A PS city councilman’s “justified” racism

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Perussuomalaiset Rovaniemi city councilman Hemmo Koskimies is a good example of how some politician have lost touch with  fairness and become the leaders of social-media lynch mobs. In a blog entry headlined, “Justified racism – an ‘n-word’ lives alone in a 75 m2 home,” is an example of how low a PS politician can stoop to promote hatred.

Migrant Tales got in touch with the editor-in-chief  Markku Huusko and later on with producer, Jarmo Koponen, about Koskimies’ claims. A well-respected publication would ask the blogger to put out a correction.

I phoned the City of Rovaniemi as well to verify Koskimies’ claim that an immigrant was abusing the system. The answer I got from a city official strongly suggests that Koskiniemi took the lazy route by not verifying his facts meticulously.

Racism has not only spread in Finland thanks to people like Koskimies’ blog entries but with the silence and inaction of the Finnish media. Their passivity has given racism an ever-greater foothold in Finnish society.

Every one has the right to express himself. Even so, one does not have the right to spread misinformation. When this happens, the publication and journalist have the responsiblity of putting out a correction.

I recommend the following procedure if you read a blog or story that is similar to what Koskimieni wrote: (1) Get in touch with the source and find out if what the writer is claiming is true; (2) write or phone the editor or news editor and point out the mistake or wrongful claim; and (3) if the publication does nothing, get in touch directly with the Council for Mass Media in Finland (JSN).

Unfortunately, the PS’ victory in April has given some politicians the mistaken notion that it is now perfectly ok to insult and spread misinformation against immigrants.

The contempt for the Finnish media of some PS politicians like Jussi Halla-aho reveals how distant their values are to two crucial pillars of the real journalist and writer: ethics and fairness.

With a little bit of our own investigative reporting we can challenge some of the malarkey being published on immigrants and refugees in this country.


  1. Mark

    Okay, just to put this ‘neekeri’ argument to bed. Some people say it’s negro and some nigger.

    Normally, words ending in -er are assimulated as -eri or -eeri

    baari = bar
    buskeri = busker
    krakkeri = cracker
    eekkeri = acre (pronounced like -aker in baker)
    hakkeri = hacker
    neekeri = nigger

    Normally, words with -gro, as in negro, are assimulated as -gro

    allegro = allegro
    agronomi = agronomist
    integroida = integrate
    groteski = grotesque
    negroidi = negro

    So, does neekeri refer to nigger or negro? I think the answer is pretty obvious.

  2. Hmmm

    As a native Finn I disagree. Even though your arguments are well founded in technical sense, I feel that connotations of “neekeri” point more towards “negro”. If he had used the word “nekru”, for example, I would say the translation is “nigger”.

  3. JusticeDemon

    Mark

    That’s simply naïve. Finnish is hardly ever encoded English, and least of all in the common context of racial abuse in the midnight queue for the näkkikioski.

    The context of use in this particular case was intentionally pejorative, as can readily be noticed if you replace “neekeri” with some other descriptive term. Use of an adjective already implies that the speaker considers the adjective relevant to the discourse. Now ask yourself what is the relevance of the racial epithet in this context.

  4. JusticeDemon

    Ricky

    This story is a work in progress and your report seems premature.

    Has Uusi Suomi responded to your concerns yet?

    • Enrique

      Good question, JusticeDemon. I want to see what they actually do at the end of the day. Will they require Hemmo Koskiniemi to put out a correction, for example? Let’s wait and see.

  5. JusticeDemon

    Hmmm

    This has been done to death in other threads. Kielitoimisto is satisfied that neekeri is often pejorative and they list it as such in their dictionaries. Finnish public authorities have recommended avoiding this expression, and there is at least one conviction upheld in the court of appeal where the gratuitous use of neekeri by a sports teacher as an allegedly descriptive expression for a student was held to be criminally offensive.

    However, if you would like to attend a meeting of Somaliland seura and use this word descriptively for most of those attending, then we can arrange video cameras and a lawsuit accordingly.

  6. Hmmm

    I never said it is a word that should be used anywhere. I just think that coming from an elderly person, uneducated person etc. it is not automatically intended as an offensive word. Therefore IMO the translation to nigger or negro depends on the situation.

  7. Mark

    JD

    Naive? That’s a bit strong, don’t you think?

