, 11.22.2022 05:35 PM

My latest: the beast is awake – everywhere

STOCKHOLM — Extremism comes on tiny feet. You almost don’t see it until it’s too late.

Take this IKEA, for example, on Regeringsgatan, near the old city of Stockholm. Here, tucked between grandiose 16th-century buildings and charming cobblestone streets, is another IKEA.

It’s just like the ones in Canada, found from Vancouver to Halifax. Everything’s the same. Same corporate colours, same stuff for sale, even the same meatballs and lingonberries. (Which are as ubiquitous as they are delicious, by the way.)

IKEA advertises everything from candles to pillows, but it doesn’t advertise one important fact: It was founded by a fellow who was an extremist. A neo-Nazi, in fact.

Oh, sure, IKEA doesn’t completely hide who their founder was. He was a genial-looking fellow named Ingvar Kamprad, who — says IKEA’s website— was “rebel-hearted.” Uh-huh. Ingvar had “a dream to create a better life for as many people as possible — whatever the size of their wallet — (which) is and will always be our driving force.”

Well, not exactly everyone.

Ingvar, who died in 2018 at the age of 91, wasn’t too fussy about foreigners, Jews and other minorities. He wasn’t so enthusiastic about “creating a better life” for them, actually. Ingvar was a member of the fascist New Swedish Movement. The IKEA website doesn’t have a whole lot of information about that.

Ingvar joined the New Swedish Movement when he was a teenager, even before he founded IKEA as a mail order company in his family’s backyard. The leader of the far-right group was rabid anti-Semite and Adolf Hitler fan Per Engdahl, who said Hitler was “God’s saviour of Europe.”

Historians record that Ingvar recruited members and raised funds for Engdahl’s pro-Nazi group, even while the Second World War was still raging. And he remained a confidante of Engdahl for many years after that.

When caught, Ingvar insisted his involvement with fascism was “a mistake.” But, in her wonderfully-titled book “Made in Sweden: How the Swedes Are Not Nearly So Egalitarian, Tolerant, Hospitable or Cozy As They Would Like to Have You Think,” author Elisabeth Asbrink wrote the Swedish security service had a bulging file on Ingvar titled “Nazi.”

And, as recently as 2010, when Canadians were still gleefully assembling IKEA bookcases with Allen keys, Ingvar told Asbrink that “Per Engdahl is a great man, and I will maintain that as long as I live.”

So, there you go. We are all sitting on couches that, at one point, funded Nazism. Extremism, in other words.

That’s relevant, these days, because there’s quite a bit of it to be seen just about everywhere you look. Not just Sweden.

Here in Sweden in September, the extremist Sweden Democrats took more than 20% of the vote in the national election, making them the second-largest party in the Riksdag legislature.

The Sweden Democrats trace their beginnings to this country’s neo-Nazi movement. They don’t particularly like Muslims or immigrants, and said during the election they favour giving foreigners “one-way tickets” back to Kabul.

To the extent that the world pays any attention whatsoever to Swedes who don’t play hockey, the huge success of a political party with actual pro-Nazi roots went more or less unnoticed. How come?

Well, because the beast is awake everywhere, pretty much. Extremism is to be seen in a lot of surprising places, these days.

Not, we hasten to say, in the policies of the parties led by Justin Trudeau or Pierre Poilievre or Jagmeet Singh. Not even in Poilievre’s Conservative Party, which may be conservative, but is on record as favouring the admission of more immigrants — and at a faster pace, too.

No, extremism is seen in less-visible ways.

When some people wave around a swastika flag during the Ottawa occupation, for example, and nobody does a damn thing to take it away from them. Or when white supremacist members of Diagolon are caught heading to the Coutts, Alta., border crossing with a cache of weapons, allegedly to murder police, and people shrug.

Or even when the richest man in the world gives a rabid anti-Semite like Kanye West back his Twitter account. After he said he was going to go “Def Con” on Jews. Or how Twitter blithely allows extremist threats against my Postmedia colleagues, and other journalists, all the time. All that.

So, we should probably give the Swedes a break, the fascist leanings of IKEA’s founder notwithstanding. They’ve got a problem with extremism, yes.

And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we increasingly do, too.

15 Comments


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    JJ Gibbons says:

    Then there’s the clothes designed by Hugo Boss


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    Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    Somewhere, God is watching and the tears are flowing abundantly.


