«MYPLACE (Memory, Youth, Political Legacy And Civic Engagement) Grant agreement no: FP7-266831 WP7: Interpreting Activism (Ethnographies) Deliverable ...»
MYPLACE 31st January 2014
MYPLACE (Memory, Youth, Political Legacy And Civic Engagement)
Grant agreement no: FP7-266831
WP7: Interpreting Activism (Ethnographies)
Deliverable 7.1: Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism
Homma internet forum
University of Eastern Finland
Author(s) Vesa Puuronen (assisted by Jarmila Rajas)
Field researcher(s) Vesa Puuronen Data analysts Vesa Puuronen Date 26.1. 2014 Work Package 7 Interpreting Activism (Ethnographies) Deliverable 7.1 Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism Dissemination level PU [Public] WP Leaders Hilary Pilkington, Phil Mizen Deliverable Date 31 January 2014 Document history Version Date Comments Created/Modified by 1 26.01.2014 First version Vesa Puuronen 2 27.01.2014 Comments and suggested edits Hilary Pilkington 3 28.01.2014 Revised version Vesa Puuronen 4 30.01.2014 Final version Hilary Pilkington MYPLACE: FP7-266831 www.fp7-myplace.eu Deliverable D7.1: Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism Page 1 of 28 MYPLACE 31st January 2014 Contents
3. Key Findings
3.1. Cultural discordance and multiculturalism
3.2 Catastrophic integration policies
3.3 Confusing definitions of left and right
5. Future analysis
1. Introduction Politically influential populist right actors (movements and parties) have been developing in Finland since the beginning of the 1990s. One of the major factors related to the emergence of the populist right is immigration.1 Until the 1980s the number of people belonging to visible ethnic minorities in Finland was so low that the country was regarded as ethnically homogeneous. Traditional minorities (Roma, Jews, Russians, Tatars and the indigenous people Sami) were small, culturally and linguistically assimilated and/or geographically isolated. During the 1980s and especially since the beginning of the 1990s the number of new immigrant minority groups began to grow mainly due to international and internal crisis in different parts of the world, which forced people to leave their home countries. The largest new immigrant groups came from Vietnam, Somalia, Russia (former Soviet Union), former Yugoslavia and Estonia. At the beginning of the 1990s a group of Finnish peoples, called Ingrian Finns (inkeriläiset), who lived in the former Soviet Union, were given specific permission to move to Finland as repatriates. The number of the immigrant population (as in the number of foreign citizens) increased from approximately 25,000 (0.5 per cent of the population) in 1990 to 195,000 (3.6 per cent) in 2012 (see Figure 1 below).
The number of people, whose mother tongue is none of the national languages of Finland (Finnish, Swedish or Saami) was 266,949 (4.9 per cent of the population) at the end of 2012.
Simultaneously with the growth of the number of non-native residents the political movements, which oppose immigration, became more active and visible. First anti-immigrant groups were quite small skinhead groups, which fought immigrants in the streets and distributed racist, anti-immigrant leaflets and so forth (Puuronen 2001: 17-31). During the 1990s only one or two Members of Parliament (MP) or a few members of local, municipal councils openly opposed immigration and refugee policies. The situation changed during the first years of the 21st century. In the general elections of 2004 the first openly anti-immigrant candidate, who represented the True Finns Party, were elected to parliament.
Figure 1. The number of foreign citizens in Finland 1990-2012
This development reached its peak in the national elections in 2011. The right-wing populist party The Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset, formerly the True Finns, and before that The Finnish Rural Party, Suomen Maaseudun Puolue) made a breakthrough on the political scene. In these national elections The Finns Party grew from a minor, relatively insignificant protest party (5 MPs) to the third largest party (39 MPs, 19.05 per cent of the votes). The growth of the party began already in the local elections in 2007 and EU elections in 2009 (Arter 2010: 484). The shattering victory of The Finns Party in 2011 was labelled the Jytky2 by the colourful populist chairman of The Finns Party Timo Soini.
