This chapter is called “under siege” and concerns itself with experiences that will have had a strong impact on Nordic characters at Europa: the influence of the media and nationalism, the nature of the atrocities comitted.
An aspect that cannot be sufficiently described in text is the impact of the media, especially television. Use your imagination. Conjure the image on your mental screen of your country’s capital, burning. Examine the emotions that arise.
Television and the media
During the mid-90’s, most television came under the control of governments or business interests sympathetic to the governments. This affected the way news was presented; and the programming in general.
Though there was still some English-language programming - quite a lot of programs was produced in the national language. Many soap operas and sitcoms had a slight, almost undetectable, nationalist content. The villains would often be foreigners, the heroes patriotic.
The news were read with a nationalist bias. Though they were occassionally critical of governments, the hardest criticism was left out and government officials were allways given ample time to explain themselves. Speaches by party leaders were often televised. These were expensive productions; with a high technical quality and suggestive editing of sound and images.
There would be 5-minute collages shown with intervals of a few hours; depicting national romantic imagery - Norwegian mountains and fjords, Danes happily waving the flag, artist interpretations of the Maid of Finland etc. These collages had no verbal content - only motion picture and music. They were designed to appeal to the common patriotism of the normal citizen. National romantic images were also used to signal commercial breaks and as background in studios.
When the wars started; the atrocities committed by The Other Side would receive ample media time. At war, censorship became strict and the propaganda flavour of news was apparent. But citizens could confirm the propaganda with their own experience - the neighbours cousin who had escaped the massacres in Jämtland, the uncle who had been shot by Finno-Swedish guerilla. The propaganda was believed in, because it was true.
The large newspapers (VG, Expressen, Helsingin Sanomat etc.) became controlled by nationalist interests. Fringe newspapers survived, reporting news from their perspective. Few people, however, read these small, “sectarian”, newspapers.
The internet never became a big thing in the Nordic countries. Though there was independent news reporting on the internet, only the wealthy could read it.
All media used the national language - and only that. American movies and programmes were dubbed. Swedish programming in Finland, Finnish programming in Sweden etc. were closed down.
All Nordic characters at Europa have been influenced by the nationalism and ethnocentrism of their culture and media. The easiest way to play this will be to avoid seeing individuals, except amongst your own people. Talking to a character of another nation, her nationality is more important than her opinions. She is accountable for the deeds of her government or guerillas. All Swedes are responsible for the atrocities at Åland, Skåne and Eastern Norway. All Finland-Swedes are responsible for the civil war in Helsinki. All Danes and Scanians were responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Skåne. All Finns were part of bombing Stockholm and occupying Lappland. All Norwegians are accountable for the massacres in Jämtland and the bombs at the Ferrow Isles.
Even if admitting that one’s own group or government may have gone to far - this does not imply acceptance of the measures taken by the others. And need made right : we had to defend ourselves against the Swedish Threat - better early than too late! If we had not intervened in Åland - the finland-swedes would have been massacred! If we had allowed the terrorists independence, the entire Kingdom would have been split!
Some important events - the way they were experienced.
The shots in Oslo
17th of May, 1996: it is the national day of Norway. The television cameras are all over the parade steet. Children are smiling, dressed in national costumes, waving Norwegian flags. The Royal Family wave to the masses from the balcony of the palace.
Suddenly, three shots are heard, broadcast to the population perched in front of televisions. Cameras zoom on the balcony of the palace. For a few moments - there is utter confusion. Then the shouts are heard - “The King is dead! The king is shot!”. The police have reacted - the assassins found, they are running through the parade of children. They aim their guns at police and fire. Miss, and shoot bystanding children in national costumes. 4 children aged 8-11 are killed.
Finally the assasins are caught. They are revealed to be Swedish immigrants living in the ghetto at Tøyen, members of an ultranationalist conspiracy.
The nation is mourning. The palace is surrounded by candles and notes of farwell placed there by children. The national grief is shown on TV - everyone reacts as if the King was a close friend or brother. Hundreds of thousands flock to Oslo to attend the funeral.
The police reveal on TV that they have investigated the incident; and found that the terrorists had met frequently with staff at the Swedish embassy. In Swedish media: The assasination of the king is shown on national TV. The asassin is described as “insane”. The accusations are shown to be groundless. “Why should we do such a thing?” the ambassador explains, “It would serve absolutely no purpose.”
