The youth gang “problem” in Finland is a knee-jerk racist reaction.
On and off, we have read about our youth gang “problem” with sensationalist headlines from newspapers that should know better. Remember back in 2014, when radical-right Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Tom Packalén created quite a stir when he claimed that a youth gang in East Helsinki was terrorizing people?
Another ludicrous claim by the PS MP is that these youth gang members are the “ripening fruits” of our failed immigration and integration policy.
Then, in 2020, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest circulating daily, warned its readers: “Over one hundred possibly dangerous youths with migrant backgrounds roam about downtown Helsinki – according to experts, this is a new migrant phenomenon.”
What do Packalén’s claim and Helsingin Sanomat’s story have in common? They are both incomplete and based on personal opinion.
They are a storm in a teacup that aim to instill fear in people who aren’t white.
Helsingin Sanomat story corrected its claims about “rising youth street violence,” claiming that these are brown and black Finns, which they marginalize and otherize by labeling them “youths of migrant backgrounds.”
Having worked as a journalist for over twenty years and poured over scores of stories about “youth gangs” and how the Finnish media frames migrants and minorities, there is one matter that always stands out: Important facts that give context to the story and the lack of minority voices and experts.
You commit or fall into de facto bias when you leave out facts that give important context to understanding a news story. This can be intentional or unintentional.
Why hasn’t the media tried to analyze where Sweden’s gang problem arose? There are many good lessons we could learn in Finland from such investigative journalism.
One good source could be reading Anne-Françoise Hivert‘s article, “The Swedish model is breaking down.”
Thank you, Ambriosius Wollstén, for the heads-up.
In light of the column and stories mentioned, the number of stories about our youth gang “problem” started to proliferate, especially in the fall.
There are two reasons for the latter: our parliamentary election of April and the success of the far-right Sweden Democrats, which spread fear about youth gangs, in that country’s election in September.
Historically, the PS has always searched for a migrant topic to spread fear and attract voters. It was the case in 2011, 2015, and 2019 elections.
After a suitable “migrant topic” has been selected, the PS has received support from the police and media in spreading their message.
Considering the success of the Sweden Democrats, it is understandable that the PS is ready for a copy-and-paste campaign in Finland. It explains why the PS and the conservative National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) are eager to warn voters about youth gangs.
Contrary to the last parliamentary elections, the one this year is different. Government parties, except for the Center Party, have expressed that they do not want to form part of a government with the PS.
Kokoomus, the only party willing to go to bed with the PS, expresses dismay that that party’s long-term plan is to leave the EU.
PS’ strategy is pretty simple to figure out: just spread fear about migrants and will get a lot of votes.
Will this be the case?
Only voters will decide on April 2.
 Media Monitoring Group of Finland aims to promote fair and accurate reporting by the Finnish media of underrepresented cultural, racial, ethnic, and religious groups. As Finland’s cultural diversity continues to grow, the role of the media in forming public opinion and attitudes about minorities becomes even more relevant.
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