When ‘Joking’ Fails, Use ‘Satire’ – How to Make Sure Finland Is Kept Pure If Social Engineering Is No Longer An Acceptable Solution: Make Those Others Wear Patches
It appears that the Nazi ideology has consolidated its place at the main source of inspiration for the True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna) rank and file. Indeed, in October 2011 the PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen was suggesting ‘jokingly’ – as it was later on quickly dismissed – that the autonomous Åland/Ahvenanmaa islands (inherently symbolizing the Swedish–speaking Finnish community in Finland) are the perfect place where to ‘put’ all ‘homosexuals’, ‘lesbians’ and ‘Somalis’ to live side by side and see what kind of ‘model society’ takes shape from that (see my previous blog entry discussing the matter, here). It was then evidence the uncanny resemblance with the anti-Semitic Madagascar plan of the Nazis (a Wikipedia entry on the infamous Madagascar plan – in English, here; in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här).
On 11 April 2012, this was further exploited by Helena Eronen, assistant to the PS MP James Hirvisaari. Helena Eronen published an article on the Uusi Suomi e-newspaper, titled ‘Ratkaisu poliisin ulkomaalaisratsioihin’ (‘The Solution to Police’s Raids Among Foreigners’, in an approximate English translation). Shortly after it was published, the article was removed from the e-news platform (yet, available in its entirety in Finnish, tässä). It is worth noting that the PS MP James Hirvisaari was elected in April 2011 into the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta/Riksdagen) on a strong anti–immigration platform, being one of the authors of the Nuiva Vaalimanifesti (on signatories, in Finnish, tässä). The same PM MP James Hirvissari has been also the subject of a trial for incitement to racial hatred because of his blog entry on the same Uusi Suomi, titled ‘Kikkarapäälle kuonoon’.
In her article, Helena Eronen identified a readily available solution to the Finnish Police’s dilemma on knowing a person’s ‘worth’ in the Finnish society: make them wear sleeve badges! According to her, it is useful to know, from the very first sight, ‘who is a Somali Muslim’ or ‘a beggar from Romania’. The symbols on badges were just as easily provided to the readers: a half-moon for the Muslims, a hammer and a sickle for Russians, a landmine for Cambodians (sic). Neither the Swedish–speaking Finns, nor and the LGBTQI–community members were forgotten – in the latter case it was aptly suggested a patch depicting ‘a rainbow’ (media comments on her article, in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här). Helena Eronen even envisaged a means to account for someone’s accommodation to Finnish customs: a Muslim foreigner’s half–moon could later be exchanged to a blue–white half–moon thereby enforcing integration (on her article, commented at length in English, here). Eventually, the ‘blue–white half–moon’ badge could be handed in, a sign of the person’s complete assimilation and secularization: the birth of a new Finn. In other words, there are degrees of Otherness, and degrees of sanction and reward for all Others. The similarity with the Nazi methodical classification of the undesired Others is, yet again, uncanny (a detailed article on the Nazi identification system using badges – in English, here; in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här).
One may wonder why has it become so crucially important among the PS rank and file to be able to make a distinction between an apparently ‘true’ Finn (to keep with the PS’ own denomination) and a ‘Somali Muslim’ or ‘a beggar from Romania’? What is the purpose of such process of selection and differentiation? Why to distinguish between a Muslim with a ‘red half–moon’ and one with a ‘blue–white half–moon’ when Islam is squarely rejected by the PS as foreign to the Finnish national fiber? Having a closer look at the hierarchy suggested by Helena Eronen, another question that insinuates itself is why are Swedish–speaking Finns to be ‘marked’ – what is their shortcoming for not being deemed worthy to be part of the Finnish un–badged majority, and why would this justify them being bullied by the majority Finnish–speaking Finns ?
Even more so, applying what appears to be a rudimentary heteropatriarchal logic of structuring, if the LGBTQI–community members have to bear a rainbow, how should then the distinction be made between, for instance, ‘true’ Finnish women dutifully married with Finnish men and bearing Finnish offspring, and those also ‘true’ Finnish women, but who however fail do so? In the Nazi system of badge marking, the political opponents were also classified; with this in mind, it would have perhaps been instructive to know if Helena Eronen also considered a system to differentiate between the common voters and those ‘true’ citizens identifying themselves with the PS cause? And by ways of conclusion, why continuously ‘making jokes’, and writing ‘satire’ on a subject that appears to be such a sensitive point of discussion? Whom is to gain from a radicalization of the whole discussion and at which price?
