Czech party alleges ROMEA calls for violence online - but the posts are by their own ultra-right fans
The "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement, headed by Czech MP Tomio Okamura, has made three separate accusations over the past week against the ROMEA organization. The movement's Vice-Chair, Radim Fiala, has quoted from some posts to online social networks about last weekend's conference in Prague of parties in the "Europe of Nations and Freedom" faction at the European Parliament, whose programs are anti-immigration, hateful, and xenophobic, alleging that ROMEA's Facebook page was used to call for people to bring "machetes" to the demonstration against the SPD and its European partners.
Fiala: "They" wanted to use machetes against "us"
"Allow me to briefly inform you that on Saturday, our SPD movement held an international conference with its European group, the faction at the European Parliament called Europe of Nations and Freedom," Fiala began his recent press appearance, adding that various demonstrators had expressed their views against the conference and that now the SPD would also be expressing its views. "Naturally, we looked at the social networking sites of the demonstrators involved who prevented those attending from accessing the conference by vehicle. Allow me to quote from the social networking posts of these so-called defenders of democracy."
After quoting one such post, Fiala continued as follows: "Another quote we found is from the network of the ROMEA organization, I quote, 'Make sure you bring your machetes', end quote. This is a brief sample of the thinking of people who are being celebrated by the press and frequently supported with public financing provided to these so-called nonprofits. In actuality these are groups organized in the interests of fighting for the superiority of various minorities and the destruction of the existing national and societal values."
Fiala's message is clear. The cleverer SPD voters will conclude from it that "The gypsies wanted to use their machetes against Okamura", while the less bright SPF voters will concluded that "ROMEA called on the gypsies to use their machetes against Okamura".
What's more, such voters will conclude that such racist calls are being financed by the taxpayer. Reality, however, is something else altogether, and reality demonstrates that the followers of Okamura consider blatant lies and manipulation to be an ordinary instrument of their propaganda.
Netizen who posted about "machetes" also says "gypsies" are leeching off the taxpayers
Let's first take a look in detail at whose account was used to post this message, and then let's investigate where Okamura's sidekick got his information. On 14 December 2017, news server Romea.cz published an article entitled "Do Prahy míří špičky ultrapravice, hostit je bude Okamura. Lidé budou proti nenávist šířícím stranám protestovat" (English version: Czech MP to host ultra-right leaders from all over Europe, protests anticipated.
After posting the article to Romea.cz, the editors shared it on the Facebook page of the ROMEA organization. Several comments were then posted by Facebook users beneath the link.
"Who all is going to Prague to demonstrate against Nazism?? I'm going for sure," read one post from the account of Facebook user Miroslav Cifra, who is a Romani community member.
Others then began responding to his post, and it was they who brought up machetes. "Yeah, make sure you bring your machetes...," was posted in response from the Facebook account of Richard Tepera.
Please note that when Fiala quoted that post, he did not quote it in full, because the first word, "Yeah", gives the post an absolutely different meaning than what he has subsequently communicated. Moreover, the Facebook account of Miroslav Cifra responded to the provocation: "Richard Tepera What would machetes be for?? I don't keep any machetes around."
Fiala, as a manipulator of this information, naturally did not quote that part of the discussion in his public remarks. It would not have fit the image of aggressive "gypsies" he was building.
It should be clear to the average reader that the post from Tepera's account is not a call to Romani people to bring machetes to assault Okamura with, but that his post is an ironic one, meaning the following: "Well, of course you will be going, and you will probably be bringing machetes with you." The post exploits a classic stereotype of Roma as violent people who would naturally of course use machetes to attack those they disagree with.
According to the Facebook profile associated with Richard Tepera, the Facebook user of that name is not a fan of the ROMEA organization, and he is not a person who would have attended a demonstration against Okamura's conference. On the contrary, according to the Facebook profile of that name, its user is, on the contrary, a fan of politics as Okamura conceives of them.
That is documented by other posts made from that account. For example, in another post to the Facebook page of the ROMEA organization, the Tepera account generates these remarks: "I don't get what the gypsies need money for integration for..will you keep vacuuming it up forever??I'm interested to know since you keep blaming us here and describing how things are better everywhere else..how much do they have to pay over there for your integration..but shit..it's just in our country that your integration is so cheerful..and what does that money go for??somebody taking you by the hand and showing you where the preschool is??or what??"
