keskiviikko 27. heinäkuuta 2011

Helsinki Times: Alexis Kouros: Self-denial won’t save Finland

Helsinki Times: Alexis Kouros: Self-denial won’t save Finland 27.7.2011

If the Norwegian authorities had been asked on the morning of Friday 22 July whether they saw a threat of right-wing terrorism in their country, they most probably would have said no. Astonishingly, Finnish authorities, asked the same question about matters in this country, also replied in the negative even after witnessing last week’s events unfold.

Our new minister of the interior, Päivi Räsänen, when asked by Yle whether something similar to what transpired in Norway last Friday could happen in Finland, said: “There are no signs of such threats in Finland.” A similar statement was made by a Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) spokesperson.

Sorry Minister Räsänen, but you are either looking the other way or not believing what you see. The signs and symptoms of potential far-right terrorism and violence are everywhere around you.

Let’s look at Anders Behring Breivik’s case history first. He declares himself to be an anti-Islamic, pro-Israel, conservative Christian who is worried about the “ongoing Islamic colonisation of Europe”. He believes that there is a conspiracy between leftists and Muslims to introduce a Marxist/multiculturalist regime in Europe. His solution to the problem is armed resistance. He sees tolerant Europeans as traitors and legitimate targets, which he puts into categories i.e. elimination order A and B. According to him, there are 400,000 such traitors in Europe and 5,353 of them in Finland. In his 1,518-page manifesto, entitled 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence, he explains his philosophy and “strategy” in painstaking detail, including instructions to form one and two-man “cells”, to finance the “war”, to get weapons and to make bombs, and even to make a police uniform and so forth.

In the introduction to his manifesto he thanks the assistance of “brothers and sisters” of the “National and pan-European Patriotic Resistance Movement” in, among other countries, Finland. He e-mailed his manifesto to numerous people a couple of hours before starting his rampage, among them 15 Finns. One of them, Terhi Kiemunki, district secretary of True Finns, forwarded the message to everyone on her contact list without reading it first, “because it looked like it dealt with Islam”, as she describes it.

The messy, gigantic, free-flow opus, which is partly copied directly from the Unabomber’s manifesto, has no content list or specific order. The text even includes Breivik’s journal, CV and an interview where he both poses the questions and answers them. He mentions and quotes an anonymous anti-Islamic blogger called Fjordman, who could be described as the Norwegian equivalent of Finland’s True Finns MP, Jussi Halla-Aho. The latter is also mentioned in the manifesto as being a like-minded blogger. I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually turns out that Breivik himself is behind the name Fjordman.

There are numerous similar blogs and forums with the same theme in Finland. These forums have a wide array of members and audiences. Most of them see immigration, Islam and multiculturalism as the most pressing problem in their country and even their own lives. A small, but not insignificant group of these see violence as the only – or the best – solution to this problem.

A couple of years ago, a young man started a Facebook page titled, “I’m ready to sit (in prison) a few years for killing Astrid Thors” (the minister of immigration at that time). At the same time, a manifesto entitled Operaatio Ulos (“Operation Out”), was going about the internet with an extremely similar theme to Breivik’s.

Operaatio Ulos was also concerned with the Islamification and multiculturalisation of Finland and suggested targeted killing of – in addition to African and Middle Eastern immigrants – “traitors”, i.e. those Finns who publicly promote multiculturalism. The paper even included a hit-list of 50 Finnish public figures, among them ministers, politicians, NGO leaders and writers. The page was later removed, but the manifesto has remained available on file-sharing sites. There is no record that there has been any action taken by authorities regarding this manifesto.

Also, the Jokela and Kauhajoki school shootings, and the preceding Myyrmanni tragedy, where a Finnish teenager blew up a backpack full of homemade explosives in a shopping mall, have had little effect in changing the authorities’ mindset, to take the threat of loose gun laws and home-grown violence more seriously.

The events in neighbouring Sweden have not rung a bell either. Last year in Malmö, a sole gun man, who interestingly turned out to be of Finnish decent, terrorised the city’s immigrant population, shooting several foreign-looking people over several months before finally being arrested. Years before, John Asonius, dubbed Lasermannen (“the Laser Man”) by the Swedish media for using a laser-sighted rifle, shot 12 immigrants in Stockholm between 1991 and 1992.

