Yle published Saturday, a study that tells us something we have known: The fear of losing one’s economic status is fuel for the rise of populist parties like the Perussuomnalaiset (PS). Hanna Wss, the researcher, states that the rise of populism in countries like Sweden, the United Kingdom (Brexit), and the election of President Donald Trump are similar examples.
No where in the story, however, is the word racism and scapegoating mentioned and how these social ills are fueled by social inequality.
A question: Does the fall in our economic status turn us into supporters of populist parties? Some will vote for such parties while others won’t irrespective of their socioeconomic situation.
Similarly, does civil war and the deterioration of one’s economic situation in another country makes me carry out acts of terrorism? For some, it may be the case but for the great number of people, it is not.
Why doesn’t Wass’ study, or even the Yle article, point out that even if lower-class USAmericans vote for Trump, he has only worsened their situation by fueling greater inequality and by giving billionaires big tax breaks?
Moreover, what is the role of social media to the rise of populism and xenophobia? What about our exceptionalism and its role?
The short stint of the PS in Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government exposed exactly that. Apart from the Islamophobic party’s neoliberal economic stands (less social welfare), they incorrectly believed that tightening immigration policy would solve the country’s ills.
Apart from being another toothless article by Yle on a topic like social inequality, why does the researcher and PS Vice President Riikka Purra, who is quoted in the story and agrees with the findings, are framed like two models from a fashion magazine in the story?
The study is not only incomplete and helps further the political legitimacy of the PS’ racist and populist policies, it does not answer one important question: Does economic inequality turn us into racists and ultranationalist? What role does it have on white Finnish supremacy?
The fact that about 17% of voters supported the PS in 2011, 2015, and 2019 parliamentary elections reveal, in my opinion, not only the failure of the state to guarantee economic wellbeing to the population but the failure of our education system and society to challenge some of our darkest impulses like racism.
Thus the study is incomplete, a disappointment, white denial or fragility, that justifies xenophobia and ultranationalism in our society.