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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

As news of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norway terrorist, continues to emerge we have read criticism from the liberal commentariat aimed at early media coverage claiming that the bombing and subsequent shooting were the work of Islamic extremists. The assumption in much of the West was that a person imitating al-Quaeda had perpetrated the attacks and, for people living in Britain or the USA, such assumptions would have appeared unarguably reasonable. For a Swede like dead crime fiction author Stieg Larsson, however, the real fact of the matter would have been just as credible as this biography by journalist Jan-Erik Pettersson tells us.

Larsson is now famous for writing the highly-popular Millennium Trilogy but that performance occupied only a short period of the journalist's life. What mostly preoccupied him - and what this biography talks about in great detail - is the battle in Sweden since the early 1980s for a contested space. The combatants have been fascist-inspired anti-immigration groups and left-wing social elements including activists like popular fiction writer Larsson. It's an interesting read for anyone interested in this Nordic brand of racism and of course for anyone interested in the man who created such memorable fictional characters as the embattled hacker Lisbeth Salander and that paragon of ethics, journalist Michael Blomkvist. My interest in the trilogy began when my attention was captured by its popularity but my real fascination with it lies in the fact that it engages in debate around the role of the media in society. I love seeing representations of journalists in popular culture because they say something about what we expect to receive from this special class of (more or less) professional people. For Larsson, journalism was a calling, something to occupy all aspects of the individual. For him it was definitely not a 9-to-5 job.

This is why Larsson branched out into activist journalism. Employed at an early age by media companies, initially to produce graphical illustrations to accompany pieces written by others, Larsson moved eventually to a writing role with Sweden's wire service, TT. While gainfully employed by TT he also began to work on stories for a fringe magazine set up to combat racism. His knowledge of the far-Right and its organisational structures, operating methods, and principal actors was much sought after even though the magazine that took his stories - named Expo - folded after a few years due to lack of funding.

That's as far as I've gotten in the biography, which I purchased at the airport while on my way to Sydney to meet up with friends. Reading it, I thought how timely its appearance was considering the developing drama of the Norway attacks. In fact it was uncanny for me that it has hit Australian bookshops just at this time. It's a reminder that no matter how bad our radio shock jocks are there are places with far worse brands of racism that include assault, assassination, physical intimidation, street protests, and hate-filled popular culture. I'm sure there are adherents of this kind of dark ideology in Australia but to this point they have been well hidden within the outwardly peaceful suburbs that nurture our desires.

1 comment:

Neil said...

Fascinating.