"Envious slander": Finns lash out at Gerry Brownlee

by Toby Manhire / 26 March, 2012
Gerry Brownlee's swipe at Finland has gone down like rancid graavilohi.

Gerry Brownlee’s barnstorming attack on Finland was essentially a byproduct of a blast at David Shearer, who had cited the country as an economic model. By happy coincidence, it also allowed Brownlee to suck up to his boss, John Key, who had amusingly skewered Shearer in similar territory the day before.

But Big GB’s chortle-heavy denunciation of the Nordic country as one “which has worse unemployment than us, has less growth than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates its people, and has no respect for women” had “Finns fuming”, noted the NZ Herald, which quoted a cross Finnish consul-general in Auckland saying, “I think it would have been better left unsaid”.

TVNZ reports that a Facebook page has been set up by a Finnish academic in New Zealand to “educate Gerry Brownlee”. The page has apparently a mighty 31 members and they are saying some rude things. But TVNZ doesn’t include a link to the Facebook page which is silly, so I’m not going to link to the TVNZ page. Which is equally silly but there you have it.

Stuff's take on the story does include a link to the Facebook page - here it is - and news on the way Brownlee's routine is going down in Finland. "The story is flaming in the Finnish media," according to Juha Parikka, counsellor to the Finnish embassy in Canberra.

A scan of the Finnish media online suggests the story has been received with a mix of alarm, amusement and defensiveness – roughly speaking, much as it would have ruffled the feathers of another small country, New Zealand, had some Finnish Weeble-like minister said such things about us.

The embassy in Canberra has told reporters from Finland that they intend to “carefully examine” Brownlee’s comments before deciding to take the matter further, suggesting that it could amount to a rhetorical “overkill”.

Vasabladat reports that Juha Parikka told FNB, the Finnish national news agency, the following:

We want to investigate if there is something else behind it or if it is only if the foul during a political debate. My interpretation is that it is only for domestic political struggle in New Zealand, said Parikka on the phone to FNB.

Parikka out that the language of the New Zealand Parliament is often more harsh and crackling.

“They let it slip. It is very different than what we're used to in Finland.”

Parikka says that relations between Finland and New Zealand are excellent.

“We understand each other very well. We are the countries of the same size and have similar problems. It is usually easy to find a common tone. My guess is that New Zealanders will come to regret this, said Parikka.

Already there are 41 pages of reader comments at the site of Iltalehti, the tabloid which first reported the story in Finland.

“Envious slander,” is, I think, a typical comment – though I didn’t make my way through more than five pages. In common with much of the world, the Finnish comment thread seems home to plenty of bile and incoherence (though admittedly this is compounded by the lens of Google translate).

And one Finnish blogger, who writes chiefly (in English) about maths, and describes himself as a “Tolkien-reading, Dawkins-quoting voracious bibliophile”, seemed more than a little put out.

Mask of Eris concluded his post like this:

But since I don’t want to be too hard on Mr Brownlee, and I want to charitably accept his later comment that his words were satirical, yet with a grain of truth in them… well, don’t worry, Mr Brownlee. I don’t bear a grudge.

Just you New Zealanders stop raping sheep, children and your Maori slaves, which is a satirical comment with a shadow of fact in it so no hard feelings, and we’re okay.

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