Analysis: How to produce hate, or, Roma, the Czech floods, and the YMCA
Unfortunately, a common thread running through the Czech media scene today is incitement to hatred against Romani people with the aid of "correctly" phrased disinformation, half-truths, and lies. This is no longer just the province of neo-Nazis and other extremists. Growing numbers of ordinary citizens, including some "journalists", are involved in this as well.
The method being used
Let's take a look at how this is done. Two recent articles serve as negative examples of this method of "reporting".
The first article was published by the E-mostecko news server and is entitled "Volunteers note first thefts and curses over food". It was authored by the publisher of news server E-mostecko, Jan Vraný.
The second example is an article entitled "The reality of alleged Czech racism and discrimination against Roma!" by blogger Marek Vokšay, a member of Jana Bobošíková's Suverenita (Sovereignty) party. This article was removed from circulation by the blog administrator because of the untrue information it contained and was then completely erased by the author, who has since said he intends to verify that "information".
Seditious style and bias
Jan Vraný's article is about Romani people evacuated from the recent floods into a center housed in a nursery school dormitory in the Vaňov quarter of Ústí nad Labem. The piece starts with the claim that shoes have gone missing and that some rubber gloves have been stolen by the Romani evacuees:
"Rubber gloves intended for volunteers working in contaminated environments disappeared quickly. The next day Romani children were prancing around town wearing them. Coincidence?"
The author provided no proof of this claim - no eyewitness testimony, no photographs, and no video (which is otherwise a favorite tool of his "newspapering"). He just simply makes the claim because he knows in advance that the readers for whom his method of writing is intended will believe him.
Vraný writes in a seditious way, confirming or directly inciting a negative reaction to Romani people among some readers, as follows: "While the volunteers, including young women and girls, worked day and night throwing away contaminated fixtures from the flooded apartments and houses, the evacuated Roma drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes in front of the nursery school. Why should they pitch in? They had their own 'volunteers' there... Members of the Academy of Volunteer Rescue Workers of the Czech Republic (ADZ ČR) could not believe their eyes. 'It was mainly frustrating when we brought them food and drink and some of the evacuated Roma turned their noses up at them. They didn't want bread, or rolls with paté. On the contrary.' 'When we brought them apples, they all but cursed us out. Then the family reached into their bags and started peeling a pineapple in front of us. Many other people are much worse off than that family, but those others were grateful for packages of potable water or dry bread. Not in this case - the tea was said to be too sweet, the soup allegedly could not be eaten, etc. We just kept hearing what the evacuees were lacking and how no one cared about them because they're gypsies, but that's not how it was, on the contrary,' a volunteer from the ADZ ČR who worked day and night at the nursery school told reporters with the JV PRESS Agency." The JV PRESS Agency is also run by Jan Vraný.
Instead of information, Vraný brings us this jaundiced commentary and the anonymous testimony of an alleged volunteer. What is essential, however, is that Vraný gives no room to the other side to explain themselves - his readers will not learn how the Romani families accommodated in the nursery school dormitory viewed the situation.
There is also not the slightest mention in the article of how the nursery school director, her staff, or other volunteers view the situation. The piece is intentionally targeted to incite negative emotions against Romani people.
The reality of Marek Vokšay's racism
Blogger Marek Vokšay of the Sovereignty party also wrote about the Romani evacuees' stay in the Vaňov nursery school during the floods. His article, of course, is almost identical to Vraný's in terms of style.
Along with some pseudo-information, Vokšay draws a few conclusions, releasing concentrated disinformation into the world in a manner similar to that of the communist-era Czechoslovak state police. The main purpose of it all is to incite hatred against Romani people.
Vokšay considers his following words to be a description of reality: "I am unbelievably pissed off and wound up by what I have just learned. Once again I am convinced that our Romani fellow-citizens do not intend to work on themselves at all. They intend to take care of themselves only and they will always expect someone else to work while they get everything for free. After all, all you have to do is yell something about racism and the scared and stupid Czechs respond - today even that's not necessary, they already give everything a Rom asks for. That's the case with the accommodation for people at risk of flooding in Ústí nad Labem whom the town hall put up in the nursery school in Vaňov. A total of approximately 40 people are temporarily accommodated there, the vast majority of them adults, and with the exception of one family, all are Romani. The problem started immediately once they were housed, because the nursery school has completely new furnishings, clean new carpets everywhere, and people without any kind of personal hygiene habits can't bear such an environment. People who evidently have not washed for several days, who haven't changed their underwear or their clothes, do not maintain hygienic habits - that is clear to anyone with an IQ over 80. The next problem started the following day when the Roma through their 'spokesperson' complained by phone to the town hall that they (I am quoting) 'don't have anything to feed on or drink'. When the civil servant responded that they have food and tea there, vulgar cursing followed that (I am quoting once again) 'the tea is not sweet enough and I won't drink it'. For certain reasons I have removed the unpublishable words from this quote. The result of this complaint was that the town hall delivered approximately an entire pallet of juices to the nursery school and sent a cook there to make two hot meals a day. The firefighters and rescuers working directly in the field to rescue people aren't getting their groceries delivered by the town hall - and that's not all! The last straw was when they told the people accommodated in the nursery school that their homes were no longer at risk and that they could return to them. While the non-Romani family immediately packed their things and went home to save what could be saved and clean up after the flood, the Romani family just calmly announced that they did not intend to go back until the town hall had cleared out and cleaned up their homes. I'm forgetting to mention that all of those adults spent the entire day rubbernecking in front of the nursery school, smoking one cigarette after another, drinking alcohol, and being served by the cook. While half the town was helping those afflicted, the Roma don't intend to lift a finger to do anything about their dwellings, to say nothing of helping anyone else. Such people are called parasites."
