When Trump, in his Florida speech on Saturday, spoke about something bad that happened in Sweden "last night”, everyone thought he was referring to an act of terrorism (there was none). But according to his own tweet, he was actually referring to a Fox news piece.
The piece in question was an almost comedic horror story. Host Tucker Carlson interviewed filmmaker Ami Horowitz who has spent some time in Sweden. He painted a picture of a country about to go under as a result of mass immigration.
Refugees do not work, instead they live like kings. They commit rape and murder- while the politically correct establishment silences "the truth". Carlson listens to Horowitz with furrowed brows. He gasps in astonishment. Now and again he comments: "Unbelievable!" "Grotesque!
Just a few weeks ago Donald Trump spread another fake piece of news about Sweden and Malmo. In a fierce attack on the world's journalists, the president claimed that the media cover up Islamist terrorism. The White House distributed a list of 78 alleged attacks.
The list included the IS-attacks in Paris, Nice and Brussels, which have been covered exhaustively by the media. But the list also included an arson in a muslim prayer room on Norra Grängesbergsgatan in Malmö. A fire that hurt no one and was classified by the police as arson, not an act of terrorism.
On the right-wing populist and xenophobic website Breitbart the city of Malmö is a recurring theme. The site was co-founded, and until recently run, by Steve Bannon, now Donald Trumps chief strategist and considered by many to be the mastermind of the president's administration.
Each time Breitbart reports on Malmo, the theme is crime, always linked to immigration. Here are some headlines:
"Sweden must deal with gang violence in immigrant Malmo after a 16-year-old boy's violent death."
"Four shot in the immigrant city of Malmo, kids just centimeters from being hit by bullets.”
"Retired Swedish police chief says that crime in Malmo skyrocketed because of uncontrolled immigration."
In the US, Breitbart, Fox News - which has the largest audience of any TV company in the country - and a number of other right-wing populist and conservative media outlets have long spread a negative image of Sweden and Malmö.
Now the US has a president with the same worldview. There is a simple explanation for the love of Sweden-bashing by the hard-core American right. To Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and their co-thinkers, Sweden is a tiny, self-righteous, socialist state that tries to be a humanitarian super-power.
As Trump wants to close the US border to Muslim immigration, it is in his interest to spread the idea that Europe’s most refugee friendly country is on the road to perdition.
There is an obvious similarity with the Sweden Democrats, whose leader Jimmie Åkesson loves to point to Malmö as a bad example. Is everything that is claimed about Sweden and Malmö outright lies? No, as in most populist messages, the reports contain a grain of truth.
The large amount of refugees has created problems of integration and exclusion. Gang crime has increased in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. And yes, immigrants, according to criminologists, are overrepresented among those who commit serious violent crimes. But contrary to what Ami Horowitz states, these problems are discussed and reported daily, loudly and profusely, by politicians and the media.
Sydsvenskan and Helsingborgs Dagblad, HD, has lots of articles (for example the article series ”Fattiga Malmo") that highlight the issues. Fox, Breitbart and the other sources that Donald Trump prefers, choose only negative facts about Sweden and Malmö. They magnify and distort them, while simultaneously hiding positive news and information that may put other stories into a wider context. The result is absurd.
While Donald Trump condemns the violence in Sweden, he has far worse problems to deal with in his own back yard. As Sydsvenskan and HD showed, Malmö, despite a large number of murders in 2016, has a rate of 3,4 murders per 100 000 inhabitants. Compare that to Saint Louis (59,2), Baltimore (55,0), Detroit (43,9), New Orleans (41,4) and Chicago (28,0). Those American cities of course have had no significant Muslim immigration.
Translation: Joakim Palmkvist