10th of September, 1998 : Gunfire can be heard in the empty streets of Helsinki. “Groups belonging to the Swedish minority in Finland have barricaded themselves in certain areas of the city”, the journalist from BBC reports.
“It is said that the cause of the current clash is a mass arrest of potential terrorists - that’s basically any member of the Swedish minority. Government sources we have spoken to, however, claim the mass arrests began only after these groups barricaded themselves.”
Film of a black-clad civilian running across the street. Three shots are heard. The civilian dives for cover.
“Whatever the cause, it is clear that these people have food supplies and ammunition to last for months, if not years, and that what we see here in Helsinki may well only be the beginning.”
The camera focuses on a collapsed dead body on the street, no-one dearing to remove it for fear of being shot.
24th of November, 1998 : The streets of Malmö are packed, Scanian flags hanging from every window of every building. The crowd have been cheering for half a day; from the city hall hangs a banner that reads “Long live independent Skåne.”
The Danish newsreporter turns toward the camera; “The people of Skåne are all supportive of the independence declaration. Our government has promised to do all in its power to support the new, independent state. Worries here in Malmö are rising, however, as there are rumours Swedish military are...”
The voice of the reporter is drowned in the sounds of helicopter wings; the camera changes angle to show the military helicopters flying low over city roofs. The transmission is abruptly cut off.
Photography in next days newspapers show images of armoured vehicles in the streets of Malmö; endless rows of Swedish police in combat gear; young soldiers throwing Scanian flags on to the pyre.
20th of February, 2000 : the newsreader on SVT1 is hysteric, tears in the corner of her eye. She is a new face, in an impromptu studio. She uses 10 seconds to collect herself before facing the camera;
“Finland has bombed central Stockholm! Riksdagen is destroyed. The SVT buildings are rubble! Civilian casualties are estimated to be in the thousands.. ”
Pictures of central Stockholm covered in smoke, illuminated by the flames of burning buildings; entire blocks turned to rubble; wounded being pulled out of the ruins, dead being piled up waiting for a decent treatment.
“Finland did it!” a voice shouts, “It was the Finns!”
On Finnish TV - images of the ruins are shown. There is no mention of civilian casualties.
“As our brave forefathers destroyed the Viking capital of Sigtuna,” president Väinö Ollikainen explains in his televised speach, “So have have we done the one noble thing. Had we not attacked at the heart of our enemy, with strength and courage - I can assure you : the enemy would have destroyed us.”
The siege of Oslo
December 2000; silent images of Oslo in darkness; the only lights being those of scattered burning buildings and fire engines putting out the flame. The steady repetitive sound of artillery from the Swedish installations at Ekeberg. Oslo is under siege. “When the artillery hit..” reports a journalist “..I felt as an insect on a drumskin.”
The methods of “ethnic cleansing” has been used by all sides during the War. The responsible were generally paramilitary groups - often reinforced by volunteers from the area - who entered recently occupied territory behind the lines of the regular military.
The base strategy is to scare away large groups of people from their homes through acts of terror. A standard five-step procedure went as follows:
1. Concentration. The paramilitaries surround the area to be cleansed. The residents of the paramilitaries own ethnic groups are urged to leave or are at least told to mark their houses with white flags. Intimidate the target
2. Decapitation. The paramilitaries execute political leaders and those capable of taking their places: lawyers, judges, public officials, writers, professors.
3. Separation. Women, children, and old men are divided from men of “fighting age”-sixteen years to sixty years old.
4. Evacuation. The women, children, and old men are transported to the border, expelling them into a neighboring territory or country.
5. Liquidation. “Fighting age” men are executed, the bodies disposed of. This five-step method would often be supplemented with other methods of intimidation: mass rape; leaving a lone survivor to witness and spread word of the massacres. With one hamlet ethnically cleansed, inhabitants of neighbouring hamlets would flee.
The media would report extensively when ethnic cleansing was employed against members of one’s own ethnic group; but few Nordic citizens actually believe their own country has used the method.
Areas subject to ethnic cleansing:
•Åland and Åbo - cleansed of Finns by Swedish paramilitaries.
•Skåne - cleansed of Swedes by Danish paramilitaries.
•Jämtland and Härjedalen - cleansed of locals suspected of being loyal to Sweden by Norwegian paramilitaries.
• Finland-Swedish areas of Helsinki - cleansed of Finns by Finland-Swedish guerillas.