Should we be surprised that vigilante groups like the Soldiers of Odin, hate forums like Hommaforum and anti-immigration parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, racist online publications like MV-lehti have grown and captured our darkest imagination?
Another rude reminder of our links to such social ills fell on semi-deaf ears when YLE exposed how the leadership of the Soldiers of Odin pose with weapons and display Nazi symbols in a private Facebook group.
How is it possible that a vigilante group not only got registered as an association but continues to be one in light of what YLE exposed? Can registered associations in Finland teach their members how to use weapons against migrants?
Should we be surprised by such hostility, racism, and bigotry? Why are we scratching our heads in semi-disbelief by the fact that one out of every journalist received threats, according to a survey by the Union of Journalists in Finland?
How is this possible that a Nordic welfare state like ours, which has one of the highest standards of living and education systems in the world, appears incapable of challenging the rise of xenophobic parties, ever-growing racism, and bigotry?
If we looked in the mirror what would we see staring back at us?
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The first blow came in 2011 when the PS, a populist anti-immigration party with links to the far right, won 39 seats in parliament. What happened during that year and the previous decade was a prelude of the things we see today.
There is nothing more ridiculous than some of the arguments used by parties like the PS to justify their bigotry and hostility towards migrants and minorities. One of these is that society used to give a too rosy picture of migrants due to censorship and political correctness.
What the PS did was to capitalize on bigotry and xenophobia for its own political ends. Their message was clear: We hate groups like the Somalis and Muslims, and if you vote for us we will take care of this “problem.”
Since solving this “problem” would require a solution like boxcars used to transport Jews to death camps during World War 2, they could never fulfill their promise to voters. In government, the PS has seen a record number of asylum seekers in Finland.
The wishy-washy statements we’ve heard too long from government ministers, politicians, police service, media are the fruition of social ills like bigotry, racism, and hostility towards asylum seekers, migrants, and minorities. Playing down racism and bigotry with the help of silence or mixed statements is a political declaration that gives space to such ills.
Finland shouldn’t be surprised by the rise in xenophobia (Hello! We have, for example, the PS in government and about 25% of all white Finnish police voted for this party!) since who we see in the mirror is ourselves.
All of these factors that are hostile to people who are different from the majority have the opportunity to see another day of hate thanks to our denial and ethnocentrism.
Our reaction to racism should be first and foremost a reaction.
Racism and bigotry will grow in Finland because few politicians and the media have the guts and tha ability to challenge such social ills that polarize and impoverish our society.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.