Obsessing about the Other in Finland: mandatory study of Swedish may turn you into a killer, welcoming refugees spells the end of Finnish nation
Being preoccupied with the Other appears as a multifaceted process in Finland, and it stretches to encompass attitudes against Swedish-speaking Finns and mandatory Swedish-language education in Finnish schools, to fears of national dilution with the apparent increase of asylum seekers and other refugees in the country, a consequence of the clandestine activities of the same Swedish-speakers. However, what they have in common is the danger they posit to the Finnish masculinity, or better said to the typology of Finnish conservative heteropatriachal masculinity heralded by the Finnish radical right populists- the True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna).
A first example is the incident which was mainly discussed on the Finnish Broadcast company’s Swedish language web-pages (här). It is an opinion piece published by Kirkkonummen Sanomat (KS) authored by Voitto Mäkipää (in Finnish, tässä, p. 15). Kirkkonummen Sanomat is, as the name suggests, the local newspaper in Kirkkonummi/ Kyrkslätt, a commune some 30 km away from the Finnish capital. Mäkipää is a local non-affiliated commune councilor on educational matters, who works closely with PS. In his article, Mäkipää argued against the teaching of mandatory Swedish in Finnish schools, the so-called pakkoruotsi/tvångssvenska. What is surprising, however, is the way Mäkipää claimed in his piece that based on his personal experience of being forced to study a “completely useless” language like pakkoruotsi he has come to understand the frustration of young men that eventually shoot innocent people around them. In this light, he recommended researching which language had to study those who engaged in violent shootings in Finland in the recent past. He then continued unabated that pakkoruotsi is “a relic of the past” and that the Swedish-speaking Finns are the fifth column, which clandestinely undermines the Finnish nation from within.
From a gender-informed perspective, Mäkipää‘s take on the issue of violence in Finnish society obscures completely the widespread gun ownership across the country and focus on stereotypical images of Swedish masculinity (and by means of the common language, transferred over to the Swedish-speaking Finns), as emasculated and weak in comparison to the Finnish heteropatriarchal masculinity in its conservative translation as heralded by the radical right populism of PS. In other words being exposed to Swedish inflicts irreversible damage to Finnish heteropatriachal masculinity and reveals its extreme vulnerability, since violence is the only means to release the frustration of forced-learning and symbolically erase the signs of the less-than-masculine (read Swedish-language exposed). Apparently this is how real Finnish men are crafted: complete resistance to Swedish and everything the Swedish language represents in Finland, and if this is not possible then the only manly solution is indiscriminate violence against innocent bystanders.
In a parallel development that echoes the references to the fifth column of Swedish-speaking Finns, PS has lashed out at the Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (SFP/ Ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ Svenska folkpartiet) and demanded her resignation. PS accused her for the allegedly too liberal take on Finnish migration policy, which apparently has resulted in a surge in the numbers of asylum seekers in Finland (tässä, här, here). PS reacted to the 6000 or so family reunification applications received by the ministry, which are considered to be the direct effect of the overly lax immigration policy in the past years. What PS did not mention was the extremely high rejection rate of such applications, but in turn focused on the generous financial support offered by the Finnish state to those very few who are granted asylum and allowed to bring their families to Finland. It is not the first time when PS criticized Minister Thors for her work. At times of economic hardship, their accusations may sound very comforting to the disenchanted jobless and economically struggling Finns across the country. The PS implicit critique is that such an attitude risks to undermine the Finnish national being, since the newcomers, mainly from Somalia and Iraq represent an extreme embodiment of the Other, both religiously (i.e. non-Christian) and racially (non-European). The large non-Finnish families would thus change the population dynamic in the country, and undermine the hegemonic position of the Finnish man by exposing him to competition from the Other men.
One may wonder if learning Swedish, even when it is a mandatory discipline, leads to such frustration that justifies violent manifestations against innocent people around (like in the tragic school shootings in Jokela and Kauhajoki; or in the shooting spree in Espoo/ Esbo)? Is Finnish conservative heteropatriarchal masculinity really threatened by Swedish language abilities? Even more worryingly, is the Swedish-speaking Minister of Migration preparing quietly for an invasion of the country of True Finns (the name of the party after all) by cohorts of asylum seekers and their families from Somalia and Iraq? Is this yet another case of thinly veiled anti-Muslim sentiments against the incoming asylum seekers, or a real concern with an explosive immigration in Finland?
After all, in 2008 there were 467 favorable decisions for family reunification , and some 2 170 people were received by Finnish municipalities; one can imagine their impact on the overall Finnish population of 5 326 314 (the numbers are taken from the Finnish statistical public authority, for different language versions: tässä, här, here).
