Even in liberal Sweden, Joe Arpaio is The Man.
At least that’s the impression you get from reading the comments to tabloid Aftonbladet’s hit piece this Thursday on Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Sweden’s largest periodical. The article is part of a tour of America two reporters at the newspaper are doing called Amerika på dekis, “America Down & Out.” To quote the stated intention of the article series at amerika.aftonbladet.se: “Peter Kadhammar and Urban Andersson are traveling across the American continent for two weeks. They will cover the American crisis which may be the end of an historic era, the American century.”
The timing of this series is highly curious, however, with the renewed interest in traditional American values and philosophy espoused by the Tea Party movement; and with large portions of Swedish society becoming ever more disillusioned in many of the ideological flagships of their own system. For the last 40 or 50 years, Sweden has been known to take a stand for abortion-on-demand; for a generous asylum policy; for society playing a large role in child-rearing; and for humane treatment of offenders instead of punishment.
Swedes are abandoning their liberal values as reality comes knocking
The last couple of years, the tide has begun to turn in all of these areas. Back during the winter of 2008-2009, there was a highly publicized case of a woman having two successive abortions because she wanted a boy instead of a girl, sparking a debate on whether you had the right to choose your child’s gender. This last summer, the debate penetrated even deeper into the issue, with writers and activists openly asking the question whether there really is a “right to abortion”, or aborträtt to use the Swedish term. One man writing for debate site Newsmill even committed the ultimate sin in the eyes of the feminists – he compared it to murder.
As far as immigration goes: Sweden, a country of less than ten million people, grants asylum in one way or another to nearly a hundred thousand alleged refugees every year, something that’s not been very popular with the masses, yet which the the media establishment has kept out of society’s debate. During the 2010 elections, however, the Sweden Democrats made their way into the parliament largely due to their stand on immigration issues. It’s been the norm to shout down anyone who wants to change these policies as a “racist,” but this slur is falling on ever more deaf ears.
And though back in the 1970’s, if you expressed skepticism over public day-care and social workers, you’d be dismissed as a fascist; today instead it’s the social workers that are being called fascists, with families fleeing the country to escape the often seemingly arbitrary child seizures done by the social services. I went into greater detail on this matter in my October 10 article on American Daily Herald.
The last pillar of the liberal Swedish welfare state is the “humane” corrections system, the one that’s completely rejected the need for deterrence. The support for this system has never come close to a general backing, yet as long as savvy ideologues have been able to sprinkle enough propaganda in between the heinous violent acts that take place, the system has been able to stand. Lately, however, these violent acts have become too commonplace for the public to accept, and not even in Sweden have the know-it-alls been able to simply dismiss the silent majority the way they used to.
This last year, Scandinavians have truly had to face up to the fact that there’s nothing magical about this part of the world that shields it from the violence that’s occurring beyond it’s borders. Back on 22 July, Anders Breivik shot up 69 people – yet faced a maximum possible sentence of only 21 years. Three weeks ago, on 3 October, a violent offender killed a much smaller female corrections officer who was alone with him at Huddinge jail. And this Tuesday, 23 out of 24 people found guilty of child pornography charges were sentenced to nothing more than fines and probation. Though critics of the system are usually derided as ignorant brutes, I was somehow able to get an opinion piece added on Newsmill this month, calling for the Swedish system to take after the American one, using Joe Arpaio’s Tent City as an example – an article that was well-appreciated in spite of it being completely in the face of the self-proclaimed “experts” of the field. Another interesting development is a site called Stop the Pedophiles, which unlike the Swedish justice system and media explicitly puts convicted child molesters on display for everyone to see, something for which it has faced numerous lawsuits over alleged defamation and had to shut down earlier, but is now back up, with enormous public support. People are both browsing the site to learn about child molesters in their area, and also sending in information themselves on convictions.
Mainstream media is out of touch
In this environment, newspaper Aftonbladet still assumed they would have their readers wrapped around their little finger with this Arpaio hit piece; yet found out they did not. The article, whose title is “Joe is the world’s toughest sheriff, lets the inmates sleep in tents,” spends its first half covering the actual circumstances surrounding Arpaio and his jail system in a factual manner, but succumbs to nothing more than a character assassination during the latter half, interviewing the usual anti-Arpaio crowds such as “open borders” activists and disseminating unsourced claims such as the idea that “50-60% of the inmates return to the facility.” This is then compared to the Swedish national recidivism rate of about 40%, allegedly “proving” that Arpaio’s system doesn’t work. Yet the fact of the matter is that both Sweden and the USA have recidivism rates of about 40% after three years – and that according to at least one source, Arizona’s rate is significantly lower, standing at 24.5%. Readers are at a loss as to just where Aftonbladet gets its information.
In spite of the article’s clear bias against Arpaio, the support for him among Swedish readers is overwhelmingly in favor, with roughly three quarters of comments being positive. To quote a man named Fredric:
“Tent Jail City in Sweden… In Lapland… during wintertime… BRING IT!”
Last winter, temperatures in Lapland went as low as -42,6’C in Naimakka, or about -45’F. Another man named Urban writes:
“Can’t Joe Arpaio move to Sweden and become prison chief here or just come here and teach Swedish prison chiefs how to deal with violent criminals”
It’s obvious that the liberal penal philosophy would simply R.I.P. if the people had their way. Most of the laws passed during the liberal era of the late 1960’s and 70’s unfortunately still stand, and enable a very comfortable life for inmates in Swedish prisons. The baby boomers who left this mark on society grew up in a completely different day and age than do today’s youth. Back then, Sweden was possibly the safest country in the world, and it was hard to hold back the tide of reformists wanting to radically transform the old system when they presented criminals as nothing worse than hard-luck cases who just hadn’t been given the same options that other people had. The mentality of that era can be seen in such productions as the 1975 film Release the Prisoners to Spring, where the female lead character goes out of her way to mock the need for incarceration of criminals in a childlike way.
This is not a mentality shared by society nowadays though – people today don’t afford to hold on to these romantic notions of being able to prevent crime without policing. They want to be able to walk the streets even after dark without being jumped by criminals, something that is becoming increasingly hard – which is why Arpaio is becoming a hero to Swedes as well.
Aftonbladet has even more slander in store for America
As stated, the title of the article series is “America Down & Out,” and the last couple of days they’ve featured these stories:
“Alvin drives a gas-guzzling car and intends to keep on doing so“, an article portraying Americans as obsessed with driving as big a car as possible, and irrationally using up their whole paycheck paying for the gas.
“Omelet in the USA – a mountain of 65 tonnes of cheese“, about American eating habits, with a severely obese man adorning the title. To quote the introduction: “Americans have a neurotic relationship to food. They always need to be chewing on something.”
“If you need to shoot someone, empty your clip“, where American gun owners are dismissed as ignorant and irrational.
It sure would be interesting if some American media were to do a similar tour of Sweden. But I’ve concluded that America, for all of the attacks on the country, just doesn’t stoop to that level when it comes to reporting on other countries, hence you won’t see such a tour.