About The #Skada Series:

When President Donald Trump made a bizarre comment about ‘last night in Sweden’ I had no idea I’d get into a bun fight with the Alt-Right but, in a whirlwind, I crowdfunded £2,000 in three days to take them on in Small Claims Court and travel to Malmö to set the record straight after their scandalous accusations of a rapist immigrant crime wave…

Skada means damage in Swedish, which is exactly what this series is about. The damage caused by alternative narratives and irresponsible journalistic platforms. About the damage fake news can cause if we don’t stand up and fight it.

The way I see it, this is a small act of rebellion in a darkening world, and the support it has generated is phenomenal. It means there is hope…

#Skada – The Swedish For Damage

On the 18th of February 2016 news reports of a bomb being thrown into the Turkish Cultural Centre in Fittja, a Stockholm district, reached the headlines across the world. This followed protests by Kurds against Turkey’s military intervention in Syria. The building was damaged but nobody was injured. In October 2016 a Muslim community centre was fire-bombed in Malmö causing smoke damage to the building and no injuries. Responsibility was claimed by ISIS according to local reports. On the 3rd of February 2017, three suspected Neo-Nazis of the Nordic Resistance Movement were arrested by Swedish anti-terror police for a bomb attack at an immigration centre in Gothenburg, where a staff member was seriously injured. Säpo, Sweden’s intelligence service, linked the attack with two other failed attempts – one on a socialist café and the other on a temporary housing camp for migrants.

“in recent history, there had only been one officially recorded terror incident: in December 2010”

It is clear that Sweden has problems with violent acts aimed at causing fear and harm, some ideologically motivated rather than related to criminal networks engaged in targeted intimidation and retaliation. But, in recent history, there had only been one officially recorded terror incident: in December 2010 a suicide bomber was the only fatality in an attempted attack on Stockholm.

On the 18th of February 2017, a year after the Turkish Cultural Centre bombing, the President of The United States, Donald Trump, stood on the podium at a rally in Florida, talking about the need to keep US Citizens safe in the light of world events. “You look at what’s happening, last night in Sweden. Who would believe this?” he told the crowd. The gathering was part of Trump’s 2020 election campaign, it appears, made possible by his early registration under the permissible PAC rules in January – meaning he can fundraise and campaign for election under the different standards afforded while in office under the constitutional rules of the White House. Effectively, he can legally separate his electioneering behaviour from his official position.

On the 17th of February 2017, a Friday, there were no terror attacks in Sweden. A man was killed in an industrial accident, a drunk driver got chased through Stockholm in a police pursuit, and some roads were closed due to bad weather, but there were no incidents of terrorism. Outside of Sweden, the only noteworthy and relevant occurrence was the broadcast of a Fox News documentary in the US which claimed a surge in violent crime and rape was taking place in Sweden since the country adopted an ‘open door’ immigration policy in 2013. Trump’s remark caused bemusement across the globe, with Sweden officially rebutting the suggestion anything had happened. The BBC responded in much the same way while Carl Bildt, the former Swedish Prime Minister, simply tweeted “What has Trump been smoking?”. Some media outlets speculated Trump may have been directly influenced by watching the Fox documentary and attributed the comment to a misunderstanding of this.

“Carl Bildt, the former Swedish Prime Minister, simply tweeted “What has Trump been smoking?””

Conversely, right-wing figures including Nigel Farage took to the media to back Trump’s claims of immigrant-driven crime afflicting Sweden. Farage himself insisted on his London-based LBC radio show that Malmö was the “rape capital of Europe”. Many ‘alternative’ news outlets, including the ultra-right website Breitbart – once headed by Trump’s Special Advisor Steve Bannon – also backed the assertions and Sweden very quickly became portrayed as a violent haven for immigrant criminality on the brink of social collapse. The White House press office led by Sean Spicer backed this further, releasing a list of ‘un-reported’ terror attacks across the world – including reference to the Malmö fire-bomb of October 2016.

As a result, the alternative narratives were driven very swiftly into overdrive, gaining traction across the full spectrum of social media and web-based publications used as platforms by ‘Alt-Right’ figures and organisations. This included Info Wars, at which point the self-declared ‘editor at large’, Paul Joseph Watson, stepped in. Tweeting to 503,200 followers, the British video-blogger who also runs websites Prison Planet and Propaganda Matrix declared “Any journalist claiming Sweden is safe; I will pay for travel costs & accommodation for you to stay in crime ridden migrant suburbs of Malmo”. Only a few hours later, Watson had confirmed his offer as genuine, personally donating $2,000 dollars to one journalist, Tim Pool. He then continued posting inflammatory images and messages about Sweden while refusing to engage with any other people who’d accepted his unilateral contract offer despite media coverage on both sides of the Atlantic.

In response, I launched a successful Crowdfunder to take Watson to Small Claims over breach of contract and to raise funds to travel to Malmö and ensure balanced coverage was produced. At this time, the court aspect is still ongoing.

“my understanding of crime (in particular rape) in Sweden had been accrued through my reading of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy”

Up until this point, my understanding of crime (in particular rape) in Sweden had been accrued through my reading of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. According to interviews with the late writer’s family, he’d taken up a narrative against violence towards women having witnessed a gang rape as a young man and carried a form of guilt or horror with him until his unexpected death. Throughout the first book in the series, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Larsson used statistics to punctuate the primary partitions between the chapters, “13% of all women in Sweden have been subjected to aggravated sexual assault outside of a sexual relationship” for example. Whether or not the figures were based in fact has long since become irrelevant, however. The book was first published in 2005, the year sexual assault law was changed in Sweden, with a further overhaul of the legislation taking place in 2013. This made substantial changes to crime recording practice by the police.

