The Finnish and European media still have a lot to learn about racism and intolerance

by , under Enrique

One matter that is interesting to note when looking at the media before the historic victory of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party in April 2011, is the present controversy surrounding the Youth League of the National Coalition Party’s program. Is the media giving racists, radical anti-immigration groups and voices inflated respectability and importance?

The whole Susanna Koski affair is a case and point. Like poking an angry beehive, there is initial shock that soon subsides after the stings don’t hurt because we’re wearing protective clothing. Our protective clothing to the far right and anti-immigration message of the National Coalition Party’s youth wing program appeared like a knee-jerk reaction, which subsided thanks in part to our prejudice.

In other words, the program of the National Coalition Party’s youth league started to sink in.

Why is the Finnish media swept off its feet and dazzled so often by intolerance, racism and nationalism? Our media has been so generous in the past to these social ills that it was in part responsible for the rise of the PS and the election of a number of far right MPs like Jussi Halla-aho and James Hirvisaari, both sentenced for ethnic agitation.

Migrant Tales published recently a story where it looked at how the Finnish media gave inflated respectability and importance to racists in this country. This is nothing new in Europe. It happened in Britain about thirty years ago and is happening here in Finland right now before our eyes.

Below are some of  obvious symptoms when the media writes about cultural diversity:

  • White sources are always used as authorities when immigrants and minorities are concerned
  • Editors of Finland’s main dailies are white
  • Immigrant and visible minority voices are rarely if ever permitted to make their case
  • Rarely if ever do editors ask if whites are the source of the”immigrant problem”
  • We give inflated respectability and importance to racists because they mirror our attitudes
  • In Finland, the stronger racism became, the more airtime it gets
  • The rise of racism in our society and our coverage of it reveals how unbalanced and uncritical our media is
  • When it comes to fighting racism, the media are part of the problem

Another important point I would like to add to the list above is conflict of interest. People who are card-carrying members of a political party write and promote their views in the national media.

A good example is columnist Tuomas Enbuske, who is a Helsingin Sanomat columnist and hosts a popular television talk show. He interviewed this week Koski, and gave the youth leader of the National Coalition Party a platform to spread her neoliberal and racist points of view.

Embuske had advertised on Uusi Suomi that he is a member of the National Coalition Party.

No, the show hosted by Enbuske was not outraged by what Koski suggested, that the Ombudsman for Minorities office and laws that govern ethnic agitation should be scrapped.  Why? Because all of them are white.

In my opinion, the Youth League of the National Coalition Party’s program to scrap ethnic agitation laws have the potential to unleash the same hate as the Nuremberg Laws did in 1935 against the Jews.

If the Finnish media wants to bolster its credibility, it should look at dailies like The Guardian. Possibly then our embattled media, which is the victim of Finland’s growing nationalism and intolerance, can start to gain more credibility in the eyes of the public.

It’s odd but those that want to change radically our country, like the Youth League of the National Coalition Party and others, believe that we can “debate” matters like more intolerance. To put it in a white Finnish perspective, can we “debate” watering down women’s rights, lower pay and further sexism?

Can we “debate” greater approval of human rights violations?

I doubt it.

Our Nordic social welfare state has made remarkable gains in the areas of social equality. We should defend these rights instead of “debate” how to further and make social inequality more acceptable.

A media that is critical and independent has a very important role to play in Finland and the rest of Europe today as far right and ultra nationalistic voices gain momentum.

Those voices of intolerance, which never give you any effective solutions except for scapegoating, are the real threat to Europe together with rising social inequality and poverty.

The media plays a crucial role in being the critical watchdog of our democratic system.

Without it we’re doomed.

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