I’ve always respected The (London) Times and the writers it uses. But today I can’t help but be amused by the commentary of the Jokela shooting (massacre ?) by Roger Boynes. Oh, he sure does use all of the correct clichés when writing about Finland: its darkness, sparse habitation, suicide rates, gun ownership, and our ancient pagan gods. But how could he forget that Finland is also the home of Lordi and other heavy metal bands?
My first reaction to hearing about the events, before the full extent of what had happened and how he’d been armed was that someone had taken a hunting gun and used it. While Finland really does have a large amount of guns around, almost all of them are hunting weapons: rifles, shotguns and the sort. Finland also has very strict laws on how the guns must be stored when not in use (locked up so that they can not be immeadiately put to use). The few pistols that are around are generally owned by marksmen hobbyists and are of a small caliber. Not exactly Dirty Harry material.
While the amount of guns has been mentioned in practically all of the international press that the incident has received, it isn’t exactly what amused me in the Times commentary. Discussing how darkness and long distances isolate our youth and force them to seek refuge in technological means of keeping in touch is simply hilarious. Except that it is written by someone for the Times. Someone who should know better.
I’m a product of the times when there were no technological means (other than normal telephones) to keep in touch. But we did was boys then did and still do. Rode our bikes and met up somewhere and used the darkness for our nefarious schemes (read: played hide and seek in people’s yards). While it is true that the increasing darkness of winter does have an effect on many people, using it to explain or analyze something like this is foolish.
Similarly, playing the card that Finland is sparsely inhabited and people are isolated from each other is a prime example of using statistics out of context. Jokela is in Southern Finland. Just some 30 miles north from the capital and definitely still part of the “metropolitan area”. Or you could maybe call it a distant suburb of metropolitan Helsinki. (I can imagine the howls of rage from the people living in that area, countryside they call it. Suburbs say I, from here in the east.)
Stereotypes and their amusing usages are one thing. But when one of the media sources that I have still considered fairly accurate and dependable publishes drivel like this under the titles of commentary and analysis, I have to voice my objections. And based on the comments on various sites (including The Times itself), I’m not alone. While I don’t expect and apology or correction of facts at this point, replacing the words commentary and analysis by satire and sarcasm would serve as a start.