Monday, September 18, 2006



The Brethren smear in Sweden as well

First New Zealand, now Sweden? A reader has alerted me to a rather interesting twist in the Swedish election: A British group of Exclusive Brethren (known as "Plymouth Brethren" over there) have spent millions of crowns on a series of anonymous advertisments in support of the centre-right Alliance for Sweden:

The Brethren have paid for ads in some of Sweden's biggest newspapers, they have done direct marketing in mailboxes in many parts of Sweden, they have been leafleting and put flyers on cars in many places. Among other things, the flyers say that thousands of Swedes die every year due to mistreatments in hospitals.

Aftonbladet have tracked the company that the Brethren money is channelled through - Nordas LTD - to the backstreets of Knowlsley Industrial Park in Liverpool. One of the founders, Maxwell Kevin Haughton, have been tracked down by Aftonbladet but he refuses to answer to why a British company spends millions on a Swedish election.

Or why they're going to such extreme lengths to hide their involvement...

The Aftonbladet story is here. It's in Swedish, but I'm trying to get a translation. In the meantime, InterTran does a very bad online Swedish-English translation.

Swedish blogger Hell-man has pictures of some of the flyers here and here. They don't seem to follow the pattern seen in New Zealand and Tasmania.

That's at least five elections the Brethren have involved themselves in, each time using smear tactics combined with fronts and false names to hide their involvement. Is anyone seeing a pattern here...?

Correction: Edited to make it clear that the Brethren in question were UK-based. At least our ones could argue that as new Zealand citizens, they had a stake in the outcome - but in Sweden, we have effectively a foreign religious group trying to buy an election in another country. Many countries have laws against that sort of thing, though I'm not sure whether Sweden is one of them.

14 comments:

I have been accused of parania for pushing the EB participation in last years election as being dangerous and undemocratic. Far worse than any campaign funding shinanigans I have ever seen here.

If people cannot see this as part of a multi-national covert operation now then they need their eyes opening.

For a sect that numbers only 40,000 they sure seem to want an awful lot of influence and want to splash around a fair bit of loot as well.

What is really needed now is a follow the money investigation. This is not about a small cult looking to pomote "Christian values", I would like to know who is funding the EBs.

Posted by noddy : 9/18/2006 04:06:00 PM

Technically the Plymouth Brethren are the more mainstream version of the Exclusive Brethren. The EBs are seen as a subset of the wider Brethren faith. I suggest you look them up on Wikipedia.

Thank you though, for agreeing that the Exclusive Brethren act without any collaborative efforts with political parties. It's pretty clear that they see a divine mandate to campaign against socially liberal governments, and really don't care about the mechanisms in which they do so. I hope this means you are less likely to believe this conspiracy nonsense that National collaborated with the Brethren in NZ, when it's pretty clear that the Brethren do as they please.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2006 04:57:00 PM

"I hope this means you are less likely to believe this conspiracy nonsense that National collaborated with the Brethren in NZ"

Oh sure. We have heard of numerous meetings in the lead up to the 2005 election between the EBs and Don Brash. We have heard that National gave the EBs legal advice on how to avoid electoral law. We also heard Don Brash say he would accept support from "anyone who wants to get rid of this lousy government".

What is needed is for honest Don to condemn the covert behavior that he seems to have at least tacitly approved of and for the EBs to openly declare their electioneering efforts next time round.

If a global corporate like Microsoft was found to be trying to subvert the election process in western democracies, what do you think the reaction would be?

Posted by noddy : 9/18/2006 05:13:00 PM

Noddy: not just "heard of" - Brash admitted meeting with them, and even said that he would work with "the devil himself" to become Prime Minister - though I'm not sure what the Brethren thought of the latter comparison.

There does seem to be a global campaign, though the one here seems to have been unusual in the degree of collusion between local Brethren and politicians. Sweden is unusual in that rather than relying on a local group, they ran the whole thing out of the UK - which adds a whole new level of dubiousness to their actions.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/18/2006 05:23:00 PM

I can translate the article if you want. Let me know (chefen.sh@gmail.com).

Hellman also raises another interesting point. He wanted to "kick the Social Democrats in the arse" but had only the choice of the Left or the Greens, which he couldn't ally himself with. I suspect that this was a very common feeling, even though Hellman seems to be a rather far left chap.

I suspect, although I could be wrong, that the Alliance parties had no knowledge of the bretheren campaign. I don't recall seeing any of the advertising and the parties were certainly flush with cash this time round. The Center party had an enormous amount from the sales of media assets a few months ago, for example. Three of the four parties are also fairly socially liberal, with only the minority Christian Democrats having anything like a socially conservative agenda. It wouldn't make much sense for the Alliance to get tangled in an unnecessary campaign with a foreign group, they were doing well enough on their own.

Stranger things have happened though.

