What happens if you mess up, saying something stupid? Do you apologise, or try and turn it to your advantage? The US President who committed something of a faux pas over Sweden the other day, but he has taken the second approach.It was the Wimbledon final, 1975. The defending champion was considered unbeatable: Jimmy Connors, a man who seemed to be taking Rod Laver’s title as the best tennis player ever. Against him was Arthur Ashe, the black tennis player who have never beaten Connors.
Connors had this knack to beating the opponent by taking whatever shots were fired at him, and hitting them back harder. He turned his opponents' attack into his attack. Ashe came along and varied his game, mixing slow balls with fast balls, flummoxing his opponent. It was one of the all-time classic Wimbledon finals.
Jimmy Connors was beaten, leaving his air of invincibility in tatters.
US President Donald Trump has been flummoxing his critics, with his latest announcements concerning Sweden.
To remind you, at a rally in Florida, he 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."
And at first it was funny. Exactly what did happen in Sweden ‘last night’? It appears that the night in question was especially dull in the country. A former Swedish Prime Minister enquired of the President: “what has he been smoking.”
So, does a sheepish Trump appear before the media, and confess his error, or explain a communication misunderstanding saying he was referring to a Fox TV documentary?
Well he did refer to the documentary, but the President comes out fighting, trying to turn the whole saga to his advantage.
Yesterday, he Tweeted: “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!”
We are all, of course, familiar with the tactic, we experienced it at primary school.
But in just 140 characters, President Trump achieves two things: he reinforces the idea that the media who so despide him are riddled with bias, and are out of touch, and that Sweden, thanks to its immigration policy, is suffering a crime wave, which they are seeking to deny, all part of the fake news/denial/conspiracy agenda of the liberals.
Fox TV has not been slow to wade in. Its presenter Tucker Carson said: “It seems like we may be missing the point of the story, which is, there has been a massive social cost associated with the refugee policies and the immigration policies of Western Europe. . . Fifty years of immigration policy is coming to flower in Europe. We’re not paying any attention. We’re not drawing any of the obvious lessons from it. It's not working. That's the real point here.”
Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven said yesterday: "We have opportunities, we have challenges, we're working (on) them every day. But I think also we must all take responsibility for using facts correctly, and for verifying any information that we spread."
The evidence on any link between immigration and crime in Sweden is mixed, to say the least. Data released recently suggested that 2016 saw no significant increase in crime over 2015, although there was a mild rise in rapes and assaults. There has been a link between crime and migrants, but mostly between migrants.
The New York Times, quoted Manne Gerell, a doctoral student in criminology at Malmo University in Sweden as saying: "Immigration will come with some cost, and we will likely have a bit more crime — but that’s in a society with low crime rates and in a society that works really well, so in my opinion, it’s something we can live with . . . I know everybody won’t agree with that. But immigration will not double the crime rate, make everybody go broke or turn Sweden into a living hell.”
The real point is that the facts do not back-up what either President Trump or Fox TV are suggesting. And in any case, the crime rate per head of population is at a level that the US can only envy.
But we live in an age when facts don’t matter, what does matter is how we feel. And millions of Americans feel that they don’t like immigration, and the more that the media respond with facts, the more these facts are hit back, with even greater venom, creating confusion, and highlighting to many people, how out of touch the liberal media is.
Maybe, to respond to this approach, you need to mix your game up a bit, and throw in some slow balls, too.