    Neekeri is a loanword, and as such, it is interesting to look at it’s probable source, especially as some people seem keen to connect it to negro, as if that was any more acceptable. It isn’t.

    I imagine it was a neutral word in English at the time it entered Finnish (pre-1960s). And the meaning has obviously changed at a slower rate than it has in English.

    I’m not dismissing context just because I don’t mention it.

  8. JusticeDemon

    Hmmm

    Neekeri in Finnish is similar in some respects to cretin in English. It’s still just about possible to use the term without intending to give offence, but the burden of showing this honourable intention has shifted to the user.

    In most cases the term serves no non-pejorative purpose whatsoever. What was the non-pejorative purpose of using it in the article by Hemmo Koskimies?

  9. Seppo

    Mark

    You are making a big mistake assuming that the word neekeri would be a loan from English. Now I don’t have a dictionary here but I am quite sure that we’ve had the word for more than a hundred years, probably since the 19th century when stories from the far away lands arrived to Finland.

    At that time Finnish was still mostly borrowing from Swedish. Contacts with English were quite rare before the second world war. In Swedish that word is ‘neger’, pronounced /neeger/. It’s quite obvious that Finnish got its neekeri from the Swedish neger. The original meaning is the same as ‘negro’, I belive, a black African.

    Equally obvious is, however, that today the word means about the same as ‘nigger’.

  10. Jonas

    At least according to Eija-Riitta Grönros (the chief editor of the dictionary published by Kielitoimisto), the word entered Finnish from Swedish rather than English. But, English clearly colours its usage today. It is clearly offensive on almost all occasions nowadays. Although, of course, 40-50 years ago it was pretty much the only word used to describe coloured people, and thus the elderly may still ignorantly use it without any pejorative meaning.

  11. Mark

    Seppo and JD

    Okay, point taken. I’ve got this one wrong. 🙂

    You have explained something for me, too, why the vowel lengthened. n…ee…keri.

  12. JusticeDemon

    Mark

    Negro was used 15 times in that famous speech by Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963, so it’s fair to say that it was not a pejorative expression in English at that time. It has subsequently fallen out of favour for its association with slavery and so on, but I wouldn’t say that it has become specifically pejorative. The famous collection of extracts from Michael Tippett’s A Child Of Our Time loses a great deal when divorced from the parent work, but I do not consider the collection inappropriately titled in any way.

    I think it’s fairly obvious that neekeri was introduced to the Finnish language as a transliteration of this expression, and it’s similarly clear that the term has developed strongly pejorative overtones in Finnish usage since the 1980s. This has nothing much to do with English.

    It is naïve to suppose that transliteration patterns are fully consistent or that a transliterated expression is in any way semantically bound to the source.

    I understand that negro was the preferred alternative to coloured and that black was specifically offensive in the 1950s.

  13. JusticeDemon

    Ah – one reason why transliteration patterns are inconsistent is that the transliteration route may go via another language. Good point.

  14. Seppo

    Yes. I believe the English negro and the Swedish neger both come from the Spanish/Portuguese ‘negro’, meaning simply ‘black’. Most words of Romance origin haven’t come to Finnish directly but via Swedish.

  15. Seppo

    So the word and its origins as such don’t have anything to do with English but like Jonas wrote, the modern day usage of neekeri is influenced by the usage of nigger in English.

  16. Hmmm

    “What was the non-pejorative purpose of using it in the article by Hemmo Koskimies?”

    Not necessarily anything. I was referring to the original over simplified analysis of Mark.

  17. JusticeDemon

    Hmmm

    Then that use of neekeri fails the justified use test in much the same way as in the sotkamolainen opettaja case 13 years ago.

    Apropos of my previous invitation: no amount of argument will convince a court that neekeri is a technical characterisation of most immigrants from Somalia. This is about as accurate as calling the average Finn an eskimo.

    • Enrique

      JusticeDemon, with respect to the Hemmo Koskiniemi case two things can happen: (1) he we have to put out a correction or (2) the entry will be taken off US. Let’s see what happens.

      My only point here is that if we see similar writing in the future we can do a bit of investigating and demand a correction.

      What makes this matter even more outrageous is that Koskiniemi is an elected official of the city of Rovaniemi.

  18. Mark

    JD

    – “It is naïve to suppose that transliteration patterns are fully consistent or that a transliterated expression is in any way semantically bound to the source.”

    Neither of which I was assuming, just for the record. I can be naive and I’ll hold my hand up if I think I am being naive.

