27 May 2013

Why Is Stockholm Burning?

By Charles McPhedran

Right wingers across Europe are claiming that riots in tolerant Stockhom are signs that the model of the progressive multicultural welfare state has failed, writes Charles McPhedran

Just a week ago, Sweden again proved its flair for marketing itself as Europe’s coolest, most progressive nation.

At the Eurovision song contest, the country trotted out all the ubiquitous Swedish clichés. The evening’s flag-clad hostess, Petra Mede, presided over a gay wedding before tearing off her skirt and cavorting in front of dancing (horse) meatballs.

Meanwhile an advertising spot explaining Sweden to those “on the Continent”, as the Swedes say, featured the country’s centre-right prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt. Up north, we learnt, even the prime minister has to wash his own coffee cup. If he leaves his grubby mug in the kitchen, he receives a ticking off from his aides.

Sweden’s Eurovision was packed with this kind of slick marketing. But a week later, after a social explosion in suburban Stockholm, the country's PR facade is cracking.

Nights of riots in the Swedish capital set a new record for urban unrest; dozens of cars were set alight every night on the periphery of Stockholm.

Still, the situation appears to have calmed over the weekend, Swedish police told news agencies. The riots, which were the largest Swedish unrest in decades, ignited the periphery of most of Sweden’s urban areas at their peak.

Images of burning cars and masked teenage immigrant rioters have led many papers to compare Husby, where the police killing of a 69-year-old Portuguese immigrant triggered days of riots, to the French banlieue.

“The immigrants, the youth of the suburbs that surround Stockholm, assert that the police is racist, that officers persecute them, insult them and harass them unfairly,” writes El País’ correspondent in a dispatch from a burned-out Stockholm neighbourhood. 

As in so many other places, the teenagers who organised the riots used social networks and word-of-mouth to plan actions and locations, reports Lettera43.

“Around 30 per cent of young people [in Husby, the centre of rioting over the past week] don’t study and aren’t looking for a job,” the Italian magazine adds.

Yet if it is clear who has been rioting and how they are organised, why the riots occurred now is a topic of debate over in the European media. Some blame economic change, others social policy, and still others urban planning.

Indeed, both France and Sweden have tried a similar – failed – approach to social housing, states conservative sociologist Carmen González Enríquez in Spanish daily La Razón.

“Urban planning is partly to blame: Building public housing in a specific area, a phenomenon we might call 'social destabilisation'. Which you can’t hold against Sweden; we have seen it in France too,” González Enríquez told the Madrid paper.

“Although the housing is not designed for immigrants, they are the first to occupy it because they earn less. And, gradually, the local population abandons the area,” she says, blaming “cultural differences” over the use of public space for “conflict” between immigrants and locals.

Conversely, for Austrian broadcaster ORF, Sweden’s problems are far more profound than that. Days of rioting have shown that the nation’s claims to be one of Europe’s most egalitarian nations are in fact bunkum.

“Sweden is regarded as egalitarian. People’s income is openly published and fairly equally distributed,” the Austrian broadcaster’s correspondent says.

“But that does nothing to change the fact that wealth is very unevenly distributed. According to the UN’s GINI coefficient for inequality, even states like Argentina (74) and Turkey (71.2) have more equal distributions of wealth than Sweden (74.2),” the broadcaster reveals.

“An invisible wall runs through Sweden. Those with the right name, who speak the right dialect, who go to the right schools have far less problems,” ORF concludes.

Infrequently reported abroad, Sweden has become more typical of the continent in which it is located in recent years, says France’s Le Figaro.

“Since the 1990s, when it suffered a devastating banking crisis, Sweden has pruned the size of its welfare state, causing a huge increase in inequality,” the Parisian paper explains.

“Immigrants, who constitute 15 per cent of the population, have been the first people affected. Particularly the young among them,” it adds.  

Even as it reduced the size of its welfare state, Sweden has been willing to welcome refugees fleeing some of the worst wars on the planet, says French afternoon paper Le Monde.

“Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria. There’s no shortage of crises, which have displaced hundreds of thousands of people to places beyond their frontiers. Generously, Sweden has continued to open its doors,” Le Monde opines in an editorial.

However, the country’s government has been unwilling to fund immigrant education and integration, the French paper adds, because Sweden has transformed itself into a “welfare state-lite”.

