The MSM keeps on getting it wrong. About Europe, they are especially likely to get it wrong.
Take this latest essay from The Weekly Standard concerning the recent elections in Finland and the meaning behind the rise of the True Finns Party in that thinly-populated country.
First, some personal background: the Baron has given up on this magazine. I’m the subscriber (it was a gift and has my name on it). Occasionally I’ll point him toward a P.J. O’Rourke column, or some piece of domestic news he hadn’t read elsewhere. However, he’s mostly not interested in reading them anymore. He has sadly learned that American neo-conservatives don’t ‘get’ Europe. Having had a ground level window for the last five years into that huge project known as “the EU”, he no longer has much patience with the skewed, elitist points of view such as those appearing in the Standard.
While I don’t follow events closely, I do listen in on what’s going on and try to sort out who is doing what to whom in individual countries. At supper, or while driving around, the Baron will lay out a situation for me, explaining how he knows what he does and why he thinks a particular event may or may not transpire. It’s enough for me to “get the gist of things” even though I’m not able to enjoy the nitty gritty level of involvement he has come to have with people in the EU who really are in the forefront of the battle to keep their countries and their ethnicities.
Ever since the hate speech trials started, I’ve become more interested in the fate of those who speak out and pay the price for doing so. I am moved by the courage of these people across Europe. They seem such unlikely Davids against the Goliath of the EU. Yet they manage! They survive! They transcend. They leave a history for their children (as I reminded Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff the other day).
So imagine my dismay when I read the essay about the Finnish elections in the April 18th issue of The Weekly Standard. Even the subtitle (“The EU’s bailouts spark an uprising”) sounded a wrong note. According to what I’d been hearing, the Finnish electorate, like many other national groups, is focused on its own identity. Yeah, the bailouts are outrageous, but even if they didn’t exist, Finns — along with the Flemish, the Dutch, the Swedes, the English — are concerned with preserving their cultures. Why is that so hard to grasp?
The Baron claims they don’t get it because The Weekly Standard, like many other magazines, is captive to its own American history and political correctnesses. Thus, when people like George Wallace and his ilk grabbed the issues of their day, they contaminated cultural conservatism. Want to be accepted by the wider American audience? Well, be sure to demonize the right people.
Or rather, the wrong people. The latest example is the way they’re treating Donald Trump’s announced interest in running for the presidency. Because he’s “kind of” on the Right (at least economically) and because he’s a flamboyant businessman, they will deny him any gravitas. Trump-as-candidate doesn’t really interest me. What does intrigue me is this phenomenon, i.e., the manner in which mainstream conservative magazines run away from Trump and others as though they were the carriers of a very infectious social disease. Where’s the political courage to examine a candidate with some sense of fair play or justice? Not at the Standard… and not at National Review either, sad to say.
But that’s just background to my point about how they treated the Finns in this essay. There is much they get wrong; perhaps they don’t want to know. Ethnic nationalism? In Europe? Eww…must be Nazis, right?
As for free speech, they’re not interested. Here’s what they had to say about Jussi Halla-aho:
Certainly, the True Finns are skeptical about immigration. One party member, a Helsinki city councilman, was convicted in 2009 for writing nasty things about immigrants on his website. But the party as a whole is not rabid on the matter.
The writer doesn’t even give the man the respect of naming him before he summarily trashes Jussi Halla-aho’s reputation with the implication that he’s “rabid” on the matter of immigration.
For those who weren’t following events at the time of his trial, let’s go back and take look at what the issue was.
Jussi Halla-aho was charged with “incitement against an ethnic group” (that’s an approximate translation; the Finnish-language statute was modeled on the Swedish equivalent, hets mot folkgrupp).
According to the Baron, who followed the case closely back in 2009, Mr. Halla-aho’s so-called “hate speech” (make that rabid hate speech) was actually an attempt to demonstrate the double standard of the politically correct multicultural folks in charge. These gatekeepers, media included, forbid ethnic Finns from describing the reality of other groups within their borders. Meanwhile, it’s open season on the Finns themselves.
So here’s what Mr. Halla-aho did:
He took an MSM article which purported to show the propensity of Finns for violent drunkenness, a Leftist essay he found offensive, and he changed certain keywords in order to demonstrate how unacceptable these opinions would be were they applied to another ethnic group, particularly — gasp! — “brown” people. He posted this cut-and-paste experiment on his blog.
You can guess the level of moral outrage. How dare anyone speak publicly about what is only permitted to be thought — or at least thoughts are free at the moment. The future remains less certain.
The persecution of Mr. Halla-aho for his temerity in exposing this jornolism followed the usual predictable EU ruts. The state prosecutor brought him up on charges so ludicrous that Mr. Halla-aho didn’t even bother to hire a lawyer but acted in his own defense. Wrong move. He was gutted and turned on a spit over the flames of Finnish justice until he was done to a turn.
They fined him €330, which, as Archonix pointed out in the comments was the price of free speech: good if you can afford it.
So now, having paid his debt to society, our anonymous Helsinki councilman has just been elected to Parliament as a member of the True Finns. This point wasn’t mentioned by the author, but then it’s obvious he didn’t dig very deeply into the situation in Finland.
That’s the trouble with MSM news “analysts”. They read The Financial Times, The Economist, Deer Spiegel (English language version), and whatever other politically correct ‘foreign’ news sources that present their stories in predictable, socially acceptable forms. Maybe they even talk to the writers in these venues. Thus their certainty about being well-informed when it comes to Europe.
But that’s not the way Gates of Vienna does things. Down here in the trenches there are Finnish correspondents and Finnish translators who provide direct source material unfiltered by the MSM gatekeepers. During the time of the arraignment, trial and conviction of Mr. Halla-aho the story was here as current news. Not only that, but the rabid city councilman himself, horns and all, has been a welcomed guest-essayist here. In other words, the man speaks English. He should have been interviewed for that essay in the magazine.
This casually cruel, dismissive and inaccurate throw-away summation of Mr. Halla-aho’s character should be prominently placed on the agenda at the next staff meeting of The Weekly Standard. This man is now an elected member of the Finnish Parliament. Having earned his public position, he deserves public redress. If they have any sense of journalistic integrity, surely the author and editors will talk to Mr. Halla-aho? Surely they will apologize publicly for trashing an honest man’s reputation?
I will suggest to Mr. Halla-aho that he contact The Weekly Standard and ask for an explanation. Perhaps he can let us know if they understand the issues in Finland. Based on this essay, one could hazard a guess regarding the steep learning curve.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if journalists were willing to listen to real people instead of reading and writing in their echo chambers? Since the advent of the internet, they don’t have to stick to the superhighways of MSM routes through reality.
They don’t have to do this, but perhaps old habits are simply easier than learning the truth, even if it leads to their own eventual irrelevance.
For the rest of us, their casual treatment of reality is beyond sad. Don’t you wonder what else they get so rabidly wrong?
Previous posts about the persecution of Jussi Halla-aho: