Sweden’s Elephant in the Room

Known for its majestic forests, crystal-clear waters, and utopian reputation, Sweden generally does not evoke many unpleasant feelings or untoward emotions. Thus, the nation was caught off guard when President Trump insinuated at a campaign rally in Florida by saying, “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”. The outburst prompted a tidal wave of criticism wherein our hapless commander-in-chief was lambasted for referring to a terrorist attack that did not occur. The clarification when it came (by tweet no less) did not serve as much consolation. It turns out, the head honcho (notorious for cable news consumption) first encountered the story on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight.

Needless to say, cable news of any stripe is to be mistrusted. However, might there be a truth uncomfortable to be acknowledged by some and too watered down to be given credence by others?

A glance at Swedish crime statistics can be, in a word, misleading. In what can only be described as an attempt to obfuscate the reality of the situation, Sweden has not released crime data broken down by race or national origin since 2005 (for years 1997-2001). This makes it difficult to judge the true impact of immigration on crime. The available data preceding the cutoff demonstrate that individuals of a foreign background were far more likely to commit rape. This number rose commensurate with the rise of immigration. They also represented a disproportionate share of other types of violent crime. It is also a fact that homicide rates have been falling in Sweden. But this is true throughout the western world. What is perturbing is that the constitutional monarchy has morphed from a relatively low crime western European nation to above average.

Following the president’s comments, much a brouhaha was made regarding the difficulty of cross national and overtime comparisons of crime statistics in Sweden due to the fact that the  nation recently underwent a series of legislative changes that classified more acts under the legal definition of rape and counted multiple incidents as separate crimes. These types of comparisons suggest that Sweden is the rape capital of the world.

While these data are seemingly compromised, there are other places to look. The Self-Reported NTU Crime Victimization Survey is not impacted by the aforementioned issues as it maintains consistent definitions overtime. The survey indicates a rising level of victimization for sexual assault from 2005 when it was first administered to 2015. This rise is not nearly as steep as other crime statistics. Even the Swedish media was forced to acknowledge the rise in sexual violence prior to Trump’s comments, however reluctantly. It is worth noting that immigrants tend to live in isolated enclaves, far from most Swedes. So the debate about overall trends might be misguided similar to how looking for the effects of the minimum wage in general unemployment figures might be as most people are employed above the price floor.

It has become somewhat of a meme among gender advocates in the US, Canada, and UK that a rape victim most likely knows the perpetrator. However, the crime survey data reveals that in Sweden, the situation is exactly the opposite: 69% of victims are likely to be raped by total strangers.

In recent years, Sweden has seen a rash of appalling incidents by immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries: sex attacks at a Stockholm music festival and subsequent cover-up by police, a double murder in an Ikea store, and even a gang rape (disturbingly more numerous in recent times) livestreamed on Facebook. These sobering facts will inevitably illicit the proverbial destroyers of productive conversation on both sides to come out of the wood works and howl their protestations from the rooftops: “sandnigger”, “racist-islamophobe”. The debate surrounding mass migration is a delicate one. It must be handled with care. Neither genuine bigotry (anti-Muslim or racial) nor political correctness should be allowed to stifle the discussion.

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