By Enrique Tessieri
President Tarja Halonen was quoted as saying on YLE that the government is facing two challenges after it returns from its summer holiday: the economy and racism. Her advice was calm, patience and not allowing hate speech to overtake our worst fears.
“If the economic situation remains difficult and even worsens, then we will need the kind of patience that is able to use democratic means to combat the kind of populist responses that cannot produce results — but which create anger and bitterness,” said Halonen.
If the president of Finland expresses concern about the rise of hate speech in this country, then matters must be pretty serious. More than ever before, immigrants, minorities and Finns must stand united against hate speech.
Social Democratic Party secretary Mikael Junger is one such politicians who has recently challenged Perussuomalaiset (PS) party MP like Jussi Halla-aho’s provocative statements about cultural diversity, the Nuremberg Trials, and Social Democrats.
Remembering how the announcement of Portugal’s default just a week before the April 17 election was an important boost for the PS, some supporters believe that as matters get worse in Europe financially the better the right-wing populist party’s standing in the polls.
It is no secret that during dire economic times, the first ones to get blamed are immigrants and minorities.
According to Halonen, the combination of poor economic times, loss of jobs and scapegoats feed populism and probably hate speech.
There is a good blog entry in English on the rise of hate speech in Finland on On the Road of Succcess by Zuzeeko.