Halla-aho’s anti-immigration soundbites and why we should not relax hate speech laws

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Perussuomalaiset (PS)* chairperson Jussi Halla-aho gave us on Yle Ykkösaamu his usual anti-immigration blah blah and why Finland should relax its hate speech laws.

In the interview, Halla-aho, who was convicted of ethnic agitation and breaching the sanctity of religion in 2012, defended the Nazi-spirited Suomen Sisu association and played down PS MP Juha Mäenpää’s description in parliament that asylum seekers are a non-human “invasive species.”

Mäenpää is the same politician who stated in 2015 that “God had answered his prayers” after an asylum reception center was razed by fire.

Read the full story here.

While these types of counterarguments by Halla-aho, who has steered the party in into the far-right ideological lap of leaders like Lega’s Matteo Salvini and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, have no significance because the PS leader would even find arguments to justify the rise to power of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler in 1933.

Helsinki University criminal law professor Kimmo Nuotio threw some cold water on Halla-aho’s claim that hate speech laws have no place in an open society. Apart from pointing out that the PS’ proposal is political, he did not consider the ongoing debate healthy for democracy.

Moreover, the number of ethnic agitation cases that reach the courts are still modest as the table below shows.

Ethnic agitation cases that were taken to court in 2018. Even if such cases rose by 138.5% last year to 31, it is still a tiny amount. Source: Justice Ministry.

“Personally, I find this type of discussion harmful,” Nuotio said, “it’s an attempt to undercut the basis for these laws.”

One matter that the Ykkösaamu journalist should have asked is why do we have laws against hate speech? The answer is obvious. Without them, it would be open season for racists and parties like the PS openly harass, attack, label and socially exclude vulnerable groups like Muslims for their political gain.

The argument used by Halla-aho to not open Finland’s labor markets to outside the EU is equally deceiving. Adding the usual fear-mongering that outside the EU there are half a billion people who could come to work, he claimed that such workers would drive down salaries.

Possibly valid to some extent, such people in our labor market like now would force our authorities to do a much better job in regulating markets and ensuring that exploitation does not become the norm.

The far-right Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13, 2017, into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. In the last parliamentary election, Blue Reform has wiped off the Finnish political map when they saw their numbers in parliament plummet from 18 MPs to none. A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.

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