What do you think about terrorist attacks? Do you think it would be better if there were fewer of them, or if there more of them? I rather suspect that pretty much all of us would say that terrorist attacks are bad, and that it would be better for everyone if there were fewer of them. That, however, does not seem to be the opinion of the President of the United States, or of his aides. Otherwise, why make terrorist attacks up?
When Kellyanne Conway invented the massacre of Bowling Green, the response was very funny. Equal merriment has now greeted President Trump’s outrage over “what happened in Sweden. Sweden!” Oh my gosh: what happened in Sweden?! Did IKEA run out of Swedish meatballs? Did the Muppets’ Swedish chef botch a recipe? Did Abba break up again? Or, as Chelsea Clinton asked on Twitter, “What happened in Sweden? Did they catch the perpetrators of the Bowling Green massacre?”
More seriously, the Swedish government took our President’s comments literally. The Swedish ambassador to the US asked for a formal explanation. Trump responded by saying that he was responding to a Fox News report about ‘problems’ Sweden supposedly is having with immigrants. That news report has been discredited, with the Swedish officials featured therein furiously insisting that their comments had been distorted beyond recognition. The Swedish government pointed this out, and the Swedish embassy said it was looking “forward to informing the US administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies.”
The Sweden comment came amid a campaign rally in Florida which leads one to wonder why the elected President is holding campaign rallies a month into his Presidency. The answer, it seems obviously, is because he likes rallies. He also likes watching massive amounts of cable news, most especially Fox News. This is not the first time his news viewing habits have led him astray.
I like Sweden. I don’t know it anywhere near as well as I know Norway, but I have been there, read Swedish, and am a big fan of Abba, Ingmar Bergman films, and the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo novels. I also like those meatballs. Darn tasty.
American liberals tend to think of Sweden as governmental paradise, what with the universal health care, expansive social safety net, and enlightened family policies. It follows, therefore, that American conservatives are anxious to find everything they can that’s wrong with Sweden. Sweden has been particularly generous when it comes to taking in refugees and other immigrants. Since the heart of Trumpism is the belief that refugees are likely to be terrorists, and that immigrants generally are violent and dangerous, it follows that Trump would like a news story about how much crime has increased in Sweden, largely perpetrated by immigrants.
It isn’t true. Immigrant populations in Sweden aren’t committing lots of violent crimes. As Vox.com pointed out, the Fox story in question was pushing this narrative: “brown-skinned immigrants are raping blonde Swedish women.” It isn’t true, and it’s frankly racist.
In case you’re interested, here is a news story with all the facts and figures. Immigration has increased considerably in Sweden since 2005. During that same period, Swedish crime statistics haven’t changed. There is no Swedish immigrant-driven crime wave.
What has happened in Sweden since 2005 is a massive increase in incidents of rape. This doesn’t mean that more Swedish women are being raped. It means that in 2005, Sweden changed the way it counts rape statistics. Swedish crime statistics do show an increase in reported rapes. But it’s not because more women are being raped. It’s a statistical anomaly. Read the link above; it’s explained very clearly.
The specific news story at the heart of this is also highly questionable. It involves an interview between Tucker Carlson and a documentary filmmaker named Ami Horowitz. Horowitz is under attack for his journalistic integrity, and his story has been generally discredited.
In other words, in a rally he had no business holding, the President of the United States needlessly angered a long-time ally by mentioning a dubious and unflattering news story he’d half-watched. So, of course, he immediately backed down and apologized. Uh, no. And why not? Because President Trump wants more terrorist attacks. He wants us good and scared.
Best response to that, I think, is laughter. Which is why it’s important for us all to stand by Sweden. You know; in its time of need.