by Samuel Forster
In just a matter of days, on Tuesday, July 30th, the trial of A$AP Rocky will begin. Last month, while touring in Stockholm, the American rapper was arrested for assaulting a young man who was apparently following him and his entourage.
Upon news of Rocky’s arrest there flowed a PR-team-orchestrated river of crocodile tears from the eyes of America’s most fashionable socialites. “I stand with Rocky and request his release from Swedish Officials,” posted G-Eazy. “Stand with @asvpxrocky. Support human rights,” tweeted Shawn Mendes, prompting millions of followers to echo the sentiment. Both of these cultural icons, along with dozens more, directed their fans to a change.org petition created by Rocky’s supporters, a document that has alleged Swedish officials of inhumane treatment:
“The conditions of the facility are horrific. Some of the inhumane conditions Rocky and his colleagues are facing at the Stockholm Detention Center include 24/7 solitary confinement, restriction of amenities for the most basic of human functions, access to palatable and life sustaining food as well as unsanitary conditions.”
Horrific, indeed. It sounds a lot like that cave where the Taliban kept Tony Stark in the first Ironman. If you’re more of a DC fan, call to mind that weird quarry dungeon thing that Batman is forced to climb out of. If you’re a self-respecting adult who doesn’t watch superhero movies, just think of any cartoonishly cliché Hollywood prison scene. Rusty everything; a concrete mattress; an aggressive, overbearing screw; some threatening cellmate with a face tattoo who might try to buttfuck you. Check, check, check and check. Definitely inhumane.
Okay, now, if you know even a bit about Sweden, this description should sound bizarre. The country ranks 7th in human development, 3rd in government transparency, and 4th in adherence to the rule of law. I would insert hyperlinks, but the actual position doesn’t really matter. Depending on which indices you prefer, it might be a slot higher or lower, depending on the year, bouncing around with Switzerland, New Zealand, and its Scandinavian neighbours.
So, play it out in your mind. A$AP Rocky gets thrown in your jail, and you, a middle-aged Swedish bureaucrat who has probably never heard of the guy thinks to yourself, “Hey, I should totally disregard all of the rules of our legal system to make this guy’s life hell!”
Is this what you think happened? The Swedish government just has some sort of intractable hip-hop-style beef with A$AP? God, you people are insufferable. Maybe the prosecutor will drop a diss-track as an opening statement.
(A scene from Unbroken (2014) wherein Imperial Japanese POW Officers force hundreds of prisoners to punch one of the other prisoners in the face. A$AP Rocky’s Swedish defence team has not commented on whether or not Kronoberg Jail implements this specific practice.)
The hypocrisy of the situation is twofold.
Firstly, it should be noted that the celebrities and pundits who routinely shit on American interventionism, those who insist that America is not the world’s police, are the same ones who are demanding diplomatic resources be invested in this pressing foreign crisis.
"These are the people who think that Uncle Sam has no business monitoring the Strait of Hormuz but a cardinal responsibility to intervene in the judiciary of the Swedes."
Of course, they don’t actually think this—nobody does. They pretend because ethnomasochism and self-loathing fill a problem-shaped hole in their lives while the rest of the world has actual probelms.
Secondly, and much more glaringly, is the issue of bail. In America, as is often lamented by activists, the bail system is great if you have money. If you don’t, well, sucks to suck. Unfortunately for Rocky, the Swedes don’t hold this variable contingent on the depth of your wallet or the magnificence of your facial features. You can’t just drop a stack of Benjamin’s on the scale of Lady Justice, a reality that is decidedly alien to volatile A-listers and their indignant fans.
The whole thing is stupid. It’s the cultural haut monde—those who make a living off of superficial anti-Americanism—casting outrageous aspersions at Sweden, a country they idolize in virtually all other contexts.
As for the characteristically boisterous tweets of 45 in support of the hapless Rocky, it’s a winning move. Nobody in Trump’s base gives a fuck about rap, or Sweden for that matter. There is, however, a contingent of coastal voters stupid enough to think an incident like this has a real connection to race-relations and criminal justice policy. To these people, even a gesture as hollow as a tweet has the potential to bolster approval. Ahh, democracy.