Finland, the PS and far right: How long before the chickens come home to roost?

by , under Enrique

I’ve lived and worked in countries like Colombia and Argentina during the dirty war (1976-83), where people were and still are killed for what they write. Never would I have imagined that I’d receive my first death threats twenty years ago in this country, Finland. The threats and harassment haven’t stopped.  

When I read about this serious problem affecting university researchers who study a social ill like racism and even journalists, I not only wonder how we have got here but how long it will take before something snaps.

Unions representing university researchers brought up the issue in mid-February, stating that threats to their members at the University of Eastern Finland  have been on the rise. A new story on MTV3 today reveals the same problem on a much wider scale.

Another sad example was Jyväskylä, were a group of neo-Nazi thugs disrupted a book event on the far right in Finland.

It’s clear that those who harass and threaten people for what they do or write, have little respect for our democratic institutions. They are like lawless vigilantes full of bravado but turn to cowards when their identity is  exposed.

Racism and hatred are sexy for some people. Some politicians fall in love with them because it brings them to the public light and feeds their low self-esteem, narcissism and bizarre ego trips. What they don’t know – or don’t want to know – is that racism and hatred know no master. It can bite back, and hard.

Anders Breivik is a good example. He’s the dog on the short leash that turned into a mass murderer. The smoking gun were the hate sites he visited and that fed his twisted world where, like in a fairy tale, you can rewrite history to suit your ignorance.

What is Perussuomalaiset (PS) leader Timo Soini going to do about the extremists in the PS like MP Jussi Halla-aho, James Hirvisaari, Olli Immonen, Juho Eerola and others?

Nothing because he can’t and because he has already let the ogre out of the cage. Living on an overdose of wishful thinking, the PS leader believes he has control over the violence that his party has sown but well understands that he is now a hostage.

That monster that lurks in our society spreading hatred is the same one that is threatening university researchers, journalists and writers that challenge it.

Like a cancer, we must isolate and neutralize it.

Or maybe we should continue covering our eyes and leave everything to chance.



  1. Mark

    Like a cancer, we must isolate and neutralize it.

    This is written in poor taste, Enrique. Talk of ‘neutralisation’ belongs to the PS. Rather, they need exposing and challenging. I know you do a lot of that, but the more you ‘monsterfy’ them without actually challenging their arguments as well, the more you provide a ‘resistence’ that will actually help many of them grow stronger.

    If you want to stop them growing stronger, then don’t try to use the same ‘strong arm’ tactics they use; you have to show them for what they are – weak! You have to reveal the weaknesses in their policies, in their arguments, in their logic, in their moral reasoning, in their ‘problem-solving’, and in their generalisations about the issues, including immigration. It is only by showing their weakness over and over that you will stop them getting stronger public support.

    There is no short cut to dealing with the Far Right, nationalism and populism in Europe. For example, references to Nazis and monsters and evil are all very well, but unless you can make the direct connection, you do more harm than good. There is no easy way, there is only hard work. And it is hard work – because often you can only fight their generalisations through facts, and they are not always easy to come by. It’s easy for them to use one fact or event to vilify a community, but harder to reply to that with more relevant and detailed facts. Indeed, the easiest way is to reverse it and show them how easy it is to vilify Finns in the same way, but then we open ourselves to being ‘Finn haters’. It’s not the best way because it’s open to misunderstanding, and Halla-aho very cunningly tried to use a similar argument to actually vilify Muslims; the ‘what if I said this about Muslims’ ploy.

    There is NO easy way. We need the facts, and we need the state’s institutions to ensure that we have the facts, the full facts (i.e. proper economic and social analysis), otherwise, it’s going to get undone on this immigration issue. We need the State to issue clear guidelines on how things like crime are analysed and presented. It was shocking the way that per capita crime rates were used to vilify Africans when it was very clear that such comparisons were completely distorting. The issue has to be dealt with, and institutional racism must also be tackled.

    Politics, if nothing else, is an exercise is setting priorities. The issue for PS is to justify why they think immigration is the biggest problem currently facing Finland. That’s the argument they will utterly fail on, every time, simply because it isn’t the biggest problem. Ageing, care of older people, domestic violence, ‘silent’ rape, alcohol consumption, lifestyle habits, economic burdens, personal debt, growing social inequalities, economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, each of these consitute far bigger issues to focus on, both in terms of the ‘harms’ that people suffer, in terms of the economic impacts, and the well-being impacts.

    Not only that, but there is the long-term and the short-term picture. People like J-Ha point to some ‘short-term’ problems in Sweden because of their accelerated immigration programme compared to Finland’s. But in 15 to 20 years, Sweden will be coping better with ageing populations. It’s not the total answer (if it creates another population bubble 40 years down the line), but it’s definitely part of it.

    For those that oppose the Far Right, I really think we have to get our hands dirty more and actually get into the conversation that they are having, not simply standing outside of it and calling it crazy. They will just grow. That is the lesson of history, I’m afraid, because there are enough reasons for grievance and discontent among Finland’s youth (25% unemployment) and aged (mostly men) for these nationalist ideas to act like some kind of purpose and rallying call. This is not about immigrants – this is about the people that support PS and what is going on in their lives that makes them look for a scapegoat for their problems.

    Please, Enrique, we need to get smarter about this!