Posted by Chefen : 9/18/2006 07:20:00 PM

Here's the article translated:

Extreme Sect Supports The Alliance

The Christian group makes a large investment on advertisements for the Alliance.

An extreme religious sect is pumping millions of kronor into the Swedish election. Aftonbladet can today reveal that the world-wide conservative society Plymouth Brethren supports the Alliance.

One of the sect's representatives, Maxwell Kevin Haughton, 33, confirms that he is involved in the Swedish election.

"That's right. But I can't say too much," he says.

In recent weeks a company called "Nordas Sverige" spent millions of kronor on advertisements which encourages voters to vote for the Alliance.

With claims of "thousands of Swedes die every year of bad health care" and "24 percent of Sweden's population have suffered violence" the advertiser hopes that Sweden will get a new government.

The campaign has been conducted in a number of ways:
- With advertisements in newspapers Aftonbladet, Expressen, Göteborgs Posten, Metro, Skånska Dagbladet and Norra Västerbotten.
- With advertisements in letterboxes in Stockholm, Uppsala, Falun, Boden, Bollnäs, Gävle, Umeå, Luleå, Sandviken, Hofors, Skellefteå, Ludvika and Ljusdal.
- Fliers have been handed out in many areas and in Katrineholm, Kalmar and Lund cars have leafletted.

But the organisation which lies behind the campaign has done everything to cover its tracks:
- There is no company registered under the name "Nordas Sverige".
- The post box which the company gives in a number of the advertisements is false.
- The mysterious advertisements lead Linus Hellman on his blog "In Hell-man's world" ten days ago to conduct a campaign and look for clues in the hunt for who lies behind the campaign.

Aftonbladet can today reveal how matters stand:

Contact with the newspapers' advertising sections have been made by representatives of the company claim that they work for Nordas Ltd, a company based in Great Britain, registered in England as late as July 26.

Representatives of the company, in Sweden and in England, belong to the world-wide fundamentalist Christian Plymouth Brethren.

Aftonbladet yesterday traced the brain behind the multi-million Swedish election campaign to Liverpool.

Nordas' office there is on a back street in the rough industrial area Knowlsley Industrial Park. Here we finally found a small sign with the company's name on it on a rundown building which belongs to another company. Nordas' door, like all other entries to the building, is barred and covered with iron bars. It appears to be abandoned.

One of Nordas' two founders, Maxwell Kevin Haughton, 33, says little when Aftonbladet rings on his door.

"Your Swedish contacts are involved in the Plymouth movement?"
"Yes that is correct."
"Are you also involved?"
"Yes"
"Why does a British company spend a large amount of money on the Swedish election?"
"I don't know if I want to comment on that. I have to speak with my colleagues first. Can I take your number and call back later?"

At the time of going to press no one has called back.

The Alliance says that they know nothing about the help from the sect.

"I have seen the advertisements but know nothing about who lies behind it," says for example Jöran Hägglund, the Center Party's party secretary.

Posted by Chefen : 9/18/2006 08:42:00 PM

Hey, you need to be aware that there are three types of Brethren groups - Plymouth, Exclusive and Open. Exclusive and Open have nothing to do with each other - in the sense that they are not alike -and Plymouth Brethren are a UK group. The Plymouth Brethren are more similar to the Open Brethren, and are poles apart from the Exclusives.

Dave @ Big News

This is not an EB thing like what has happened in NZ/Australia.

Best you dont put all the Brethren into one group as Exclusibve Brethre and Plynouth Brethre n are as different as Catholics and Anglicans in their theology.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2006 09:04:00 PM

Chefen: thanks for the translation. There certainly doesn't seem to be any suggestion of active collusion by the political parties - unlike what happened here.

Dave: I'm aware of the differences, and I was under the impression that "Plymouth Brethren" was the generic term, incorporating both Open and Exclusive (as well as various schismatic groups - and there seem to be quite a lot of them). It will be interesting to see if any of the Swedish media follow this and pin down Mr Haughton's demonination any further...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/18/2006 11:08:00 PM

From one of my other translators, there's a note at the bottom which says:

Other articles:
The Christian Democrats: We were approached, but turned the propsal down. The alliance estranged values of the Plymouth sect.
Women are subservient - all science is evil


Guess the Swedish (not so) right are much smarter than Don Brash.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/18/2006 11:19:00 PM

Here's my crap efforts at translating the first part of one of the followup articles, Christian Democrats: we were approached, but said no:

The Alliance is a stranger to the Plymouth-sect's values.

Plymouth-sect support divides Alliance.

KD [Christian Democrats] were approached and tried to prevent advertisments.

Moderates think that all support is in principle good, even from people who do not share their values.

Urban Svensson, Christian Democrats leader

Did you know that the Plymouth-sect purchased advertising that supported you?

