My grandfather, who died in 1994 at the age of 92, was a life-long social democrat.¹ The son of a paper mill foreman and a veteran of three wars, he was a tough guy, both in body and spirit. He had the sinewy torso of a former wrestler and the voracious literary appetite of a self-taught working man. He had joined the socialist Red Guards at 16 in search of a job to provide for his family, had served as a machine gunner in the civil war in 1918 and after the defeat had nearly wasted away subsisting on bark and garbage in a prison camp. Still, he was passionately patriotic, and to show for his efforts in defending Finland against the Soviets in WWII he had a piece of shrapnel buried in his forehead. Despite all the hardship, or maybe because of it, he was a tolerant man, who showed great compassion for the needy and always rooted for the underdog regardless of his skin colour.
Were my grandfather alive today, his patriotic credentials would mean nothing to the True Finns, the populist, anti-immigrant party that won Finland’s parliamentary election in April with an unprecedented landslide.
For them, he would be enemy number 1, hated even more than Islam.
In fact, says True Finn MP James Hirvisaari, not only should leftists and Greens be opposed and fought against, they should all be prosecuted:
“It is time to sweep the political playing field clean and put things in the right perspective. And court-martial the nation’s traitors.”²
According to another True Finn MP, Jussi Halla-aho, a Helsinki University Slavic linguist who after 9/11 built a fanatical online following with his anti-multiculturalist, anti-Islam and anti-leftist blog, my grandfather wouldn’t even deserve to be called human:
“I find it difficult to imagine a lower form of reptile in the universe than the Scandinavian social democrat. A particularly slimy subspecies of this reptile is the Swedish social democrat.”
In another post, Halla-aho calls left-wing activists “human scum” and expresses regret that “in the current media climate” the police are not allowed to shoot them in the head:
“What does a fish do? It swims. How do you stop a fish from swimming? You kill it. What does a leftist hooligan do? He throws rocks. How do you stop a leftist hooligan from throwing rocks?”
As for the enemy’s women, they deserve to be raped by the Muslim immigrants they befriend:
“The number of rapes will increase no matter what. Because more women will be raped in any case, I sincerely wish that the predators who randomly choose their prey will pick the right women. Greenish-leftist do-gooders and their voters. Better them than someone else.”
Halla-aho, who is a gun enthusiast, says he is a peaceful man who has never condoned violence, much less advocated it. Yet, after being offered a blowjob by a homosexual in 2003, he wrote:
“[...] I thought for a moment whether I should go upstairs, get a gun and shoot him in the head. Would the resulting bliss be so great as to outweigh the upset over a jail sentence? These days violence is an underrated method for solving problems.”
Four years later, after his first bid for parliament had failed, Halla-aho again confessed to having homicidal thoughts as he explained why he would not intervene if he saw a woman being raped by an immigrant:
“I would not in the least want to risk a situation where I would have to pay damages for ‘pain and suffering’ to some piece of human filth from the Horn of Africa. In such a situation I can well imagine losing my self-restraint and killing both the judge and the piece of filth with his ‘pain and suffering’, along with his lawyer.”
Spanning almost a decade, Halla-aho’s writings would be a treasure trove for those wanting a glimpse of the evolution of a Scandinavian right-wing Islamophobe³ — except that there isn’t much in the way of evolution.
Even after Halla-aho’s political success, first in the 2008 municipal election and later in the national race of 2011, the violent imagery persists. Enemies — never explicitly called so but treated with resentful suspicion and contempt — include the left, the Greens, the media, the multiculturalists, the Minister of Immigration, the state prosecutor’s office, immigrant bus drivers and anyone else standing in the way of what is dear to Halla-aho and his 15,074 voters.
It is hardly surprising, then, that Halla-aho is approvingly quoted in 2083, the 1,500-page political manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the 32-year old Norwegian right-wing Islamophobe who last week killed 76 people in Oslo in the first successful terrorist attack in the West since the London bombings by Muslim extremists in 2005.
What is surprising, however, is that so many people who should know better have been appalled by what they call a “deranged” and “rambling” compendium, and are utterly baffled by the targeting of social democrats instead of Muslims, when much of the same thinking, often in the exact same words, has been accessible online for years.
For those who have read Halla-aho’s writings, or similar Finnish blogs like Vasarahammer or Laiva on lastattu — or the 2009 Finnish extremist manifesto Operaatio Ulos! (‘Operation Out!’) which calls for the mass murder of the “multi-culturalist elite” in much the same way that Breivik does — the only shocking thing about the Oslo killer’s ideas is that they sound so familiar.
But does it follow from any of this that Halla-aho, Hirvisaari and their ilk in Finland or abroad should bear any responsibility for Breivik’s actions?
Well, here’s the thing:
As much as my grandfather would’ve enjoyed watching Halla-aho nosedive down the toilet with a horribly painful political ass-bleed, I’m almost certain he couldn’t have brought himself to blame the guy for some other dude’s atrocity.
Does this mean he would’ve given peddlers of hate speech a free pass? Hell no. Just because he wouldn’t have blamed Halla-aho, Spencer, Geller et al. for the shots Breivik fired doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have blamed them for writing and saying what he most certainly would’ve considered stupid fucking shit.
It also doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have held Halla-aho responsible for letting loose online trolls who have hastened the atrophying of public debate in Finland by harassing any forum or individual deemed too “tolerant”, to the extent that Halla-aho’s political opponents now have to take up nonsensical positions just to keep the horde at bay.
And it doesn’t mean my grandfather wouldn’t have blamed True Finns party chief Timo Soini, who is fully aware of Halla-aho’s views on violence as a problem solver, for awarding him with the chairmanship of the parliament’s Administration Committee, which is in charge of immigration and gun laws — and letting him keep the post even after his cogitations were endorsed by a mass murderer.
But at the end of the day, I think it is more likely that my grandfather, as was his wont, would’ve just pulled out his trusty ballpoint pen, found Halla-aho’s picture in the morning paper and unceremoniously drawn a cross over it.
And that would’ve been that.
¹ I’m not.
² Links are available on request. I don’t want stormtroopers trashing my blog.
³ Halla-aho doesn’t like to be called anti-immigration or Islamophobe and is bound to take great umbrage. What can I say — knock yourself out.