A head-scratcher from his speech on Saturday in Florida, eerily similar to the snafu Kellyanne Conway recently created when she mentioned to a “Bowling Green massacre” that never happened. Trump was rattling off examples of European countries struggling with mass migration from the Middle East and amid the usual references to Germany, Belgium, and France, he tossed this in: “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.” Wait — what happened “last night in Sweden”?
The media jumped to the conclusion that Trump was talking about yet another phantom terror attack, a la Bowling Green, even though he never mentioned terrorism specifically in his comments. (He did, however, immediately follow the reference to Sweden in his speech by mentioning Brussels, Nice, and Paris, all of which have been victimized by major terror attacks within the past 16 months.) Outlets like Mediaite which monitor cable news came up with a shrewder theory, though. In all likelihood, Trump was merely reacting to something he’d seen on “the shows” the night before — specifically, a Fox News segment on Tucker Carlson’s show about rising crime in Sweden — and somehow, through the magic of Trump-ese, that translated into “last night in Sweden.” And lo and behold, Mediaite was right:
My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017
Thus is the mystery solved about the Swedish terror attack that wasn’t. The parallels with Conway’s Bowling Green goof don’t end there, though: Just as Conway was misremembering a genuinely threatening incident in which two would-be terrorists were arrested attempting to facilitate attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, Trump and Carlson aren’t blowing smoke about Sweden’s problems assimilating migrants. Sweden accepts more refugees per capita than any western nation, a rate that’s proven unsustainable in some ways for integration:
The problems relating to immigration have been building up for years, but the country’s left and right were united in maintaining employment regulations and rent controls that kept immigrants unemployed in ghetto-like suburbs. As a result, we lost valuable time. Three years ago, there were riots in socially deprived areas of Stockholm, and it’s only got worse since then. A parallel society is emerging where the state’s monopoly on law and order is being challenged. ‘Today, the gang environment is — well, I don’t want to exactly call it the Wild West, but something in that direction,’ says Amir Rostami, an authority on Swedish organised crime who teaches at Stockholm University…
Those ‘queuing up’ [to exploit Sweden’s many unaccompanied child refugees] include drug dealers, pimps, gangmasters and even jihadists. Sweden’s care homes have become a rich source of vulnerable young men who are full of frustration and hopelessness and lacking in direction. They may be open to the temptation of easy rewards, or of a path that they are promised will bring new meaning to their lives. There have been reports of Islamic State recruitment drives, not just in public places, but inside Swedish government programmes. Last year my newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, exposed how some official schemes had been infiltrated by jihadists.
By one estimate, the ratio of boys to girls among child refugees in Sweden is five to one, a not uncommon proportion across European nations. Overall, according to one study early last year, one in every seven migrants who entered Europe ended up in Sweden and “In 15 years’ time, demographers say, indigenous Swedes will be in a minority because the men who arrive are allowed to send home for wives and children, who in turn will have their own children.” That’s a lot of culture clash, but how much extra crime does it amount to? It’s hard to tell because … Sweden won’t say. Conveniently, they stopped publishing official statistics tracking crime committed by migrants and refugees some years ago. There are reports, though, that “high-crime areas” have become no-go zones for Swedish police, with the city of Malmo having achieved a particular degree of infamy over the past decade among western skeptics of Muslim integration.
So while “last night in Sweden” is a weird error to make, the bit about Sweden having problems like it never thought possible seems on the mark, and the claim, oft-repeated yesterday, that Trump was asserting that a terror attack had happened simply isn’t correct. Once again we find ourselves trapped between two unreliable narrators, the president on the one hand and the press on the other, forced to tease out what’s actually true somewhere in between. Trump could have avoided the problem by being precise in his language — or, better yet, calling in the pros at the State Department to brief him on assimilation in Europe — but this is the path the electorate has chosen. In fact, we’re arguably caught between unreliable narrators even within the Fox News segment that inspired Trump’s comments on Sweden: Two Swedish police officers who were interviewed for the piece claim that their comments were taken grossly out of context. The interview “was supposed to be about crime in high risk areas. Areas with high crime rates. There wasn’t any focus on migration or immigration.”
Not only that, but “high crime” is a matter of perspective:
Last year there were app 50% more murders only in Orlando/Orange in Florida, where Trump spoke the other day, than in all of Sweden. Bad.
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 20, 2017
That’s the former prime minister of Sweden tweeting. Two clips here, one of Carlson commenting on Trump’s Sweden remark and the other of Mary Katharine Ham grappling with the unreliable-narrator problem. To whom do you turn when the White House and the “fake news media,” as Trump likes to call it, are both frequently imprecise or outright mendacious?
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) February 20, 2017