Daily Mail Questions Attack on Refugees in Stockholm Story

(Expanded)

From the Daily Mail:

Stockholm station is, remember, where a disturbing event happened a few weeks ago. According to Left-wing Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, there was a violent, unprovoked rampage by a masked mob of neo-Nazis and football hooligans who were targeting migrants, including north African street children. Aftonbladet’s reports, based on police information, made newspaper and TV headlines around the world.

The Swedish were told in Aftonbladet’s report that anti-migrant leaflets declaring ‘Enough Now’ were handed out by the Stockholm mob. The newspaper posted online a video of men in dark clothes milling about in the station as evidence of the riot.

A lone migrant witness called Christian, 16, was photographed afterwards by the paper, saying he had been slapped in the face by a man during the fracas, although he admitted he had not contacted the police about it.

Indeed, Stockholm Police confirmed to the Mail this week that since the ‘neo-Nazi’ station disturbance, no migrants – underage or otherwise – have reported any assaults on them that evening.

This raises the disturbing question as to whether the anti-migrant rampage ever took place in the way described. A local newspaper said in the aftermath that the video showed nothing more than police chasing away the leaflet distributors. The footage has no images of child refugees – and the only sign of violence appears to involve a policeman waving a baton.

For their part, the police say that a handful of the apparent protagonists were interviewed over various offences, including drunken disorder, an assault on a policeman with a bottle, and the possession of a knuckle-duster.

This is presented as evidence of “how Europe’s most liberal nation gagged its own people” from talking about attacks by migrants.

One of those newspaper headlines from “around the world” actually appeared in… the Daily Mail:

‘Hundreds-strong’ mob of masked men rampage through Stockholm station beating up refugee children in revenge attack for female asylum centre worker killed by Somali ‘boy’

This earlier article included the text of the leaflet, translated into English, including the following:

 ‘When Swedish streets are no longer safe to walk on for normal Swedes, it is our DUTY to fix the problem,’ the leaflet reads.

‘This is why, today, 200 Swedish men gathered to take a stand against the north African ‘street children’ who are running rampage in and around the capital’s central station.’

Several sites carry what appears to be a photograph of the leaflet, and the original text has been published on some sympathetic Swedish websites. Thus the existence of the leaflet rests on firmer grounds than just “the Swedish were told in Aftonbladet’s report…” It thus appears that the Mail‘s original headline about “beating up refugee children” derives from a document in which the men in masks stated their intentions, rather than from a stretched interpretation of the video.

Aftonbladet‘s reporting of the incident can be seen here (with follow ups here and here); the report includes a statement from police which confirms that the only arrests related to an assault on a police officer and someone carrying brass knuckles – in other words, the same anti-climatic details that that the Daily Mail is now presenting as a supposed revelation that the “left-wing” Aftonbladet wanted to ignore.

Also, while the Mail headline refers to “children”, which could give a misleading impression of toddlers been bashed about, Aftonbladet went for a rather more low-key “Huge Police Presence in Central Stockholm”. To me, that is not suggestive of a newspaper seeking to exaggerate violence against migrants in order to discredit critics of the country’s migration policy.

Perhaps reporters at the scene (and those writing derivative articles) could have been more critical and forensic, and perhaps police encouraged them to assume the worst, for their own reasons (as Paul Stott cautions; and there is nothing in the leaflet, by the way, that is specifically “neo-Nazi”); but insofar as there may have been exaggeration, it looks to me that it was ultimately because journalists took the masked men at their word.

There is, however, another possibility: that the Mail‘s question about “whether the anti-migrant rampage ever took place in the way described” is meant to imply not so much exaggeration, but, rather, distortion. The article begins with a portrait of Stockholm Station which suggests that it’s a seedy area where African and Arab migrants “hang around”, dealing drugs and engaging in low-level sexual harassment; are we to infer from this that the “rampage” may have been provoked?

If that is the intention, the story would be part of a trend – just couple of days ago, I discussed an account of migrants supposedly being attacked in Russia after engaging in anti-social behaviour at nightclub. However, there is reason to believe that that story was false.

Footnote

For some, news that there may have been less violence than was originally thought will be a disappointment; last month, I noted that an article published by the Walid Shoebat Foundation had written about Swedish “patriots” assaulting “Muslim invaders” with sanguinary glee.

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