Finland just took a turn for the darker. The populist Finns Party chose Mr. Jussi Halla-aho to be its new leader. A man who is a scary combination of analytical mind, lack of empathy, and stark bigotry.
The election of Mr. Halla-aho brought to light the fact that the far right has been gaining power in the Finns Party for some time, even though the party has presented itself as relatively centrist.
To look at the positive; now it is much easier to fight the bigotry that was always there. It can’t be explained away as the folly of a small minority anymore.
We can agree to disagree on how many refugees Finland can handle, or how we handle them. We can recognise that religious and cultural beliefs crash, and the results are not always easy to handle. We can note that the concept of personal integrity may differ between cultures. The law is still the same for everyone.
These are all things that can be discussed and solved in a working democracy.
But when someone starts condemning whole groups of people the way Mr. Halla-aho has done, things are not as they should be.
In his blogs Mr. Halla-aho summarily links certain ethnic backgrounds, religions, political beliefs, and sexual orientations with crime and reprehensible behaviour.
If we were to accept his philosophy, I would be a racist because Mr. Halla-aho is one, and we share the same ethnic background. Maybe even the same religious beliefs, for all I know.
Over my dead body (Mr. Halla-aho may wish this could be arranged) will I be considered similar to Mr. Halla-aho.
In Mr. Halla-aho’s book, tolerance is for the weak. He doesn’t like foreigners. Finland for the Finns could well be his slogan.
Mr. Halla-aho shows little respect for women, or anyone else for that matter. They just aren’t him. He knows better.
Does this start to sound familiar? Is there a relatively newly elected world leader out there with pretty similar characteristics?
Yes and no. In style and temperament Mr. Trump and Mr. Halla-aho couldn’t be more different; as far as politics are concerned they could probably find several issues to agree upon.
Mr. Halla-aho takes the prize as the scariest. With Mr. Trump you pretty much get what you see, while Mr. Halla-aho is smart enough (these days) to sound much more palatable than he is. Such was not always the case.
In his blog titled “Multiculturalism and women”, dated 20.12.2006, Mr. Halla-aho channels his inner rage as follows:
“Since more and more women will be raped anyway, I sincerely hope that the predators, who choose their victims randomly, end up with their claws in the right women: the green leftist world reformers and their voters. Rather them, than someone else. They will not be swayed by anything unless they are hoisted by the petard of their own multiculturalism.”
In his blog titled “More about rape”, dated September 13, 2007, Mr. Halla-aho continues:
“I would not intervene, if I saw a battery or rape somewhere. I would call the police, but I would not intervene on my own. One reason is that rapists and assaulters, who do the act in public, are as a rule Third World new arrivals; well armed and very willing to inflict damage and kill. I don’t want to die.
The other, probably more important, reason is that I would not in the least want to risk ending up in a situation where I would have to pay damages for pain and suffering to some human filth from the Horn of Africa. In such a situation I could well see myself losing my self-control and taking the life of the judge, the human filth who incurred pain and suffering, and his legal counsel.”
These are not the worst examples of Mr. Halla-aho’s rhetoric. He has been sentenced for blasphemy and incitement to ethnic hatred by the Supreme Court of Finland.
Parties are more than just their leaders, but a party leader is the face of his or her party. The face of the Finns Party is not nice to behold these days.
The Finns Party had 37 (out of 200) members in parliament. They now have 15. After the election of Mr. Halla-aho, 22 parliament members walked out of the Finns Party. Of them, 20 went on to form their own parliamentary group under the working title New Alternative. More may follow.
I am not naive enough to think that all of this had to do with Mr. Halla-aho’s values. But it should have had.
It is unfathomable that the Finnish media seriously speculated whether the Finns Party could continue to govern as part of the Finnish cabinet despite the change in leadership.
It was seen as a “pragmatic approach” to continue the present government triumvirate: the conservative National Coalition Party, the centrist Centre Party and the Finns Party.
A point was made of the need to ensure that Mr. Halla-aho was not turned into a martyr. Concern was expressed for the future of all the reforms started by the present coalition.
All this took place before the split of the Finns Party became known. By the end of the day the cabinet remained in place with the backing of the New Alternative instead of the Finns Party.
Split or no split, New Alternative or not, what was the media thinking? And others for that matter.
The man who wrote the above-quoted blogs, and many like them, is not fit for governing. There was absolutely nothing to discuss before the New Alternative emerged.
Yet the Finnish media has done its best to forget about Mr. Halla-aho’s blogs. They are yesterday’s news.
I discussed the banality of evil in my last blog. We are what we condone, whether we fully realise what we are doing or not.
How can journalists sit down and write seemingly balanced and analytical articles about the politics of a man, whose own writings are all but balanced? Whose values are so far right that they should be held to scrutiny each and every day, not hid behind jargon about party politics, about who knew and did what before and after the election.
Experts are called in to analyse what happened, who lost, who won. Everyone is having fun outguessing others. Mr. Halla-aho is being legitimised as just one player among many in a political game.
There is nothing unclear about this. No one won. Finland lost.
This is not a game. There are things that can’t be condoned. Such as the values, if they can be called values, expressed in Mr. Halla-aho’s blogs.
Mr. Halla-aho has done a fine job lately of portraying himself as a thoughtful, straightforward politician who says uncomfortable things because someone has to.
We can’t let ourselves – and others – forget that Mr. Halla-aho is the man behind the words: the ones quoted above, and many like them.
Words that cross lines that should not be crossed, if we are to consider Finland a humane society.
Mr. Halla-aho should not be accepted as a party leader among others. This is not politics as usual.