‘The Finland Hoax’ I recently met a young man at a barbecue who said he wanted to talk to me privately. He said that he heard that I am a Berkeley landlord and told me that he is looking for an apartment for the Fall. After we talked for a while, I asked him about his t-shirt which said: ‘Finland Is A Hoax.’ I said: “What does that mean?” He said: “Finland doesn’t exist. It’s a hoax.” I was confused. I have heard a lot of conspiracy theories before, I had not heard this one. I told this guy that I know people who have been to Finland. He said that those people were probably ‘part of the Finland hoax.’ After the barbecue, I checked out his story on Google. It seems that a lot of people believe that Finland doesn’t exist. There are even maps on Google and Wikipedia of the Baltic without Finland. These maps show the area between Sweden and Russia as just open sea. I never argue with people who are into conspiracy theories. If you tell them that they are wrong, they assume that means that you are part of the conspiracy, and then they become suspicious, hostile, and sometimes even violent. The conspiracy theory that I have heard most often in my life is that the Holocaust is a hoax concocted by Jews in order to get sympathy and support for the state of Israel. I told this guy that I don’t have any vacancies coming up, which is true.

Berkeley and Finland. Did you know that at one time, Berkeley had a large Finnish population? Beginning around 1900, hundreds of Finns settled in the Ocean View section of west Berkeley, which in the 1920s was known as ‘Finntown.’ The Finnish stores, saloons, and restaurants that used to dot west Berkeley are now all gone, but there are several Lutheran churches in Ocean View that were built by Finnish immigrants and that are still in use. In addition, there are 2 Finn halls in west Berkeley. One hall was built by Finnish communists. The other was built by Finnish anti-communists. Both halls are also still in use. Some businesses in west Berkeley that were started by Finnish immigrants are still operating, like Walter Mork Sheet Metal. When I first came to Berkeley, the Berkeley Adult School was still giving Finnish language courses, but that’s gone now too.