“Many of these immigrants are lodged in suburbs that gradually turned into ghettos, many [attend] poorly equipped schools, which perpetuate scholastic failure.” 

State cutbacks are not the only social factor to blame for last week’s riots, Austrian daily Kurier writes.

“Day after day, violent unrest rages in Sweden’s impoverished industrial suburbs," says the paper’s correspondent.

“The transition from an old industrial city to a playground for middle class consumers produces winners and losers. From Husby to Stockholm to Malmö: Those who are on the streets are those who have been left behind by social change.“

Still others, such as conservative Catholics, blame Swedish educational reform, and perceived teacher permissiveness, for last week’s riots.

“Over the past few years, we’ve noted the lack of discipline [in Swedish schools]. On the one hand, there’s the feeling that the idea of a child has to be respected. And, at the same time, the teachers have become passive or even victims of the will of the child,” the papal broadcaster Radio Vatican quotes researcher Marta Paterniti, from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, as saying.

And, while there’s been much debate over the social factors behind the Swedish riots, there’s been unanimity on who will likely benefit from the unrest: The far-right.

“Coasting home on these troubles, and the [perceived] failure of integration policies, the nationalist, anti-immigration party, Swedish Democrats, has gained popularity in the surveys,” reports France 24.

“It is now in third place ahead of the elections that will take place in September 2014.”

If that trend continues, those elections may prove even more of a PR disaster for sweaky-clean Sweden than the riots and Eurovision combined.

ABOUT BEST OF THE REST: It's a big world out there and plenty of commentators and journalists are writing about it — but not always in English. And not surprisingly, ideas about big events of the day shift when you move away from the Anglosphere. Best of the Rest is a fortnightly NM feature by Berlin-based journalist Charles McPhedran. Charles reads the news in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese and reports on what the rest of the world is saying about the big stories. 

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aaron
Posted Monday, May 27, 2013 - 14:33

Interesting how this article neglects the biggest issue here. That is most of those rioting are muslims. These riots are not due to a failure on the part of the Swedes rather they are due to muslims failing to integrate into Swedish society. What is the point of immigration if it is all one way? Many of these muslim immigrants don't bother to learn about the culture or ways of their new homeland, yet expect their adopted country to bend over backwards for them. Also what is the point of immigration if the immigrants just leech off the rest of the population. They stay on welfare and do not contribute.

Off course immigration is not to blame, many countries have successful immigration such as Australia and part of the US, Canadian and English immigration programs. No the problem is muslim immigration. Muslims do not seem to be able to integrate into non-muslim dominated cultures. You do not see budhists or hindus rioting in western countries or launching terrorist attacks.

Immigrants from Asian and South Asian backgrounds have been very successful in western countries even though these immigrants have often faced discrimination. Likewise in America many Latinos have successfully integrated despite the huge and unfair discrimination they have often faced.

I think its time for the western world to face the facts about muslim immigration. While many muslims make model citizens a large portion do not and simply cause problems for the host countries.

Western countries have tried to welcome muslim immigrants and tried to be tolerant yet all they have gotten in return is violence and hate. It would be wise for western countries to slow or stop muslim immigration and instead concentrate on migrant groups that integrate well and do not cause problems.

 

Melchisedek
Posted Monday, May 27, 2013 - 18:28

Multiculturalism doesn't work because Muslims are opposed to the multiculturalism of the naive multiculturalist societies which go out of their way to welcome them. Simple as that.

fdsgfd
Posted Monday, May 27, 2013 - 18:31

This place before was known to be a good place for civilized people. It is so sad to see the damages brought by fire on this place. - Click Here

jackal012
Posted Monday, May 27, 2013 - 21:08

The Yanks caused all the upheavel in the middle east so that refugees woyuld invade the E.U. America's greatest competition, apart from China.

Watch Richard Wilkinson on Ted.com

The most unstable, unequal or nations with the greatest in-equality, incarceration rates, mental health problems etc. are the Conquered Nations, the Imigrant Nations.

America, Australia, Canada, N.Z,and England with its European Monarchs, where as the Mother nations were more equal, until now.

I blame the Yanks and the Poms for this, their over populating europe, Deviding and Conquering.

The E.U was set up to stop the Poms from deviding and Conquering again. England fell on its own sword and now their trying to wreck Europe too, shame.

