Interior Minister denounces right-wing conspiracies, removes past social media posts

The Finnish press has recently drawn attention to past social media posts made by Interior Minister Mari Rantanen (Finns).

Finland’s new Interior Minister Mari Rantanen (Finns) took to social media on Sunday to deny believing in the Great Replacement or any other conspiracy theories. Rantanen’s statement arrived shortly after her past social media activity came into the spotlight, particularly her comments and use of hashtags relating to far-right ideology on Twitter.

The Great Replacement is a far-right extremist theory that suggests that ethnic white Western populations are being demographically and culturally replaced by non-white people, particularly from Muslim-majority countries. Tabloid Iltalehti reported that Rantanen had previously hashtagged the controversial theory in at least three past Twitter posts.

As interior minister, Rantanen is also responsible for supervising the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service Supo. The agency has previously expressed concern over the growth of right-wing extremism in Finland.

“Let me be clear: I do not believe in conspiracies. Nor do I believe in the Great Replacement theory,” the minister wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Rantanen also wrote in her post that she believed in numbers and statistics instead, as well as democracy, according to which making a difference occurs through changing legislation.

Tidying up online presence

Niko Pyrhönen, a populism and conspiracy theory expert at the University of Helsinki, confirmed that the minister has consistently and deliberately used the phrase “väestönvaihto” or “population replacement”, in Finnish.

“She chooses to explicitly use one of the very few terms that are linked to conspiracy theories and act as a sort of a dog whistle,” Pyrhönen said.

Members of the media have noted that the interior minister has made an effort to tidy up her online presence.

Yle found that a sentence had recently been removed from Rantanen’s website. The sentence made an apparently racist pun based on the Finnish word for naïve, which literally means blue-eyed, warning that “we shouldn’t be so naïve or soon we won’t be blue-eyed”.

Pyrhönen said that simply removing past controversial statements was not enough and that he would advise the minister to publicly denounce the use of the term.

“This seems a very odd, tit-for-tat type of reaction that raises questions about what all the posts were about when they were removed,” he said, adding that “she needs to state that she now understands that the term is wrong to use and pledge to stop using it. That’s what Rantanen should do, nothing more.”

Purra: Finns Party does not believe in conspiracy theories

Rantanen’s post on Twitter was a response to another tweet made by Finns Party chair Riikka Purra.

“The Finns Party raises the consequences of a bad immigration policy for Finland and other Western countries. We want to fix the problems and change the policy. We use official statistics. We do not believe in or promote conspiracies. They seem to be of interest to the left and part of the media,” Purra tweeted.

Finland’s new Justice Minister, Leena Meri (Finns), also took part in the conversation on Twitter.

Meri has also used the term in past, for example during a Yle A-talk show in February.

“Society is changing fast. Statistics provide you with the right picture, and I trust them. Policy-making should be based on facts,” the minister wrote on Twitter.

The social media discussion is linked to the uproar related to former economic affairs minister Vilhelm Junnila (Finns), brought on by the surfacing of his past far-right comments and ties.

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