    I thought that the argument that it equates to ‘negro’, which has been made many times, wasn’t backed up if the word clearly appeared to derive from nigger and not negro. Especially as there was a separate word ‘negroidi’ that seemed more obviously to derive from negro. Clearly I was wrong.

    I understand why some Finns want us to believe that neekeri equates with the English word ‘negro’, not simply because that is historically true, but for two other reasons connected to denial of racism. First, ‘negro’ in the English-speaking world, even today, is generally thought of as less offensive, and even accepted by some older blacks. Maybe it was to do with MLK having used the term self-referentially, as you mention.

    Secondly, Finns generally interpret the English word ‘negro’ as less offensive than native speakers do. So the offensiveness of ‘neekeri’ gets watered down twice-over when Finns insist that the translation to English is ‘negro’ – watered down in the English speaking world and in the Finnish perception of the English speaking world.

    I understand your point about not necessarily being semantically bound or consistent with the source. (I mentioned both elements in one draft, but simplified it before posting). But in this case, at least, those points you make are not so relevant. The influence of English while not present in the original coining of the loan word, might yet have had a very strong influence since. Indeed, the change in usage of the word ‘nigger’ has been recorded so extensively in global culture that it would be quite surprising if usage of similar terms in Finnish were not somehow ‘semantically bound’. Indeed, the change in meaning in Finnish clearly reflects this semantic connection.

    In other words, it might be that the English word ‘nigger’ has been most influential in changing the usage of the word ‘neekeri’ in Finnish. So I’m not apologising too strongly for exploring the connections, even if I got off on the wrong foot.

  19. Hmmm

    “Then that use of neekeri fails the justified use test”

    I never intended to say it is justified. All I’m saying is that it is not meant as pejorative term in all cases. There is such a thing as ignorance.

    “This is about as accurate as calling the average Finn an eskimo”

    All I’m going to say about this one is that it is a poor comparison IMO.

  20. JusticeDemon

    Ricky

    As far as I can tell, Hemmo Koskiniemi’s blog content is governed by the rules of the Uusi Suomi comment service. The relevant section seems to be the following (apologies for the long quotation). I have stressed the crucial requirement:

    Puheenvuoro-palvelussa Asiakas voi aloittaa keskustelun omavalintaisesta aiheesta, mutta aloite voi tulla myös Uuden Suomen toimitukselta erikseen merkityissä blogeissa. Palvelun keskustelun perustaneen Asiakkaan velvollisuutena on ylläpitää ja hallinnoida blogia ja sen aiheesta synnyttämää kirjoittelua. Puheenvuoro-palvelukeskustelua hallinnoiva Asiakas sitoutuu siihen, että palvelussa hänen itsensä julkaisema kirjoitus ei ole lain ja hyvien tapojen vastainen taikka sisällöltään ketään millään tavalla loukkaava tai herjaava. Mikäli Puheenvuoro-palvelukeskustelua hallinnoiva Asiakas havaitsee blogissaan toisen Asiakkaan sääntöjen vastaisen kirjoituksen, Asiakas on velvollinen poistamaan kyseisen kirjoituksen Puheenvuoro-palvelukeskustelustaan.

    Asiakkaat vastaavat aina itse siitä, että hänen kirjoituksensa sisältö on lain ja hyvien tapojen mukainen. Asiakkaan kirjoitus ei saa olla sisällöltään ketään millään tavalla loukkaava tai herjaava. Asiakas vastaa siitä, että hänellä on oikeus antaa lähettämänsä kirjoitus Uudelle Suomelle julkaistavaksi.

    Toimituksella on aina oikeus harkintansa mukaan olla julkaisematta tai poistaa kokonaan tai osittain Asiakkaan lähettämä kirjoitus mistä tahansa Palveluntarjoajan Palvelusta. Lisäksi Asiakas myöntää Palveluntarjoajalle oikeuden muokata Uutiskeskustelussa taikka Puheenvuoro-palvelussa Asiakkaan julkaistavaksi tarkoitettua tai jo julkaistua kirjoitusta sopivaksi katsomallaan tavalla tai julkaista kirjoitus vain osittain.

