Can Racism not Beget Racism?

Paul Craig Roberts, a former official in the Ronald Reagan government, has his own popular website and his articles are frequently published at the progressive Information Clearing House. I like much of what Paul Craig Roberts has to say, but liking some of the positions staked out by a person does not necessitate that a person agree with all that another person states. One can accept what seems reasonable, logical, and moral and reject that which is illogical or immoral. This is a sine qua non of a critical and morally centered thinker.

Sometimes the sources and positions recommended by someone, even high-profile personalities, call for a public rebuke. This is the case with the email sent out by Roberts today (5 April 2020) that he captioned: “The Criminal Anti-Swede Government of Sweden Brought the Joys of Diversity to the Swedish People.”

A url takes us from Roberts’ site to the site of the Gatestone Institute. The title of the article is “F***ing Swede” by Judith Bergman. An overview of the writings by Bergman reveals her to be far-Right and anti-the Other.

In her article, she writes of a new type of crime in Sweden: förnedringsrån, which combines the Swedish words for “humiliation” and “robbery.” It speaks to an outbreak of name-calling, forcing victims to strip, urinating on victims, forcing victims to kiss the feet of their tormentors, etc: in one word, humiliation. And a large chunk of the förnedringsrån, according to Bergman, is committed by non-Swedes. To support this, Bergman cites a 2017 report by the Swedish media network Expressen on the 49 criminal networks in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm.

The report showed the networks consisted of between 500 and 700 gang members: 40.6% of the gang members that Expressen surveyed were foreign-born; 82.2% had two parents who were foreign-born. Their main country of origin was Iraq, followed by Bosnia, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria and Turkey.

Bergman also cites a 2007 book — Exit Folkhemssverige (Exit the Swedish Welfare State) — by four academics (Ingrid Björkman, Jan Elfverson, Jonathan Friedman, and Åke Wedin) who wrote:

80 – 90% of robbers have an immigrant background. The majority are 15 – 17 years…The victims are Swedish children and young people, primarily ‘Swedish guys from rich men’s schools’, as one robber put it…. The robberies usually follow a certain pattern: A group of immigrant boys approach a selected victim and convey a clear threat with their actions. A common scenario is that one of the robbers holds a knife pressed against the victim, while the others rob him of mobile phone, bank card, money. The victim… is frightened and dare not [do anything] but give up the requested items… If he doesn’t give up, he’ll be beaten, often very brutally. Humiliation of the victim is not infrequently included in the picture. If it is a boy, it is about breaking his self-esteem. He is forced to cry, give up his shoes, even undress naked, kneel and plead for his life, etc. For the girl victims, sexual humiliation applies. They get their clothes ripped off, the robbers grab them and call them “whores”.

Unequivocally, the criminal acts described in Bergman’s article are heinous and must be condemned. However, also heinous is the attempt by Bergman and, seemingly, Paul Craig Roberts to scapegoat people of other ethicities for crimes without any consideration for why people of these ethnicities came to be found in Sweden, and without asking why they committed these inexcusable crimes.

Do crimes occur in a vacuum? Should one not try and understand the etiology of the crimes? If one understands the causes, then it is theoretically possible to deal with the causes so as to eliminate the precipitating factors of the crimes.

All the countries cited in the Expressen report (Iraq, Bosnia, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria, and Turkey) are countries where western nations have militarily inserted themselves. Let’s leave Turkey out of this for the moment because it is a NATO member and a host of western military. ((But the fact that the average Turkish person is recognizably different than the prototypical blonde-haired, blue-eyed Swede makes for easy identification as the Other.)) Sweden has been militarily involved in all these aforementioned countries, as well as in other countries. Restricting ourselves to just the 21st century, Sweden has been militarily involved in the debellation of Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

When a country becomes militarily involved in a country that is not attacking it, especially when the casus belli that is demonstrably illegal, how should citizens of the attacked country regard the attacking nation? Illegal or not, it is morally questionable whatever reasons are proffered to explain such militarism. ((E.g., the Swedish Communist media, Proletären, said Sweden played a “dirty role” in Syria.)) Thus when violence causes an efflux of refugees that seek asylum in the attacking country, how should the refugees feel about being in a country that contributed to creating the fear-evoking conditions that led them to leave their homeland?

Nonetheless, whatever the antecedents are, this does not excuse or exculpate the alleged actions of the miscreants detailed in the Bergman article. But it provides an elucidation. If Swedes are participating in foreign adverturism, what might that indicate about racist attitudes held by some Swedes?

Leila Ali Elmi is a Somali-born, raised in Sweden, hijab-wearing Swedish MP who has pointed to a structural racism embedded in Swedish society. Elmi is engaged in fighting rising support for the far right.

Returning to Bergman’s article: before emailing an article to one’s email list, doesn’t it behoove the emailer to ascertain the media source of the article?

A brief sampling of fare at Gatestone Institute led me to conclude that it is a right-wing, anti-China, Islamophobic website. Even Wikipedia states: “Gatestone Institute is a far-right think tank known for publishing anti-Muslim articles.” Researching a little deeper revealed that the notorious warmonger John Bolton was Gatestone Institute’s chairman from 2013 to March 2018. Wikipedia adds, “The [Gatestone Institute] organization has attracted attention for publishing false articles and being a source of viral falsehoods.”

It seems extreme caution is warranted for information emanating from Gatestone Institute.

Open-minded skepticism guards us from too readily accepting the word of whoever or whatever ((And behind every what is always at least one who.)) the source is. We all have the capacity for fallibility. Whenever one advocates a perspective or takes a position that upon further reflection strikes one as incorrect, then right-minded thinking demands that one adjust one’s perspective or shift one’s position accordingly.

If racism is to be understood and combatted, it must not be analyzed in isolation. Racism must be considered not just from the perspective of the victim but also of the perpetrator. After all, it may well be that it was the racism of the victim that filliped the racism of the perpetrator. Racism may often be a vicious, self-perpetuating victim-cum-perpetrator circle.

Pointing fingers at an ethnicity is myopic and strongly suggests an unrecognized, latent if not overt racist tendency. Therefore, an all-encompassing lens is needed to understand and defeat the scourge of racism.

We must deplore acts borne of racism, deplore the milieu that gives rise to racism, and deplore the very mindset of racism. Racism must be unambiguously held to be anathema.

After all, we are all human beings.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.