Quick, name one fact about Finland.
If you're not Finnish, well, you probably can't and, you know what, there's no shame in that since, frankly, the country doesn't really exist. Hell, the landmass that we believe is there doesn't exist either.
That's how one theory goes anyway.
The prophet of the theory is a 22-year-old man named Jack who goes by the name Raregans on Reddit. Jack, like any good prophet, learned his doctrine from his parents. They taught him a convoluted explanation that weaves in Japanese fishing routes, Nokia phones, and the Trans-Siberian Railway that, in the end, proves that Finland doesn't exist. In its place exists nothing but the cold and lonely ocean.
"I was about 8 or 9 and they just casually brought it up one morning when we were watching the news and Finland was mentioned," Jack told VICE. "I can't remember the exact wording at the time but the jist of it was that Finland didn't exist. It didn't seem that big of a thing to me at the time because when you're a kid your parents' word is gospel."
Jack took his teachings to the only place that it could ever truly be loved: Reddit. A year ago, on a post asking about the weirdest things your parents taught you, Jack laid out the whole idea and it blew up. This would be the Finland-doesn't-exist conspiracy's sermon on the mount, this was its fundamental teaching.
The thing is that Jack, the false prophet, doesn't believe his own teachings—he actually believes that Finland is a real country that actually exists. But his idea has taken on a life of its own which has, shall we say, irked some Finns.
"A lot of Finnish people have messaged me about it," Jack said. "Ironically since this theory has come out I've learned more about Finland and Finnish culture than I think I ever would have. I think a lot of people have. One person even offered to fly me out to Finland a couple of years back to 'prove to me it exists,' but I never took him up on the offer."
However, we must remember that this is the internet we are talking about.
After his initial post a sub-reddit, r/finlandConspiracy, blossomed with the tagline "The Truth is Finnly Veiled." Most of the people discussing the theory are mainly just taking the piss out of the idea and those duped into thinking the theory is real. But there are some true believers in there—as Jack points out, "It's honestly impossible to tell who's joking and who's serious sometimes."
There is an internet adage named after a commenter by the name of Nathan Poe, who was arguing creationism on Christian forums (because of course he was, this is the internet). Poe's Law states that "it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers or viewers as a sincere expression of the parodied views."
"I like to think that the Finland conspiracy is a perfect case-study of that," Jack told me. "I would say 90 percent of people view it as a parody and joke and can take it as such. But there are ten percent of people who genuinely believe it's something that needs 'proving' or 'debunking' from both sides."
The law seems to hold true with the Finland conspiracy as there has been a splintering of the group with a very small amount of them migrating over to another subreddit, this one called r/trueFinlandConsipiracy. The first post in the Reddit states that the evidence uncovered is "actually quite convincing" and "this is a non-circlejerk joke sub for true believers."
So, what do this small circle of believe? Well, strap your seatbelt on kiddos because we're going to dive into this conspiracy like, uh, a person diving into a frozen lake or someone climbing into a sauna?
(Look, I don't know, I've never been to Finland.)
The main players in the conspiracy are Russia and Japan and to start we must go back to 1917 when Finland first got their independence from Russia. The notion goes that the two nations created Finland so that Japan could fish the sea that truly exists there without any environmental complaints or repercussions. The fish that are caught are then shipped via the Trans-Siberian railway (the real reason it was built by the way) "from the Eastern Russian coast to Japan under the disguise of 'Nokia' products."
"This is why Nokia is the largest 'Finnish' company, and it is also why Japan is the largest importer of Nokia products, despite the fact that very few people own Nokia phones in the country," the theory reads.
Now that we looked at the "why" we can move onto the fun part, the explanations on how they pulled this off.
First, let's start with the pesky fact that there are, you know, Finnish people that exist. Well, our theorists presume, these people do really exist and genuinely believe they are in Finland but they instead are "from small towns on either the Eastern part of Sweden, the Western part of Russia, or the Northern part of Estonia." Helsinki, Finland's largest city and capital, exists in eastern Sweden.
Take that you Finnish dickheads.
Secondly the name, why did they pick Finland for their name? Well, it's simple really, "the country was originally made for fishing. What do fish have? Fins. Thus Finland." Nice. That's some good explaining right there that is.
Well, you may ask, surely the countries around the world know about this, so why do they go along with it? Well, young pup, the answer is staring you right in the face. At first, everyone went along with it because Japan and Russia were getting along. But, over time, Finland became much more than a simple placeholder name for a hidden section of ocean, it became an ideal.
"No real country could so consistently place first in Education, Healthcare, Gender Equality, Literacy Rates, National Stability, the least corrupt government in the world, Freedom of the press," reads the theory. "It's a concept for countries and people to aspire to."
Simply put, Finland is the world's Canadian girlfriend that totally exists you guys.
I tried to reach out to a famous Finnish person to discuss if their homeland really does exist but quickly found that there exists no massively famous Finnish person. If you're thinking of one right now, they're probably a Swede. They have a ton of metal bands, hockey players (love ya Teemu), some killer cellists and the like, but no universally recognized Finnish celebrity.
But, as luck would have it, during the writing of this piece I happened to be doing an interview with Rob Zombie for an unrelated reason. So I decided to ask him if he had ever toured Finland and if he could confirm its existence.
"That's a good question," Zombie said. "I don't think I've ever been to Finland, I've certainly been around the area but I don't think I've ever been there. So I don't have photographic evidence."
"I have seen a blurry photo of it walking through the woods like Sasquatch, so perhaps it does exist."
Wow, thanks for the help Rob.
I mean if Rob Zombie hasn't toured in Finland they can't exist. Rob Zombie is awesome.
Jack asked for his last name not to be used because some people are pretty ticked off at him regarding the theory. He still gets messages regularly, some sending 3,000 word diatribes about how Finland really is a country and others "just send the word 'Finland' for some reason."
"There truly is every different type of reaction you can imagine," Jack said. "Sadly that means there are a lot of angry reactions. About a year ago I had to go through my reddit account and delete a lot of information I've put out there about myself as one person in particular was claiming he had worked out where I lived, so that was a bit worrisome."
Jack says that even though there is the odd negative message here and there he views the conspiracy as a sort of social experiment of sorts and wants to see how far it can go. He told his parents (who believe Finland is real by the way) and they nearly killed themselves laughing.
Anyways, as Jack points out, at the very, very least, it's a great story to tell to your mates at a bar over a few pints.
"I take massive pride in it," Jack said. "I've told all of my friends and they think it's hysterical. When sitting around telling stories very few things trump 'I once started a viral online conspiracy that the landmass of Finland didn't exist.'"
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