When your political moves look like a bad case of Harlem shake

Finland is a great country in many ways. But every now and then this nation offers such epic levels of political drama that it’s hard to remember it’s all happening for real. The past week has been a roller coaster ride of political drama, or entertainment, depending on the viewpoint.

If you look at the YLE news website today, you may think we’re talking about the collective wage negotiations (yes we still do it) or debating the governmental budget proposal.

Nope. What we’re really talking about is a strange version of political Harlem shake one of the political youth organisations is maneuvering. You know Harlem shake right? Crazy people doing crazy stuff, you looking in awe and thinking are they serious? What’s been happening now for the past few days is very much like Harlem shake – except it’s not a popular meme people want to join, and not even remotely funny.

So what happened? In short, the conservative right-wing youth organisation came up with a new and highly controversial political programme, sent their newly elected chair to talk about it in a TV interview, and after a week’s heated discussion on the contents of the programme, and plenty of brand building for the new chair, the tables turned. The large media corporate who conducted the original TV interview revealed that the newly elected chair was utterly clueless on the contents of the programme. A short, clean interview (what the public saw) had taken some 40 minutes to shoot, as the chair could not utter understandable sentences to describe or defend the political contents of the programme, had to make some phone calls to clarify things and take a few walks to gather thoughts in order to finish the interview. And now, someone has taken the issue to the Council for Mass Media in Finland, a self-regulating committee to interpret good professional practice and defend the freedom of speech and publication, in order to find out if the media corporate acted in line with the guidelines for journalists while publishing details on the interview gone bad.

You may ask yourself, is Finland, the 7th happiest nation on earth, losing its collective mind. Why would a national media corporate be interested in a political youth organisation, or even better, its newly elected chair? Since when has anyone taken political youth organisations seriously, except the organisations themselves?

Let’s take a few steps back. What’s in the highly controversial programme?

Plenty of things, such as the ambitious goals of Finland not to accept any more refugees within the UNHCR resettlement programme, to remove the position of Ombudsman for Minorities, and to top it all off, to remove ethnic agitation (Chapter 11, section 10) from the Criminal Code. In practice, all of these speak in favour of racism. Another favourite of mine was the demand for Finland to immediately resign from the newly ratified anti-personnel mine ban convention, also known as the Ottawa treaty.

I find their abovementioned political goals ignorant, obnoxious, and selfish, let’s make that clear. Finland is a state party in many international human rights conventions, one of which is the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In August 2012, during the latest consideration of our periodic report concerning CERD, we were able to report that for the first time, our Supreme Court had handed down a judgement in a case involving ethnic agitation, relating to a parliamentarian’s blog text. The Court ruled the blog text amounted to hate speech.

Other nations are burning, as people are demanding democracy and human rights. Finland is burning, as more and more people are blindly shouting that “others” should not benefit from our wealth, infrastructure, peaceful society, and other resources.

Ethnic agitation is not a small and meaningless issue in Finland. Our problems are structural, hidden in derogatory language and hard to tackle.

And this is why the Harlem Shake gone bad is so relevant. Future decision-makers are putting forward goals that most of us are abhorred to have seen daylight in the first place. Even though the political maneuver of the media corporate was very surprising, I salute them for standing up and showing the drama, which in an instant broke down the shiny brand that had been built all week for the chair – a future politician of the adult world, I’m sure. The youth politicians dug a hole all by themselves, and then dug a little deeper. When other people, including from their own party, mentioned it might be wise not to dig any deeper, they started ranting about being treated unfairly. Do I need to say more? If you talk the talk, then walk the walk.

I did not yet mention that the newly elected chair of the political youth organisation in question happens to be a young woman. My next question is, would the national media corporate have done the same for a young man? I will be very interested to see what the international committee following the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has to say about Finland’s latest periodic report, which mentions stereotyped gender attitudes and practices maintaining gender inequality within media.

Disclaimer: Please note that the linked English translation of the Criminal Code includes amendments only up to 940/2008. A few dozen amendments have been added since, including amendment 511/2011 to better ensure opportunities to intervene in racist and other hate speech, and other racist crime.

[edit 15.54 same day]

Can’t believe I forgot to add these!

♥ In the meantime: Did you know that all princesses know kung-fu nowadays? Great article on strong female characters.

♦ Song of the day: Journey, Any way you want it



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