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Aftonbladet, Sweden

Banks’ Rules Threaten our Freedom

By Anna Troberg

Translated By Grace Olaison

13 November 2012

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Sweden - Aftonbladet - Original Article (Swedish)

When I was little and watching TV, we often giggled about how ridiculously prudish they were in the U.S. There were no bounds to how much they would strive not to show nudity. People would step out of bed fully made-up and clothed. People showered with swimming trunks on. It was a clear contrast to the Swedish TV productions we were accustomed to. In Sweden, nakedness wasn’t avoided. It was so natural that the Americans’ prissiness was considered a complete joke.

At that time, we were only exposed to that warped moral viewpoint through TV. Today, we are exposed to it from many directions since increasing numbers of private companies have chosen to embrace the role of moral guardians.

Facebook keeps tracks of our pictures. Too much skin, regardless of the context, is grounds for prohibition from the social network, without explanation or an opportunity of redress. Visa and MasterCard doesn’t let us spend our money on violence and smut. Do you want to see an old cult classic horror film? Forget it. It’s unsuitable. Do you want to spice up your sex life with a few sex-toys? Forget it. Such things are not done by distinguished Visa and MasterCard customers.

Unfortunately, it is not only our entertainment which is placed under a moral microscope. Even our relation with society and our political engagement is under scrutiny. The Apple Store chose to call Naomi Wolf’s book, “Vagina”, “V****a,” so that no one could be shocked by suddenly coming face to face with the word for the female reproductive organ. Facebook has recently blocked the administrators of a group for women’s emancipation in the Arab world. The reason: One of them posted a picture of a woman with her hair uncovered. Visa and MasterCard block all payments to Wikileaks. It is clearly not morally defensible to reveal war crimes. Strangely enough, it seems to be morally defensible to march around in sheets and assert that one is sovereign with the right to tyrannize others based on their skin color, because money is still processed for the Ku Klux Klan.

Swedish banks do not make any moral judgments. They simply follow the American companies’ rules for which payments can be approved. The banks process purchases of shares in publicity-shy firms like Lundin Petroleum and in the next moment deny purchase of the film classic, “Braindead.” It’s probably rather odd that no one reflects on how a low budget film suddenly has become more dangerous than high budget genocide.

There are those who worry that some sort of fundamentalist Islamization, with all sound and fury, will take over Swedish society and force us into a limiting morality. They need not be concerned. If some Muslim group actually sits down and plans something along those lines, they will have arrived at the party too late. The American Bible Belt’s morality has already penetrated our lives via the services which we use daily when we shop and socialize.

You and I have little chance to uphold our rights against private companies which behave as moral guardians. Our only chance of redress is to raise a public outcry over our cause. In a world where a new moralistic offensive is increasingly common, however, this will become progressively more difficult. American morality, which is rather perverted, is on the way to becoming a norm even here among us.

Our freedom is under threat not by terrorists and bombs. It is threatened not by skin exposure, extreme horror movies, anatomical words or by a little spice in our sex life. Our freedom is threatened by those small, limiting attitude changes which, one by one, sneak upon us like a thief in the night when we least expect it.



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