Uusi Suomi, an online publication that played a key role before the 2011 parliamentary elections in giving the racist rhetoric of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party a platform, published today an interview with a cultural researcher, Tuija Saresma, who concluded that Jussi Halla-aho and the PS are racist.
While these types of statements are a foregone conclusion about Halla-aho and the PS, the big question is why Finnish society appears so impotent in the face of these social ills.
How do you explain the rise of a party in 2011, which won 39 seats in parliament from 5 previously, became the most successful party in parliamentary elections during the last decade?
Some factors explaining Finnish society’s racist and exclusive disposition is its near-geopolitical isolation during the Cold War. The lack of cultural and ethnic diversity, and the whitewashing of this history, have also help feed racism and white nationalism.
Any sensible person will conclude that white Finnish nationalism and racism get their power from the PS. Attacking brown and black Finns and other minorities with the intent of polarizing society creates a dilemma for the party and the country.
An insightful Op-Ed article in The Guardian by David Bromell on the impact of the Christchurch killings, sheds light on some of the problems that countries like Finland face in tackling hate speech.
He writes: “There will always be idiots who shoot their mouths off – but in a democratic society we need to learn to live together.”
According to Bromell, public policy should focus on the “effect of harm” and not on the emotions of hatred or offence since you cannot regulate this in an open and democratic society.
But here comes the punchline: “Stirring up and inciting discrimination, hostility or violence against members of a social group, however, is and should be a crime. This may involve speech, but incitement can also be written, mimed, memed, graffitied, cartooned or tweeted.”
The rise of a racist party like the PS in Finland entrenched in white nationalism is not only shameful but reveals how vulnerable and unprepared society and institutions are in challenging such social ills.