We are pleased to report that a reply has arrived at the offices of Instant Kaamos from Reetta Meriläinen, Editor-in-Chief of Helsingin Sanomat about the Holocaust cartoons which appeared in her newspaper (see previous post and comments). For the time being, I am just posting her email with my original message in full. (By the way, the English word “lowly” means the same as “humble” or “junior” and was not used by me to insult the artist, Pertti Jarla. The closest Finnish translation might be nöyrä .)
We are considering our response to Reetta Meriläinen’s message. One thing that immediately springs to mind is that she does not mention my suggestion that Hesari should offer a right of reply to an organisation representing the Jewish or Roma communities, or one that works with Holocaust survivors and their families. And although I didn’t ask for one, there doesn’t seem to be anything that sounds like an apology. Sometimes sori seems to be the hardest word…
If you have any other ideas that you’d like to see included in Instant Kaamos’ reply, feel free to post them here as a comment. I will be getting on the case in the near future…
…well, as soon as I’ve finished tidying my room.
From: Meriläinen Reetta
To: Instant Kaamos
Sent: Tue, June 1, 2010 10:43:01 AM
Subject: VS: Holocaust ‘Humour’
Dear Ike Moss,
Thank you for your mail and request. I know that explaining this kind of cases is doomed, but I try:
Fingerpori cartoons represent slapstick humour, which very often balances between bad and very bad taste. It ridicules almost everything between earth and heaven. It makes jokes about everything including Jews, Hitler and Nazis. Yet I can say that the basics of this cartoon are human. For a publisher this kind of cartoon always is a risk. It may sometimes cause grief and fury among the readers.
After publishing the first cartoon you mentioned we discussed seriously with the artist. We never asked the artist – who is not low – to apologise. That was the artist´s own decision. We had a spirited internal discussion about freedom of word, responsibility and content control.
The second cartoon was meant to be the artist´s extended apology, so I was told. It was meant to ridicule ignorant Finns, who don´t know the tragedies of history. Now it seems that the point was misinterpreted and caused more anger and grief.
That anger and grief I totally understand. Holocaust is in its own category among genocides and atrocities of history and need special discretion.
Since the early beginning Helsingin Sanomat has been for democracy and human dignity. You can be sure that the paper will never hurt or insult victims of Nazi holocaust on purpose. On the other hand the paper has always been liberal and has strongly supported freedom of word. I write this knowing that freedom always goes or should go together with the responsibility.
Publishing practises need trust and control. In these cases we had more trust than control.
Lähettäjä: Instant Kaamos
Lähetetty: 27. toukokuuta 2010 0:50
Vastaanottaja: Meriläinen Reetta
Aihe: Holocaust ‘Humour’
Dear Reeta Meriläinen,
I am writing to you to ask for an explanation as to why you decided to print two cartoons ridiculing and insulting the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. To trivialise genocide in this way seems to give a poor example to young people who may know little about the atrocities of Nazi Germany. You will also almost certainly give comfort to neo-Nazi and other far-right groups. The apology that appeared after the first cartoon was shown to be empty when the second Holocaust-themed strip appeared last Saturday. One might also ask why it is only the lowly artist is made to apologise when the decision to publish is ultimately your responsibility.
I feel I should tell you that I have written about this on my blog which appears here: https://instantkaamos.wordpress.com
Since I criticise your conduct, I would like to offer you the right of reply. Whatever you wish to say in your defence can be posted either as a comment or if you prefer to send it by email, it will appear on a new posting. However, I am not prepared to publish a response from one of your junior members of staff.
I only hope that you yourself are prepared to offer a right of reply to Finland’s Jewish and Roma communities and to Holocaust survivors and their families around the world. I also hope that you are prepared for the consequences, especially for Finland’s image in Europe, when these cartoons are reported in the international press.