This is What Propaganda Looks Like
At a campaign-style rally in Melbourne, Florida (on his way to his 3rd vacation in 3 weeks) as his proof to support his xenophobic and anti-immigration policies, Donald Trump made a claim that Sweden experienced a terrorist attack the previous day in direct result of accepting an influx of refugees escaping war.
However it turned out, there was no terrorist attack in Sweden or anywhere else in Europe that day, Trump simply misinterpreted something he saw on television and presented it as fact.
While the President of the United States creating fake news is indeed a problem, there is something else problematic this is surrounding the President’s lies. And that is the rush of pro-Trump media sites to create news reports in order to support the already debunked false claims of the President. There is a word for this, “propaganda.”
propaganda – noun – Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.
–Oxford English Dictionary
The meaning of propaganda has been watered down recently, because it gets thrown around too easily in social media in an attempt to discredit a news story someone doesn’t like, so when we see it actually occurring we may not recognize that it is happening.
But watch pro-Trump news sites like Breitbart and Fox News scramble every time Trump makes a ridiculous or unsubstantiated claim, even long after facts are presented that absolutely refute what was said. Like when they still stand up and say “No, the President was really telling the truth!!! Sweden is a living hell!!!”
It’s their job to “cover” for him, to make the case that, “Trump said X but he really means Y,” or just to outright lie for him.
We saw this all throughout his campaign. Trump would say things like he wants to ban all Muslims or Obama founded ISIS, and these sites would trip over themselves to find a way to make him appear less controversial, look for quotes out of contexts to support their cause, or to say he really didn’t literally mean what he said.
That, is propaganda.
A Little Background
To highlight how this is happening, we’ll first walk through the series of events surrounding Trump’s false Sweden claims, then we’ll take a look at an actual propaganda article from Fox News.
First, Trump Shouted a Lie
During his rally, Donald Trump referred to several countries that have taken in a disproportionate number of refugees and that have recently been the target of attacks.
“You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible.”
However the claim sent pundits and political observers scrambling to find evidence of any such incident in Sweden — and they came up empty.
There was, of course, no terrorist or refugee-related incident in Sweden the previous day, as Swedes helpfully pointed out.
Then Trump Claimed a Lie Was Never Made
So Trump offered clarification on his remarks over Twitter, saying it was from a Fox News story he just watched earlier that day:
My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017
The Fox News segment Trump was referring to was an interview between host Tucker Carlson and documentarian and media personality Ami Horowitz that aired Friday night. Horowitz presented a clip from a film documenting alleged violence committed by refugees in Sweden, and the segment extensively referenced an alleged crime surge in Sweden and its links to immigrants.
To top things off, that Fox News segment itself was fact-checked and found to be full of errors and misleading statements.
Then Trump Accused Media of Attacking Him
In response Trump sent out a tweet accusing journalists, who he has recently labeled “an enemy of the people“, of saying large scale immigration in Sweden is not a problem. And the “real news” is the influx of migrants from other countries is causing a crime wave.
Give the public a break – The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2017
Trump, again, is trying to push his claim that immigrants are causing crime without providing any evidence.
Now Let the Propaganda Begin!
Enter the right-wing pro-Trump network Fox News, who recently published this article titled, “Trump may have been unclear, but Sweden experiencing a migrant crime wave“.
The Fox News article makes the case that Trump was actually telling the truth because a single police investigator in Orebro, Sweden named Peter Springare wrote a super-racist Facebook post a few weeks prior which claimed his five-day caseload was, “Mohammed, Mahmod, Ali, again and again.”
Springare’s post listed five rapes, three assaults, a pair of extortions, blackmail, an attempted murder, violence against police and a robbery. According to Springare, the suspects were all from Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Turkey – save for one Swedish man nabbed in a drug-related case.
Just to be clear, Fox News’ proof was just one guy’s experience over less than a week, and taking him at his word no less. Seeing that Sweden employs about 29,000 police officers who report on crimes year-round, that is a really small sample size they are holding up in order to make your case.
If Fox News wanted to be honest and provide quality reporting, they would have presented their viewers with actual data from the The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, known there as Brå.
If we take into account the, preliminary figures for 2016 which show that offenses against individual persons was up slightly, but still at the same levels as recent years, we can clearly see crime in Sweden has remained largely the same, even as more immigrants are living in the country.
What Fox News did was take the racist ramblings of ONE police officer over the course of a few days (without any evidence) and hold that up to ALL police officers in Sweden over the course of a decade and say, “these two are equal.”
They are not equal.
Fox News was dishonest with their viewers by ignoring the vast body of evidence that disagreed with their conclusions in order to push a false narrative to their viewers that Donald Trump really knew what he was talking about.
That, is propaganda.