Accuracy in Media

President Trump’s ideas are catching on around the world. Countries in Europe and elsewhere are embracing national identity, protecting borders and limiting immigration.

So, when members of these new political forces make gains, the mainstream media has taken to describing them in the least-favorable terms imaginable.

Sweden provided such an example this week. A center-right party that favors restrictions on immigration in the famously immigrant-friendly country got close enough in the election to force significant changes to the governing coalition that runs the country.

The center-left Social Democrats, who have won every election there since 1917, won 40.6 percent of the vote, the center-right bloc took 40.2 percent, and the Sweden Democrats, the Trump-style party with regard to immigration, captured nearly 18 percent.

But stories refer to the parties that did share power as “mainstream” and “centrist,” and parties that have aligned with Trump for more restrictive policies on immigration as “far right,” “nativist,” “neo-Nazi” and other epithets.

CNN’s was typical. “Sweden has been plunged into political uncertainty after both the main centrist coalitions failed to win a majority in general elections Sunday, and as the far-right anti-immigration party gained ground, further fracturing the vote.”

What about a third party gaining seats makes further fractures the vote or why a party pushing its way into the coalition plunges the country into political uncertainty was not revealed. What was revealed is that both of the parties that were in power may “have to renege on promises to never work with the far-right Sweden Democrats, a party that has roots in the neo-Nazi movement and has capitalized on the nation’s growing migration fears.”

The Guardian’s headline read: “Swedish election” deadline as far right makes gains – as it happened.” But a subhead read: “Sweden set for political uncertainty after tight vote where smaller parties including the far right make gains at the expense of major parties.”

And two teases to other articles appeared just below that. One read: “Sweden election: Political uncertainty looms after deadlock” and another: “Analysis: Far right surge upends Europe’s most stable political order.”

The Daily Intelligencer, a product of New York Magazine, headlined its story: “The Threat Posed by Europe’s Far-Right Surge is Much Bigger Than One Election.” The story, by Heather Hurlburt, warned we may not be worried enough about this.

“If anything, the actual threat in Western Europe – the collapse in support for the mainstream political parties that dominated the last 70 years, and the space for extremism that opens – is under-appreciated, not overblown. And what’s wiggling under the blanket in Europe should concern Americans who are focused on the midterms, seeing a blue wave as the solution to many of their problems.”

Hurlburt warned the party that is part of Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition in Bavaria, is “trying to fend off the threat posed by the far-right Alternative for Germany,” which has called for closing the border with Austria and putting newly arrived immigrants into camps.

In “Five takeaways about the Swedish election – and the far-right wave across Europe,” the Washington Post’s Sheri Berman wrote that Sweden had reduced the power of its centrist parties, left and right, “while boosting that of a populist, far-right, anti-immigrant party.”

The first takeaway read: “Voters across Europe are abandoning traditional parties – resulting in unstable governments.” No evidence was offered as to what makes these governments unstable.

Another read: “Populism is rising even in prosperous, progressive Sweden.” Still another: “Populism has exploited dissatisfaction with economic and social change and the failures of mainstream parties.”

Jeremy Cliffe, a columnist for The Economist, summed up the trend in reporting on these elections in two tweets. One talked about how the underperformance of the Sweden Democrats “relative to US/UK media hysteria is part of a depressingly familiar pattern.

In the other, he wrote: “Why? It’s quite simple. A one-dimensional story of Europe returning to the 1930s, of Nazis sweeping to power in Germany/Sweden/wherever gets so, so many more clocks than a nuanced tale of fragmentation and value shifts. And hey, we all have bills to pay.”

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