Attacking the election is a serious matter. The fact that it was a virtual event does not alleviate the matter in any way – in fact, on the contrary, writes Marko Junkkari.
Chairman of the Center Annika Saarikko had to suspend his speech at an election ceremony on Wednesday, January 20, due to a racist attack.
Saarikko was speaking at a virtual event organized by the women of Helsinki Dear city: Light for election work. In addition to Saarikko, the speaker was the candidate for mayor of downtown Helsinki Eeva Kärkkäinen.
The event, organized on the Teams remote service, began at 5 pm. The organizers welcomed a few dozen listeners who signed up for the service. Saarikko started his speech at 17.03.
The archipelago had time to speak for a few minutes when a video of people being threatened with a gun suddenly appeared on the screen. The video was apparently from some computer game.
On top of the video, someone shouted a racist blunder in English.
In addition to the shout, the text “Heil Hitler” appeared in the message field on the screen. The Nazi salute was followed by a large stream of racist insults in Finnish in the message field.
Embarrassed Saarikko interrupted his speech.
The opportunity The moderator took over the surprising situation well. He was quickly removed from the screen of the video, after which he muted all participants.
One by one, the moderator undertook to remove the pseudonymous distractions from the audience. However, the troublemakers logged back in immediately, so the Moderator had to tighten Teams ’privacy settings.
Newcomers could no longer log in. The event link was removed from Facebook.
Moderator Thanks to his prompt action, Saarikko was able to continue his speech at about 5.15 pm. The event was completed as planned and no further disruptions were felt.
The episode was sad. No one should have to hear about racist pollution. But Saarikko managed to continue his speech. No one was physically injured in the attack.
So what was the significance of the attack?
Attack the election is a serious matter. The fact that it was a virtual event does not alleviate it in any way – in fact, on the contrary.
We are living in very exceptional times. The spring 2021 municipal elections are quite different from any previous election.
Remote connections and virtual meetings are, in practice, the only way candidates can meet their constituents – at least in the worst areas of the corona. Due to interest rate restrictions, parties have had to cancel virtually all of their physical elections.
And very likely the restrictions will only tighten over the course of the spring as the election approaches.
“Yes this the attack surprised. It was a strange and distressing experience, ”says Saarikko. He praises how quickly the organizers of the event took over after the attack.
Saarikko emphasizes that racism is, of course, reprehensible. According to Saarikko, what made the attack exceptional was that it also clearly sought to disrupt democracy and democracy.
“We have recently had a discussion about the state of democracy, threats against decision-makers and even violence,” Saarikko says.
“Still, I was surprised that the realization of democracy is also endangered in this way in the online world.”
Election campaigns based on reaching voters.
Wednesday’s event had been advertised in advance on social media. The ad shared a Teams link through which anyone could freely attend the event. Of course, participation could not be limited in advance, because the central idea of the elections is that they are open to everyone.
“Closing the virtual event would be the same as going to hold an election ceremony in a local tavern’s office with our own team, closing the doors and not letting anyone else in,” Saarikko says.
“There is no such option. It is not a democracy. ”
Saarikko says that he talked about the attack on the chairmen of other parties. Others were unaware of such attacks on their own occasions.
“Parties need to be aware that this form of harassment also exists,” says Saarikko.
Representative democracy is based on people voting for someone to represent themselves in decision-making. Meeting representatives and representatives is a key part of election campaigning and democracy.
After all, candidates have traditionally distributed their flyers in supermarket wind cabinets, markets and the metro station. This spring, this will not work out as usual.
Election ceremonies are also important for the parties’ own internal election work. Party activists do a huge amount of volunteering during the elections, and it is essential for the party leadership to be able to inspire and encourage their own in the work that is essential for democracy.
Virtual election ceremonies are certainly not on anyone’s mind. However, in a coronation situation, they are practically the only way for parties to try to keep in touch with citizens.
On Wednesday night, the attackers tried to disconnect this connection.
The attackers were not intended to express dissenting views or stimulate discussion.
The purpose was solely to disturb and prevent the organization of the event.
The intention was to make democracy more difficult.
Therefore, attacks like this should be taken very seriously.