Either building national strategies on the foundations of scandalous statements and insults is simply a means of short-term success for certain groups or we really are more stupid than we seem, Estonian journalist Raul Rebane said in commentary on Vikerraadio.
Two of the most popular myths perpetuated about the media are that you should constantly be in the spotlight, and that it doesn't matter what is being said in the media, as long as they're talking. And many people believe this too. The activeness of leading politicians from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) is cited as justification for this, as they go public every week with some position that gets Estonia riled up and [Prime Minister] Jüri Ratas (Centre) apologizing. And it's said that this is extremely beneficial for them.
Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder even went so far as to call the media EKRE's public relations department, recommending in an instant classic that journalists treat them like flashers that run on a soccer field — to let them run, but don't cover them.
But I cannot agree at all with this. I consider both of these myths — being in the spotlight at any cost, and there being no such thing as bad publicity — to be pretty foolish.
Mart Helme comparing the EU to the Soviet Union, Martin Helme's assertion that officials cannot express their own views, Mart Helme's assessments regarding the Singing Revolution, and Jaak Madison's use of language hinting at the Holocaust in a text regarding a solution to immigration sure put them in the spotlight in recent weeks, but was this positive for them?
It certainly wasn't, and because all of these opinions are, without exception, incompatible with the views or perceptions of the majority of the people of Estonia. Support for the EU is very high in Estonia, and as we know, everyone wanted out of the Soviet Union; people wanted into the EU, and that hasn't changed.
Martin Helme's attacks against Matti Maasikas' statements, combined with the harsh wording of "Who do you think you are?" run starkly counter to democratic sensitivities. The right to state one's views even if they contradict the opinions of a minister, is a valuable fundamental right.
Mart Helme comparing the Singing Revolution to mass hysteria made most people angry, and apologies after the fact won't change that. Neither shot arrows nor spoken words can be taken back. Over 50 percent of people are over 40 years old, and participation in the mass protests of the late 1980s are among the most beautiful and precious emotions of their lives. And these emotions have been passed on from generation to generation with pride.
Helme's comparison touched such a nerve that even the otherwise mild-mannered Rein Veidemann called the minister's opinions "appalling" on ETV, and posed an increasingly interesting question — what does EKRE honorary chairman Arnold Rüütel think of this?
Would you share a front page?
MEP Jaak Madison's use of the German-language phrase endgültige Lösung, which hints at Endlösung, or the extermination of Jews during World War II, is something that is difficult to even describe. This is a case of either ignorance, cynicism or a severe ethical disability.
So where is the party advertising or positive side to this? Certainly there are those who like these kinds of things, but they are clearly in the minority in Estonia, as proven by surveys. And ratings as well already.
To prove the absurdity of the spotlight-at-any-cost claim, let's try a simple game that is sometimes used to examine image.
Would you be willing to be pictured on the front page of a popular newspaper shaking hands, smiling, with the endgültige Lösung-promoting Jaak Madison? You'd be very much in the spotlight, but how positive would it be for you?
In any case, however, it would mean that you share his ideology; this is the type of thing that is inferred today from photos and headlines. You also have to take into account that pictures are forever nowadays; they float around online, appearing again at an opportune moment.
Should we remain silent about things like this, and treat them like flashing, as Helir-Valdor Seeder recommended and some media did? Certainly not. If a majority of the people of Estonia are offended by these statements, then the media has to discuss this as well.
Hushing up major conflicts of value, and substituting them in the media with some kind of minor political messing around is not right. Moreover, these conflicts have been elicited by a government party, and we have the right to know their views.
The conclusion is simple — it is only worth being in the spotlight if there is a point to it, and if it includes something that is positive for the majority. Either building national strategies on the foundations of scandalous statements and insults is simply a means of short-term success for certain groups or we really are more stupid than we seem.
Editor: Aili Vahtla