Suomen Sisu symbol explained as Highland Park suspect's social media go viral

Alexandra Ciufudean July 5, 2022
Suomen Sisu symbol explained as Highland Park suspect's social media go viral
Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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Shortly after authorities named Robert Crimo III a “person of interest” in connection with Monday’s Highland Park, Illinois, shooting, overzealous internet sleuths ransacked the 22-year-old’s social media for “clues”.

Crimo has since been taken into custody and his various social media accounts (he was active on a number of platforms) were either taken down or stripped of their content.

Crimo’s social media reportedly contained images depicting violence, shootings, American flags, MAGA merch, video game references, memes and one stylised symbol that caught the public’s imagination.

Some Twitter users noted the image looked a lot like the Suomen Sisu symbol, which has been co-opted by the Finnish far-right association as its logo.

Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

What is Suomen Sisu?

Suomen Sisu is a Finnish far-right association with the stated aim, according to its website, to “protect Finnish culture, traditions and nature, and to promote the well-being of the Finnish people and the preservation of the Finnish language. Suomen Sisu builds a society Finns can can be proud of, and happy in.”

The name should not be translated, they say, but taken literally it means Finnish spunk, grit or resilience. “Sisu” is a core concept in Finnish culture that prizes the value of inner strength.

Sisu, for short, is in its own words against the “current multiculturalist and globalist tendencies” and for “promoting nationalist values”. The group believes in “fanning the flames of nationalism in everyone”.

“We believe that once it bursts into flames, it will create effective activity,” its mission statement says.

A deep-dive into Suomen Sisu’s site archive reveals the association regularly published news articles highlighting violent acts by Finland’s immigrant communities.

According to Finnish anti-fascist organisation Varis Verkosto, Sisu’s website included recommended reading lists for nationalist with writings by authors such as Nazi pedagogue Helmut Stellrecht, Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg and Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke. These reading lists remained on the website until a design overhaul in 2013, Varis Verkosto claimed.

Suomen Sisu has refuted allegations the group may be “Nazi-spirited“.

What does the Suomen Sisu symbol mean?

According to Suomen Sisu’s website, its symbol is the Bowen knot or St John’s arms, which has been used in Northern Europe as a good luck omen since pre-Christian times. The Bowen or looped knot features a square with looped and rounded corners.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49201

It’s still used across countries in Northern Europe on road signs to mark historical heritage sites and as a marker for local places of interest.

However, Sisu’s stylised version of the Bowen knot, with its sharp corners and enclosed in an octagon, more closely resembles four 4s arranged geometrically inside an octagon. Suomen Sisu uses the symbol across its social media.

After Robert Crimo III, aka Awake the Rapper, was named a person of interest in the Highland Park shooting on Monday, internet sleuths found Crimo had used a similar symbol in his social media posts and music videos.

So far, neither Crimo nor Suomen Sisu have commented on any possible overlap. So, without any confirmation, we can’t confidently say whether Crimo used this symbol in support of Sisu or simply because he liked the design.

Alternate meanings for the symbol on Robert Crimo’s social media

Twitter sleuths proposed a number of other possible explanations for the symbol in Robert Crimo’s social media posts and music videos:

Some suggested the symbol actually represents four 4s set in a square geometric pattern. This theory might have some merit as Crimo seemed to be a big fan of the number four and its symbolism. He sported a tattoo of the number 47 (whose meaning we explained in a separate article) on his temple and had inked four tally marks with a strike through them on his cheek.

Since Crimo’s symbol differed slightly from the one used by Suomen Sisu, we can’t assume any overlap. As one Twitter user pointed out, any changes to the symbol change its meaning.

Another comment suggested Robert Crimo’s symbol could be the pagan “cross of endlessness“, suggesting Crimo’s possible interest in the occult.

Latest update on the Highland Park shooting

According to the latest CNN updates on the Highland Park, Illinois, attack, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe explained the shooting might have been both random and intentional.

McCabe, who is a law enforcement analyst with CNN, said the intentionality of the shooting lies in “the lengths this person had to go to to execute the crime”.

On the other hand, he believes the attack was random in its targets. “If the people we know were shot are all different descriptions of people,” McCabe explained, “– men, women, different ethnicities, different religious backgrounds, what have you – that leads investigators to conclude he wasn’t targeting a specific type of individual.”

In other news, President Biden said he was “not sure yet” whether he would travel to Highland Park, adding: “Jill and I are shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”

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Alexandra is Head of Entertainment at The Focus, managing a growing team of outstanding graduate and experienced writers. She has worked previously as an editor, writer and content specialist across web, video and social platforms and has a bachelor's in English Linguistics and a master's in Comparative Literature.