There is a lot of talk and unfortunate examples of how the media helps to spread populist parties’ hateful messages about migrants and minorities. An editorial published by Helsingin Sanomat Thursday is a good example of how the media does this.
The good showing of the Sweden Democrats in September’s parliamentary election is due to the country’s youth gangs, which received a lot of attention.
In the same way as the Sweden Democrats, the far-right Perussuomalaiset (PS) is trying to use the same campaign theme in Finland. Even if the editorial does not mention that it is racist for parties like the PS to label whole groups as a menace to society, it correctly points out that Finland’s so-called youth gang problem is different from Sweden’s.
Why didn’t the Helsingin Sanomat editorial state how the PS uses Islamophobia to attract voters and that such a trend has serious consequences, as we’ve seen in countries like Hungary?
Helsingin Sanomat becomes a facilitator by not stating the latter and taking a distant view of how the PS will use gang violence as a campaign theme.
Moreover, Finland’s biggest daily has the resources to understand the PS used Islamophobia during the parliamentary elections of 2011, 2015, and 2019 to attract voters.
- The 2011 parliamentary election, when the PS won 39 seats from 5 previously, was propelled and helped by uncritical reporting that was more amazed at the new racist kid on the political block. Even parties like the Social Democrats started copying the PS’ anti-immigration rhetoric. PS rising political “stars” like Jussi Halla-aho, James Hirvisaari, Juho Erola, Timo Soini, and others got their place in the sun. Things were so bad back then that Islamophobes were invited to give their opinions on talk shows.
- In the 2015 parliamentary election, when the PS duplicated its 2011 result by gaining 38 seats, a rape happened in the Helsinki neighborhood of Tapanila one month before the election. The crime got a lot of attention in the media, and Yle went as far as to ask people of the Somali community why “they always rape.” The police also helped by labeling the suspects “people of foreign decent,” even if they were born in Finland. Why was it important for the public to know the latter?
- The PS got another present in the 2019 election when suspects, who were asylum seekers, were accused of pedophilia and sexually harassing minors. Even if the media, and the police, who warned people to stay away from foreigners, charged this to hysterical levels, the PS, with the aid of parties like the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), promised to get tough on migrants, scored another election victory.
For example, Yle alone reported 77 stories on the topic, 13 in one day, about sexual assault cases during November 27, 2018 – February 13, 2019. During that period under review, the Oulu police published 13 statements on the topic.
A critical eye requires one to ask why certain facts are not mentioned in a story or, in this case, in an editorial.
Helsingin Sanomat can and should do better.