It is often said that the European Parliamentary (EP) elections from June 2009 witnessed a rise of the radical-right populist parties. These parties have performed, indeed, very well. For instance in Finland, the True Finns (PS/Perussuomalaiset) has a mandate, in Romania, they surprisingly got 3, after Greater Romania Party (PRM/Partidul Romania Mare) surprisingly co-opted PNG‘s leader on their lists for the EP, and in Bulgaria the National Union Attack (Ataka) received 2 mandates. Not to mention that in the Netherlands the Party for Freedom (PVV/Partij voor de Vrijeheid) won 4 .
So far all these newly elected MEPs are crowding the ranks of the Non-Attached Members (NI/Non-Inscrits), with rather few options or ideas for building up their own party alliance within EP, which would ensure visibility and access to European financing. But things appear to be more complicated, and the fate of the now-deceased Identity Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS), and of the Independence/Democracy Group (IND/DEM) and Union of Europe of Nation (UEN) clouds the future of any possible alliance of the radical right populists in the EP.
The aforementioned “alphabet soup” of various combinations of abbreviations and short-writings may be succeeded by the nascent Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD), reuniting Finnish populists (PS), with Italian Northern League (LN/Lega Nord), and Danish People’s Party (DP/Dansk Folkeparti). The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) seems to be negotiating with the new alliance, though it is not very clear if this would be successfully concluded or not.
Worth mentioning, while looking at the NI, the non-attached parties, is the difficulty of the radical right populist parties from this category to position themselves according to their party agenda, and at the same time consolidate a functional alliance in EP.
One such example is the interview given by Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch PVV to Euronews channel (the whole interview may be viewed here). While most of the interview is focusing on what Wilders calls the danger Europe faces to giving in to Muslims pursuing to enforce Sharia on the continent, the title underlines the existing tensions between the “old” EU (The Netherlands are among the founding members) and the “newly arrived” from the last round of enlargement, Romania and Bulgaria. According to Wilders “the Dutch people think that Europe is large enough”, especially with regard to the hypothetical EU accession of Turkey and Ukraine. Playing the card of the menacing Other, especially the Muslim Other, is part of his usual discourse. The mention of cohorts of fanatical Muslims that corner ever-appeasing European-wide political establishment into granting Sharia legal standing within EU is not something uncommon in his speeches and interviews.
But then it appears that not even the EU latecomers Bulgaria and Romania are to be spared because “those countries were not ready at all, were very unready and very corrupt as well.” Suddenly the focus from the possible threat coming from a so distinctive Other (as the European Muslim) moves to the eastern borders of the EU, eying the newest EU-members. In this case the evil Other is no longer that easily perceived, and comes with an air of Balkanism, and suspicions of bribe and unruliness. Yet again fantasies of purity and of social welfare are interestingly mixed to portray an Other that is rather a peripheral presence, somewhere in an indistinct, far away and backward East, but positing the treat of always coming among the People, and possibly corrupting them. Even among the newly elected MEPs, one of PRM‘s representatives, George Becali, was put under a travel ban by Romanian judges under the suspicion of corruption.
In this context, one cannot but to wonder where are the radical right populists of Bulgaria and Romania in this whole conspiracy of the Other? Doing the maths, 2 MEPs from Ataka and 3 from PRM, may be just as good, and some may dare say as European as PVV‘s 4. What is then what divides them, and will they be able go past treating themselves as one another’s Others? Will radical right populists in EU manage to look past their obsessions of purity and settle for the compromises of daily politics?
The coming EU elections have very interesting effects on the radical right populists across the Union. From the corner that interests me the most I can definitely say that these elections would be some very interesting events.
For instance in Finland, the leader of the populist True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna), Timo Soini suddenly decided to take upon himself the task of getting the party into the European Parliament (EP). However odd this may sound, but he declared he had changed his mind, in the sense that he turned from a staunchly anti-EU party leader of previous EU elections into the main candidate of the PS alliance with the Finnish Christian Democrats (KD/ Kristillisdemokraatit/ Kristdemokraterna). This came to calm down suspicions that the two parties will support the candidacy of a controversial independent politician that was elected into the capital’s city council with the support of PS. He was later on accused of racism and discriminatory remarks.
So now party leader Soini has to convince his faithful that his party has any clear agenda once sent to Brussels. But what he is allegedly convinced of is that he would manage to bring to life an EU alliance of like-minded parties. One may actually start wondering how successful would he be, having in mind that the last such enterprise, the now defunct Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS) EP political alliance, did not manage to live more than a year, a result of the inherent clashed between parties with an agenda defined by their strong suspicion of the Other. How would Soini manage to convince all those populist EMPs and their national leaders that in fact they are not each other’s Evil Other, but in fact more than circumstantial allies? Le Pen was recently bared from symbolically opening the coming EP session, so an educated guess is that any such suggestions may go well. But how persuasive can be a Finnish MP, future EMP, with no experience of the European dealings? Does the announced cooperation with the future to be trans-European EU-skeptical Libertas alliance (there is a lot of irony in being an anti-EU, and yet pan- European grouping, isn’t it?) hold any chances for successful political leverage at EU level?
