The Corner

Europe’s Reality Problem

As I mentioned in a post on Monday, there may have been an explicitly political dimension to the decision to downplay the sex attacks at two festivals in Stockholm.

To return again to the Financial Times piece that I cited then:

The claims have not yet been confirmed. But as in Germany, where a mass sex assault allegedly took place in Cologne on New Year’s eve, a political storm has broken out in Sweden over the alleged cover-up. The Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party that in recent months has periodically topped opinion polls, has led the criticism. Referring to the cover-up allegations, Peter Agren, who was in charge of policing at the festival, was reported by Dagens Nyheter as saying: “This is a sore point. We sometimes dare not to say how it is because we think it might play into the hands of the Sweden Democrats.”

Now, writing in The Spectator, Ivar Arpi, an editorial page writer for Svenska Dagbladet, one of Sweden’s major newspapers, notes this:

It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to wonder how many more instances there have been where Swedish police have taken political considerations into account before disclosing information.

Before Dan Eliasson became Sweden’s national police commissioner, he tweeted that he ‘vomited’ when he saw Jimmie Åkesson, party leader of the Sweden Democrats, on television. To what degree were his own personal political views imprinted on the Swedish police? Were the officers who covered up the sexual harassments responding to signals from Eliasson? Did they think that making a fuss about immigrant crime was a bad career move, and did that stop them doing their duty?

To his credit, Sweden’s current (left-of-center) prime minister reacted to the claims of a cover-up by referring to both the “betrayal” of women and “a big democratic problem”.  He was right on both counts, and, so far as the democratic problem is concerned it’s been festering for a while: it says quite a bit that Eliasson was appointed to his job despite that tweet.

Arpi:

The Sweden Democrats are the anti-immigration populist force in Sweden — no longer a fringe element but the third–largest party after the election of 2014. Opinion polls suggest they are growing ever stronger. They are reviled by all other parties, who try to fight them by rejecting their every claim as baseless. As a result, immigration cannot be discussed frankly in Sweden. If you mention anything negative about refugees or immigration, you’re accused of playing into the hands of the reviled far-right. As a result, even legitimate concerns are silenced or labelled xenophobic. The recent migration crisis has changed this only slightly.

Andwhen people believe that they cannot rely on the authorities for the truth (or, more damagingly still, their safety) they can be tempted to look elsewhere,

Deutsche Welle:

In the wake of the New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne, small groups of civilian vigilantes have emerged…

The initiatives range from neighborhood watch groups to far-right groups that aren’t afraid to use violence. They don’t always call themselves civilian defense corps – perhaps because it sounds too militaristic and would soon rouse the authorities. After all, the police are responsible for maintaining security in Germany; civilians aren’t allowed to start playing sheriff when they feel like it.

But the Cologne attacks seem to have created a new, threatening atmosphere. Some civilian defense groups, such as a Düsseldorf initiative, even reference the attacks directly. Thousands of people have joined the Facebook group “One for all, all for one… Düsseldorf keeping watch.” According to the information on its page, the group says its mission is to watch out for “our women” in places where danger might lurk. The group plans to patrol together on weekends or at special events. “I don’t think that free people should have to be intimidated because they’re scared,” organizer Tofigh Hamid told German broadcaster Sat.1, adding that the group is non-violent and non-racist….

But the same cannot be said for all of these groups. Gordian Meyer-Plath is the president of the state of Saxony’s office for domestic intelligence. He recently gave an interview to the “Leipziger Volkszeitung” in which he spoke of a strong increase in civilian defense corps founded or supported by right-wing populists or far-right extremists. Jena-based sociologist Matthias Quent said there is a danger that people who haven’t previously had contact with the right-wing extremist scene could be drawn into the milieu by getting involved with these groups.