Plate 1. Chairman of The Finns Party, Timo Soini celebrating the election victory on 17.
An important factor behind the Jytky, i.e. the popularity of the right-wing populist party, is the conscious efforts of mainly young men, who have developed, established and maintained certain, very popular, internet blog-pages and social media forums since the beginning of the 21st century. These blogs and www-sites are dedicated to the criticism of and discussion and disputes about immigration and multiculturalism. Thousands of predominantly young men participated in the discussions in the internet forums and/or read the texts produced by active bloggers.
The most important individual anti-immigration politician, who became a member of parliament in 2011, is Jussi Halla-aho,3 who established his Scripta (Writings from the Sinking West, Kirjoituksia uppoavasta lännestä) blog in 2003 (http://www.halla-aho.com/scripta/).
2 Jytky cannot be directly translated into English, but it means an extraordinary, enormous achievement or a ‘big bang’.
3 Jussi Halla-aho is a 42-year-old with a PhD in Linguistics. He has studied and worked as a teacher and researcher in the University of Helsinki specializing in Slavonic languages, especially Ukrainian.
MYPLACE: FP7-266831 www.fp7-myplace.eu Deliverable D7.1: Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism Page 4 of 28 MYPLACE 31st January 2014 Halla-aho’s blog quite quickly became very popular amongst people who supported antiimmigration or anti-immigrant views (which Halla-aho and his followers called ‘immigration criticism’). Before starting the blog Hallo-aho belonged to a quite small group of mainly young men, who established a youth association Suomen Sisu (Finnish Perseverance) under the auspices of a nationalist organisation, the Finnish Alliance, in 1998. At the moment the chairman of Suomen Sisu is another relatively young (27 years of age) MP of The Finns Party Olli Immonen. Suomen Sisu celebrated its 15th anniversary at the beginning of December 2013 in Helsinki.
In his speech during the 15th anniversary celebrations of Suomen Sisu the chairman of the organisation MP Olli Immonen said that Suomen Sisu is a nationalist organisation, which strongly defends Finnishness and binds nationalist Finns together. According to Immonen the association has about one thousand members. Immonen stated that the ‘‘consensus media’’ have been forced to admit that the demonization of Suomen Sisu has been counterproductive.
He concluded his speech by saying that:
… the Finnish identity, which has gone through the mill, needs a defender like Suomen Sisu, which offers future generations a possibility to be proud of their Finnish identity. Our organisation wants to defend Finnish people, language, cultural heritage and nature and to build a democratic, free and equal nation state.(http://suomensisu.fi/suomen-sisu-juhli-paakaupunkiseudulla-10-12-2013/, last accessed 2.1. 2014) Homma-forum is an internet forum, which was established in December 2008 by active followers of Jussi Halla-aho’s blog page and adherents of Suomen Sisu. The establishment of Homma-forum was regarded as necessary because the guest book of Halla-aho’s blog Scripta became inoperable due to the huge number of visitors and commentators (http://www.hallaaho.com/scripta/vieraskirja.html, last accessed 2.1. 2014). As of the beginning of 2014 Hommaforum has 8 707 members. It contains 1,415,825 messages about 37,678 topics (http://Hommaforum.org/index.php?action=stats, last accessed 2.1. 2014).
Plate 2. Chairman of Suomen Sisu MP Olli Immonen at the 15th Anniversary party of the association 10.
(http://suomensisu.fi/suomen-sisu-juhli-paakaupunkiseudulla-10-12-2013/ accessed 2.1. 2014)
Homma-forum is divided into 5 main sections: Discussion; The Political wing of Homma:
parties; Newsroom: news and media; Library: standard arguments, recommended readings, statistics, research, opinion polls and economic indicators; The Maintenance of Homma: the development of the forum. The subcategories of the discussion section of the forum are Hut (tupa), Parlour (salonki), Smithy (paja), Mill (mylly), Street (kylänraitti) and Backroom (peräkammari). The House contains discussions about topical issues of immigration and multiculturalism. Parlour is devoted to ‘politically correct’ discussion about multiculturalism and immigration.
