Passport

@Sweden stands behind controversial tweeter

Sweden's ultra-democratic marketing campaign of letting ordinary Swedes control the Twitter handle @Sweden for a week at a time suffered some unfortunate timing this week. Just a day after the New York Times published a widely-read feature on the project, Sonja Abrahamson, a writer and radio commentator, took over the account and posted a series of tweets wondering just what "the fuzz" is all about with Jewish people:

 

Whats the fuzz with jews. You can't even see if a person is a jew, unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can't be sure!? (https://twitter.com/sweden/status/212525137046667265)

In nazi German they even had to sew stars on their sleeves. If they didn't, they could never now who was a jew and who was not a jew. (https://twitter.com/sweden/status/212525570397978624)

Once I asked a co-worker what a jew is. He was "part jew", whatever that means. He's like "uuuuh... jews are.. uh.. well educated..?" (https://twitter.com/sweden/status/212526261933838336)

And it gets weirder:

Sometimes I just look at my children and think about the time when they had my vagina round their neck. (https://twitter.com/sweden/status/212440361199616000)

And as if that wasn't enough, Abrahamson also posted the following photo, reminding her readers that there are lots of leggy blondes in the northern country but probably not sending quite the message her government sponsors had hoped.

And then there was the following photo, captioned, "hungry gay with aids."

These posts have caused a minor social media firestorm today, but the creators of the project aren't backing down and say that they won't be changing their policies for the account or the selection criteria for the so-called "curators."

"The current curator likes to express her certain type of humor," Tommy Sollén, the social media manager for VisitSweden, said in an interview. "We're trying to communicate a modern, progressive picture of Sweden by letting its people talk. We're building a puzzle-one curator at a time-and we have to include all of Sweden."

As for Abrahamson, Sergio Guimaraes, a spokesperson for the Swedish Institute, the other group behind the project, said that this was probably a case of a certain brand of humor being misunderstood.

"We understand that there are certain references in her way of expressing herself that are reminiscent of Joan Rivers or Sarah Silvernman, but we don't know if her intention is humor or not," Guimares said. "But those comedians also express themselves in a controversial way, but as we see it she hasn't expressed herself in an anti-Semitic way."

The Times' story, which like so many other stories in that paper on Internet trends came about six months after the project took off, upped attention on the Twitter account just as Abrahamson chimed in with her particular brand of humor, but the project's organizers are hoping that readers take a more long-term view of the effort.

"Many people have discovered very recently after the New York Times article, and then one doesn't understand the idea behind it-and then one can understand that it feels strange," Sollen said. "But next week there will be someone new."

The Twitter account took off when it was launched in Dec. 2011, quickly garnering thousands of followers, and has become a darling of the advertising world, winning a gold award at this year's CLIOs, the prestigious marketing awards. Passport noted the lesbian truck driver Hanna Fange, who became one of the account's first stars, back in January. The account is no stranger to controversy after having already endured some very candid tweets about masturbation and breastfeeding, and its organizers don't seem to mind particularly, banking that their guerilla marketing effort is likely to pay off in the long-run. The idea, Guimaraes says, is to create a "multisided and relevant" communications strategy, and as long as the curators don't break Swedish law, posting rights will remain with them.

But then again, the Twitter backlash against Abrahamson today seems to have scared her away from the Jewish jokes:

Ok, Im taking care of kids and cleaning right now. The mess on da social media aint nothing compared to the floor in da kids room (https://twitter.com/sweden/status/212602506973421573)

Passport

For Libya elections, more questions than answers

Libya will face a laundry list of challenges following its national elections, originally set for June 19, which were postponed to July 7. They key issue, said American-Libyan Council president Fadel Lamen at a panel discussion hosted by the Project on Middle East Democracy on Tuesday, is a lack of central power:

"One of the most important things about Libya is that the revolution started at a very local level, and that is the root of how we should look at the country. The country, no matter how many layers there are at the top level, is still run by local elections."

Though Lamen emphasized the importance of a partnership between the central and local levels, it is unclear whether local militias, which have been responsible for a number of recent attacks, will cooperated. As Manal Omar, director of the Iraq, Iran, and North Africa program at the United States Institute for Peace, explained:

"Even as institutions do begin to grow over the next year, these groups have tasted power. They're going to have little incentive -- even once they are reassured -- to give it up."

Omar added that she anticipates the civil society sector will experience a post-election contraction:

"A lot of institutions that we've seen may actually dissolve because their heads are going to become government leaders."

While it is guaranteed that issues such as arms and economics will dominate Libya's post-election conversation, POMED director Stephen McInerney said the atmosphere surrounding the elections themselves is one of general and genuine confusion, citing a lack of reliable public opinion polling, single non-transferrable voting,  and unorganized political parties unaware of campaigning rules.

"In terms of the political process, there's a lot of confusion regarding the electoral system."

Legislative elections in Egypt and Tunisia may have produced a Muslim Brotherhood majority, and it's clear that Libya is headed in the same direction, but hopefully the poster child for armed resistance will come out of elections with an effective government.

 

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages