I got no beef with Greenwald. It’s his fan club I can’t stand.

“I got no beef with Jesus. It’s his fan club I can’t stand.” This bumper sticker wisdom (or was that a Kinky Friedman wise-crack? The internet doesn’t say) came to mind as I joined Gothenburg’s MEG– conference on Friday, Sweden’s main media industry event. The star of the show, or the Jesus of the quote, was none other than Glenn Greenwald, famous for delivering Edward Snowden’s revelations to the world. (Netopia reviewed his book here). Arguably the biggest scoop of the millennium. Greenwald was joined on stage by journalist legend Carl Bernstein (who revealed Watergate which made it a rule that all scoops should have a name that ends with –gate, but you really should know this). Hard to beat for stage content if you’re at all interested in journalism. Greenwald said that the state sees far more things as threats than normal people do, Bernstein said we still don’t know the full-scale of NSA’s operations, there might be more than what Snowden knew about.

What fan club then? The pirates. It was the Pirate Party that brought Greenwald to Gothenburg and they were all over. According to a media report the party paid the equivalent of €16 000 to be a program partner, which also included a panel on EU copyright reform starring Pirate MEP Julia Reda (sadly almost more people on stage than in the audience in the 750 capacity auditorium). I could never quite figure out why the pirates made a media industry conference such a big focus, this particular industry being their main adversary. I suppose the pirates move in mysterious ways.

Another prominent speaker (and arch-pirate) at MEG was The Pirate Bay-co-founder Peter Sunde, whose intervention was headlined “The situation for freedom of speech in today’s Sweden”.* More than a few media industry professionals asked themselves what he possibly could tell journalists about freedom of speech. Together with poet Mats Söderlund, I wrote an opinion in Gothenburg’s local daily suggesting that it would be better for Peter Sunde to listen to what these experienced journalists have to say on the topics of freedom of speech and press ethics, rather than broadcast his views that freedom of speech should be equal to unauthorised mass distribution of the expressions of others (in most cases against their will). We also pointed to the event when a TPB-user posted the autopsy-photos from a murder case where two small children were the victims. To his credit, when that happened Sunde appeared on a live TV-debate to defend the TPB’s failure to remove the photos at the request of the families and was lectured by the former press ombudsman on the difference between public and published. This distinction is of course core to press ethics and something the journalists attending MEG deal with every day on the job. Since Sunde makes a big point about privacy being threatened by the entertainment industry, I guess you could also talk about the privacy threats of pirates to the families of murdered children**. Predictably, Peter Sunde did not agree, instead accused us of wanting to limit his freedom of speech. At this point, I could make some smart remark about religion and fundamentalism, but I’ll save your surely already tested patience from that, dear reader.

So, there it is. A media conference. Now with pirates. One last thing about Sunde: in his reply to our opinion, he wrote that The Pirate Bay is “the biggest media intermediary in Sweden’s history, ever”. Which is noteworthy as the claim always used to be that TPB is only a search engine that has nothing to do with the content. Was this a slip of the tongue (okay, keyboard) or an attempt to repent?

*) Click the link for the video from Sunde’s talk, a couple of minutes in is a hilarious anti-piracy video statement with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, so you can get your lulz on even if you don’t get the rest of the Swedish

**) Court protocols are public under the Swedish right to information law