Smithy includes discussions about concrete activities connected to Homma-forum, for instance activities of Homma-clubs, which have been established in 13 cities in Finland. Some of these clubs have not been very active, but at least 7 local clubs and two other clubs have organised activities (meetings of the members of Homma-forum and public events like rallies) recently. In the Mill the discussions deal with the economy and the EU. The Street contains discussions about general political and actual issues and the Room is a place for humor and other not so serious discussions.
The section ‘Political wing of Homma’ contains information about the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), Change 2011 party (Muutos 2011) and The Finns Party. The National Coalition Party is a traditional conservative party, which was the most popular party in the national elections in 2011. The head of the Finnish government, prime minister Jyrki Katainen, is from this party. The Finns is the right-wing populist party, which was the third most popular party in the elections and Change 2011 is the most radical right-wing party in Finland. The Change 2011 party has only one MP, who is a former MP of The Finns Party. He was expelled from the parliamentary group of The Finns Party due to his extreme racist public statements.
Homma-forum is regarded as one of the most influential political Internet-forums in Finland, even though it is very difficult to measure or even to estimate its real influence.4 The number of its members is comparable to medium size political parties, but since it is an open discussion forum the number of its users is significantly greater than the number of members. For instance at 18:49 on the 2 January 2014, out of 320 people who used the forum 216 were guests while 104 were members.
Homma-forum carried out a survey amongst its members in 2010 (n=1015) (http://cms.hommaforum.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=240:hommaf orumin-kaeyttaejien-taustatieto-ja-asennekysely-huhtikuu-2010, last accessed 20.12. 2013).
According to the survey, the majority of members are male (91 per cent), relatively young (the proportion of those younger than 34 is 54 per cent), and have predominantly middle class social background (occupational status: workers, lower clerical workers (alempi toimihenkilö) and farmers 25 per cent, experts (asiantuntija) and upper clerical workers (ylempi toimihenkilö) 32 per cent, entrepreneurs and heads of companies 12 per cent, pensioners 2 per cent, housewives, house fathers and the unemployed altogether 29 per cent).
Homma-forum, even though it is certainly one of the most important discussion forums about immigration and multiculturalism in Finland, has been studied only sporadically (see e.g.
Puuronen 2011: 225-6; Hannula 2011: 145-61; Koivulaakso et al. 2012: 117-9). An in-depth analysis of Homma-forum is lacking. General research on social media in Finland is also quite rare. Some studies have been made on, for instance, school shootings and social media, the use of social media in political campaigning and civic activities and the role of social media in local democracy (Sassi 2000; Khaldarova et al. 2012; Muschert and Sumiala eds. 2012;
Matikainen and Villi 2013).
In this study the main focus is on the ideology of Homma-forum. The study of ideology is crucial if and when we try to understand the growing popularity of right-wing populism in Finland. The starting point of this study is that many of the activist of Homma-forum, supporters of The Finns Party and the activists of Suomen Sisu and also of the Change 2011 party share some basic ideological views. Ideology gives them a reasonable description of the situation of Finnish society and explains the reasons for its actual problems.
According to one of the first members of the Homma-forum, it is an internet community, which was established in order to facilitate reasoned discussion about the texts of Jussi Halla-aho and about those topics that are raised in public debate on immigration politics. The central idea that binds the members of Homma together is criticism of multiculturalism. ‘Homma is needed because the mainstream media does not understand that multiculturalism is a religion, and
that immigration policy has failed and leads to the destruction of society (see Puuronen 2011:
4 Some attempts have been made to measure the influence of certain social media sites, blogs or discussion forums, but researchers have found it very difficult to design reliable measures. The measurement of the influence of individual users has been more successful. The influence of individual users is measured, for instance, by counting the number of responses their messages or tweets inspired. (See Berger and Strathearn 2013: 3-4).
Measuring the influence of individual members of Homma-forum could be an interesting topic orf further analysis.