Verifying the information
As a reporter for news server Romea.cz, I attempted to contact the volunteers who had worked at the evacuation center in the Vaňov nursery school during the flood by going through the ADZ ČR. Of all the "information" published by the E-mostecko news server, the ADZ ČR would only confirm that some of their galoshes had been stolen.
When asked about the alleged thefts and complaints, the director responded by telephone: "Aha, it's about the theft of the galoshes." While Vraný mentioned this theft in his anti-Roma article, he never directly claimed that the "shoes" (which in reality were galoshes) were stolen by a Romani person. He simply inserted that information into the same paragraph as the theft of the gloves, which Romani children were allegedly wearing. To someone reading his article superficially, that could mean the Roma stole the galoshes as well.
According to Tereza Vacková of the ADZ ČR, it is up to the particular volunteer involved to say whether she actually spoke with a Jan Vraný from the E-mostecko website, and if she did, whether the gist of what she said was the same as what he has written. "That volunteer does not want her name revealed under any circumstances. I gave her your telephone number and it is entirely up to her whether to contact you or not. Besides, the director has told us we are not allowed to give volunteers' phone numbers to anyone," Vacková told me.
The ADZ ČR did not change their position even after I offered not to mention the volunteer's name in this article. She has not yet contacted me.
The "information" published by Jan Vraný of E-mostecko and on Marek Vokšay's blog has been briefly, resolutely rejected by Jan Husák, Ústí nad Labem's coordinator for ethnic minorities who has an overview of what went on during the floods. "That information is untrue," Husák told news server Romea.cz.
What was the family complaining about?
What is most essential about this entire matter, however, is something else entirely. A few seconds surfing the web revealed that several news servers were publishing information about what one Romani family accommodated in the Vaňov nursery school during the floods had actually been complaining about.
Neither Vokšay nor Vraný included this information in their pieces because it does not confirm their invented stories. On the contrary, it shows that the complaint made by one Romani mother was an understandable one.
This particular family really did complain, but in a different way and about something else entirely than what was reported by Vokšay and Vraný. News server 5plus2.cz reported on the problems encountered by Petra Malcová, mother of four, first when moving into the evacuation center and then directly at the nursery school.
Malcová believes the evacuation was performed unnecessarily early. "I live in Pražská Street in the building across from the sugar refinery. They threw us out of the building on Monday at 8 AM. They told me I was supposed to clean the place up like a professional janitor. The other tenants didn't have anywhere to go," she said.
Everyone set off for the nursery school in Vaňov where a temporary evacuation center had supposedly been set up. Malcová believes the nursery school was not a completely fortunate choice. Besides her own family, a neighbor of hers with children remained there as well. There were a total of 10 people.
"It's a nursery school, for toddlers. As an environment for adults, it's a catastrophe. It has a tiny sink and toilet. I didn't have anywhere to bathe the children and I couldn't bathe myself," Malcová said while staying there.
Malcová went on to say that when her family left their apartment, she was told that everything had been prepared for them at the evacuation center and that all they should bring was clothing. "There was nothing there. On Monday we waited 12 hours before they brought us groceries. How are young children supposed to last that long without food? If my neighbor's husband hadn't cooked for us during the two days the electricity was still on, we would have been completely done for," she said.
Nursery school director Radka Mráčková confirms these claims. She did not learn that evacuated people would be moving into the nursery school until the evening before it happened.
"That's why we didn't have food for them, or blankets, not even cots to spend the night on. All of the facilities there really are designed for toddlers, not adults," Mráčková told news server Romea.cz.
Romana Macová, the spokesperson for the town hall, told news server 5plus2.cz that the school was eventually supplied by train. According to Petra Malcová, the next day was no better.
"On Tuesday I called my landlord and he brought some food as far as the Větruš settlement. My neighbor's husband crossed through the forest to pick it up," Macová said.
"On the return trip I almost killed myself going uphill. There's an awful lot of mud in that forest," the evacuated man said at the time.
Malcová is convinced that everyone could have waited until Tuesday evening to go to the nursery school, just before the electricity was officially turned off. "We are in the way of the staff here for no reason, everyone's nerves are on edge. The teachers, who don't really have any reason to be here, made us tea from their own supplies so the children would calm down," she said, adding that the town hall in particular is to blame.
