- Our heroes set up a grill beside the tent of some Afghani asylum-seekers, who have been on hunger-strike for over 30 days outside the Eduskunta (Finnish parliament), protesting against the asylum determination process. You don't need to understand Finnish to understand the action. However, here are some translated extracts. Speaking to the camera, Joonas tells us he is going to meet his friends for a bbq, and it cuts to their explanation of this most special event:
JOONAS: My friend asked me if I would be interested in grilling - bring some coals with you he
FRIEND1: The reason why we go grilling ...
FRIEND2: ... is that we have noticed that in front of the Parliament house there is clearly the most sociable spot in Finland - you can freely camp there if you have a good cause. Our cause today is to support these hungerstrikers who are on hunger strike because they think that criminals, shit stomachs and enemies...
FRIEND1: ...and rapists!...
FRIEND2: ... and rapists shouldn't be deported from Finland in any case because it is unhumane. That's why we want to be humane and support the hunger strike eating huge quantities of grill delicacies and enjoying beer...
FRIEND1: In the Finnish way! Like the Finns do!
FRIEND2: Telling our opinion in this issue.
FRIEND1: Our little opinion.
Moving on to the actual bbq, the group have somehow persuaded one of the hunger strikers to come and warm his hands on the grill fire. They then proceed to start cooking food. As this exchange proceeds, his facial expressions make clear that he is fully aware of the degrading treatment being meted out.
FRIEND2: I brought some sausage and some chicken
FRIEND1: How did you come here? (TO THE AFGAN GUY)
SOMEONE: The bacons will come (be ready) faster than the police
(AFGAN GUY SHOWS HOW MANY LAYERS OF CLOTHES HE HAS)
FRIEND1: Some layered clothing you have!
FRIEND2: Way to go!
FRIEND1: It's cold?
FRIEND2: Just put some more meat on the grill.
FRIEND1: Yeah, sure. And this is pork, by the way. And this comes in too (PUTS THE BACON TO GRILL) .... This is fucking brilliant, it also has some blubber/fat on it – guys, does everyone have a beer?
FRIEND2 (TO THE AFGAN GUY): You want some beer, huh?
AFGAN GUY: No...
JOONAS: Maybe the best grill trip ever!
- The opening scene employs the familar stereotypes - carefully articulated, indirectly, through the mock offer of solidarity - of asylum-seekers as criminals, rapists, degenerates, and social enemies.
However, their method of welcome has a very particular resonance in Europe of late.
On the presumption that the hunger-strikers are Muslim, their extreme suffering is taunted with pork and beer, presented as non-negotiable aspects of the Finnish society they are being 'welcomed' to. For all the video diary play-acting involved, this is a form of racist provocation intimately associated with the extreme right in Europe, and with far-right groups intent on 'Stopping the Islamicization' of Europe.
The French Bloc identitaire, for example - seen above 'occupying' a semi-constructed Mosque - hit the headlines for distributing a pork-based 'identity soup' to the impoverished. According to these racist, anti-Muslim networks, any (imagined) indication that Muslims and 'migrants' have not integrated to the national culture or otherwise pristine liberalism of the 'host' nation provides solid proof that they are involved in invasion, creeping shariah, the sacred deceptions of Taqiyya, and cultural destruction. Below, for example, is Geert Wilders, drawing on these kinds of factoids to explain that it is '2 minutes to midnight' and time to act decisively.
Whatever about the differences in presentation, this is the clear political logic of the Finnish barbeque.
- Of course, it is not news that the internet is full of racist hatred and provocation.
What is of interest, in this case, is that the video was produced as part of a project called Doxwise Nordic, that follows young people in the different Nordic countries as they document days in their lives and share their thoughts and ideas. It is explained on the site as follows: "Young people are communicating, commenting and reacting on full speed in the global fora. We insists that this global power and energy can be used to create local and regional understanding and thus fellowship among young people, which is a fundamental vision behind Doxwise concept."
- This video is part of the Finnish series, outlined in the following link. Here we learn that Joonas has had problems with drugs, but is now searching for life's meaning with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
- The Doxwise project website makes clear that all of these video diaries are professionally edited and produced by 'media professionals' prior to being distributed. The contact details of the representatives of these media professionals can be found at the link below. They could be invited to answer a very simple question: why did they think that the on-screen humiliation and debasement of a man whose life is already at the mercy of powerful institutions was acceptable?
The Doxwise project is funded and supported by, among others, the Finnish Film Institute:
- By the Swedish film institute:
- By the Nordic Children's and Youth Committee:
- Clearly, these institutions are unlikely to be aware of the content of each of the videos produced as part of initiatives that they fund, but the question must be, when they are made aware, how will the respond? Please contact the institutions involved to draw their attention to this issue. Below is the text of a suggested letter, please feel free to adapt and edit as suits your purposes:
For the attention of institutions involved in supporting the Doxwise project,
I am writing to draw your attention to the degrading and racist video Tervetuloa Suomeen/Welcome to Finland made as part of the Finnish production strand. As a media sociologist and professional with a history also in youth policy research (*adapt here), I have no doubt that the Nordic youth agencies, cultural institutions and film boards that find themselves implicated in this potentially hate-inciting incident will share my/our concerns.
The video in question shows several young men organizing to grill food right beside the tents of some Afghani asylum-seekers who have been on hunger strike - in protest against the asylum determination process - for several weeks. The video shows one of the hunger strikers, having been lured to the grill simply in order to warm his hands, being taunted first by food being cooked, then by bacon, and finally by beer. His facial expressions leave us in no doubt as to how aware he is of the humiliating and degrading treatment he is being subjected to.
It is in and of itself troubling that young Finnish men would attempt to make some kind of incoherent political point by humiliating someone who is clearly on the verge of physical breakdown. However there are distinct aspects of this video piece that require a response from the agencies and funders involved. By ‘welcoming’ the asylum-seekers to Finland with food, in full knowledge of their circumstances, and by taunting them – on the presumption they are Muslim – with pork products and beer, the young men in question deliberately engage in a form of symbolic provocation widespread among European far-right groups. The far-right French Bloc identitaire and the Belgian Vlaams Belang, for example, have made a point of distributing pork-based ‘identity soup’ to homeless and vulnerable people, as a way of pointedly excluding Jews and Muslims.
If this were simply an opportunistic video distributed on YouTube, it may well prompt a police investigation, a possibility that we are currently investigating. However, it is a video that is circulated with the institutional endorsement of the Nordic Children’s and Youth Committee, and the Swedish and Finnish film boards, among other eminent institutions. While representatives of these institutions are unlikely to be aware of this content, it is clear from the production process described that the media professionals involved in editing and post-production were aware that this contained racist content.
While a viral video of this nature cannot be recalled, we are writing to ask you to remove the video from your project sites, and to issue a public statement distancing yourself from this video.