Commentary: The Czech and Slovak Romani community on the battlefield that is Facebook
If you are a basic user of Facebook, you might not suspect what its "LIVE" feature is all about - and I also had no idea until I began following the live broadcasts of Josef Kmeťo from Slovakia, who is able, in the course of one minute, to become enraged, then to weep, and then to calm himself down so as to end the broadcast in laughter. By now, of course, I am an experienced Facebook user and consumer of this content, and it gives all the Czech tabloids a run for their money in terms of its sensationalism.
Who are the protagonists of the live broadcasts I have in mind? That would be Romani people.
Who are the actors delivering these soliloquies? Those are Romani people too.
Who is in the audience? Once again, Romani people are watching this content - and, theoretically, a bunch of Nazis online who must be on their knees with laughter.
What is this all about? These live Facebook broadcasts are currently the channel that has the most stable Romani community viewership on the Czech and Slovak-speaking Internet.
Thanks to these Romani broadcasters, I have learned some new words. These are terms such as "poverty" and "aid".
No, I'm not retarded, and I'm not writing this from first grade. What I mean is that in their use on this part of the Internet, these simple words have acquired a different meaning.
"Poverty" means the Romani inhabitants of settlements in eastern Slovakia, and representatives of different groups travel there to deliver "aid". In this sense, "aid" essentially means organizing a collection whereby a wealthier group of Romani people donates clothing and groceries to those who have neither.
In principle, this is something ideal - the question is whether these collections are legally registered - and the idea is super. What is not super is everything else around the idea.
It is difficult to describe what is happening in this part of the Internet if you do not follow the "scene" regularly. Different speakers alternate, and the level of their IQs fluctuates just as much as the stability of their Internet connections does.
Little groups are then created. One such group, for example, has been created around the Czechoslovak Romani Union (Československá unie Romů) and another around somebody calling himself "Romano Rašaj".
Does that name mean nothing to you? Well, it should.
Romano Rašaj (real name Jan Gábor) has 5 000 Facebook friends, thousands of Facebook followers, and thousands who actually watch his broadcasts - almost 10 000. The content is mostly him driving his truch, Romani cajdák songs, and a lot of foul language.
None of that seems to matter. Thousands of people tune in.
Rašaj can't speak either Czech or English properly and expresses himself like a graduate of the "school" in Valdice Prison. That doesn't seem to matter either.
He claims to be organizing collections and "aid" (see above). Of course, this bothers another Romani Facebook broadcaster, Štefan Pongo, who has fewer followers and posts videos with names like "Ratter Rašaj" in which he warns that Rašaj is blackmailing women.
Does any of this do our Romani community any good? Are we doing ourselves any good with the vulgarisms Mr Pongo shares on his Facebook profile, the author of which is another "star" on the Facebook battlefield, Norbert Hmilanský?
As that classic author would put it, "Everything I read there is so fucked up." Such unbelievable vulgarity is definitely a phenomenon of this particular corner of the Internet.
Anybody who follows Rašaj knows what I am talking about. I am also one of his followers.
I do this purely for the purposes of research. It boosts my self-confidence.
Whenever I listen to Mr Gábor, aka Romano Rašaj, I feel more intelligent and respectable by comparison. What's worse is that he is an influencer.
Most people enthusiastically agree with him when he says how super it would be if each Romani person were to send him one British pound or 30 Czech crowns to (his personal) transparent account. They agree how super it would be if, from (his personal) transparent account, he were to finance the building of enough houses for 20 families (per week).
He has even calculated that if all of the allegedly 300 000 Romani living outside the Czech Republic and Slovakia (I have no idea whether he means all Romani people, or just those originally from Czecho-Slovakia) were to contribute, then it would make a solid package of funding that something could be done with. What is apparent from the broadcasts is that some are actually sending him money to "aid poverty".
If that money is being genuinely invested into impoverished Romani families, then all honor to him. If these public fundraising drives are legally registered, then he should say that somewhere.
I have not seen that in any of his broadcasts, though. Instead, I've heard broadcasts with the following kind of content: "Come to England if you want to fight! I guarantee you won't leave here alive!"
