Comic artist and illustrator Emmi Nieminen tells the audience of Lakes International Comic Arts Festival about her book The Internet of Fear and Loathing. The book is a journalistic comic about harassment in internet communities and she made it together with journalist Johanna Vehkoo.
How’s your weekend in Kendal?
“I’m being interviewed shortly on the subject of the book, and I’m presenting the project. Finland has this good reputation that doesn’t match the reality. Many are surprised to hear there large-scale internet harassment and even hate campaigns are going on even in Finland. They especially target women and those who represent minorities.”
How have people reacted to the book?
“Most of the feedback has been positive. People have thanked us for being vocal about this. Those who have been targets of hate campaigns have felt they have not been taken seriously, because it’s happened online. Nowadays people acknowledge that the harassment is really happening and try to figure out what to do about it. It’s difficult, because those in power need to admit this poses a serious threat to democracy.”
How should one react to online harassment?
“Advice to leave social media for a while might be well-meaning, but it’s not a solution. Our lives and also citizenship are increasingly online, so it’s problematic to suggest leaving it. People are now scared of expressing their opinions, because they feel they have been left alone when they’ve been harassed.”
What you should do if you’re being harassed online?
“Our book offers some practical tips on what to do if you’re scared, how to protect your privacy and what to do if something unpleasant has already happened. Part of the material is available in Finnish on Feminist Think Thank Hattu’s website so you can print it out and stick it on the wall at your workplace or share it on social media. We have also translated some material in English and published it on Drawing the times”
Why did you choose to write a comic book?
“So much has been written about online harassment that people don’t really care anymore. Because pictures can bring the subject closer to the reader, Johanna decided to make a comic about it. As someone who’s grown up online, I definitely wanted join the project.”
What kind of festival do expect?
“I’ve been taken good care of before the festival has even started. As a guest coming from abroad it feels wonderful! I know I will have a fun and professionally fruitful trip.”
Do you have any recommendantions from the festival programme?
“Because of my own projects I’m especially interested in non-fiction comics, so I’ll pick the Comics and collaboration -event and Victoria Lamasko’s talk Documenting Russia. I’m genuinely amazed of the variety of the programme and glad that I’ll have a chance just to wander around and enjoy the festival”
Documenting Russia With Victoria Lamasko, Screen Two, Brewery Arts Centre, 122a Highgate, LA9 4HE Kendal. https://www.comicartfestival.com/documenting-russia-victoria-lamasko. Sunday, 11.15–12.15pm.
Comics and collaborations, Screen Two, Brewery Arts Centre, 122a Highgate, LA9 4HE Kendal. https://www.comicartfestival.com/comics-and-collaboration. Sunday, 3.15–4.15pm.
Presentation/Interview: The Internet of Hate and Loathing, Studio Theatre, Brewery Arts Centre122a Highgate, LA9 4HE Kendal. https://www.comicartfestival.com/emmi-nieminen-internet-of-hate-and-loathing. Saturday 13.10. 11:00 am–12:00 noon.
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Kendal LA9 4HE.
https://www.comicartfestival.com/whats-on. 12–14.10.2018. Admission: £4–£35.
Text: Anna Suoninen, Illustration: Emmi Nieminen.