Too much breeding, too much do gooding and too much racism generated througfh hardship, over populating. We learned nothing from WW2.

I always said societies paying to train Historians in Uni's is a waste of money, most of  them lie for cash, so if they can't tell the truth why bother with them.

History always repeats because humans are dumb asses.

 

Rocky
Posted Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 09:06

 Swedish society's dysfunctions aren't the only causitive factors. 

 aaron,

"Interesting how this article neglects the biggest issue here."

That's  so often the case. Let's consider the possibility that at least part of the conflict is due to the cultural baggage Moslems bring with them, and that the Right could have a valid argument. Unfortunately the multicultural social engineers will continue to apply their failed policies while the voters, particularly those on the front line, drift to the right.

The Romans learned that advanced civilisations don't have an infinite capacity to accommodate and assimilate barbarians.

outrider
Posted Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 16:40

Problems always arise where a substantial minority are let in. Australia is heading towards too many, destroying the culture. Islam is particularly bad news because they want to impose their culture on ours.

The poitically correct are more concerned with hurting the feelings of the Muslims than sticking up for ours. We need to be very outspoken to get the message across to the moderates that they have to crack down on their own.

LifeMasque
Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 08:59

Goodness me, has the readership of Matilda changed overnight??? No one criticising commentors on blaming Mulims for starting fires? Malmo, Sweden, is about the most dangerous city in Europe to be Jewish, due solely to the number of mussies, who will soon be a majority in this city. Jews who complain about being assaulted and harrassed in Malmo are told not to wear skull caps and to dissociate themselves from the actions of Israel, which I am sure helps them no end.

jackal012
Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 09:01

Go and read

"This Is Not How You Fight"

Why do we have to have a seperate law for Anti-Semitism, but anti Moslim rubbish is acceptable.

 History repeats. Nobody wanted Jews in Europe from about the 1850 on, now all we have done is replaced the word Jew with Moslem and on we go repeating the mistakes of the past. Its only the people we vilify and why, that has changed.  The same arguments we hear about Moslems were heard all over Europe and applied to Jews back then. 

Historians tell and have told lies that much we know so why bother spending tax money to train Historians. What for, just so some idiot can have a Job writting books and make a living, afford the morgage, hang around with Bimbo's and all that by stroking some idiots ego, telling them that they were hero's when it is all lies.

As a Business man do you go see your accountant to tell you what you want to hear or what you should know.

The whole world is over populating and the Yanks are creating the upheaval, to create refugee's so as to flood Europe with tensions. They did the same thing back in the 1930 by crashing world Economies. Read Samuel Untermeyer.

England had a department for Economic Warfare, so did the Yanks, thats what started the CIA. It was an Economic Listening post to assist American Busines.

Its allways been the economy, Stupid and the struggle between the big four now its between the trading blocks.

 

 

 

 

Elbert
Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 11:38

Most of the comments are on the ball. Australian multiculturalism is not an unqualified success, because cultures demand conformity within themselves and are usually mostly religion based. Islam is today as evangelical as Cristianity was a couple of centuries ago - out there converting the heathens with fire and sword. Australia is making a grave mistake in assisting the proliferation of religious schools that are creating a generation of kids who know no one from other religions, are deeply suspicious and will soon be on the front line of religious wars like those wrecking Islamic countries. Only a truly secular state, that favours no religion and fosters individial rights and freedoms over 'culture' will survive unscathed.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Marga
Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 16:21

Many good comments on this post.

I find it quite astonishing that a Berllin-based journalist reading in 4 European languages is going out of his way to blame all and sundry and especially the hosts, the Swedes, for the riots and not once looking at the other side of the coin, namely the immigrants unwillingness to integrate into the society that sustains them, or, if they don't like that to just go back to their country and make a life for themselves there as best they can.

Some cultures can integrate quite easily, with others it takes longer.  In some cases the barriers to integration are such that they cannot be overcome.  In the latter cases it is best for these people to stay put in their country and maybe foreign aid can improve their lifestyles (as long as foreign aid is not just a handout).

Right now 300 guest workers from Libia roam the streets of Hamburg.   Italy paid each one 500 Euros to go to Germany and thousands applied (what 500 Euros can do!)   Hamburg intends to return them to Italy.  Will Italy return them to Libia?  They are not natives of that country but Africans.