In a bizarre turn Trump has begun ‘Sweden bashing’ to back up his policies, leaving Swedes confused and amused.

It began a week ago when Trump made a strange claim at a ‘campaign rally’ in a Florida airport. “You look at what happened last night in Sweden” the president yelled, “Sweden! Who would believe this!?” Those who took the time out of their day to watch were shocked. What had happened? Who was responsible? Who had been hurt?

All Legitimate questions to ask when a world leader refers to a sinister event. However, this is the Trump administration and in these times such questions are unnecessary.

  • Trump’s Florida speech
  • His supporters round on Sweden
  • What are the facts?
  • What is Trump’s intention?

There had been no such incident, as people who could manage the time for a 5 second google search would discover. Among the mundane events that observers suggested he may have been referring to: an aged pop star had technical problems during rehearsal for a popular music contest.

“Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.” Trump’s intention with these remarks was to reiterate the dangers that large numbers of immigrants present. Given the recent re-drafting of the controversial travel ban, it is not surprising that he is looking to drum up support again.

It seems, however, that the president is once again getting his intelligence from nontraditional sources. The event he was referring to was based not on an international terrorist incident but a Fox News report he had seen the night before.

In the segment Tucker Carlson interviewed documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz about the ‘wave of violence’ brought on by the recent wave of Muslim migration to Sweden. Horowitz’s account has since been questioned. One Swedish policeman interviewed alleged the footage had been edited so he was answering different questions. He also went as far as to label the filmmaker “a madman.”

Trump’s supporters round on Sweden

As could be expected with such an incident, the internet reacted by ridiculing Trump and those willing to believe the fabricated incident. The hastag #lastnightinSwede was trending throughout the week.

One of Trump’s most public supporters in Europe took the opportunity to throw more baseless accusations at Sweden. Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP claimed “Malmo in Sweden is the rape capital of Europe due to EU migrant policies. Anyone who says there isn’t a problem is lying to you.”

The UK editor of far-right conspiracy website Infowars went as far as to offer $2000 to any reporter who would be willing to spend time staying in the ‘crime ridden suburbs of Malmo’. Unsurprisingly he received a deluge of offers of people willing to accept his all expenses paid Swedish weekend break. He finally offered the trip to a BBC reporter.

The facts of the matter

In directly addressing the accusations made about immigration in the country, Sweden’s crime prevention council found no significant increase in crimes from 2015 to 2016, even with the influx of migrants.

While there is a certain ambiguity to the figures relating to Malmo, there are some that clearly belie the violent depiction provided by Farage and Watson. In 2015 there were 12 murders among a population of 342,000. Malmö’s murder rate is two thirds that of Glasgow, the Western European ‘Capital of Murder’, and half that of Los Angeles.

By contrast, Washington, D.C., has a murder rate almost seven times higher, while the rate in St. Louis, Missouri is just under 17 times higher. Furthermore, the last terror attack occurred in 2010 and the only fatality was the attacker himself.

It must be said that the number of rapes reported in Sweden are indeed higher than most countries. However, many commentators attribute this to an environment in which women are encouraged to report offenses, a far broader definition of the word rape, and finally police convention to record every report of sexual violence separately.

As Klara Selin, a sociologist at the National Council for Crime Prevention in Stockholm explains, “So, for instance, when a woman comes to the police and she says my husband or my fiance raped me almost every day during the last year, the police have to record each of these events, which might be more than 300 events. In many other countries it would just be one record – one victim, one type of crime, one record.”

Why they matter

“We are used to seeing the president of the U.S. as one of the most well-informed persons in the world, also well aware of the importance of what he says,” Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden, said on Monday. “And then, suddenly, we see him engaging in misinformation and slander against a truly friendly country, obviously relying on sources of a quality that at best could be described as dubious.”

It is clear that we have a president who refuses to take information in the traditional way, from briefings with intelligence experts. He prefers to watch television at night and tends to uses the comments that he sees into his Twitter feed, as well as parts of his speeches and interviews.

The dangers associated with this and the continued trumpeting of “Fake News” may placate the masses who voted for Trump, but they will only deteriorate America’s relationship with allies, and provide fuel for those who voted against him.

The real reason behind Trump’s Sweden bashing is that Sweden’s stance towards immigrants is not seeing a resulting rise in crime. It’s true that those arriving in the country may find themselves in difficult positions with regards to language and employment. Yet compared to other European countries these migrants receive a far warmer welcome and for the most part they respond in kind.

The key is that for those people peddling lies about the dangers of immigrants to their own citizens, it is imperative that Sweden’s policy must be seen as a failure.