Racially motivated crimes have been increasing sharply in Finland. A recent study by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) shows that street violence against Somali immigrants in Finland is the highest in Europe, while their number and proportion is the lowest. Even researchers of immigration and multiculturalism are afraid of their names being published alongside their results because of the amount of hate mail and threats they receive. There is a disturbed group of people among us who doesn’t want to hear facts; they want to be left alone with their emotions, of which hatred is the primary one.

One important factor that makes Minister Räsänen, other authorities and most good-hearted citizens blind to the threat of domestic “white” terrorism is the amazing perseverance to see cruel and violent acts carried out by one’s own ethnic/cultural group, i.e. “us”, as individual actions; while at the same time strongly associating actions taken by “them” as group attributes.

If one of “us” tortures people in Iraq, massacres classmates in a school or shoots immigrants from the bushes, the media would interview his parents, neighbours, school teachers and friends to try to find out how on Earth he acted like that and what sort of childhood traumas he had. But if the same act is perpetrated by an immigrant or representative of another faith/culture, it is of course, a characteristic of his culture or faith.

I have to remind my colleague in the medical profession, Dr Räsänen, of one of the fundamental rules of medicine that we have both practised. An accurate diagnosis must come before treatment, and diagnosis starts with a proper examination of signs and symptoms. This time, it seems like more and more patients are coming our way with the same symptoms; and what we have on our hands is an epidemic.

For the treatment to start and work, it is first essential to acknowledge the problem. Many would point out that guns don’t kill people, people do. I agree with that. However, taking the guns away from unstable people doesn’t harm anyone. That will at least give us more time to solve the fundamental problem, which is attitude and mentality.

It is essential to take the motivation to harm others away and to educate ourselves and our youth out of the mentality of violence. This, however, is extremely difficult in a society where violence is glorified in our history and literature and is consumed on a daily basis through entertainment. In his Facebook profile Breivik lists his favourite games as World of Warcraft and the first-person shoot-em-all game Modern Warfare 2. These are favourites of millions of teenagers but, then again, Breivik is 32!

The digital age and the possibility of expressing your thoughts and emotions under a nickname and without taking responsibility are seen by many as a step forwards for the freedom of speech. Unfortunately, the right to free speech has been too frequently and emphatically valued over other rights, such as freedom of religion and equality. Far too often, hatred and prejudice is being spread instead of thoughts and ideas. There is no doubt that the digital playground must be cleaned up and rules assigned to it. A sort of digital fingerprint would be essential to encourage cyberactivists to take responsibility for their digital actions and postings. It is important for everyone to understand that hate speech is not harmless.

Actions such as Breivik’s are, before anything else, attacks on the basic values of Western and European societies: democracy and the rule of law. Democratic means are available for all members of society to affect the direction of developments. Nationalists often see themselves as covert heroes awaiting discovery, as they see the silent approval of the masses as a sign of support. Lenience towards racist and anti-immigrant violence will, however, backfire. If the use of violence by one group in society is tolerated, then all other radically thinking groups could see that as a semi-legitimate way of affecting society; see, for example, animal-rights and anti-abortion activists.

Last but not least, get your punishments in place. There is lots of discussion about punishments for rape being too soft, but we also have a freshly released prisoner killing people in his first two months of freedom almost every year. According to Norway’s anti-terrorism laws, Breivik would spend a maximum of 21 years in prison, which is less than two months for every life that he took, and for all those he injured. How cheaply those young lives are being valued.

Many would agree that the death penalty would, in this case, be “cruel, but necessary”, to use Breivik’s own words, but if we don’t want to take that into use even for clear cases like this one, then isn’t it obvious that people like Breivik should never be let out of prison?

It is said that Breivik had been planning his act since 2009. Well, I assure you that as we speak, there are plans in the making in Finland as well. Whether they become reality or not depends on you and your governmental colleagues’ action, Dr Räsänen.

It is time to re-introduce the new generation to the values of democracy and guide them out of the culture of violence that they are drowned in.