Scandinavian Airlines has temporarily removed an online ad after criticism on social media, particularly from anti-immigration parties, that the video detracts the region's culture and history.

The video, entitled "What is Scandinavian for real? Absolutely nothing," was uploaded Tuesday and was taken down hours later.

The video says that what is usually considered to be Scandinavian, like democracy, open sandwiches, parental leave and Swedish meatballs, have been imported and Scandinavia was "brought here, bit by bit, by ordinary people who found the best of our home in other places."

SAS - What is truly Scandinavian?

We are proud of our Scandinavian heritage. Many of the things we call Scandinavian today was brought here and refined by curious, open-minded and innovative Scandinavians. Travelers bring home great ideas.

Posted by SAS - Scandinavian Airlines on Wednesday, 12 February 2020


Richard Jomshof, a lawmaker with the anti-immigrant populist party Sweden Democrats, said the video is "really devilish nonsense and self-hatred. Have always tried to fly with SAS, but never again. It's a promise."

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In neighboring Denmark, Soeren Espersen, a senior member of the similarly populist Danish People's Party, said the three-nation carrier was "spitting on all that is truly Norwegian, truly Swedish and truly Danish with its disgusting commercial."

There was plenty of criticism on social media from non-politicians as well. Bo Kleis Christensen wrote on Facebook that SAS "crossed a vital cultural boundary for us, ordinary people."

The airline has been criticised for spitting on all that is truly Scandinavian. Photo / Miguel Ángel Sanz, Unsplash
The airline has been criticised for spitting on all that is truly Scandinavian. Photo / Miguel Ángel Sanz, Unsplash

The airline said it stands by the core message that travel enriches people. But it added that the reaction online to the ad suggested an "online attack," without elaborating. "We have therefore temporarily removed the film from our channels," it said.

Talking to Swedish newspaper Expressen, the airline said it would be suspending the advert to avoid their intentions being subverted:

"When we look at the pattern and the number of reactions to our film, there is reason to suspect an attack and that our campaign has been kidnapped. We do not want to risk becoming a platform for someone else's values, which we do not stand for. Therefore, we have currently removed the films from our channels and are now discussing the next step."

Sputnik called the advert an 'unapologetic globalist, pro-immigration tirade'. Photo / Supplied
Sputnik called the advert an 'unapologetic globalist, pro-immigration tirade'. Photo / Supplied

Internet researcher Mathias Cederholm told the Aftonbladet that the short video had spread across right-wing websites. Cederholm identified an opinion piece via News agency Sputnik as the start of the viral campaign of online hatred, calling the advert a "unapologetic globalist, pro-immigration tirade".

David Delfs Erbo Andersen, an assistant professor at Denmark's Aarhus University, says the video made unproven claims that Scandinavians believe they invented things like maternity leave and democracy.

"It seems provocative because Scandinavians know very well that we did not invent, for example, democracy," he told Denmark's Ekstra Bladet tabloid on Wednesday.

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- With additional staff reporting