How the police protect our security

On that Friday, however, the very thing that everyone feared most of all occurred. The National Police Commissioner got it into his head that someone was going to throw an egg at the United States ambassador, or perhaps a tomato at the embassy, or set fire to the Star-Spangled Banner.

The security police were worried. They lived in a world of spooks, a world that swarmed with dangerous communists and bomb-throwing anarchists and hooligans who were trying to bring society to its senses by protesting against plastic milk bottles and the vandalization of the urban environment. The security police got most of their information from Ustasja and other fascist organizations, with whom they were delighted to collaborate in order to gain information about alleged left-wing activists.

The National Police Commissioner, personally, was even more worried. For he knew something that even the security police still had not got wind of. Ronald Reagan was turning up. That hardly popular governor had already popped up in Denmark, where he had lunched with the Queen. It was not out of the question that he might drop in on Sweden, too, in which case his visit could hardly be kept a secret.

The above is, again, from The Locked Room, by Maj Swöwall and Per Wahlöö. It was published in Sweden around 1973.

What is stunning about this quote: if you replace the words “communist” and “anarchist” with “terrorist,” “Ustajia [the Swedish state security organization] with “C.I.A.” and/or “F.B.I.,” and face up to the reality that the “hardly popular” Ronald Reagan became president and is now dead, you’re left counting the “99 percent protests” at Wall Street, and the protests and subsequent unconstitutional arrests at the 2004 Republican Convention in New York, and who knows how many other protests elsewhere.

Even the plastic bottles and urban concerns stick with us today.

What wonderful writers they were. I hope I’ve convinced some of you to head out to a bookstore and buy one of the ten remarkable Martin Beck police procedurals. If you read one, you’ll wind up reading them all. Over and over again.

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