Racism and prejudices in Kotimaa forum
Kotimaa forum (Keskisuomalainen) is a place where you can discuss about urgent news in Finland. However it is also a place for prejudices and discrimination, which are often linked to the news. This creates unequality and gives the opportunity for provoking racist arguments and exaggeration to blossom.
I followed conversations concerning multiculturalism and ethnic diversity, as well as racism in Internet forum called “Kotimaa”. My study was done during March and April 2011. The forum is conducted by Keskisuomalainen, a daily magazine which is published in Central Finland. Discussion forums can be found under a headline Mielipide (Opinion). I was interested to find out, what kind of values do users of the forum have, and are they nationalistic or homophobic, what could be assumed from the forum name; “Home country”.
In Kotimaa forum people can discuss about the urgent news and happenings in Finland. Discussion and talk mostly starts with someone’s gambit with a link to news on the Internet. The most common topic is politics, and at the moment the talk is partly centered to multiculturalism, what reflects the political situation in Finland.
Stereotyping, discrimination, disdain of people from different ethnic backgrounds… Racist attitudes can be read between the lines in discussions of Kotimaa forum. In most cases, immigrants are being blamed and ridiculed without any rational reasons or just based on some news topics on the internet. Xenophobia is also common and putting people in boxes and categories. Also the thought that most of the taxes Finns pay go to funding the life of immigrants in Finland, is a repeating pattern. It also seems that anything an immigrant does in Finland is negative. However racism is cunning, because users of the forum do not refer to a certain ethnic group in their discussions. Most of them also seem to possess good basic knowledge about Finnish society.
When users talk about immigrants, they often use terms “the black and poor people” or “the outcomers without papers, jobs or education”. These patterns can be found in most conversations concerning immigrants, and definitions are given without any reasoning – they are not analytical, or well stated. This creates and strenghtens unequal structures, but also doesn't lead conversations forward. On the other hand, forum users educate each other, and at times there is constructive debate about immigration and facts about asylum seeking is given to each other. Islamophobia is not present, but racist attitudes are visible. Administrators have removed racist messages and comments from the forum, and they read trough every comment before it is released, which affects that racism cannot begin to bloom.
What makes the problem more interesting is that rules have been drawn to forum discussions, also to racist commenting. “10. All racist commenting in the forums are prohibited and banned.” This makes one think, who can draw the line to racism, and where does it go? Do even forum administrators know what racism is? The fact is that racism is still there and can easily be found in Kotimaa forum.
I would be interested to hear if you have comments and thoughts about this phenomenon. Is this kind of writing behind nicknames acceptable or illegal? Does it make xenophobic writings more acceptable that they can are put behind the Opinion department? Should the administrators be even more restrictive, or could something else be done?
Link to the forum: http://www.ksml.fi/mielipide/keskustelupalsta/forums/show/4.htm
Research question: What can be done to battle this phenomenon?
Despite the uglyness of discrimination, I think people should be allowed to express their opinions. These sorts of topics should be brought out and discussed openly instead of being bottled up. This way people can gain more knowledge on the subject, become more educated and hopefully change whatever discriminative attitudes they may have.
I think forums should not be too strictly moderated. Some of the most intersting, funny, and constructive discussions I have witnessed were on forums that were barely moderated at all. Similarly, on forums that had very strict rules and regulations, there was not a whole lot of actual constructive development or even truly honest discussion because posters were constantly afraid of having their comments deleted and having their accounts banned due to the strict rules.