Or will he attempt to join the European People’s Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED), the biggest alliance of parties within the EP, based on his electoral alliance with the aforesaid KD? But how effective will this be, having in mind PS’s record as a party at least suspicious, if not outright against anything that may be even hinted at as not being Finnish? Soini has always appeared to tone down the sometimes radical affirmations of his subordinates, so this may play in his advantage, but how much can one do to improve PS’s reputation as an isolationist, and even racist party? Well, these are just a few of the question that come to mind once reading about Soini’s EU turn.
Looking at Romanian politics, it is going to be a very unusual election period. The Greater Romania Party (PRM/ Partidul Romania Mare) has decided, or more rightfully said, its leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor decided that the party’s EU election list will be opened by him and another controversial political figure, George Becali. Becali was for a while leader of another populist party, the New Generation Party (PNG) but this seems to have become a thing of the past.
As such, the two former rivals, Tudor and Becali appeared on the party’s electoral posters reading: “Two Christians and patriots will purge the country from crooks” (“Doi crestini si patrioti vor scapa tara de hoti!”). What the two apparently have in common is their dedication for the church. This is intended to heal the rift between the two after several years of public confrontations that ended up in personal remarks not at all elegant, to put it mildly. It is to be seen how well the two temperamental leaders will put aside their past conflicts and march towards a EMP position.
So, what could such a churchly dedication of the two do in the EP is not as obvious as the party leaders may think. PRM has already a certain tradition of allying itself with the French populists led by Le Pen (they were actually instrumental in the constitution of the aforesaid Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS) political group). But they are also those responsible, at least partly of its demise. To complicate matters further, PRM did not manage to convince Romanian voters of its ability to represent them at European level last time. It is to be seen if two religious figures, or at least declaratory religious, would manage to get the party the desired seats in the EP.
On a closer look, it is not very clear what PRM has to offer this time around either. Romania has recently been criticized by the ineffectiveness of the judicial system and there are rumors that the country may have a similar fate as neighboring Bulgaria and see its EU funds frozen. How could the two populist leaders demise these dangers from their possible EMP seats? There is no easily distinguishable answer to these questions. The only sure thing is a discourse focused on, at least symbolically, punishing the corrupted elites. But here is a serious problem PRM faces, how to balance a discourse that promises impartial and harsh justice with a presence in the EP that is the epitome of compromise and long negotiations. What is almost certain, however, is that if they manage to get in, they will not be alone as the anti- sentiments across EU are on the rise. And for that is enough to look at another neighbor, Hungary, and the recent backlash against the Roma this country witnessed.
Swinging back to the north of EU, what is happening in Sweden? Well, not much really. The main parties appear to be more preoccupied with rowing over internal politics, even when it comes to televised public debates about the future of EU. Having in mind that the country will be undertaking the presidency of the EU council the coming July this does not look too promising. But even Sweden may appear EU-friendly when compared witht the Czech performance so far.
Returning to populists, the Sweden Democrats (SD/Sverigedemokraterna) do not fare much better than in previous opinion pools. SD has been ostracized to the peripheries of Swedish politics from early on, so the party still struggles to gain national representation; it is however quite strongly represented in the southern parts of Sweden. Even if they could have tried to ride the same populist, panic driven agenda as elsewhere, there is another forseable winner in the confrontation. SD was hoovering around the parliamentary threshold for a while but it is unlikely it will surpass the popularity of the Pirate Party (Piratpartiet).
Theirs is a different type of populism, concerned, mainly, with the issues of copyright and patents and privacy writ large. And if it is to take into account the party membership numbers (which exceed to date those of the second largest governing party, the Center Party/ C/ Centerpartiet), and their strong support among the young voters, the Pirate Party seems to be on its way to register its first electoral success. But then again, labeling the Pirate Party as populist does not do much justice for its cause. It is more a single cause party, and it is to be seen, if it will enlarge its political agenda with other issues as well. Of crucial importance, in case of a victory is if the party will manage to survive its own political success and how much of the initial agenda will be preserved in the daily compromise politics at EP level.
Three countries, three different populist trajectories. All competing for votes for a suddenly much wanted EMP position. Here rests the populist dilema, how much of the anti- attitude can a party preserve once joining the place where everything is ground to small, almost imperceptible nuances of language in official communiques?
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