Scary stuff: While we’ve been laughing about the nonexistent terror attacks in Sweden, millions of Americans don’t know that’s fake. Maybe they know Trump mis-spoke, but think that he was talking about a real crime problem. (He wasn’t.) They may not even associate it with Trump; they may have watched the Tucker Carlson show he watched, where a non-Swedish “documentarian” used deceptive editing to fabricate a crime wave. (The far right is determined to prove Sweden is in awful danger because Sweden has the distinction of taking in the most refugees per capita in Europe.) They may never have seen Carlson or Trump, but might have a co-worker who watched the show, who the next day said “I can’t believe what I saw on the news last night.”
Particularly if you fall into the latter category, that doesn’t make you a stupid person. How much do you know about Sweden? I don’t know Swedish crime statistics off the top of my head. (Very low. Multiples lower than the US’s.) I did know Sweden was not the rape capital of the world (duh). I didn’t know Sweden took in the most refugees per capita until it became a Thing. I couldn’t name Sweden’s…prime minister? (Yes, prime minister. I just looked it up. They’re parliamentary. I wasn’t sure. It’s Stefan Lofven.) If somebody said to me “did you know that there’s a big craze in Zimbabwe for pie-eating contests” I’d say “wow, no I didn’t, haha,” not “let me fact check that.” (Although I made that up, it turns out Zimbabwe is known for its meat pies and they look AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS let’s all go there.)
The difference with my pie story is that it’s about pie instead of immigrants, and at this point you do have to fact check anything at all that involves refugees or migrants, or really at this point non-white people in a “white” country. Right now we essentially have a tobacco industry pumping out false stories to kill us.
But I haven’t even hit the dangerous part yet.
Yesterday, there was a riot in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Sweden. The people who believed Trump/Carlson/coworker can say “see, Sweden is dangerous. Trump was telling the truth.”
It happened after. It happened because of.
Trump didn’t say “there are going to be riots.” He referred to agitprop which said that in the PAST (not future) there have been a lot of RAPES AND MURDERS (not a riot). Which there weren’t. The existence of this riot doesn’t change that. And saying it was true probably created the conditions for the riot. Some people in Sweden who fled war zones were suddenly afraid they’d be arrested and deported as criminals. A police officer showed up to arrest a drug dealer. They took to the streets to express their fear and frustration.
(“Riots” is a vague term that can mean anything from “small group shouting in a small room” to “burned down half a city,” so it’s hard to lock down what “riots” in this context means. Stockholm police said it was 30 people. A photographer said he saw 15. Using the cars-on-fire metric, 10 cars were set on fire. That’s five times as many cars as were set on fire in Portland during an anti-Trump protest in mid-November.)
I’ve said and will continue to say that words don’t create truth – that they aren’t magical. Saying “failing new york times” doesn’t make it fail. Using the perfect term for American Indians won’t solve treaty violations.
But it is possible for words to start a riot. It is possible to shout “fire” in a crowded room and get people killed in a stampede.
Trump’s funny comment about Sweden caused a diplomatic incident. It probably caused a riot which has made life harder for Swedish residents and Swedish police.
People who like Trump, or people who are afraid of refugees (two circles that significantly overlap), are GLAD of these riots. How sick is that? And because they are glad – glad to be able to “show those gotcha journalists” – they’re eager to pretend that a lie which hurts someone is the same as telling the truth. It’s like one of those “why are you mad at me” conversations where I don’t start out mad, which end with “see, you’re mad.” Surely many of you can relate.
I’ve seen Othello. More importantly, I understand that cause and effect only goes one direction. It doesn’t loop around.
Let’s just hope that next time he doesn’t say “they attacked us” as a pretext to start a war, and then use the war as a “see how they’re attacking us? It’s just what I said.” It seems like a lot of Americans would go along with that.
By the way, there was a much larger riot in Rome yesterday, a street battle between taxi drivers, uber drivers, and police. You didn’t hear about that even though it was many orders of magnitude bigger, because nobody in the US cares about European crime stories unless they play into the refugee narrative. Labor regulations aren’t interesting enough. Couple of “foreigners” throwing rocks – let’s change our whole immigration policy.