started to use the internet, building home pages and organised themselves to spread their message of world conspiracy, hatred against the democratic society, culture against culture, of anti-feminism, of racism, antisemitism and islamophobia. The tricky thing with sites like Avpixlat is that the server is not in Sweden, but somewhere abroad and they have no responsible chief-editor. Only one known SD-politician, Kenneth Ekeroth, has been known to help finance this web-site. The party leader of SD, Jimmie Åkesson has said that Avpixlat belongs to the sound part of internet. Their focus is only to look up cases where people with immigrant background have commited a crime and then expose that and use it in a hate-propaganda. The cases where people with no-immigrant background occur are neglected alltogether.
When Hagberg dived into these sites and read what they said for a few weeks he noticed that they always pendle between sounding like small professors and extreme foul attacks with lots of dirty words. The journalist tried to understand how they think and managed even to get a few interviews. Ten men altogether accepted to be interviewed by him, nine via e-mail or on the site, and one alive face-to-face. The problems with these web-haters is that they are anonymous and do not show their real names. They always talk about themselves as “we” and say that we are many, we are doctors, professors, we are politicians etc. However according to what Mattias Hagberg found out this is most likely an exaggeration. It seems that most of these guys might be lower civil servants, journalists, ordinary workers, teachers, unemployed men etc, even if a few high-ranking people may exist among their midst as well.
So what can be done to deal with this web-hatred? Mattias Hagberg believes that we need to have serious discussions on behaviour on the internet, since we no longer can turn a blind eye to this phenomenon. The most extreme people do not hesitate to go from foul attacks on internet to make their threats and intimidation real, by attacking opponents and dissidents. Physical beatings, bombings and assassinations do happen, even if they are scarce. This attitude of hatred and suspicion affects the entire society climate. Hagberg also believes that new laws are needed or old laws sharpened in their implimentation. The web-hate has nothing to do with freedom of speach. I couldn’t agree more.
Anders Moberg, February the 5th 2013