Guardian writer calls Sweden attack ‘more American than fascist’

'Hot take' speculation is little help in analysing these murders


‘Fools rush in’, as the saying goes. In a culture of ‘hot takes’ and instant punditry, its truth is no more apparent than after a sudden act of violence.

As news broke of a masked man in Sweden stabbing a teacher and three students in a school, leaving two dead and two in a critical condition, the temptation to weigh in was too strong for Guardian columnist Andrew Brown.

In a short piece last night, Brown speculated on the nature of the killings:

“Yet the murderer seems not to have been ideologically crazy in the sense that [Norwegian mass murderer] Anders Breivik was.

He is reported to have had extreme right-wing views, but also to fit a much more American pattern of the quiet loner who needs to be famous: the mask he wore was out of Star Wars, and his weapon was a sword, as if he were a Jedi.”

The next lines, which conclude the piece, deserve special attention:

“The culture of rural Sweden is fixated on an imagined America of the 60s: American cars and American music are everywhere. When all is known, I think this school attack will be more American than fascist, and no less tragic for that.”

Now, analysis of such attacks is crucial in deciding how to respond. (This is very different to exploiting the attacks to vindicate your own politics.) But any such endeavour ought to be based on the available evidence, and cannot be seriously undertaken within minutes or hours of the attack.

Thus Brown’s strange musings are both too soon and too speculative.

The only evidence to emerge so far is of the killer’s interest in right-wing and neo-Nazi ideas. As the Telegraph reports:

“According to Expo, a Swedish magazine which tracks the extreme Right, [the] YouTube videos he watched speak of the ‘multicultural project from hell’, rue the ‘Jewish media-control of Western civilisation’, and underline ‘the importance of race in society’.”

There were indications of this even last night, as Brown notes, but he declined to wait for more information, instead deciding what was and was not significant.

So what might be a Star Wars mask is highlighted and coupled with Brown’s claim ‘his weapon was a sword, as if he were a Jedi’. This leads into his argument about the malign influence of American culture, (in this case, Hollywood), on a ‘fixated’ rural Sweden.

As it happens, Jedis don’t use swords, preferring the fictional ‘lightsabre’, while sword in photos of the killer is actually Japanese. Meanwhile, his black helmet appears to be that of a Nazi soldier.

Still Brown charges ahead, talking about ‘an imagined America of the 60s’, of American cars and music, before predicting that ‘When all is known, I think this school attack will be more American than fascist […]’.

This is not to say that Nazi ideas are more significant than anything else. The attack does bear similarities to gun attacks in American schools, (though as Brown acknowledges by citing the Breivik case, these attacks are not unknown in Scandinavia).

It could be that evidence will emerge showing the influence of Star Wars and 1960s America on the wretched killer.

But as it stands Brown has no grounds whatever to say the attack in Sweden has anything to do with American culture. This is pure speculation offered too quickly – and, I might add, a bit too easily – after the actual event.


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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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