Earlier today, a story started going viral across right-wing social media that Sweden had just banned public Christmas light displays “to avoid offending Muslim immigrants” in the name of “safety.” According to stories from InfoWars and Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos (who, for some reason, posted the story on his personal blog rather than the Breitbart website) claimed that Swedish towns “have banned Christmas street lights in the name of ‘security,’ but the real reason is almost certainly because the country has completely capitulated to Islam.”
This sounded a little suspect to us here at the Inquisitr, so we decided to look into it and got the full story. Spoiler alert: it’s almost entirely inaccurate.
The original pieces pointed back to an article originating with Speisa – that article still called it “a victory for those who want to tone down the reminder of the country’s Christian traditions” but no mention of Muslims, immigrants, refugees or Islam was made. They pointed back to a story from Sweden’s national broadcaster, SVT, and there the tale unravels.
Please note that all quotes are translated to English and may not be completely accurate.
In any case, here’s what’s true. According to SVT, Christmas lights will be banned from being placed on public utility poles this year in Sweden. In years past, many small municipalities, in particular, have used the poles to hang their seasonal decorations. But Trafikverket – the Swedish Transport Administration – has taken over management of those poles along major transit routes recently and has begun a review of the pole network.
What they found was that, for several different legal reasons (all of which already existed in Swedish law) they could not continue to allow the poles to be used to hang lights. Elin Isaksson, the National Coordinator of Traffic Control at Trafikverket, cited safety as the overwhelming reason, but also noted that the public electric laws also prohibit the displays.
“We’re looking at this because we do not have the right to allow others to take electricity from our facility, according to the electricity law. Additionally, the poles are not designed for the weight of Christmas lights, and we have to remove anything from the poles that should not be there. We guarantee safety first.”
There will still be plenty of lights in Stockholm, and not a utility pole in sight. [Image by scanrail/iStock]
Many in Sweden definitely feel that the enforcement is a bit ridiculous and that the Transport Administration should have bigger things to worry about. Marie Johansson, Mayor of Gislaved (technically, she is the Chairman of the Municipal Executive Committee; Sweden no longer officially has town mayors,) called it a “nonsense issue.”
“In our municipality we have problems with wildlife fencing. People are dying to animals running on the roads. We think that this is a more important issue for the Swedish Transport Administration to handle than to extinguishing our Christmas lights.”
“It’s something that primarily affects trade in stores for the Christmas season. Being able to sell before Christmas is a big incentive for their survival. The risk is that if it is dark and black and uninviting, people will choose to go elsewhere. I think this is very serious.”
Many others in Sweden’s smaller communities echoed Mayor Johansson’s sentiments. Many have reached out to the Transport Administration to seek dispensations for traditional displays.
“We believe it will be difficult to keep our poinsettias but we will continue to fight,” said Bengt Palmquist, Chairman of the Hestra community association. “We think this is a blow to the smaller communities overall in the country.”
So. Is Sweden banning Christmas lights? No. Do the bans that are going into effect have anything to do with Muslim immigrants? No. Is anyone actually in Sweden claiming that they are? Still no.
At their worst, the bans on placing decorations on public utility poles in Sweden – which already fall under existing laws – are an example of unnecessary bureaucracy, something that we’ve already had across the world since the dawn of time.
[Featured Image by Syamsul Bahri Muhammad/Getty Images]