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Swedengate Was a Lesson in How Easily Misinformation Spreads

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14.06.2022

There are a lot of Sweden-haters out there. Or rather, a lot of people with time on their hands and possibly a bit of help from people and groups wishing to harm Sweden. Within just a couple of days, a bizarre Reddit post about Swedes not feeding their guests dinner became an internet phenomenon—even though there’s no research backing it up. Other countries can learn lessons from the mysterious Swedengate and how easily misinformation can spread, even when there’s no malign actor behind it, just simple gullibility.

“What is the weirdest thing you had to do at someone else’s house because of their culture/religion?” a recent Reddit poster asked in May. Another user responded that “I remember going to my swedish friends house. And while we were playing in his room, his mom yelled that dinner was ready. And check this. He told me to WAIT in his room while they ate. That shit was fucking wild.” In no time, the comment was going viral on Reddit, then on Twitter, then on Instagram. People begin writing in with comments about how weird and inhospitable Swedes are. One Instagram post added a map that illustrated how stingy Northern Europeans are, with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and parts of northern Germany marked a frightening dark red.

“Swedengate” quickly became a topic and migrated to traditional media, with newspapers eagerly reporting on this previously unknown aspect of Swedish culture. “A Swedish child sits at a dinner table while his friend and the friend’s parents dine on meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce. The delicious aroma wafts below the child’s nose, but there is no plate for him,” the New York Times reported. “This setting, while quite normal in Sweden and other Nordic countries, has horrified people around the world, shocked to learn that some Swedish families do not invite their children’s visiting friends to eat with them at mealtime.”

There are a lot of Sweden-haters out there. Or rather, a lot of people with time on their hands and possibly a bit of help from people and groups wishing to harm Sweden. Within just a couple of days, a bizarre Reddit post about Swedes not feeding their guests dinner became an internet phenomenon—even though there’s no research backing it up. Other countries can learn........

© Foreign Policy


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