Political correctness comes to Scandinavia


July 23, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

We aren't the only country where people have thin skins and political correctness is on the rise.

To my surprise, the same symptoms are being shown in Scandinavian countries, which have long been known for their tolerant attitudes.

But recently, the Norwegian courts had a racial hatred case, which is unusual for that country, since almost everybody in Norway is a Norwegian and looks like it, so it is difficult to find someone of another race to hate.

However, this case involved Swedes, who pretty much look like Norwegians, although you would never want to tell a Norwegian that. Or a Swede, either. Both might get angry enough to hit you with a herring.

Norwegians and Swedes have always enjoyed exchanging insults, which, incidentally, amuses the Danes, who think they are the smartest of all Scandinavians. That, in turn, offends Norwegians. As one of them once told me: "I don't know what the Danes have to be proud of. The only world-famous Danes are those big, dumb dogs."

Anyway, there was this hate crime court case in Norway.

It had nothing to do with skinheads slaying a minority member, or a community welcoming new neighbors by burning their garage.

This had its origins in a battle between ice cream companies.

A Swedish ice cream maker decided to expand into the !c Norwegian market. This is a big market, because Norwegians really like ice cream. They like it almost as much as they like glogg.

You have never heard of glogg? It is a fine winter drink. You look in the pantry for every half-filled or quarter-filled old bottle of hooch. Mix the different hooches in a pot, add a few cloves and other spices, heat it, pour it into big mugs, drink it down, fall down unconscious and awaken the next day thinking you are dead. It's really lots of fun.

The invasion of the Swedish ice cream makers was not appreciated by the Norwegian ice cream makers, who believe Norwegians should eat Norwegian ice cream, as Thor intended. Or maybe it was Odin. I get them mixed up.

So a Norwegian ice cream company made a TV commercial that, even by American standards, might be considered strange.

It showed several Swedish men trying to figure out what "secret ingredient" makes Norwegian ice cream so good.

They bring in a cow and one of the Swedes tries to milk it. But he does so by pumping the cow's tail.

As he does this, voices in the background are heard saying: "I'm not sick, I'm just Swedish."

The obvious message is that Swedes are too dumb to know how to extract milk from a cow.

The Swedish ice cream makers were not amused. Nor were ordinary Swedes who heard about the case and were indignant because they take pride in knowing that you get milk from a cow by squeezing its nose.

So the Swedish ice cream company went to the Norwegian courts and accused the Norwegian ice cream company of inciting racial hatred.

However, the judge came in with a ruling that didn't settle anything. He banned the commercial, but not because it encouraged Norwegians to dislike Swedes, which many would do anyway, no matter what some judge said.

He found a technicality, something to do with failure to be specific about the contents of the Norwegian ice cream.

But, according to the newspaper The European, which reports on such weighty matters, both sides claimed victory.

The Norwegian company said: "The decision clearly states that we can continue to fight for Norwegian jobs and Norwegian products."

And the Swedish company said: "Now we should get more respect. Our sales people have been bullied and called Swedish rogues."

That's a new one to me. I have heard of Swedish meatballs and the Swedish massage. But an ice cream salesman being called a Swedish rogue? I've always thought of a rogue as someone who would loot S&Ls of billions, or even swindle an elderly widow out of her savings. But not some Swede who would ask: "Do you vant duh wanilla or duh chocolate ripple?"

I mention this case because it shows how lucky we are to be Americans.

It's hard to imagine someone being hauled into an American courtroom and accused of a racial hate crime for accusing some ethnic or racial group of not knowing how to milk a cow.

Even with the political correctness movement, I'm not sure you could be convicted if you went so far as to accuse a particular group of feeling lust toward cows. Why, middle-aged white men might even be proud. That would be the least of their alleged sins.

Of course, American dairy farmers might be upset and demand that they be compensated by the government for the hurt feelings of their cows, and Congress would surely agree.

Nor are we as limited as the Norwegians and the Swedes, who have only each other to mock, which must get dull after a while. I mean, how many herring jokes are there?

Here we can pick a different ethnic or racial group every day of this month, and next month, too, and not run out of targets.

There are times we forget how lucky we are to be Americans.

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