Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Finland not on the map in comparison to America it seems

This opinion piece appears in The Gown's December issue. Have your say on the issue here.

- Charlene Small

Did you know that Finland has the third highest rate of gun ownership in the world? Did you know that anyone in Finland aged 15 and above can apply for a gun licence if they are able to offer a valid reason? Did you know that in Finland membership to a gun club means that you can legally possess a firearm? Did you know that on 7th November of this year ago a Finnish teen shot dead 6 pupils, a nurse and the principal of a school, before shooting himself?

If you didn’t know any of these facts, don’t worry. How could you? It didn’t happen in America.
18 year old Pekka Evic Auvinen opened fire on the students and staff of Jokela High School (thirty miles from Finnish capital Helsinki) on the 7th of November 2007. When his killing spree was finally ended by local police he had killed 8 people, dying later in hospital himself.

The most inexplicable factor surrounding this tragedy is not his motive, which no one has yet identified. Rather, it’s the fact that there has been so little coverage of this atrocity in the press. In the wake of the Virginia Tech Massacre in April of this year, news coverage was dominated for weeks by second-guesses regarding the killer’s motive.

Is there a reason why the media is so much more concerned about American massacres than those that occur on our own continent? Are the deaths of Americans inherently a greater tragedy than those of innocent Finns? Or, is there some kind of sadistic pleasure derived from looking down upon the actions of America?

Prior to the shooting the Finnish assassin posted a video on YouTube, seemingly foreshadowing the killing spree he was to embark upon. The video, which has since been removed, possesses a strong resemblance to the actions of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two teenagers who orchestrated the Columbine massacre. Interestingly, one news station reported that the gunman in the summer of last year actually spoke to an American teen on the internet about Columbine. That teen was subsequently interviewed by American police.

Therein lies the crux of this matter. In the wake of nine deaths, caused by a Finnish person, in a Finnish school, blame is being brought back and heaped upon America. It is perhaps sad to see that almost a decade on, we are still referring back to Columbine as the benchmark of teen violence. We cannot rationalise why Auvinen embarked upon this mass murder, but if we take the harsh view of ‘attention-seeking’, it is cruelly ironic to see that his brutal actions are going practically unnoticed in comparison with his American counterparts.

Maybe if the media took a little bit more interest in this story we could try and understand just why nine people had to die. Maybe if we had seen the headline: ‘Nine Finns Die, It’s All America’s Fault’ we would have been interested.


Anonymous David Cather said...

This was all over the news the day it happened I remember watching it, the gunman was profiled etc, all the attention you would normally expect for any school/university massacre.
The Virgina Tech shooting (32 dead) attracted more attention than this Finnish shooting (8 dead) primarily because of the numbers. Given that it was the worst shooting of it's kind.

I'm not sure what axe you're trying to grind here. Most likely lazy journalism as far as I can see.

12/04/2007 5:22 pm  
Anonymous Pat McGroine said...

This article is pretty poorly written for a supposed newspaper...what's up with the headline? On my map Finland is right there...so is America...and Northern Ireland...

12/05/2007 2:52 pm  
Anonymous Ian said...

"It is perhaps sad to see that almost two decades on, we are still referring back to Columbine as the benchmark of teen violence."

Columbine was 99. I have no idea what tragedy you are referring to that occured 2 decades ago. However, this minor quibble is besides the point you are trying to make.

I think the reasons that America recieves greater news coverage than Finland can be any number of reasons, but I've suggested a few below.

* America is a world superpower. Finland isn't. Thus you are more likely to hear news about them in the same way that you hear about the Queen breaking her hip, but not Mrs Jones down the road.

* The internet. The recent tragedies at Virginia Tech demonstrated the power of the internet. Most of the students were putting together the story of what was going on using Facebook long before the University or Police had released any statement. With english being the most widely used langauge on the internet (largely down to America), it is much easier for journalists in Britain to gather information than to translate from Finnish sources.

