The reaction to Donald Trump's comments on Sweden among American liberals has...developed.
At first, there were the reflexive, snarky "What? Unrest in idyllic Sweden, land of luxury prisons, Pippi Longstocking, and the wholesome musical stylings of Abba? What's Trump been smoking?" tweets. And then, just a few days later, there actually was unrest in an immigrant Stockholm suburb, apparently triggered by police attempts to arrest a drug dealer. As happens in immigrant ghettos all over Europe (actually, all ghettos everywhere), a social media flash-mob of young men appeared out of nowhere to interfere with the police action. Shots were fired.
Many liberals then dropped the snark, perhaps because they got the sense there may be something more to this issue than they first thought, and they didn't want to look too nonchalant.
The issue used to be so clear-cut: Because right-wing news outlets highlight Sweden's immigration problems, they must not exist. Yet, upon closer inspection, they apparently do. As Orwell once said, 'some things are true, even though the Daily Telegraph says they are true.'
And here comes James Traub, editor of Foreign Policy, to (ever so gently) notify American liberals that the reality in Sweden is, indeed, a bit more complex than they might assume:
The Swedes have a word, “asikstkorridor,” which translates as “opinion corridor” and describes all those things considered incorrect not only to say but to think. One of those taboos, as I discovered when I visited Sweden at the height of the refugee crisis in the fall of 2015, is the idea that refugees from conservative Muslim countries, especially poorly educated young men, may not integrate into Swedish society as well as, say, relatively secular and prosperous Iranians or Bosnians.
President Trump’s offhand comment last month about how dreadful things are in Sweden provoked an outraged reaction from Swedes rightly proud of the country’s longstanding commitment to accepting refugees from all over the world. The incident of violence the president appeared to be describing hadn’t happened. But then it did, in the form of a riot in a suburb of Stockholm heavily populated by immigrants. That’s where the opinion corridor can make you look foolish.
It is too early to know whether the net effect of the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees on Sweden, Germany and other European countries will be positive or negative. Certainly Mr. Trump’s habit of blaming refugees for terrorism, used to justify his signing a revised executive order banning travel from six predominantly Muslim countries on Monday, flies in the face of the evidence. But so does the reflexive claim that the refugees will fit easily into European society or expand the labor force. Our liberal opinion corridor thus offers the perfect pretext for cynics and xenophobes to parade their prejudice as truth-telling courage.
The answer to xenophobia cannot be xenophilia. For mobile, prosperous, worldly people, the cherishing of diversity is a cardinal virtue; we dote on difference. That’s simply not true for many people who can’t choose where to live, or who prefer the familiar coordinates of their life. That was the bitter lesson that British cosmopolites learned from Brexit. If the answer is to insist that the arrival of vast numbers of new people on our doorstep is an unmixed blessing, and that those who believe otherwise are Neanderthals, then we leave the field wide open to Donald J. Trump and Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen.
I believe that liberalism can be preserved only if liberals learn to distinguish between what must be protected at all cost and what must be, not discarded, but reconsidered — the unquestioned virtue of cosmopolitanism, for example, or of free trade. If we are to honor the human rights of refugees, we must find a way to do so that commands political majorities. Otherwise we’ll keep electing leaders who couldn’t care less about those rights.
"It is too early to know whether the net effect of the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees on Sweden, Germany and other European countries will be positive or negative."