Partisan rhetoric damages reader perspectives

28 February 2017
Nathan Gibbons, Distribution Manager

The recent reactions from both sides of political media to Donald Trump’s “Sweden comment” are a prime example of how biased news sources are more concerned with opinionating than informing.

Controversy surrounding illegal and legal immigration as well as a multinational refugee crisis abounds, and it, along with many other factors, is helping to divide the country. There is likely a solution with enough common ground to please the general public. With the news acting as partisan and dismissive as it is, however, we may never find it.

Take Donald Trump’s rally in Florida two weeks ago. Speaking on the importance of national security, the President said “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’re having problems like they never thought possible.” In the same breath he mentioned recent victims of terror attacks Brussels, Nice, and Paris.

Trump’s “Sweden comment” threw viewers for a loop, and no one is completely sure what he meant. On Sunday, he clarified he was referring to a Fox News segment in which filmmaker Ami Horowitz claimed to show a connection between a rise in crime and asylum seekers in Sweden. A White House Spokesman already claimed the president didn’t mean “last night,” but what’s been going on recently in the country.

Once some realized Trump had insulted Sweden’s immigration policy, many turned petty in the face of criticism. The official Twitter account of the Embassy of Sweden in the US tweeted “We look forward to informing the US administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies.” Late night show hosts attacked the president, and newsmen around the world condescended that everything was fine. Before Trump had clarified his “last night” comment, former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt tweeted “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”

Were it not for a later riot in Stockholm, most news outlets would have buried any notion that Sweden had a problem at all. The following Monday after the rally, an arrest of a drug suspect led to escalating violence in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood. Rioters vandalized shops, burned cars, and threw rocks at police. Multiple people were injured. Left-leaning news sites reported reluctantly on the event, standing as far back as possible and keeping Trump as their main talking point. Right wing news and tabloid sites were quick to jump on the event, and one article contains the quotation “Trump was RIGHT” on the top of the page.

That whole week of news articles leaves a pretty good study for those interested in how important issues are getting lost in partisan nonsense. Left-wing sites took their side, right-wing news sites did the same, and both swore to disagree on the importance of the riots. In Sweden, one of the most open-door nations in the world when it comes to asylum seeking, officials moved too quickly to defend themselves.

Sweden’s integration isn’t going as well as they’d like you to believe. Immigrants are finding it incredibly difficult to find jobs and ghettoization is occurring. Sweden’s not a war zone, but there are low income cities-within-cities in which crime is rampant. There is some covering up, defining away and dismissing of migrant crime in Europe by government institutions and news outlets alike. Country officials should be more open about their asylum difficulties and news outlets should be providing that information to the public. Open faced communication will lead to better discussion and integration of immigrants. Sweden and many Eastern European countries are a learning experience other countries are going to miss out on if things don’t change.

As readers, we should hold our news to higher standards and fact-check articles against one another. Instead of more partisan sites like Fox News or Huffington Post, I’d suggest the NYT as a trustworthy, slightly left-of-center news site. The outlet is liberal but does seem to strive for a more “objective” view of events. Don’t get your news from sites only focused on popularity, like Facebook or Buzzfeed.