A number of Finns Party activists have been caught on camera using a controversial ‘OK’ hand gesture which has been co-opted by white supremacists.
Images from election night broadcasts on 14th April appear to show Finns Party Youth Uusimaa chairman Pyry-Lii Soinio looking at the camera and making the symbol.
A second image from election night shows someone holding up the ‘OK’ sign in front of the camera, as it is focused on Finns Party chairman Jussi Halla-aho.
A third photograph from the Finns Party Youth website on 11th January shows member Linus Linsen from Hyvinkää making the gesture as well.
Pyry-Lii Soinio is also in this picture, giving a thumbs up sign.
Hand gesture in international news
The hand symbol hit the headlines this week after French politician Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right National Rally party, posed for a selfie with Estonian far right politician Ruuben Kaalep. Le Pen later asked him to remove the photograph from his Facebook page, claiming she didn’t know that it had any meaning linked to white supremacy.
Ruuben Kaalep is a member of the ethno-nationalist EKRE party in Estonia and the leader of its youth wing. He’s been a featured speaker in 2018 at a far right, white power event in Helsinki organised by some Finns Party members.
In April, the father and son leaders of EKRE made the ‘OK’ gestures in the country’s parliament as they were being sworn in as MPs.
Why is the ‘OK’ sign controversial?
The ‘OK’ gesture started out in 2017 as a deliberate hoax, and a way for right wing political activists to troll liberals.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in the USA, an organisation which has tracked hate groups in America for decades, there is “plausible deniability” built in when someone uses the gesture over whether they’re making a blatant display of white nationalism, or just trying to troll liberals.
“We must flood twitter and other social media websites with spam, claiming that the OK hand signal is a symbol of white supremacy” users wrote on the right wing message board 4chan.
However, SPLC says that message “obscures the reality of the darker undercurrents behind the spread of the ‘OK’ sign as a far right signal”.
The Anti-Defamation League, which was founded more than a hundred years ago and is now a leading authority on extremism, illustrates the ‘OK’ sign to show how three fingers form the W of ‘white’ while the thumb and forefinger form the P of ‘power’.
“In the case of the ‘OK’ gesture, the hoax was so successful the symbol became a popular trolling tactic on the part of right-leaning individuals, who would often post photos to social media of themselves posing while making the ‘OK’ gesture” says the ADL.
Numerous members of the Finns Party and Finns Party Youth were contacted for comment for this story, including Pyry-Lii Soinio, but nobody responded.
UPDATE: Soinio contacted News Now Finland and said “I use the OK-hand sign in the same capacity as I would use thumbs up hand sign”.
“I am not a white nationalist […] I am a Finnish nationalist because I think that my people are unique and beautiful and deserve to have their own safe harbour in this world” Soinio added.