Malcová said she couldn't have considered leaving Ústí altogether. Her father in Prague lives in a studio apartment.
"We are naturally glad that we have a roof over our heads and that it's warm, but no one will understand these other things if they haven't tried it themselves. I hope I never experience anything like it again," Malcová summed up.
Other news servers also reported the usual information about the Vaňov nursery school, but none of them mentioned Romani people turning their noses up at food or tea and going off to peel pineapples (of course, even if they were to have had a pineapple with them, why would that have been a problem? Ms Malcová works for her money, so she could afford one). The other media outlets also did not report Romani people standing outside drinking alcohol and smoking (but even if they were, is it forbidden to drink alcohol and smoke in this country?).
To summarize the other news coverage: There was no cook making meals for the Roma. A Romani mother complained that her children hadn't had anything to eat for 12 hours and that the nursery school had been the wrong choice for an evacuation center because it is designed for toddlers, not adults.
Both of these complaints, which have been confirmed by the nursery school director, were completely understandable. Ms Malcová is also bothered by the fact that she was evacuated too early and too quickly and that the evacuees were in the way of the nursery school staff for no reason at all - in other words, she has expressed consideration for the people who were helping them there.
All of the other claims made by Vokšay and Vraný are unconfirmed and unsupported. Vraný refers to an anonymous source without letting Ms Malcová tell her side of the story, while Vokšay writes about what he has "just learned" without ever saying who has provided him the information.
Vokšay's article was even republished on the website of the local YMCA and was not removed by them for quite some time, after many warnings were made to them that the article was all a lie. The young Christians associated with the YMCA in Ústí nad Labem have just set everyone a great example in how to spread defamation, hate for others, and lies.
The hatred sparked by these articles
What has been the response to the otherwise dismissible "information" published by Vokšay and Vraný that someone was cursing about not getting what they wanted during the floods? Many people now "know" that there allegedly were some problems of the sort invented by E-mostecko and Vokšay, because links to the articles have been making the rounds of the internet.
In order to learn what this article has caused, all we have to do is sample the online "discussion" posts beneath the article on E-mostecko or on the Facebook page of Ústí nad Labem, which ordinarily incites people against the Roma:
Mirek Cech Mašek: Hitler unfortunately didn't finish the job
Jiří Zachrla: He could have completed it and we wouldn't have to deal with these scum
Lenka Viktorová: Them again - shoot the vermin, right?!! I don't understand why we keep special-ordering them up welfare when they are incapable of working in such a crisis situation (and not only this situation, but anytime). On top of it all they're gonna steal? We should do like in the Middle Ages! Cut off their hand and it's done!!!!!
Jana Šerková: Will it help to cut off their hands? On the contrary, we'll be paying for two more of them, one because he doesn't have hands and another to be his assistant. Only one thing sticks with them – if you don't work, you go to prison. There you will work until you work off the damage you have done.
Kateřina Vašíčková: That ethnicity is crossing all the lines more and more. Pineapple, with our money. Cigarettes... with our money. Alcohol… with our money. Apartments… with our money. They will never be grateful, not for anything. They only know how to take and destroy! We are discriminating against them by giving them money, educating them, and paying their way.
Jiří Kračman: We should use a bulldozer to push that rabble into the Danube. They can all swim back to wherever they came from…
Lydie Šťastná: I very much appreciate volunteer Vraný and I believe his article and I do not consider it to be seditious. On the contrary, I understand the volunteers' resentment. 'This contaminated waste could be dangerous to collectors.' I think that in this case the waste is unfortunately not dangerous enough.
KarlaCamila Navratilova Snitková: Unfortunately they are even immune to contamination...
Lenka Klára Bryndová: Why doesn't that surprise me? Once again the government will have to address how these poor people are oppressed. The pineapple is what got me. I can't afford to buy one.
Mirda Čechlík: Well if it's not enough for the brown Czechs, next time they won't get NOTHING! Then once again we will all be a band of racists and volunteer thieves. So next time let people take care of the decent folks who don't turn their noses up at bread and tea. We shouldn't give a shit about the others! As far as danger goes, it's a shame that waste isn't radioactive.
Andrea Flídrová: They don't have any upbringing, the swine, they should leave the Czech Republic!
Lucinka Draková: Are you still supporting the Romani collection?
Eliška Pechová: Romani collection? That should be stolen so they will know what it's like!
Oldřich Machala: Up against the wall and shoot them, or drive them into the quarries, surround them, and let them die of hunger if they don't want a bullet to the skull.
Jana Vrábelová: Why should any of them work when we have been working for them all these years?
Georg Hofírek: Fuckers!
Naďa Pastorková: Those illiterate thieves! If it weren't for the Czechs, they would be eating roots and pitching tents, they'd be going to the toilet in holes, the ungrateful bastards! I am getting sicker and sicker of them. Move them far away, these Neanderthal drug users don't belong in a civilized society! As far away as possible, let them govern themselves, maybe they'll all kill one another off, then we'd have peace and quiet!
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