In general, Swedish crime figures show upwards movement in fraud and violence against the person, marginally increasing in 2016, while drug and theft offences decreased over the same year. Although the number of rapes did increase by 13% in the period, the overall total was still lower than in 2014. It’s worth comparing the total number of reported rapes nationally – 6,560 in a population of nearly 10 million – with the US, where crime recording varies state to state. There were 173,610 victims of rape recorded in the last national count of 2013, though the under-reporting estimates from the Department of Justice indicate only 55% of rape is notified to the authorities. Set against the American population of almost 319 million, the risk of rape – though the figures don’t have direct parity, not least due to the higher rate of under-reporting in the US – is almost the same (within 0.01%). However, with the figures adjusted to account for estimated under-reporting, the US per capita rate almost doubles. In relative terms, it’s clear in the figures that Sweden is a safe country when compared to the rest of the world, and also has a high rating in terms of public trust of the police.Visitors to Sweden often confirm this view.

“Watson’s funded video-maker, Tim Pool, agreed, concluding his trip by telling the Swedish media it was a “paradise compared to Chicago”!

Watson’s funded video-maker, Tim Pool, agreed, concluding his trip by telling the Swedish media it was a “paradise compared to Chicago” even though he had given an account of being escorted from the Stockholm district of Rinkeby by police over safety fears when youths began to pull hoods up around him. The Swedish police service vehemently denies Pool’s account, officially stating that local youths were upset at being filmed without permission while the police themselves were only there due to a community poetry evening. Tensions in the area were undoubtedly high in respect of foreign film crews as, only days before, a Russian television unit had been in the same district reportedly offering youths SEK400 to “create some action on camera”.

“Of course, statistics the world over are only as good as the method by which they are collected”

Interestingly, in terms of population growth which captures immigration, there is still little difference between the US and Sweden barring scale. Sweden ranks 139th in the world with population growth of 0.79% per year, whereas the US ranks 142nd with a growth rate of 0.77%. In real terms, Sweden grew by 79,000 at last count while the US population increased by around 2.5 million. Sweden itself has taken in around 200,000 asylum seekers and refugees since 2013 which is a higher per capita rate than any other European country. After a spike in 2015, with a surge of 163,000 people coming into the country, extra border checks were introduced and financial incentives began to be offered to those migrants willing to return to their homes. The statistics are comprehensively reported with monthly data by the Migrationsverket and their clear information shows migration plummeted in 2016. The largest incoming ethnic group is presently Syrian, which is unsurprising given the current war and chemical weapons deployments in the country. Säpo, who currently monitor any immigrants travelling away from Sweden for participation in war, have also noted a significant and rapid decline in those leaving over the same period.

Of course, statistics the world over are only as good as the method by which they are collected. The United Kingdom’s crime figures were stripped of their official status only in 2013, having been found to have been broadly manipulated for decades, and almost every major police force in the US has faced the same level of scandal in recent years. Currently, the UK’s employment figures are under fire once again due to the three-year push of ‘self-employment’ roles on job-seekers potentially distorting the number of unemployed people recorded. Understanding what’s behind the figures is crucial in every case, as the full story is rarely contained accurately in data alone.

Immigration to Sweden itself is tightly linked to what has been termed the ‘Swedish Model’ of social structure which has for many years been widely regarded as a near-perfect blend of the welfare state and capitalist policy, in which citizens are happy to pay up to 60% taxes to level the field across the country – it’s currently rated as the 10th happiest country in the world. Immigrants themselves may apply on arrival for ‘introduction benefit’, which is assessed individually and is paid out only once there has been a plan agreed with the Public Employment Service. This is administrated by the Försäkringskassan, along with introduction benefit for housing (up to SEK3900 per month) and supplementary introduction benefit for children. Under 11s attract SEK800 per month and over 11s SEK1500 up to a maximum of three children, capped at SEK4500 per month. Generously, in the case of more than three children, the benefit is paid on the ages of the oldest children to maximise state support given. In Sweden’s high-value property market, it’s a natural consequence that immigrants in receipt of these benefits are driven towards the lower rent, popular schemes, such as those in Eastern Malmö or Rinkeby, the Stockholm district visited by Pool and the Russians.

“only days before I was due to travel, the unthinkable happened.”

With the world political and media climate as it is now, there is no way to get to the truth by research alone. With thanks to a huge number of people I was able to crowdfund the investigative trip to Malmö, to see what’s behind all this information I had gathered. Then, only days before I was due to travel, the unthinkable happened.

On the 7th of April 2017, Stockholm was struck by the horror of a vehicle enabled terror attack, mirroring the method used in France and Germany. England too has suffered a vehicle attack in Westminster, though the attacker’s origin and target were notably different. The Stockholm attack itself is unique in that the suspect was arrested rather than shot dead by police during his arrest. He has subsequently been identified as a failed asylum seeker from Uzbekistan, a state which remains closely tied to Russia. The 39-year-old man Rakhmat Akilov, who has admitted to committing an act of terrorism, has been officially wanted since February 2017 after disappearing once his residency was declined in December 2016. No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which also underlines a difference in the Stockholm events.

Despite the tragic incident and loss of life, I left home as planned on the 10th of April to uncover the truth about crime and immigration in Sweden, doubly determined to make it clear that no act of terror can deter balanced journalism.

Arriving in the wake of the only attack since 2010, what I found was extraordinary. I also learned the Swedish word for damage: skada

“no act of terror can deter balanced journalism”