Photograph by Loldiers
What do we see?
In the forefront, a person dressed as a clown smiles between two police officers reaching her hand to offer a lollipop toward the camera. In the background, three other persons are also in full clown costumes while another police officer is observing them. In the left corner, we see snow on the street. The weather seems cold.
The photograph describes a group called Loldiers of Odin “demonstrating” on the streets of Tampere in early 2016. Loldiers of Odin is a parody performance that mocks an anti-immigrant group called Soldiers of Odin. Soldiers of Odin is a group of far-right activists who oppose “harmful immigration” and “islamization”. In late 2015, in the midst of the so-called European refugee crisis, Soldiers of Odin began to patrol on the streets in northern Finland claiming to protect citizens from migrant criminality. The group received national and international press attention, and sub-chapters of Soldiers of Odin were established in Finland and abroad.
However, shortly after their first appearances, Soldiers of Odin got company. In early 2016, a group dressed as clowns, calling themselves Loldiers of Odin, began to “patrol” along with the Soldiers of Odin. Yet, instead of a solemn protest against immigration, the Loldiers claimed to spread love and joy to the streets.
What public issue is addressed here?
During 2015, after the prolonged conflicts of the Arab Spring, more than a million people came to Europe from Middle East countries requesting asylum. The amount is the highest after the Second World War. This phenomenon, often discussed as the European Migrant Crisis, sparked debates across the European public sphere on how to handle the situation, including humanitarian and racist discourse.
Finland also received relatively high numbers of asylum seekers, and Soldiers of Odin was established in October 2015 by far-right activists in response to the rising. Soldiers of Odin organized street patrols to protect Finnish people from migrants. The patrols became a public issue after they were reported in Finnish and international press. Loldiers of Odin was a series of performances aimed to criticize and ridicule this movement through absurd humour and parody.
What does the humour do?
The performance by Loldiers of Odin relies on irony and parody. While Loldiers claim to help Soldiers in their patrolling, they actually present an ironic comparison between Soldiers of Odin and clowns. They highlight this by calling Soldiers of Odin as the black clowns and the police as the blue clowns. Loldiers extend their street performance to the digital sphere through disseminating pictures and videos from their actions in their open Facebook page. Posts also include texts parodying and distorting far right vocabulary.
Through absurd humour, Loldiers aim to present anti-immigration and street patrolling as irrational and thus undermine its legitimacy. In the current hybrid media environment, using social media and humour for mainstreaming one’s ideas and activating like-minded people is a recurring strategy practiced both by progressive and far right activists. Indeed, Soldiers of Odin also disseminated humorous memes that promote nationalism and anger toward refugees.
Hakoköngäs, E., Halmesvaara, O., & Sakki, I. (2020). Persuasion through bitter humor: Multimodal discourse analysis of rhetoric in internet memes of two far-right groups in Finland. Social Media+ Society, 6(2): https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2056305120921575
Laaksonen, S. M., Koivukoski, J., & Porttikivi, M. (2021). Clowning around a polarized issue: Rhetorical strategies and communicative outcomes of a political parody performance by Loldiers of Odin. new media & society: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1461444821989621
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