Czech Internet parody about Roma allegedly getting free butter backfires - online hysteria as thousands believe it
In recent weeks the Facebook social networking site has been disseminating an avalanche of Czech-language rumors alleging that Romani people do not have to pay for butter. The initial allegation read as follows: "I was in a shop to buy my children salami, spreadable cheese, etc. The minority were ahead of me, they chose some butter and then they got out a paper from the social welfare office... the sales clerk confirmed it for them and they left. I asked what it was and she told me they are socially vulnerable so the state pays for their butter."
As of last week that Facebook post by Marek Haltuf supposedly describing such a situation had been shared by more than 3 000 people, and in the commentaries beneath some of those shares, hateful threats against the Czech Government and Romani people continue to appear. Are Romani people actually getting free butter now?
Haltuf has this to say: "Recently I shared a commentary by Jakub Kodym on my Facebook profile about Romani people being eligible for free butter if they submit some kind of voucher from the 'social welfare office'. His post seemed to me to be a very funny parody of all kinds of hoaxes that are shared by xenophobes."
"I thought it was so absurd as to be blatantly obvious. Of course it never happened - but that post has had and is still having a special afterlife, it has been shared approximately 1 500 times over the course of 10 days," Haltuf said.
The entire post copies this famous hoax from 2011: "Until last week I had no idea, but Roma do not have to pay for medicines. I was at the pharmacy to buy my children cough drops and nasal drops, etc. Ahead of me was the minority, they chose their medicines and then got out a paper from the social welfare office,... the pharmacist confirmed it and they left. I asked what that was and she told me that they are socially vulnerable so the state pays for their medicines."
Kodym, the author of the parodic post, has commented on the creation and dissemination of the butter hoax as follows: "Somebody asks, in jest, when there will be a hoax about butter, so you literally just copy that famous stuff about the pharmacy, and you just replace the free medicines with free butter, and [14 days later] it has been shared by 2 600 angry people." Describing the additional consequences of his post, Haltuf said, "It seemed unusual to me that I was getting many friendship requests [on Facebook] from people I had never seen before in my life."
"What the [people requesting Facebook friendship] have in common is, for example, that they share comments by Mr Okamura or from conspiracy theory websites," Haltuf said. "The question is who needs to share something so absolutely, evidently absurd and why they feel the need to add hateful commentary to it?"
"Do these people actually feel threatened by the Romani minority, or is this just a momentary release valve for their own frustration by beating up on those who are weaker?" he speculated. "We hope that these are just people crying 'wolf' in the safe space of the online social networks."
Republished in translation from the HateFree.cz server.
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