August is here. That slow news season when “mediadrev” heats up and reaches fever pitch in Sweden. And following a time-honored Swedish tradition, the targets tend to be women in government (remember Cecilia Stegö Chilò, Maria Borelius, and Ulrika Schenström) Now the victim is Tillväxtverket’s director Christina Lugnet.
You can argue the rights and wrongs of each case and whether these women deserved to leave their posts. But I am sensing the same kind of pattern I see in American politics (think Zoë Baird, Kimba Wood, Lani Guinier, and even Harriet Miers) where women new to power—both on the right and left—are brought down very quickly over one false step.
It is Sweden’s own version of the swiftboat attack--the infamous August smear tactic from the 2004 presidential campaign.
Some questions this whole Tillväxtverket/Lugnet/skattepengar mediadrev brings up:
- Does the “häxtjakt” atmosphere intimidate women from stepping forward and taking a prominent position in the public sector?
- Is the only way to silence critics in Sweden to “göra en pudel”? Would it have helped if Lugnet and friends had invested in more media training?
- Do we expect our public servants to live faultless lives, to save every “kvitto”, and (harking back to Juholt) always take the bus when they could instead have rented a car? Are we building up our politicians only to tear them down? Is there a limit to the amount of “granskning” we can take?