Sweden, which has a population of around 10 million, has the highest per-capita number of deadly shootings of 22 European countries. Forty-seven people have been shot dead so far this year, which, while far from American levels of gun homicide, is extreme for Europe. Other European countries have come to look at Sweden with horror.
It may be shocking for Americans to learn that in Sweden—the land of IKEA, Spotify and Greta Thunberg—all of this is going on. Perhaps the reason you don’t know about it is because of the uncomfortable reality of how we got here.
Among shooting suspects, 85 percent are first- or second-generation immigrants, according to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, as immigrant neighborhoods have become hotbeds for gang crime. National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg has described the violence as “an entirely different kind of brutality than we’ve seen before” and his deputy, Mats Löfving, says that 40 criminal clans now operate throughout the country. Spreading fear are “humiliation robberies,” targeting children and youth, in which victims are subjected to degrading treatment by assailants, such as being urinated upon. Just this week, four men were sentenced for robbing, beating and urinating on an 18-year-old, who was also filmed by his tormentors.
All of which is why, for the first time ever, crime emerged as a top priority among voters ahead of this past weekend’s general election. Swedes made their concerns plain on Sunday, when they awarded the country’s most strident anti-immigration party more than 20 percent of the vote.
The Sweden Democrats, or SD, is now the second-biggest party in parliament, and the biggest party of the right-wing bloc—gaining more votes than the more traditional center-right Moderate party. (It remains to be seen whether Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderates, can form a government with the support of SD, while sticking to his promise not to allow the party into the government coalition.)
So how did Sweden’s famously liberal electorate usher in a party with roots on the extreme right? In a word: denial.
In response to Sweden’s increasing problems with gang violence and social unrest in immigrant suburbs, the government’s strategy for many years was to deny how serious the situation had become. In the meantime, those people who noticed the problem—many of whom were working class—and spoke out about their diminished safety were accused of racism by leading politicians, the mainstream press, and the cultural elites. Only one political party did not: the SD. And in election after election, they gained more and more popular support.
As David Frum tweeted in 2018 regarding the left hurling the F-bomb at the Trump administration, “If liberals insist that enforcing borders is a job only fascists will do, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals won’t.”
See also: Orbán, Viktor.