If Facebook users look at the public section of the Facebook profile associated with Richard Tepera of Kroměříž, Czech Republic, they will not find so much there. They will learn that he loves motorcycles, and that he sometimes drives one around wearing a helmet reminiscent of the helmets worn by German Nazis during WWII.
The Facebook friends of this account include the anti-immigration, anti-Islam militant Jana Volfová, and the Facebook pages approved of by this account include "Czech Patriot", "We Support Donald Trump", "svobodnenoviny.eu", Václav Klaus, Jr., etc. The bottom line is that the Facebook profile of Richard Tepera is of a user who does not like Romani people, who believes they are constantly just vacuuming up the taxpayers' money, and that integration doesn't work - in other words, this Facebook account decidedly does not belong to the social bubble that supports Romani people, but on the contrary is of the same category as Tomio Okamura himself and the politicians who advocate opinions that are either similar to or absolutely identical to his.
Okamura supporters get their information from disinformation websites
Let's now move on to the next important question: Where did the Okamura supporters get this information to use at their press conference? On Saturday 16 December 2017 the disinformation server Eportal.cz published an article about the demonstration entitled "Wilders comes to Prague, Discussions on Romea and A2larm speak of machetes and a massacre, Čulík of Blisty caps them all".
The article read, in part: "Today Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders are coming to Prague to meet with Tomio Okamura. Left-wing extremists are already hungry and are promising their fans a literal 'blood bath'."
"We looked more closely at the Facebook profiles of A2larm and Romea.cz, where things are really boiling over. Judge for yourselves," Eportal.cz reported - and then presented the exact same quotes that were used on 19 December 2017 by Fiala at his press conference in the Chamber of Deputies, an appearance that was broadcast live by Czech Television.
SPD attacks on ROMEA and Romani integration
As I stated above, this is not the first attack by Okamura's movement on the ROMEA organization during the last few days. On Sunday 17 December 2017, the day after the conference and demonstration against it, Okamura himself falsely accused an unnamed activist, allegedly associated with news server Romea.cz, of having committed assault against conference attendees, including British MEP Atkinson.
Okamura also accused his brother Hayata Okamura and Czech MEP Jaromír Štětina (TOP 09) of committing such assault. Both the organizers of the demonstration and ROMEA have thoroughly objected to these lies.
Okamura's supporters also exploited the occasion of the passage of the state budget for 2018 by the lower house in order to attack the ROMEA organization and other nonprofits. "We would like to take money away from all nonprofit organizations with a political program because we at the SPD movement have it in our program that we want to halt any state financing for all the nonprofit organizations with political programs. Those are the profiteers who are promoting Islam here, multi-culti education, immigration, ROMEA. Those kinds of nonprofits basically contribute nothing, essentially they understandably have not managed to integrate anybody here during the last 20 years [laughs], what else would you expect?" Okamura said at a press conference on 12 December 2017.
Subsequently, in the plenary session, Okamura submitted a bill to reduce the budget for the state program to integrate Romani community members by CZK 13 million (EUR 505 000). "We are proposing reducing the amount from the program for integration of Romani community members because it is a discriminatory program. It is discriminatory toward non-Romani children. In my view, it is also in contravention of the Constitution, before which we are all equal," Okamura told his fellow legislators in the Chamber of Deputies.
Okamura model 2010: Support for ROMEA, candidate for Human Rights Minister
What is paradoxical about Okamura's current fight against that government program and against the ROMEA organization is the fact that in 2010 he participated in a project supported by the Czech Education Ministry and attended the gala celebration where the awards for the "Minorities among Us" competition, organized by ROMEA back in those days, were handed out. What's more, few people today still recall that it was Tomio Okamura in particular who was considered a hot candidate for the post of Human Rights Minister in 2010 after the resignation of Michael Kocáb, and that he very seriously considered accepting the offer.
Okamura's considerations were documented by the comments he made to the media at that time. "Even if I were to have the assistance of just one person, I think it would be worthwhile," he told news server tn.cz when asked what his view of the Human Rights Minister post was.
By coincidence, we commemorated the passing of Czech President Václav Havel in 2011 just this past week. At this moment, when the highest constitutional offices in the Czech Republic are being filled by political entrepreneurs who are not afraid to use disinformation, incitement to hatred, lies and manipulation just to arrange the greatest amount of power for themselves, Havel's immortal words are even more relevant than ever before.
"The natural disadvantage of democracy is that it immeasurably binds the hands of those who honestly believe in it, while it makes almost anything possible for those who do not take it seriously," Havel said. Heed these words - they are an exact description of Tomio Okamura and his party members.
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