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Lost in translation – A case study of a public debate on freedom of expression and a neo-Nazi rally

Journal article
Authors Christer Mattsson
Published in Social Identities
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 92-108
ISSN 1350-4630
Publication year 2020
Published at Segerstedt Institute
Pages 92-108
Language en
Keywords Neo-Nazis, hate speech, freedom of expression, racism
Subject categories Languages and Literature, Political Science, Sociology


This is a case study of a neo-Nazi public gathering in Sweden and the debate the event caused in Swedish media. The debate focused on the fact that the police gave the neo-Nazis permission to demonstrate and on how this could have been avoided. The study thus concerns the dilemma that emerges when freedom of speech clashes with hate speech and the sense of jeopardized public safety that occurs when neo-Nazis are allowed to march. The study is based on Critical Discourse Analysis and strives to discover how this debate is embedded in more complex ideological contexts. The study helps shed light on how the growing neo-Nazi movement contributes to normalizing general racism. Under the banner of engaging in the fight against racism, public opinionmakers, cited in the articles under study, were willing to suspend freedom of speech for neo-Nazis and accused the police of being too hesitant. At the same time, as shown in the study, the police had other internal priorities that were never exposed. Internally, the police authority debated whether or not the neo-Nazi movement should be given some lenience, based on the assumption that severe handling of the neo-Nazis would cause them to radicalize into violence.

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Utskriftsdatum: 2020-08-14