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August 12, 2020

 

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Czech mayor claims all those number 8's in her event have noooothing to do with neo-Nazis

23.7.2020 8:07
In the Czech town of Měděnec, on 8.8 at 8:08 PM a concert by the band Ortel will take place. This is clearly Nazi symbolism. (Collage:  Romea.cz)
In the Czech town of Měděnec, on 8.8 at 8:08 PM a concert by the band Ortel will take place. This is clearly Nazi symbolism. (Collage: Romea.cz)

Valerie Marková, the mayor of Měděnec, a municipality in the Krušné hory region of the Czech Republic, is a big fan of the band Ortel. She is such a fan that she has invited them to perform on 8 August - 8.8 - at the local authority, and the concert is scheduled for eight minutes after 8 PM.

In neo-Nazi symbolism, two 8's in a row represent the eighth letter of the alphabet, "H", and neo-Nazis commonly use the numeral "88" to covertly give the greeting "Heil Hitler" - but you shouldn't imagine you are seeing anything of the sort here! Why not, you ask?

Well, the mayor claims she doesn't see any such connection, so we will have to be satisfied with that justification. Or will we?

Valerie Marková's political career

The longtime mayor first succeeded as an independent candidate in the local elections in 2006. She won re-election in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

In 2013 she tried and failed to be seated in the Chamber of Deputies, running for the party of the current Czech President Miloš Zeman, the SPOZ. She also ran unsuccessfully for the Ústecký Regional Assembly, that time for the "Mayors and Independents" (STAN).

In a recent interview for the Czech daily Deník N, the mayor said she has attended 15 concerts by Ortel and thoroughly "audited" all of their lyrics. She did not find anything there to imply an association with neo-Nazi symbolism, nor did she find anything racist.

All such allegations about Ortel, in her view, are provocations by anonymous commentators who have been paid to cause trouble. She also doesn't know about their singing any violent or vulgar lyrics.

In the interview, the mayor said she does not believe Ortel's lyrics involve any such content. Naturally, there are a few minor examples that can be overlooked - references to "kicking people's heads in", stuff like that.

In her view, this content is all just a form of protest against injustice, to which Ortel's lead singer, Tomáš "Ortel" Hnídek, is allegedly very sensitive. He feels injustice, for example, if he's waiting at the bus stop and sees a foreigner waiting with him.

He even wrote a song about that injustice, called "Foreigner" ("Cizinec"). Back to the mayor, though - elsewhere in the interview she said that she would never invite a band associated with neo-Nazi propaganda to the local authority.

Now, the conclusion of the Czech Interior Ministry, in its summary report on "Displays of extremism and bias hatred" for the second quarter of 2019, was that Ortel is a right-wing extremist group, but the mayor - who apparently is using her spare time to become an expert on extremist symbolism - has assessed that conclusion as incorrect. Similarly, she rejects the demonstrable fact that several fans of the Ortel band have given the Nazi salute during their concerts.

According to the mayor, that, too is the work of paid provocateurs who want to damage the band's name. She then claimed that the e-mails she has received from people who wanted to express their dissatisfaction with Ortel playing at the local authority were full of nothing but vulgar threats.

The mayor doesn't consider those messages to be a provocation, but said she believes they simply are a provocation. How many of them were sent, and how many involved a polite expression of disagreement, are calculations that could probably be provided by the "I Don't Know" Movement.

"Leader"... that's a hard one

One of the favorite words used in the lyrics sung by Ortel is "leader" (vůdce). When the Deník N reporter asked the mayor whether the lyrics about "following the leader" in one of the band's songs could prompt the concern that Ortel has an inclination exactly toward the ideology of Nazism, given that the lead singer of Ortel was previously the lead singer of the neo-Nazi band Conflict 88, she did not give a direct answer.

Marková first attempted to avoid the question by discussing an absolutely different song, and then when the reporter reiterated the question, she began a non sequitur about Pavel Novotný, the mayor of Řeporyje. The fact remains, however, that "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet and the number "88" is the customary acronym for "Heil Hitler" in the neo-Nazi environment.

According to the mayor, though, there is no symbolism in the date and time of the upcoming concert (8.8 at 8:08) - that is just an innocent coincidence! She probably would argue that it would certainly also be absurd to believe Hnídek intentionally planned his wedding for 20 April, which is Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's birthday.

We can bet the mayor would claim to believe that this former member of an openly neo-Nazi group certainly just overlooked that coincidence in his calendar. What about the photo of Hnídek from 2015 in a friendly embrace with convicted racist murderer Vlastimil Pechanec, though?

Maybe the two of them just have a hobby in common, right? Most probably history.

Ortel, Trikolóra and the Ku-klux-klan

Likewise, again, it certainly must just be an absolute coincidence that other big fans of Ortel are people associated with the ultra-conservative Trikolóra party led by Václav Klaus, Jr. The photos and posters of their members are already rather infamous for their various "accidental" neo-Nazi symbols too!

Czech MP Zuzana Majerová Zahradníková (Trikolóra), Tomáš "Ortel" Hnídek and friends. Hand gesture: Ku-klux-klan or Trikolóra party? (Collage: Romea.cz)

For example, take the extended thumb and two fingers, which is recognizably Trikolora's gesture. The fact that these are three digits naturally is not surprising given the party's name (if they were to use a four-digit greeting it would probably prompt questions).

Hey, the Ku-klux-klan and Trikolóra use the same gesture! Is it accidental? (Collage: Romea.cz)

However, the exact instructions for how to hold their hands seem to have lifted from a manual for the "Ku-klux-klan Youth". The cherry on the cake, however, is a member of the South Moravian cell of the party, Aleš Karásek, who is captured for his election poster making a gesture that involves forming a circle with his forefinger and thumb.

Again, naturally, it is absolutely accidental that such a gesture is currently a favored greeting among neo-Nazis! The public became aware of it above all in association with the shooter in New Zealand who murdered 49 people as part of his imaginary battle "for the white race" when he greeted the television cameras with that gesture during his trial.

This gesture is frequently seen at neo-Nazi concerts and marches as well. It would be going too far, of course, to claim that all members of Trikolóra are aware of what these gestures chosen by those cultivating their image mean, what ideology they are associated with.

Nevertheless, the level of the competency and responsibility of the leadership of these political entities can be gauged according to whether they actually know what kinds of gestures they are making and what kinds of symbols they have chosen. We seem to be in the realm of "War is Peace / Freedom is Slavery / Ignorance is Strength" with these developments.

That's Orwell I'm quoting, not Ortel. Who knows how the mayor of Měděnec will interpret it.

Jitka Votavová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Extremism, Neo-Nazism, Ortel, Xenophobia



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