    Mitä edellisessä kappaleessa on sanottu Palveluntarjoajan itsellään pidättämästä kirjoitusten poisto-oikeudesta, koskee myös Puheenvuoro-palvelukeskustelua ylläpitävää Asiakasta Puheenvuoro-palvelun osalta. Lisäksi Uusi Suomi myöntää Puheenvuoro-palvelukeskustelua ylläpitävälle Asiakkaalle Palveluntarjoajan oikeuteen nähden rajoitetun oikeuden muokata kommentillaan Asiakkaan Puheenvuoro-palvelukeskusteluun lähettämää kirjoitusta. Puheenvuoro-palvelukeskustelua ylläpitävän Asiakkaan tulee kuitenkin käyttää muokkausoikeutta vain siten, ettei kirjoituksen sisältö muutu alkuperäisestä.

    Palveluntarjoajalla on oikeus asettaa käyttöehtoja rikkovalle Asiakkaalle kirjoituskielto. Harkintavalta kirjoituskiellon asettamisesta tai sen pituudesta on yksin Uuden Suomen toimituksella.

    Asiakas vastaa siitä, ettei hänen käyttämänsä aineisto loukkaa kolmannen tekijänoikeudella tai muulla immateriaalioikeudella suojattua materiaalia taikka Asiakkaan lakiin tai muihin sopimuksiin perustuvia velvollisuuksia. Tällaisen materiaalin julkaiseminen tai levittäminen ilman oikeudenhaltijan lupaa on ehdottomasti kiellettyä. Asiakas vastaa Palveluntarjoajan käyttöön lähettämäänsä aineistoon kohdistuvista kolmannen korvaus- tai muista vaatimuksista.

    Muilla Asiakkailla on oikeus ilmoittaa Palvelussa sopimattomaksi katsomastaan kirjoituksesta valvojalle sähköposti osoitteeseen [www-admin@uusisuomi.fi]. Myös Uuden Suomen toimituksen valvoja suorittaa kirjoitusten valvontaa.

    • Enrique

      Hi JusticeDemon, what you put in bold, hänen itsensä julkaisema kirjoitus ei ole lain ja hyvien tapojen vastainen taikka sisällöltään ketään millään tavalla loukkaava tai herjaava, put Hemmo Koskiniemi’s writing in perspective. What this Koskiniemi wrote is so low that I would expect Uusi Suomi to strike his blog entry from the website. What do you think?

    • Enrique

      JusticeDemon, apart from writing this stuff on his blog, I am certain that Lapin Kansa would be interested as well. Haven’t we found a “local Hakkarainen” here?

  21. JusticeDemon

    The blog entry does not identify the individual concerned, other than by certain general features, one of which is a racial epithet. Indeed there is every indication that the blog author does not even know how to contact this individual in order to hear his side of the story. This shifts the focus of the blog entry from the specific to the general, making it a characterisation of the nigger neighbour. Read in this way, the blog entry falls foul of section 10 of chapter 11 of the Penal Code.

    My feeling is that the blogger should remove the entry and issue an apology. Failing this, Uusi Suomi needs to exercise its discretionary powers. The next stage after this is JSN and a criminal report.

    I am looking forward to reading the blogger’s explanation. My guess is that this will be based on the scarequotes that the blogger chose to use around the word neekeri, as if this somehow distances the blogger from the content of the blog entry.

  22. William O'Gorman

    The scary thing is that this kind of comment is becoming more and more desensitized. The use of verbal -racial discrimmination no matter how smal , should be stopped in its tracks. Disgusting to hear someone in a public position make this kind of comment.

  23. Allan

    So what about the fact in question? I mean the original man living in that house who called Koskenniemi up and is complaining that “the Finns get 2nd class treatment in their own country”? What have you done to alleviate his concerns? You are more interested in some nigger word and that makes you lot a bunch of cretins.

    • Enrique

      Allan, there are two matters that are of serious concern with respect to Hemmo Koskiniemi’s actions: (1) he labels in a hostile fashion an immigrant on he-said-she-said information; (2) it’s not true but overly exaggerated.

  24. JusticeDemon

    Allan

    Your contributions are worse than useless when you have been drinking.

    If I tell you that some PS city councillor has a large collection of Nazi memorabilia and is collecting firearms for an assault on a refugee reception centre, will you then immediately put this in a blog on Uusi Suomi and criticise anyone who questions your journalistic integrity by accusing them of doing nothing to address my concerns?

    Please sober up before you answer.

    • Enrique

      –Since when have you been interested in journalistic integrity?

      Is your question a hit below the belt or open support for Hemmo Koskiniemi?

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