Before the coronavirus, Sweden for most people symbolised moderation and fairness. But since Covid, this Scandinavian social democracy has been maligned like few other countries on earth. The reason is, of course, that Sweden did not follow the rest of the world into lockdown. And because even their proponents recognise that lockdowns come at an extraordinarily high price – eviscerating our freedoms, laying waste to our economies and even damaging our health – the only European country which attempted to tread a more liberal path became the target of an extreme and hysterical smear campaign.
Throughout the spring and early summer, the negative headlines were relentless. The New York Times repeatedly branded Sweden a ‘pariah state’, while its no-lockdown policy apparently made it ‘the world’s cautionary tale’.
The liberal Guardian used to regularly hail Sweden as a ‘model for global prosperity’ – though one which ‘right-wingers’ were ‘desperate’ to see fail. But during the pandemic, the same paper denounced Sweden as a ‘model for the right’ and branded its Covid policy a ‘deadly folly’.
According to this view, Sweden’s policy was not only misguided (in this view) but also sinister. The refusal to shut down society was akin to playing ‘Russian roulette’ with people’s lives. Public support in Sweden for the less restrictive policy revealed ‘the dark side of nationalism’, which could pose a danger to ‘vulnerable minorities’, according to the Washington Post.