Commentary: You can't defeat hate with more of the same
A man is nervously running around onstage, chanting slogans every so often into a microphone that the crowd is meant to shout back to him and banging on a big drum to encourage the new arrivals to join in - even as the invited speakers are addressing those assembled. In between speakers, with a loud shout, he attempts to pump the audience up to an even higher pitch.
His fellow warriors are aiding him at yet another microphone. No, we are not at a football match, but at a demonstration against the Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš.
Organizers from the Facebook group AUVA (Andrejovy Účtenky Vrátíme Andrejovi - "Send Andrej's Bills Back To Him") are behaving as if they are at a football match because they want just one thing: To fan the flames of negative emotions to the highest possible degree. They have not achieved the intensity of their dreams yet, and that has brought them to these hysterically escalating shouts, this drumming, and this gesticulating while running around onstage.
AUVA is not succeeding because they consider demonstrators to be an obtuse herd who must be told what to think and how to respond, while those who have come to the demonstration are not hooligans, but intelligent people. I ask those standing around me why, like me, they were not responding to the calls of the slogan shouter.
I learn that they are not responding because they do not consider themselves to be young children, because they dislike attempts at manipulation, and because they are afraid of inciting hatred. "Such hatred just plays into Babiš's hands, it aids him with keeping his flock together," one tells me.
Further down from us a man is holding a mock-up of a gallows inscribed with "Mafia to the gallows, NOT INTO GOVERNMENT", and he is evidently not bothered by the spiraling figures doing their best to escalate the negative emotions. The organizers are also not bothered by his gallows.
It is not until the next day, after AUVA is criticized for having allowed the gallows at the assembly, that they object to them. The group has now claimed it disagrees with using the gallows image, which supposedly violates their convictions.
I seriously doubt that. The main manipulator of the AUVA demonstration I have described above is a certain Michal Vožda, who in discussions online has feverishly backed the tabloid Parlamentní listy (and the other AUVA members writing to my personal Facebook page have made it clear that they either agree with supporting that media outlet or are indifferent to it).
That tabloid publishes disinformation and pro-Kremlin propaganda and intentionally incites hatred, probably up to and including the use of gallows. The main groups it targets are refugees and Romani people.
Vožda's style is compatible with that media outlet. Its owner is Czech Senator Ivo Valenta (a member of the Civic Democratic Party's club in the Senate - ODS), an oligarch who is potentially just as dangerous as the current PM.
By the way: Unlike Babiš, Valenta has already stood trial when, in 2004, he was convicted in a football corruption scandal of bribery, fined CZK 350 000 [EUR 13 500] and handed a four-month conditional prison sentence. In addition to the ODS, he is also sponsoring the Party of Private Persons (Strana soukromníků), which has financially contributed to one of the AUVA group's events and co-organized other demonstrations with it.
Certainly it is important that we demonstrate against PM Babiš, President Zeman and Co., because the arrogance of power is limitless. We should not join them in their tactic of inciting hatred, though.
The initiative called "A Million Moments for Democracy" (Milion chvilek pro demokracii) is going about this correctly, and I am always glad to go to their events. I won't be going to any of the AUVA group's events ever again - or maybe just as an observer, to write about them.
I warmly recommend us all to stay away from AUVA. Hate kills, but a proud citizenship fills us with satisfaction.
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