By Enrique Tessieri
Finland has been inflicted for a number of years by people who think they can say and write anything they please about immigrants and visible minorities in Finland. It’s only natural that when you let out racism and prejudice to roam freely in society unchecked, things will eventually snap as we saw in Norway in July. What did Helena Eronen, Perussuomalaiset (PS) MP James Hirvisaari’s aide, do wrong?
Eronen blames the scandal on her own ignorance, according to an interview she gave to YLE. “The strong reactions to it [blog entry] were to be expected,” she said.
Reactions to what she wrote about sleeve emblems for foreigners to help the police in Finland have been published in Sweden and now throughout Russia and former IVY countries such as Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
Eronen blew it to put it lightly. If you are white and try to be “sarcastic” about other nationalities, work for a right-wing populist party like the PS and your boss is none other than Hirvisaari, you are going to get in hot water. She forgot as well those whom she was being sarcastic about, the immigrants, and if this may be offensive to some groups.
Who are the losers and winners of the scandal?
The biggest loser shouldn’t be difficult to figure out. That’s Eronen and the negative debating atmosphere in Finland concerning immigrants and visible immigrants.
Do I think that Eronen’s column was in bad taste? Certainly. But there may be a silver lining revealing that matters may have changed in Finland since Jussi Halla-aho and his xenophobic band roamed the net with near-impunity.
Some, like MP Hirvisaari, who was fined for hate speech in December, still don’t get it. They live somewhere deep in the previous decade when defaming and insulting immigrant groups and cultures was a free-for-all social media lynching job.
Hirvisaari added more damage and salt to Eronen’s wound Wednesday by republishing his own blog the column that was taken off Uusi Suomi. He went as far as to claim that the scandal is an example of the rot that inflicts the media in Finland.
The biggest winner could be the PS. Eronen could give them a scapegoat opportunity to wash their hands of all the racism and prejudice they have spread in Finland since last year’s election, according to a column by Jussi Jalonen. Such a sacrificial object looks especially inviting for the PS with the municipal election nearing in October.
Finland, and I am certain Eronen as well, have learned a valuable lesson: When you write about immigrants and visible minorities you should be extra careful and try to see the world from their perspective when dressing a column up in sarcasm.
If you have that ability, probably one of the first things you’d do is drop the whole topic and write about something else.