What is this Bodström society thing anyway?

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One thing that has emerged as a concept in the Swedish blogosphere over the last two years is the Bodström society. It obviously derives from the Swedish justice minister Thomas Bodström. The term relates to a society that is going in an Orwellian direction towards more and more monitoring of its citizens, often in a deceitful way.

So, what is this thing then? Is it just a word used by Swedish bloggers opposing any monitoring in general, or is there a more sinister truth to it – does it something to say about the direction of Swedish domestic policy?

The term was coined by tech pioneer and journalist Oscar Swartz (founder of Swedish ISP Bahnhof) in a blog article from December 15, 2005, called “Bodströmsamhället pÃ¥ väg: Europaparlamentet sa ja.” (“The Bodström Society is on its way: the European parliament said yes”).

From now on I will use the term ‘Bodström society’ instead of “Big Brother society” or similar terms. His visions are infernal and consistent and are aimed at communications being saved, so that authorities can later check it out. Yes, the ideal would be that all operators simply upload their data to a central data base where authorities can lurk around, instead of requesting the data from the operators. And they will also have far reaching possibilities to bug – even against individuals not suspected of a crime. He also suggests that authorities are going to be able to secretly install keyboard loggers, troyans and other stuff on people’s computers. Sure, it’s to fight crime. But all this is very explicitly motivated with the argument of making crime investigations more ‘efficient’.

Swedish wikipedia says this about the Bodström society: “What differs the Bodström society from other forms of Big Brother systems is the fact that Thomas Bodström is working in a time where communications over the Internet has just received a central position, and that the government that Bodström is part of is participating in the US war on terrorism. The latter fact is a breach against the former social democratic standing doctrine that is taking a distance to the US foreign agenda.” (Source) There is alot of criticism against the US policies on domestic self defense post 9-11, such as the Patriot act and various implementations, as well as other things that leads to monitoring and control, both internally and externally. The same thing is true about the British policies. British policies are often described in Swedish debate as a mix between tender nursing of the population, combined with sometimes harsh methods of discipline, as well as a more and more far-reaching control over what people are doing, in order to protect the population from itself and others. Much of this is of course due to the aftermath of the July 2005 terror attacks.

When Sweden is moving towards more monitoring despite the lack of terror attempts – a strict policy of neutrality almost as dogmatic as the one of Switzerland kept Sweden outside the battles of WWII as well as the Cold War – many seek other explanations. One often described is a ‘follow your leader’ tendency, Sweden is by many perceived as politically moving towards the US and the UK, and major trends in said countries will have a large impact on other Western countries. Sweden is not exception here. Sweden is also a part of the European Union, and if the European Union walks in one direction, Sweden will follow it.

But there are also those that claim that Sweden is not only walking in the same direction as the European Union is walking. They point out that Sweden in many apects is leading taking charge in pointing the direction out.

In June, 2006, Oscar Swartz, the person to have coined the term, published a report named “Marschen mot Bodströmsamhället – Hur justitieministerns dubbelspel hotar vÃ¥ra grundlagsfästa fri- och rättigheter.” (The March towards the Bodström society – How the double-dealings of the minister of justice is threatening our basic freedoms and rights). The report has spun alot of attention in the Swedish blogosphere, has inspired various Swedish groups, such as the journalist trade union, to challenge tendencies in government property, and has given a strong reference collection for those that criticize the government for going towards more monitoring. It can be downloaded in PDF if you read Swedish.

The report concentrates on propositions and government documents concerning the storing and monitoring of communications, primarily on the Internet and through telephones. He points to an evident double-dealing of the minister, where the minister is one of those that are the most aggressive on making the European Union when it comes to carrying through a more far-reaching monitoring legislation, while domestically, said changes is made out to be implemented because Sweden has accepted European legislation, not because he wants it to be that way. The report goes so far as to accuse Bodström of outright lying to parliamentary committees on how he is working in the European council of ministers. At the same time, more subtle changes is made in Swedish law: the European legislation makes it possible to monitor suspects of serious crime, and Swedish legislation is tampered so that more and more people are included in ‘suspects of serious crime’ – and more and more can be done against people ‘related to’ or ‘involved with’ or ‘associated with’ people suspected of these wider and wider definition of serious crime.

In conclusion, Swartz demands that Bodström is brought before the Committee on Constitution, the executive committee of the Swedish parliament that checks to see if decicions and actions of the government are in accordance with the Swedish constitution. When the report was presented, at least one MP was present, who promised to work to this end.

The term Bodström-samhälle was established well before this report was published. The picture below has been seen on more and more Swedish blogs. The text says, ‘Democracy and terrorism is not compatible. Let us therefore abolish democracy.’

Democracy and terrorism is not compatible. Let us therefor abolish democracy.

But with this report, critics of the current course of Swedish society towards Orwellian heights have now got a black on white arsenal of arguments and facts to use in debates. What will become of the demands to put Bodström before a committee is yet to be seen.

And what of the legislation carried through in Sweden, is it that serious? Well, if all would be carried through, it would be quite possible to install keyboard loggers and bugs on your computer, if a friend of the family was ever suspected of a serious crime – and remember, more and more crimes are being turned into ‘serious’. When the Pirate Bay was raided, their judicial advisor was forced to leave a DNA sample, even if it had no apparent significance to the investigation.

On my personal blog, Piracy Unlimited, I once made a compilation of laws, proposed laws and laws suggested for future installment, that has our Justice Minister as originator or advocate. Unfortunately, since I wrote it on June 19, there have been some additions to it.


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