Moral Low Ground


Swedish Prime Minister Schools Trump as President Defends Terror Attack Lie

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Facing widespread ridicule after apparently inventing a terror attack in Sweden, President Donald Trump defended his “alternative fact” gaffe with another swipe at the Nordic nation, even as its prime minister attempted to educate him on some basic facts.

Kicking off his 2020 presidential campaign, Trump spoke in Melbourne, Florida on Saturday, where he defended his defeated executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States by citing European countries and cities where Islamist terror attacks have recently occurred. “You look at what’s happening in Germany,” the president said. “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden… Sweden… who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening Brussels, you look at what’s happening all over the world.”

There have been Islamist terror attacks in Brussels and in Germany. But there have been no such attacks in Sweden. There has been a recent terror attack in Sweden — a small group of white supremacists attacked a refugee asylum center in Gothenburg in January, seriously injuring one person.

Swedes were bemused and amused by Trump’s latest “alternative fact,” with some expressing mock solidarity with the “victims” of another one of the administration’s invented Islamist attacks, this one purportedly at Bowling Green, Kentucky. Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt tweeted “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking?” The hashtag #LastNightInSweden was trending on Twitter throughout the long holiday weekend. Amid all the transatlantic embarrassment and mockery, Trump took to Twitter to explain that the fake terror attack he mentioned “was in reference to a story that was broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants and Sweden.”

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was not amused by the American president’s disparagement of his nation, one of the world’s most prosperous and socially advanced. Löfven responded to Trump with some uncharacteristic Swedish boasting:

“It’s up to the president to decide what he wants to say. I can only say the World Economic Forum states that — written, ‘Why Sweden beats other countries at just about everything.’ OECD reports that we have a very strong economic development in terms of, for example, GDP per capita. The European Commission states that Sweden is Europe’s most innovative country. The Global Innovation Index says Sweden is number two when it comes to innovative countries. So, we have some very strong facts that shows that Sweden is also handling the situation. But as I said, yes, we have challenges, like all other countries. There’s no doubt. We have a situation in the world where 65 million people had to flee their country’s last year, or the year before that — 65 million. So that’s a worry for us together.”

One Swedish statistic that might particularly rankle the billionaire businessman-turned US president: Sweden ranks first on Forbes’ annual list of the Best Countries for Business — the United States is far behind in 23rd place.

Trump was apparently unmoved by these facts, doubling down on his false comment in a Monday morning tweet saying, “Give the public a break – The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!” The president has repeatedly — but falsely — linked Europe’s relatively generous refugee policies to an epidemic of crime, a claim made often by the alt-right “fake news” sites from which he gets both his information and multiple White House staff members.

In reality, overall crime is decreasing in Sweden, despite the massive influx of more than 100,000 Syrian refugees into the country of less than 10 million inhabitants. That’s the equivalent of the United States accepting nearly 3.2 million Syrians. To date, the US has welcomed only around 13,000 Syrians fleeing a devastating civil war in their homeland. Asked about Trump’s spurious claims of increased refugee crime, Mattias Gardell, a professor of comparative religion and head of the Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism at Uppsala University in Sweden, told Democracy Now! this was yet another example of “alternative facts.”

“That’s another illustration of alternative facts,” Gardell said. “In fact, for a decade or more, crime rates, especially violent crime rates, have been going down. And if you judge by or compare by capita, United State has five — United States has five times as much murders as has Sweden. So, it’s not true.”

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