How disorderly is Sweden really?

Here is the latest, which is in the media but not being plastered all over my Twitter feed:

Just two days after President Trump provoked widespread consternation by seeming to imply, incorrectly, that immigrants had perpetrated a recent spate of violence in Sweden, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the northern suburbs of Sweden’s capital, Stockholm.

The neighborhood, Rinkeby, was the scene of riots in 2010 and 2013, too. And in most ways, what happened late Monday night was reminiscent of those earlier bouts of anger. Swedish police apparently made an arrest around 8 p.m. near the Rinkeby station. For reasons not yet disclosed by the police, word of the arrest prompted a crowd of youths to gather.

Over four hours, the crowd burned about half a dozen cars, vandalized several shopfronts and threw rocks at police. Police spokesman Lars Bystrom confirmed to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper that an officer fired shots with intention to hit a rioter, but did not strike his target. A photographer for the newspaper was attacked by more than a dozen men and his camera was stolen, but ultimately no one was hurt or even arrested.

It remains correct that an American city such as Orlando typically will have more murders than all of Sweden in a year.  But it is also important to process the distinction between objective and subjective metrics of disorder.  A jaywalker in Germany disrupts public order and flouts norms more than is the case for a single jaywalker in New Jersey, for instance.  Sweden is relatively orderly, in part, because the public and psychological reactions to acts of disorder are relatively severe and traumatic, even if those same acts might be perceived as less significant in other contexts.  It is quite possible that Swedish norms are being threatened by the level of disorder currently in the country, even if to a Nigerian it all might seem absurdly neat and tidy.

There is also reasonable evidence that immigrants to Sweden are a major reason for the decline in the average quality of Swedish schooling and also Swedish PISA scores.  In other contexts, we will be told that such variables are incredibly significant, but in this context the result ends up  largely ignored.

The simplest metric, however, would simply be to poll citizens of Nordic and European countries who are familiar with Sweden, but don’t have direct self-interest at stake, and ask them if they want the immigration history of their country to go the Swedish route.  I haven’t seen the data, but I believe the rate of “yes” on that one would be quite low.  You could not say the same about Canada or Australia, I suspect, or for that matter the United States.

On this whole matter, I would not say that Trump’s remarks have been correct and for sure they have been irresponsible on the diplomatic front.  Still, the overall presentation of his critics arguably has been further yet from the reality, and that is part of the reason why Trump finds such an audience.


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