Sensational stories about youth crime by brown Finns: Tom Packalén in 2014, Helsingin Sanomat in 2020

by , under Enrique Tessieri

What does Lari Malmgerg’s column on youth crime remind us of? In 2014, Perussuomalaiset (PS)* Tom Packalén wrote a similar story about how brown Finns were terrorizing white Finns in East Helsinki.

At the end of the day, Packalén could not prove his claims, and the whole issue was forgotten even if he succeeded at labeling and reinforcing prejudices about brown Finns.

Wrote Packalén in Uusi Suomi: “The youngest member of the gang is 10 years old. Publically about 70 have been abused [by these gangs]. After twenty years as a police officer, I believe that the real number of attacks and robberies are many times bigger [than officially cited].”


Read the original story (in Finnish) here. WARNING: THE COLUMN IS UNSUBSTANTIATED AND MISLEADING.

Six years later, Kuokkanen’s headline in Helsingin Sanomissa reads: “Over one hundred possibly dangerous youths with migrant backgrounds roam about downtown Helsinki – according to experts, this is a new migrant phenomenon.”

What do these two stories have in common? They are both incomplete and based on personal opinion.

Even if Packalén and lately Kuokkanen labeled in a hostile manner so-called “youths of migrant background,” Police Commissioner Jari Taponen shot down what the reporter claimed.

Writes Yle: “According to Taponen, suspects apprehended by the police come from broken homes. The media have labeled them as persons of migrant origin. Even so, the police emphasize that all of them were born in Finland. Part of them have parents who are of foreign origin.”

While it is a positive sign that the police refuted with facts the careless and even judgemental writing of some reporters, the damage caused by Kuokkanen was done. Prejudices have been reinforced, and the story is still out there, even if it has been proven false and misleading.

Helsingin Sanomat’s Lari Malmberg claims that the fuss the article raised was that we have problems debating a difficult topic like cultural diversity. He also states that the media must bring these topics to the public light.

True, but I would not want Malmberg to lead the discussion.

The column he wrote sounds more like a flimsy excuse for publishing an opinionated and poorly researched story by Katja Kuokkanen.

Malmberg revealed in the same column two days later how the original story should have been read.

  • He stated that the original story did not imply that all youths with migrant backgrounds, or brown Finns, are criminals;
  • Such youths are not in special danger of becoming criminals;
  • Even if some youths break the law, it does not mean that the absolute number of crimes has grown;
  • Youth crime in Helsinki has gone down;
  • Finland is not in danger of having the same problems as Sweden with migrants;
  • A very small number of these groups appear to act aggressively.

Which groups did Helsingin Sanomat’s story serve?

The answer is clear: It gave ammunition to populists, their xenophobic narrative, and reinforced our prejudices.

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