I was approached by the Plymouth Brethren early in the election campaign, right after summer. They offered to support us, but then we saw what their organisation stood for and decided no thanks. I have seen the advertising but had not connected it to the Plymouth Brethren before I read the article in the
Aftonbladet

Has there been any cooperation with the Plymouth Brethren?

No, not at all

What do you think of the Plymouth Brethren?

They are a sectarian group who stand for values that are foreign to modern society. Their perspective is not one we can support[?]

Do you think that they have influenced you?

I don't believe that is the case. There are always groups and sects who will support different parties, but that doesn't mean they influence them


I'm not so sure about the last two lines. My knowledge of Swedish comes solely from the muppets, and I've been havign to plug things in to an online dictionary.

There are further interviews with other Alliance party leaders. From a quick glance, the People's and Center parties seem to know nothing; the moderates somewhat more. If anyone wants to have a go at their bit, I would be grateful.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/19/2006 12:53:00 AM

You got fairly close on the translation. The Moderate guy said he had seen the advertisements and wondered who was behind them. It seems they might have been offered money from them but turned it all away. I'm guessing that all parties here have been offered support by various interest groups from abroad but turn it away.

The last two sentences you had have a slightly different emphasis than you wrote,

"Det tror jag inte att det gör. Det finns alltid organisationer i en valrörelse som vill stöda olika parter, men det är inget som vi i partierna kan påverka.

I don't think they do. There are always organisations in an election campaign who want to support different parties, but it nothing which we in the parties can affect."

BTW "Folkpartiet" is translated as "the Liberals" generally.

Posted by Chefen : 9/19/2006 01:05:00 AM

Chefen: just goes to show that a dictionary isn't really enough...

As for the Folkpartiet, I was following the Wikipedia article. They sound quite interesting; according to Wikipedia

The party advocates social liberalism and is considered to be centre-right in the context of the generally left-wing environment of Swedish politics; although in a broader, international context it may be considered centre-left.

I'll say; in an NZ context they're well to the left of Labour, supporting a freer market combined with a full and generous welfare state, and a full 1% of GDP for foreign aid. And that's the right of the Swedish political spectrum?

Clearly, we need to do a lot more on shifting that public consensus...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/19/2006 01:37:00 AM

I'd like to add my two cents to this little rendition of 'the invaders within'...

Mine comes from logic - or at least the logic of weighing up the illogical... I don't have any political affiliations and like to think that I want the best for my life (i'm a kiwi), my wife (who is swedish) and my children (swiwis)... I despise religion in all its forms, not to mention the "new" left and the intolerable right...

so the logical argument goes like this: the brethren don't vote, it's against their ways... who knows, maybe God doesn't like them voting or maybe it has something to do with the similarity between voting slips and hankies. At any rate, they don't vote so they have to drum up others to vote for them...

And why not? They have to pay taxes to a govt they can't vote for... how can they get a say in who's running the country?

God obviously thinks that buying votes is more virtuous than voting oneself...

Anyway, the non-voting yet affluent Brethren (who save more money than Joe Bloggs due to their self-imposed moral exile from the sins of spending money on anything else than election campaigns they can't partake in) are less likely to be involved in an orchestrated conspiracy to dominate world politics than they are to involve themselves in attempting to tilt the world back towards their simple 19th century morals...

Getting rid of the demons in parliament who allow civil unions, same-sex marriages and other immoral policy likely (according to the brethren) to plunge our world closer to armageddon is their only aim.... they accomplish this by drumming up support for the other side.

if they were really in a conspiracy it would involve promoting christian parties - but it doesn't - it's about advertising (propaganda) aimed at enhancing the standing of the MAIN RIVAL of their enemy...

And guess what? This advertising for the opposition is not against the law. In fact, in a perfect democracy it's well within their right. Indeed, we can all go to a BBQ and by our 5th beer try and push our political beliefs on our brother/sister-in-laws... It's part of this great thing called freedom.

What is against the law is if undisclosed donations are made to any political parties. This has not happened in either cases. It is promotional material. It could help either side, but quite frankly some sexist zealots who live menatlly in the 19th century aren't going to sway my vote...

An interisting take is this: Imagine if Tui beer did a billboard leading into the next election that read:

Vote Labour. Yeah, right.

Would we see this as part of a huge conspiracy? Of one company pushing their views in a partisan way? Or of someone taking the piss?

I'd go with the latter two before i thought the company was looking to take over the world.

There are bigger concerns out there. US election rigging is in its 6th year. Let's refocus on the big stuff that's fudguing this planet for everyone...

Over and out.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/22/2006 09:56:00 AM

I wouldent take to much intrest in the Aftonbladet story. Aftonbladet together with Expressen is the crappiest journalism in sweden.

Posted by Seb : 9/29/2006 11:45:00 AM