The Number Sweden Doesn’t Want to Know

Text a redux reworking by by Mikkel Andersson / Berlingske.

Only rarely does one see professional researchers argue that more factual knowledge is a bad thing. But in Sweden, that is just what has recently happened.

In January 2017, the Swedish TV-channel SVT2 ran a feature on why the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention does not assess the crime rate of immigrants to Sweden.

The Swedish authorities have refrained from calculating these numbers since 2005, when they released a report showing that foreign-born Swedes were likely to commit more than twice as much crime as Swedes born in Sweden. For immigrants from certain parts of Africa, the number was more than five times as high.

As followers of Swedish politics will know, the number of immigrants to Sweden has exploded since 2005. Might it not be prudent to get some statistics regarding the consequences of this development then? In Sweden’s brother country of Denmark, the authorities release data on crime and ethnicity every year. But in Sweden, the authorities have decided that this is a number that the population should not be allowed to know.

In the SVT2 feature, we saw one representative of the Swedish authorities after another, all saying the same thing: That the numbers from 2005 were enough to tell anyone all they could wish to know on the matter of crime and immigration in Sweden. At the same time, the feature interviewed an employee of the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention who said that the Council is constantly contacted by Swedes who want to know the figures on crime and immigration. But even this employee said that in spite of the many phone calls she received, she saw no reason to update the figures from 2005.

The feature also has the Swedish professor of criminology Jerzy Sarnecki saying that it’s not relevant to know exactly how much more criminal the immigrants are, since everyone can see from the 2005 figures that that they are more criminal. According to Sarnecki, we should not ask how much more crime the immigrants commit, but rather set our resources to attempting to uncover why immigrants commit crimes.

Now, if you’ve been following Swedish politics, you know that one of the major drivers of anti-immigrant sentiment is that both the authorities and the media are constantly – and often rightly – accused of hiding, underreporting and down-playing the problems associated with the mass immigration to Sweden that has taken place in certain years.

In the SVT2 feature, several representatives of the Swedish authorities say that they don’t want the real crime rate of immigrants to become known since the figure could be used to demonize certain groups. Obviously, any fact can be used politically. But, as many prominent political philosophers have pointed out, impartial knowledge is the essential precursor for people to be able to make up their minds about an issue. Likewise, if you don’t know what is actually going on in your country, not only does it become impossible to accurately take stock of the issue – it also becomes impossible to work out sensible solutions.

For example, as the matter stands right now, the Swedish populace has no way of knowing if the almost tripling of rape and sexual assault rates that has taken place in Sweden since 2011 is in any way connected with the huge influx of migrants to the country. And in the absence of solid facts and statistics on the matter, unfounded speculations and theories explode on social media, on alternative media and in extremist political circles – all in completely predictable fashion.

As the SVT2 feature made clear, much of the Swedish elite believes that if the problems are hushed up then the population will stop brooding about them.

It won’t – all their approach accomplishes is that discussions on these matters become more unqualified and embittered.