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      william shakesfeare says:

      Maybe God should stop watching and start helping out a bit more especially the women and children of Ukraine who are being blasted to kingdom come by extremist number one, Putler.


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        Ronald O'Dowd says:

        WS,

        Maybe he should but then he didn’t in WWI and WWII and I don’t know about you but I definitely intend to verbally light right into him, should we ever meet in the future. (Free will, my ass re: mortals)


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    EsterhazyWasALoser says:

    Extremists become popular when society fails to address fundamental crises. The Bolsheviks seized power when the Russian government of the time was unable to deal with food shortages and maintain order. The economic crisis in Germany gave the National Socialists an opportunity to become an important party in the Reichstag. Sweden in 2022 faces some very serious issues with crime and public disorder. This is not something political, it is just a fact. As many other have repeatedly pointed out, Trump is not the disease. Trump is a symptom of the disease. Governments which continually fail the electorate will eventually be replaced. That is democracy, for better or worse. Extremists come to power when the status quo is unable to look after its citizenry. So my advice to the mushy middle is, don’t fail. Make difficult decisions based on facts and fairness. Joe and Jane front porch will notice and reward you.


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    Steve T says:

    I suspect you’d find quite a few people in their 90s who had dealings with groups (or philosophies) that we now would consider repugnant.
    Those same people may also have done very good things in their lives – whether it be starting companies that employ tens of thousands of people, or advocating for good causes alongside their less-palatable ones, or countless other positive contributions to society.
    We seem to have an endless fascination with identifying people’s long-since-past transgressions and making a big show of “outing” them – irrespective of anything good they’ve done since that time.
    Murderers, rapists, and Nazi concentration-camp staff – sure, OK, pursue them. But I would suggest that the ancillary stuff people did on their personal time is probably worth leaving in the past.


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      Warren says:

      He was a fucking Nazi. He fundraised and recruited for them. Just to be super clear: you’re okay with that?


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        Steve T says:

        My understanding, from what you wrote and from other sources, is that he was a member, fundraiser, and recruiter of a far-right Swedish group that supported the Nazis. He was not a capital-N nazi himself. He subsequently denounced his involvement and called his involvement a great mistake (although, as you point out, he continued to be supportive of Engdahl personally).

        To be clear, I’m not defending the group nor the time during which Kamprad was involved. My point is that there were likely tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of Swedes and Germans in that group and of the Nazi party itself, in the WWII years. Similarly for Italians in Mussolini’s fascist party.

        This is very different, in my mind, than active military Nazis who were directly involved in the horrors of WWII. This is not a war crimes trial. Are we chasing down every surviving Swede, German, and Italian who held these memberships, and ensuring they are “outed” in their late 90s? Or is it just people who have achieved some success and fame? That’s my point – it just seems there is an ongoing fascination with finding the bad in people.

        In hindsight, I recognize that I went astray from your main overarching point – which I think is still accurate.


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        Jason says:

        Nazis are terrible. But where do we draw the line and declare that a company of a quarter million people becomes “bad” or “good” based on the founder/owner/CEO’s beliefs?

        Rhetorical question, really. I haven’t a clue.


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        william shakesfeare says:

        In other news, there is now a video game starring the one and only Kyle Rittenhouse. You can’t make this stuff up.


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    western view says:

    Pierre Trudeau, a long serving Liberal Prime Minister had some strange notions about the National Socialist Party in the 1940’s. I can’t find the image, but I certainly remember seeing a picture of him riding a motorcycle in some strange garb.
    I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, that when the war crimes were exposed as the war concluded Trudeau was ashamed of himself.


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      Ronald O'Dowd says:

      WV,

      This is on par with Harry wearing a Nazi arm band or the Queen Mother and the young Elizabeth and Margaret giving Nazi salutes. Gross errors of judgment but based on lack of knowledge or just plain stupidity. PET and the others were definitely not Nazis nor Nazis sympathizers. The only true Nazis were the traitorous Edward and Wallis.


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        Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Not to mention one of Victoria’s grandsons.


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    Scot says:

    Never bought a single think from IKEA in my 73 years. Fucking garbage furniture. Feel even better about that after reading your post.


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    Walter says:

    It appears the Beast is awakening.

    Finally after a half decade of extreme left governments like Trudeau’s – some countries are switching to their more moderate alternatives.
    Canada still needs a way to go though.

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