Shootings a symptom of society at war with itself

THE targeting of immigrants reflects the failure of Swedish multiculturalism.

THE Swedes are in two minds about the gang of right-wing snipers targeting immigrants. Some believe the perpetrators to be woodsmen with hunting rifles shooting to make a political point.

Others see similarities between the shootings and video games, with immigrants being shot by youths because their real-life targets appear dispensable.

Either way, the incidents represent a dreadful collapse of order, the mark of a society with unsolved problems and frustration. The Swedish idyll started to fall apart years ago. The social democratic consensus culture has not been able to stand the test of time – how can one live by a philosophy of economic redistribution in times of economic crisis?

The turning point may have come in 1986 when Olof Palme, the Social Democrat prime minister, was shot. Since that crime, still unsolved, there has been an edginess to national politics. Palme represented Swedish openness to the world, and part of that died with him.

The notion of multiculturalism has faded. Foreigners are more likely to be pushed into urban enclaves, where they live on welfare, often barred from working. Swedish nationalists consider such an immigrant underclass to be a stain on their country. Barring a few neo-Nazis – such as the millionaire suspected of commissioning the theft of the Auschwitz camp sign Arbeit Macht Frei – nobody used to express such a view openly.

Swedes have become emboldened by the success of their neighbours in tightening immigration rules. They are cheered by the Danish People’s Party; by Geert Wilders in The Netherlands; and the Freedom Party in Austria. The right-wing Sweden Democratic Party won 20 seats in the last election. Its roots are in the Keep Sweden Swedish movement and its policies are pitched against the integration of ethnic minorities.

The Swedes are not all reaching for their guns, but there is a sour mood.

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