* American news coverage. You summed up in the article how many of the News groups were 2nd guessing the actions of the Virginia Tech massacre before the details became clear. Anti-videogame lawyer Jack Thompson incorrectly fingered videogames as the reason behind the psychos actions before his room mate ruled it out. With such blanket, almost pointless, coverage on American news networks, there is much more for British news journalists and analysts to relay over here. Especially on slow news days.

* Noone really cares about Finland as much as they care about America. What happens in Finland hardly affects us, whereas what happens in the USA can impact world affairs (think of President Bombs-alot). Imagine the Gown writing about University of Ulster issues. Noone cares, because it doesn't impact Queens.

Aside from those reasons, I also think your article is a bit too critical on the british media. I know for a fact that many of my international friends, including Americans who have never even been here, turn to the BBC News website for their information due to what tends to be a much more balanced journalism. Yes, obviously the UK news makes the front page, but BBC has some VERY excellent world news coverage.

Perhaps you could take a leaf out of their book.

12/05/2007 4:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I know for a fact that many of my international friends, including Americans who have never even been here, turn to the BBC News website for their information due to what tends to be a much more balanced journalism... Perhaps you could take a leaf out of their book."

You mean the here's what we read in the paper's this morning BBC journalism?
"The BBC has learned..." ie - the BBC read somewhere else.

I know you're making the point that there is a lot of quality in British Journalism but The Daily Express would appear a 'fair and balanced' read in contrast to the American news outlets Fox et al.

The overbloated BBC pales in comparison to the low staffed yet quality journalism of Channel 4 News and Guardian Unlimited.

I wouldn't suggest the journalist here going anywhere near any BBC leafs...

12/06/2007 6:16 pm  
Anonymous ian said...

Not at all, the BBC is well known to be very good at having correspondants on the spot, even for stories that get lost in the main news.

I remember coming across a news article during the summer on some small south-east asian war of independance thats been going on for years but noone in the West even knows about it. Not only that, but the BBC was the only news outlet that was trying to represent the opinions of both the local government and militia, much to the annoyance of the latter. Still, its quite good to see journalism anywhere that tries to have no bias.

12/06/2007 8:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say the article lacked in any serious depth or understanding of the Finland or it's culture- hugely differing to that of the US- and its strange that it took the shooting of 8 people to put it on the map, I'm sure you can't recall when Finland was in the news before that?

12/06/2007 11:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The overbloated BBC pales in comparison to the low staffed yet quality journalism of Channel 4 News and Guardian Unlimited."

i agree completely with this statement. Channel 4 news is the least biased of british news. Compared to Fox news in the US which is complete rubbish, calling out bomb alerts and moral panic's at every moment to confuse and panic viewers and gain public interest in their news.

Michael Moore's "Bowling for Coloumbine" shows clearly how easy it is to obtain a gun in the US. This is an ongoing problem particularly in the US, and even he states that many other countries have access to guns, yet it is American teens that choose to shoot their peers. This may only be a growing problem in Finland, and on the 7th November this was heavily reported by the media. Although it is the first such story about gun voilence in Finland that we have heard about, this may be the reason for less media interest than there would be for the same story had it happened yet AGAIN in America.

Also lets not forget, Rupert Murdoch does own many newspapers and television stations in Britain as well as the dire FoxNews and thus media interest in anything that happens in the US can be reported for days or weeks; attracting more public interest and taking the focus away from countries such as Finland.

12/11/2007 5:02 pm  
Anonymous Amc said...

the last time i remember Finland being in the news before this was Eurovision winners. "Hard Rock Hallelujah" anyone?!

12/11/2007 5:05 pm  
Anonymous Lordi! said...

Yes! The best Eurovision winner in decades! ^_^

12/14/2007 5:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the shooting was covered because Finland,unlike the USA does not have the highest number of homocides due to gun crime. The USA hasn't tackled its gun crime yet and Finland, despite the awfulness of the shooting, has yet to be served with over five high school shootings in a decade. In saying that though, maybe it does make it more imperitive that we look at Finland more.

2/03/2008 2:47 pm  

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