From a PR perspective, Sweden isn’t doing itself any favours right now.
The famous American rapper A$AP Rocky and his entourage was harassed by two men in the streets of Stockholm. As was documented on video by the American rapper and his entourage via social media, they decided to fight back.
Swedish authorities put A$AP Rocky in custody and due in part to the inherent slowness of Swedish bureaucracy, this relatively simple matter of a street brawl couldn’t be resolved swiftly. The rapper’s administration eventually had to cancel his European tour1.
Getting Caught in Swedish Bureaucracy
From a legal viewpoint, there seems to be a specific condition making it difficult for Swedish authorities to manage this incident somewhat effectively:
A$AP Rocky, given his tour schedule and weak ties to Sweden as a country, could be seen as a flight risk.
Sweden’s leading expert on criminal behaviour and the justice system, Leif GW Persson, noted that that this whole matter should have been resolved much faster; his fear is that this whole controversy gave a local prosecutor the opportunity to spend as much time in the international spotlight as possible.
Why Public Opinion is Siding with A$AP Rocky
International public opinion is siding with A$SAP Rocky not because they think that celebrities should be treated any differently in the eyes of the law, but because they are sympathetic to his reaction as he was being harassed in the street of a foreign country. The general conception is rather that the assailants got was was coming to them. And this is why Sweden’s unison no-one is above the law defence has virtually no effect on public opinion.
Sweden generally has a good reputation internationally. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not to be regarded as a strength in this particular situation; it just makes the fall from grace that much higher. The sharper the contrast, the higher the newsworthiness.
Negative PR Effects for Sweden
The A$AP Rocky controversy is causing three negative PR effects for Sweden:
1. Short-term: The onslaught of negative press for Sweden around the globe are putting Sweden’s reputation as a fair and safe democracy into question. Is socialism systematically putting the rights of victimised demographics first — even when they are assailants? Or are Swedish bureaucrats simply starved for attention?
2. Intermediate: Followers and fans of A$AP Rocky, including social media power houses like Kanye West and the Kardashian family, other celebrities planning tour stops in Sweden, all will have sufficient firepower to criticise Sweden long after this issue has been “resolved” legally — with a devastating cultural impact.
3. Long-term: The effort to promote Sweden internationally is the primary concern of many institutions, from the Swedish royal family to organisations dealing with human rights, climate change, import/export, tourism, and peace-keeping diplomacy. The loss of investment value for Sweden could be estimated in billions of Euros over time.