(This is a translated text that was originally published in Swedish).
Sweden got unexpectedly under scrutiny, when President Donald Trump surprised the world by insinuating that something big has happened in Sweden. Hashtags such as #lastnightinsweden and #Swedenlastnight became immediately popular on the Internet, and for a while it looked like it would just be a joke. But some people thought that there is no smoke without fire, and independent journalists started to dig into the Swedish situation regarding crime and migration.
A battle of the narratives ensued during a couple of days, both in mainstream media and social media. The upsurge got so strong, that the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs felt compelled to publish a Q&A document on the Internet. Including finely tuned black and white photographs of Ministers in the government airing their thoughts about Sweden and the challenges facing the Swedish society.
The Q&A document is from the start to end startling reading. The tone is naivistic, the language is substandard and the layup is at some places dishonest. There are some sources, but without links for fact checking for the curious minded person. Apples and oranges are mixed without discrimination and the facts that are presented consists of small disconnected bits, sometimes from studies that consists of 10-15 years old data. To select only the facts that fit your narrative and not disclose the full data set is called cherry picking in science and is of course dishonest and condemnable. In the texts, there are an unstructured mix of facts and speculation from the highest to lowest level. Let us investigate some of the examples.
Claim: “There has been a major increase in gun violence in Sweden.”
The Swedish Ministry of Foreign affair refutes this with dishonest rhetoric. The claim is about “gun violence”, but the Ministry selects to start with a long exposition about the more general term “violence” as a diversion. Further down in the argument, the Ministry confirms that the number of shootings was actually 20 percent higher in 2014 compared to 2006. When it comes to “violence” in general terms the Ministry chooses to look at another timeframe, namely the last 20 years. During these years, the Ministry claims that the violence is going down and it is only the citizen’s perception that violence in society is increasing. In this case the Ministry opts to omit solid references, due to the claim being unsubstantiated. The only factor when it comes to violence in the Swedish society that has been decreasing the last 20 years is the mortality to violent crimes. This is mainly due to advances in medicine and improvements in Swedish trauma care. The decrease is observed throughout Europe, but to a somewhat less extent in Sweden. The number of murder attempts has been constant during the last 10 years (Source: The Swedish Crime Survey).
Claim: “There has been a major increase in number of rapes in Sweden.”
The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs challenges this claim by acknowledging the statistical fact, but at the same time excuses this due to the methodological problems with Swedish sex crime statistics in comparison to other countries due to Swedish definitions of sex crime being different to other nation’s statistics. It is a problem that statistics can’t be directly compared between different countries, but a more nuanced description could have been done by presenting the Swedish statistics for reported rapes from 2005 and onwards, when the Swedish legal definition of rape was extended. In that case, the statistics would have shown an increase of reported rapes from 4000 cases 2005 and increasing to 6000 cases from the years 2010-2014 and onwards.(Source: The Swedish Crime Survey).
Claim: “Refugees are behind the increase in crime, but the authorities are covering it up.”
The Swedish MFA shows an example of cunning wording in response to this claim. By splitting up the claim in two parts the MFA can skip the explanation to the first part and only respond to the second part. The MFA explains that in actual numbers there are more people that are Swedish born, who commit crimes than people with foreign background. It is a self-evident claim, considering that the latter group consist of 1.5 million people out of 10 million in total. The MFA also points out the fact that a majority of the people with foreign background don’t commit crimes. Which is of course also self-evident, it would be unheard of if a group of immigrants would have a majority of criminals among themselves. The claim in itself is not refuted by the MFA, so let’s find the facts. We know that the Swedish Crime Survey report from 2005 proved positively that immigrants have a disproportionately high number of perpetrators in the crime statistics. We also know from the statistics delivered by the Swedish Migration Agency and Statistics Sweden, both Swedish Government Agencies that the number of immigrants are increasing in Sweden. Pretty simple mathematics, in essence.
How about the statement that the Swedish government with its agencies don’t have anything to gain by withholding information and statistics from the general population? Here we can’t rely on statistics, but our ability to reason and make deductions. Can it be so that the Swedish government has invested a fair amount of prestige into a migration policy that in retro perspective seem to be ill conceived? Minister for Justice and Migration, Mr. Morgan Johansson vehemently opposes all demands to produce up-to-date statistics regarding immigration and criminality. This of course raises valid suspicions that the Swedish government has political reasons to hide the factual situation.
Claim: “The high level of immigration means that the system in Sweden is on the verge of collapse.”
Here the Swedish MFA just resolutely states that the claim is false and refers to the exceptional rise of the Swedish GDP at the moment. It is a convenient measure, because it normally indicates that the economy grows. Unfortunately, this GDP growth is generated by increasing taxes and government debt. Few citizens recognize that the basic government services work well. Police, health care, schools, defence and social welfare are highly overburdened. Social welfare is a county matter in Sweden and during 2017 it is expected that the 290 counties in Sweden will have to generate social welfare and housing to approximately 100.000 immigrants, after they are transferred from the Swedish Migration Agency housing, paid by the state to the counties and their budgets. In summary, a decreasing tax base in many counties, and increasing costs for social welfare and housing without any end date for the immigrants’ welfare rights for the county budgets. This of course don’t indicate a friction free future for the social welfare system.
The Swedish Government’s pressure to respond to the image about Sweden as a failure regarding immigration by producing this Q&A document with incomplete and sloppily assembled “facts” indicates desperate crisis management from the Swedish Government Offices. The government is losing the narrative and it instills fear in the corridors of power. To claim that the government defends democracy and an open society, and in the same breath try to correct people’s perception of reality is just hypocritical.
The Swedish Government had a golden opportunity to show political maturity and regain confidence by presenting an objective and balanced picture of Sweden abroad. Instead, the government chose to present one-sided propaganda.
Recently, the government announced the ambition to stop fake news on the Internet. What happened with the faith in an educated constituency with well-informed citizens?
Does Sweden have a Ministry of Truth? It seems so.
We, the members of Citizens’ Coalition political party (Medborgerlig Samling) are seriously concerned about where the Social Democratic Party government is going and also deeply concerned about where Sweden will end if the Social Democrats can carry on governing Sweden after general elections in September 2018.
A government with such a lack of understanding of democratic principles as candid disclosure of facts to the citizens is not worthy nor competent to govern the nation during these turbulent times in Sweden.
Citizens’ Coalition political party (Medborgerlig Samling) is a liberal-conservative party that holds the individual liberties of the Swedish law abiding citizens, but at the same time values core conservative values of a small government with a strong belief in providing the citizens with safety and security from both external and internal threats. The party will participate in Swedish Parliament Elections 2018 and European Union Parliament elections 2019. The party wants to fill an important void in Swedish politics: the lack of political parties in the Swedish Parliament forming policies based on science and best practices.
Board Member of Medborgerlig Samling