Meyer-Plath said he is concerned with a group known as “Civilian Defense FTL/360″ in the Saxon city of Freital, which has been in the headlines previously because of massive anti-refugee demonstrations. The group formed after two Moroccans reportedly harassed and beat up students on the number 360 bus, hence the name. Since then, members have been patrolling buses to “keep the peace.” One of the members of the “Civilian Defense Corps Güstrow” in the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is Nils Matischent, a representative from Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party, and a man with a criminal record. And in the Lower Saxon town of Schwanenwede, a group of “neighborhood watch guards” marched in front of a refugee shelter last fall.

Meanwhile, in Finland, there’s this (Reuters reports):

Wearing black jackets adorned with a symbol of a Viking and the Finnish flag, the “Soldiers of Odin” have surfaced as self-proclaimed patriots patrolling the streets to protect native Finns from immigrants, worrying the government and police. On the northern fringes of Europe, Finland has little history of welcoming large numbers of refugees, unlike neighbouring Sweden. But as with other European countries, it is now struggling with a huge increase in asylum seekers and the authorities are wary of any anti-immigrant vigilantism. A group of young men founded Soldiers of Odin, named after a Norse god, late last year in the northern town of Kemi. This lies near the border community of Tornio, which has become an entry point for migrants arriving from Sweden. Since then the group has expanded to other towns, with members stating they want to serve as eyes and ears for the police who they say are struggling to fulfil their duties.

Leaving aside the shameless cultural appropriation of the Scandinavian Odin (what was wrong with Finno-Ugric Ukko?), the rise, such as it is, of this group may partly reflect the fact that the immigration-skeptic Finns Party is now a part of Finland’s ruling coalition, but little has changed. It’s not reassuring to read in Der Spiegel that the founders of Soldiers of Odin are openly “national socialist”  (you can read more about the group over at the never-comforting Zero Hedge).

And then, not for the first time, Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill goes for the jugular:

All this handwringing over ‘their culture’ is strange. Not because we shouldn’t criticise other cultures — I’m all in favour of that — or because we shouldn’t chastise and punish the men accused of committing crimes in Cologne. No, it’s weird because what the Cologne fallout most graphically exposes is the rot and disarray and dishonesty of our culture…

[The]  unwillingness to ‘dare to say how things really are’ is driven by a fear of populist far-right parties — like the Sweden Democrats — and of the plebs who vote for them. That is, it is motored by its own prejudices. This self-silencing presents itself as a good, progressive urge to protect immigrants from the prejudicial views and behaviour of the natives, yet underpinning it is an even darker prejudice which views Germany’s or Sweden’s or Britain’s own masses as so volatile, so hateful, that they cannot possibly be allowed to know ‘how things really are’. Officials lie, or at least hide the truth, in order to keep in check the tempers of the populace: a species of tyranny that echoes the self-aggrandising lies told in Maoist China about food production to a population that didn’t have enough to eat.

But more fundamentally, the moral silencing wrought by multiculturalism is about suppressing politics itself, in politics’ truest sense of being a free, frank, conflictual discussion about values and the future. Multiculturalism is best understood as the sacralisation of moral and cultural relativism. It makes a virtue of the vacuum in the heart of the modern West, through dressing up the West’s inability to articulate what it is for and its failure to stand up for the values of Enlightenment by instead saying, ‘All cultures are equally valid’. Multiculturalism is the PC sexing-up of modern Western society’s profound alienation from its own culture, from its 300-year-old traditions of democracy, reason, growth and an aspiration, at least, to freedom, though that has been frequently thwarted. As such, the core instinct of multiculturalism, its driving force in fact, is to shush and stifle, to elevate self-censorship and denial of difficult reality over the volatility of allowing open discussion and, worse, a judgement of and between values.

The end result is a new Kafkaesque Europe. A Europe where the police disguise reality. A Europe where elevating European values over other values is branded a ‘phobia’. A Europe where to refuse to speak the truth is considered virtuous, and where saying ‘how things really are’ is seen as bad. And then we’re surprised when migrants from afar who arrive in this Europe do not buy into our values. What values? We are barely allowed to articulate them, far less judge them superior to other people’s, far less proselytise about them to newcomers.

Quite. 

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