That was his threat to a "competitor" who was also raising money, allegedly for the same purposes, through Facebook, and that video got 6 400 views and 833 commentaries. "Pongo, I will kick you in the teeth, you fucker, you just keep making money off of poverty," was another of Rašaj's messages.
The video that accusation was featured in got 7 300 views and 299 commentaries. What is the most frequent word being used in all these broadcasts?
"War." Rašaj threatens to wage "war" on all kinds of people, and those commenting on his broadcasts support him.
The virtual support gives him the feeling that he can speak for an entire community. He therefore makes threats, issues bans, or tells people what they should or should not do.
"You will not take any photos!" he broadcasts. "You will not got anywhere or I will declare the Third World War against you!"
Again, consumers enthusiastically click on this content, which supports this sensationalism, and this makes me wonder: For whom are Rašaj (and the others) broadcasting when 1 300 people are watching him live at 1 AM? Are his followers seriously unable to recognize that he is living in his own, virtual world where he is believes he is a king who can declare war on others?
To make matters worse, Rašaj broadcasts these videos as publicly available content. It is going to be difficult to explain to others that this person, who is able to utter 36 of the crudest vulgarities per minute during a live broadcast (while driving a truck), is not actually a public representative of the Romani community.
It is especially going to be difficult to explain that when he has more followers here than actual politicians do (to say nothing of Romani politicians). The question therefore arises: Where are the administrators on Facebook who are supposed to be deleting hateful content?
- Commentary: The opponents of racism are racists - current and former Czech Presidents show their anti-democratic colors to the world
- Commentary: Czech philosopher Daniel Kroupa has crossed the line, or: What is racism?
- Commentary: Romani actors should boycott Czech cop show over antigypsyist content
- Commentary: CNN Prima begins its Czech-language broadcasting with stereotypes about Romani people
- Commentary: Which Czech media outlets can we take seriously?
- Commentary: Time for a European Union Army
- Commentary by Czech MEP Zdechovský: Roma need work, not welfare!
- Commentary: Czech Interior Ministry is realizing ultra-nationalist politician is becoming a monster
- Commentary: Czech President spouts reassuring nonsense to ultra-nationalists
- Commentary: Truth vs. oligarchy, populism and xenophobia
- Commentary: Czech ultra-right politicians singing in harmony, and Russia likes it
- Commentary: Czech Republic, Slovakia must compensate the victims of forced sterilization while they are still alive
- Commentary: Czech Social Democrats have to choose between democracy and racism
- Commentary: Four years for terrorism is a mockery - and others should have been tried
- Commentary: Actual risk now exists that deniers of the Holocaust of the Roma could join the Czech Government
- Czech firefighters erect another "tent city" for refugees in the Malešice neighborhood of Prague
- Czech analyst compares disinformation purveyors to the untrustworthy sellers of overpriced cookware
- Open Society Foundations pledges to invest in new European Roma Foundation for 2023
- NGO director in Czech Republic says politicians' rhetoric about "inadaptable" Roma is dangerous, some non-Roma refugees from Ukraine are reportedly aggressive toward local Roma here
- Romania: 100 Roma demonstrate in Bucharest in front of Russian Embassy with mockup of the tank that Romani Ukrainians captured from the occupiers
- Czech capital's "tent city" receives first Romani refugees from Ukraine
- Czech university distances itself from e-mail alleging increased security needed for dorm because of refugees from Ukraine
- Czech Interior Minister wants stricter checks on the passports held by refugees and changes to the aid offered them
- Volunteer aiding refugees from Ukraine in Czech Republic: Institutionalized racism definitively condemns Romani people to a hopeless fate
- Czech detention facility housing 130+ refugees from Ukraine, half of them are Romani
- Prague asks the Czech state for aid with accommodation of groups of Romani refugees from Ukraine, mayor says the state's effort has failed so far
- Mayor of Czech Republic's second city alleges Romani refugees sleeping in the train station can access benefits in other countries, then admits she can't prove it