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Professor Igor Lukeš: Lies in the public arena and the beginnings of Fascism

9.11.2015 5:57
Professor Igor Lukeš (Photo: ČT 24)
Professor Igor Lukeš (Photo: ČT 24)

With the permission of the author, news server Romea.cz has republished a blog written by Boston University Professor Igor Lukeš for news server Aktuálně.cz about the dissemination of hatred and lies. In the piece he draws attention to an extremist text against Islam and warns that "this is how Fascism began in the 20th century".

Igor Lukeš:  Lies in the public arena and the beginnings of Fascism

I've never met Father Tomáš Halík. All I know is that former Czech President Václav Klaus has rejected the authenticity of his faith as "mere media tightrope-walking", and Klaus's former press spokesperson Petr Hájek also doubted the authenticity of his priestly ordination.

Anyone who lived through the Czechoslovakia of the 1970s must know what a fervent faith and how much personal courage Halík needed to be secretly ordained when former Czechoslovakian President Gustav Husák's rampages were at their height. Both of his present-day critics, on the other hand, were enjoying a "normalized" life in those days.

Klaus had a comfortable job at the state bank, while Hájek graduated from the Film and TV School at the Academy of Performing Arts and began working for the magazine Květy. I haven't lived in the Czech Republic for decades, so I no longer attempt to enter into personal arguments of this sort.

What's more, there is no need to convince anyone of Halík's personal qualities. Whoever has eyes to see knows what they are.

However, I have just finished reading an article attacking Halík in a tone that is unbelievable to me. With the self-assurance that many a Czech beer-drinker might envy, author Benjamin Kuras has entered into an amateurish polemic with Halík's opinion of Islam [Aktuálně.cz, "Ignorance, a lie, or a psychiatric disorder?", 9 October 2015].

There is so much disregard and hatred for anyone who does not share the author's extremism flowing from this piece that with a few simple adjustments it could have been published in the Fascist-era weekly Der Stürmer. Following the model of the racists, Kuras sees nothing positive in the world of Islamic faith.

He has not one good word for this group of 1 500 000 000 human beings, he will not admit a single exception, he sees not a glimmer of hope. All of them are the same to him, which is to say, equally repulsive:  They rob, they murder, they steal, they enslave.

That's the way Julius Streicher used to write about Jews, and it's the way Kuras is writing about Muslims. Anyone who, like Halík, has a different opinion about Islam than Kuras does can choose from one of three options, in his view.

That person is either an ignoramus, or a liar, or is suffering from a psychiatric disorder. These alternatives are offered by Kuras not just in the title of his piece, but are repeated as a mantra at the end of almost every paragraph of the article.

Just like Hájek or Klaus, Kuras does not really merit acknowledgment. I have decided to protest his piece for just one reason.

In his tract, Kuras not only attacks Halík and Islam, but also the President of the United States. He writes that ISIS has allegedly been condemned by "the only high Islamic authority - the American Caliph Barack Hussein Obama."

Even a member of the Ku-Klux-Klan wouldn't write such filth about my President. It's true that opinions of this type are sometimes best met with silence.

When an intellectual dwarf tells a lie, there's no need to pay attention. That applies especially to those who are fiends for conspiracy theories, who in the eyes of intelligent readers are able to degrade themselves without anyone else helping them.

The problem is that in the small arena of the Czech Republic, lies can quickly push the truth aside. The thinking reader doesn't really know what to believe, while the others receive the "information" that President Obama was born in Africa and is a "secret Muslim".

These readers then hate him, with relish. For those who have already believed these lies about the American President, there is nothing that can help, because they are not interested in the truth.

However, I'd like to give a helping hand to those who are on the edge of sinking into irrationality:  Obama was born in the United States, he is a practicing Christian, he is not Muslim, and he is not, therefore, a "Caliph". I know it's a well-worn truism that we all have the right to our opinions and, in the century of electronic media, that anyone can attempt to stuff their opinions into the heads of millions of people.

Sometimes even propaganda, which adjusts the truth to serve its own ends and combines it with myth, can be legitimate, but I don't know why the same principle should apply to this boundless, hateful lying. We are forgetting that this is the way Fascism began in the 20th century.   

Originally published on news server Aktuálně.cz. Igor Lukeš is a professor at  Boston University.
Igor Lukeš, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Extremism, Fascism, Racism, religion



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