Does it matter to write in my own language?
2018-05-01 15:25:33 -
Opinion
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By Panu Höglund

Recently a friend of mine, a female journalist who has suffered a lot being persecuted by online trolls supported by Russia, said: “I’m hardly interested anymore in writing journalistic texts in Finnish, seeing how ex-members of parliament are distributing lies about me.”

The reason behind her angry words was that a former member of our parliament, James Hirvisaari, had been propagating fake news items where my friend was being attacked personally. 

Extreme right wing trolls – who can hardly be separated from Russian trolls – have been down upon her for some years now, and she has found it necessary to leave Finland and settle down in another country to stay safe. 

Of course, few people in Finland believe her, because we think the world of our freedom of expression. We all were told at school that Finland has better freedom of expression than any other country, and few people are willing to admit that this received wisdom could be less than true.

My friend has suffered worse things online than the lies disseminated by Hirvisaari. For instance, she was sent a SMS message by someone pretending to be her father – but actually this woman’s father has been dead for two decades. So, one of the trolls was mean enough to create an internet profile under her father’s name just to intimidate her.

My readers know that I myself have lost my job as a Finnish-language columnist because the very same trolls targeted me, and the web portal I was writing for couldn’t care less about protecting me against the continuous intimidation. 

I don’t know why only I was targeted back then. Maybe because I said, before anyone else in my country, that I suspected Finnish right-wing radicals were somehow colluding with Russia. It is possible, though, that those radicals were irritated by my being an Irish-language enthusiast and writing often about Irish history and culture from an Irish-language perspective. Those radicals usually hate any minority, and it was probably a narcissistic insult to them that a fellow countryman should be supporting a minority language such as Irish.

After all, Finnish speaking people have no other identity than that of a majority. The Finnish-speaker couldn’t care less about the heritage and literature of the language. He finds it more important and more fun to lord it over indigenous minorities such as the Swedish-speakers and the Sami, not to mention immigrants. He identifies with the speakers of big languages, and at the same time he is jealous of them. He does not understand why anyone who speaks English – the great world language – should be interested in Irish at all, and he finds it exasperating that I, for instance, could be promoting that language.

I prefer to ask a different question: Why should anyone bother with Finnish anymore? It is a language that has been hijacked by Russophile and extreme rightist trolls. If you try to use it for telling the truth, your life will be devastated; in the end, you must leave your own country. The language has been stolen from you, and you won’t get it back.

Panu Höglund is a Finn who writes in Irish.
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