Just for the sake of archiving it: the March 6 2012 version of the Story of #svpol
Twitter is a strange thing. One can only write 140 characters, and not
even that if one wants to include all the @'s, #'s and smileys that goes
with a civilized conversation. Somehow, it still manages to collect,
mobilize and motivate millions of people to think, fell and do things
together - maybe just because the format is so short.
It is also short in a more timely fashion. Except for certain celebrity
and/or horse tweets that get reprinted in slower media, the average life
span of a tweet is relatively short. Where blog posts can get readers
for months (by process of the long tail), tweets are measured in
minutes. You have to do some heavy lifting to read tweets older than a
few hours, and you have to be really dedicated to go further back than
As a further bonus, the built in search function on Twitter is rather
less than spectacular, to say the least. Which contributes to Twitter
being in a constant state of now-now-now-now.
With this in mind, and for the inherent value of knowing how things went
down ex post facto, I wrote down the story of #svpol. Which, for those
of you not living in the Scandinavian/Swedish language area, was the
central hub for political tweeting. Until things went very, very wrong.
And for your benefit, I am now translating it for all the world to see.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the story of how the internet malfunctions: the rise and fall of #svpol.
In a time long long ago, in the mythical year of 2010, there was an
election in the far far away land of Sweden. And as in every democratic
country prior to election day, every political junkie of every political
color and party were overjoyed to tell everyone with (or without) ears
about how awesome their affiliation of choice was. In the beginning
everyone did their own thing, shouting out into the virtual desert, with
little or no effect. Then, a pattern emerged. Some started to use
#val2010 [#election2010] while writing about, well, the election, and
soon others followed suit. With time, more and more people chimed in,
and the closer election day came, the more intense the activity became.
Everyone was there - leftists, rightists, radicals, even the stray
And while there, they argued. Oh how they argued. Moderates, social
democrats, pirates and centrists - if any political junkie ever had an
argument with any other political junkie, it happened then. Right then
and there. Yet despite all the arguing, some sort of bond was forged -
people still returned for moe, after all.
Then, election day came and went, and the discussion took a turn to
become a place for analyzing the election results. And, as you might
imagine, people soon figured that they had exhausted every possible
angle of the particular result. And by the by, people started drifting
off into the virtual loneliness again.
But just letting #val2010 die, and return to the way things were before,
wasn't an appealing option. After all, it was kind of nice to have
somewhere to to for that political quick fix, even if the only people
online at that moment came from other parties. Only speaking to those
who agree with you all day long isn't all that it's cranked up to be,
and Twitter is after all bigger than one's circle of friends. That's
kind of the point.
So slowly but surely, #svpol grew into existence. Not without
competition, of course - #swpol, #svepol and countless other varieties
were in use. Even #val2011 came into being about the (very local)
reelections. But after a process of informal elimination, #svpol reigned
supreme. And before anyone knew it, order (and the constant, disorderly
arguments that went along with it) was restored.
As you might imagine, there was no plan, no official entity or really
anything other than an informal agreement between people that, okay, we
political junkies use #svpol. A sentiment that "We may disagree about
just about everything else in the world, but this one thing we can agree
It's really something of a political step forward. Not the constant
arguing - there's hopefully no way to forwardstep that out of existence.
But the fact that you (or anyone else) could gauge the current
political mood by just taking a quick look at the discussions taking
place - that's progress. And it gave many people an insight into
contemporary politics that would have taken an absurdly long time to get
Was it perfect? No, but it was. And it worked in an everyday setting,
which is just about as perfect as things political can get.
If this was the whole story, it would be quite boring. And unnecessary
to write about, to say the least. Unfortunately, the story turns
downhill from here.
One day, the site formerly known as Politiskt Inkorrekt (what used to be
the leading platform for antiislamism and general racism, now defunct)
had an idea. Their main activity was to write subtly racist posts, and
then letting the readers be not be too subtly racist in the comments. So
they thought: "Let's let loose the forces of comment trolling upon the
general public! For too long the uncritical hegemony of contemporary
islamophiles have dominated Twitter, and it is time to bring the Truth
to the world!"
So they wrote a post about it, explaining that #svpol was a haven for
the worst kinds of Cultural Marxists (a very technical term, not to be
confused with any kind of real Marxism) and that everyone there needed
to be told about the upcoming Muslim threat. And, to help newcomers,
they included a basic guide to how Twitter works. Which was so basic, it
can be summarized by this statement: "Give 'em hell, and tag everything
And before anyone knew it, the #svpol time line was filled with all
kinds of ideological "truths". Mostly about immigration, the Muslim
threat, the conspiracy of lies from the mainstream media to black out
certain topics, the feminist threat to humanity - just the kind of
unfettered racist propaganda you'd expect to see in the darker corners
of the internet. To visualize it, just take the worst comment section
you can find and multiply by a factor of months.
And what the newly immigrated tweeters lacked in powers of persuasion
and reason, they more than made up for in number and persistence. (They
are, in fact, still going strong.)
You can imagine the anger and loss many felt when they discovered that
the once lively gathering point now was a watering hole for barely
literate, propaganda spewing fanatics. Not only because of the content,
but because of the breach of the informal compact: you do your thing, I
do mine, others do their, and even if we don't agree with each other
about anything, we can at least agree to do our things in parallel. I
know what's up with the world, you know it, everyone knows it - and we
can therefore talk about it.
That, in itself, is a valuable thing. And it is a shame to see it lost
due to people who have no idea what they do, yet who do it anyway.
And so I document this, in the hopes that by the time you read it, we
will have learned from past mistakes. Not that we've gotten things
perfect - they never will be perfect - but that we've managed to get
along. Even while still duking it out, doing our thing in coexisting,
It happened once, after all. And hope is always the last thing to die.
August 15, 2011