— Aron Flam (@AronFlam) September 3, 2017
Nyheter Idag, a Swedish online newspaper, published an article on 3 September on a rather curious choice of photo. It is a custom so common, that it can be called a trope: having a picture frame on your desk, so you’re able to look at something inspiring while you work. Often, people chose to look at their wife or husband, and children or pets. Not so Sara Stenholm Pihl.
Stenholm Pihl is a Swedish journalist. From 2004 to 2007, she was Swedish Radio’s correspondent in New York, before returning to Sweden as radio host and “Program Manager” for Sveriges Radio P1, a state funded radio station.
So why, on her desk, would she have the framed picture of Mao Zedong, the Communist dictator responsible for millions of deaths, and maybe the man behind the largest number of deaths in history? This is unclear.
The fact that Stenholm Pihl has the picture on her desk was first pointed out by twitter user Aron Flam, who tweeted the picture, commenting:
“Regarding the item on North Korea in Good Morning World this morning: this image was taken in @SR_gmvarlden’s editorial last summer!“
According to Nyheter Idag, several people commented on the tweet, questioning its authenticity, and whether it was really taken in the Radio Sweden offices. After about half an hour, however, Stenholm Pihl confirmed not only its authenticity, but also that it was on her desk, in a series of three tweets:
“Hello Aaron! Do not know who you are, but you’ve obviously been at my desk. I hate leadership cults, most of all those of leaders who commit genocide. I have the heads of many leaders. This one has been given to me by a friend, who – like all sensible people – hates dictators, dictatorships and genocide. It is China’s Mao, incidentally. Sincerely, Sara Stenholm Pihl.“
On Flam’s question, if she meant it as a joke, she didn’t answer. As Nyheter Idag makes clear, neither did she respond to their outreach, when they called her in the afternoon to ask her about her interior design choices. The first time, after hearing that it was Nyheter Idag, she simply threw down the horn. At the second try, she managed something like:
“Hello! I have been working this weekend, so we can be heard when we start work again on Wednesday. Hey!“
after which she hung up without answering any questions.
So there you have it. It all rather sounds like the run-up to the punchline of an anti-joke. “Why did the Swedish journalist have a picture of Mao on her desk? Because the dog ate her Stalin portrait. No really, she has a collection.“