Czech and Slovak extremists do their best to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic, attacking the EU and public broadcast media
For a moment it appeared to be the case that the shock from the scale and speed of the preventive measures adopted by the Czech Government against the dissemination of the novel coronavirus were attenuating the customary populist, superficial ejaculations online featuring key words such as "Brussels", "nation" or "sovereignty". A couple of days later, however, the old rhetoric is back.
The "enemy" is, once again, EU bureaucrats and the public broadcast media. A good example is the boss of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement, Tomio Okamura, who is using his Facebook profile to lard his "statesmanlike" calls for cohesion and considerateness with well-worn excerpts from his party's program.
"The situation around the coronavirus has demonstrated that the Czech Republic was not prepared for a crisis situation. There is a lack of basic equipment like face masks and respirators. The EU position on the coronavirus pandemic documents that the EU is harming us and the EU must come to an end!" is one example of how Okamura mixed Brussels into one of his "domestic political" status updates this week.
"This is not the time or place for any political gamesmanship," he posted in the same breath. That very trick was also attempted by the chair of the Tricolor movement, Václav Klaus, Jr, in a speech that apparently was meant to be a substitute for Czech President Zeman, who so far has been silent during the pandemic.
"These days I am very much missing an appearance from a statesman (such as the President) about this situation - words of calm, of encouragement, of hope and strength," Klaus, Jr said in his video appearance. "So I'm going to give it a shot myself."
"Everybody knows how to criticize others or stress them out. To calm others, support them, or cheer them up is more difficult," Klaus, Jr's video message began, which was apparently filmed while he is in home quarantine.
From calls for cohesion and a mention of Libuše's prophecy that the "Czech nation will never die out", Klaus Jr then arrived at another of his traditional subjects. "We also see a positive. The European Union is in a coma. The chattering and challenges from the Brussels eurocrats are no longer being taken seriously by anybody. Everybody is seeing they did nothing when they came face to face with this threat. All the responsibility lies with the national governments, which are behaving absolutely 'nationally' - the Czechs are protecting the Czechs, the Poles are protecting the Poles, [...] the EU is in a coma - let's not allow any zombie resurrection," said Klaus, Jr.
We'd better talk about Czech Television...
Even during a time of pandemic another longtime conflict has yet to go quiet, and that is the fight to politically control the public broadcast media in the Czech Republic - demonstrated, for example, by the case of Xaver Veselý, the moderator of the online television channel XTV, who is also a candidate for a seat on the Board of Czech Television. Veselý's thousands of fans will also find a call for caution and calm on his Facebook profile during this time of pandemic.
In an interview with commentator Petr Holc on XTV, however, in addition to the coronavirus, Veselý extensively analyzed the amount of remuneration paid to Czech Television management. "This man is just laughing at all the people here," Veselý commented during that broadcast while referring to a photograph of Czech Television's General Director Petr Dvořák.
"It is as if he is saying to us between the lines: 'Send us money every month, next year I'll be needing 50 million crowns for myself and a couple of my buddies'," Veselý opined. Information about the remuneration for the Czech Television management was published in February, but the second round of voting for the public broadcaster's board members is coming up in the lower house, and it is exactly Veselý who has advanced as a candidate.
Was there HIV during socialism?
The pandemic is agitating extremists in the Czech Republic, who are searching for a purely conspiratorial explanation for the novel coronavirus - for example, the National Democracy movement chaired by Adam B. Bartoš (whose antisemitism led him to become a convicted felon) has also called, in association with the pandemic, for the Czech Republic to leave the EU. As for the novel coronavirus itself, National Democracy has written the following: "National Democracy does not naively believe the dissemination of this virus is an accident (according to the fairy tales about the transmission of infection to humans from bats, etc.). We do not know who is behind this disgusting crime, but it is apparent that the new virus is a biological weapon that is either being tested now or that a sample of it was released through error."
Marián Kotleba, the chair of the ultra-right "People's Party Our Slovakia", has gone even further. "Do you recall any corona during socialism?" he asks in a video filmed inside a car, to which he adds a traditional dose of anti-Brussels arguments.
"Was there any AIDS or HIV during socialism? We must comprehend from this experience with coronavirus that the European Union is absolutely no advantage, it's a relic," Kotleba tells his followers.
So, what should one do until one's country actually leaves the EU, according to him? "Study the facts, study alternative websites, study the subject of the New World Order and you will comprehend what the game is here with this corona," recommends Kotleba, who a couple of years back also recommended that Slovaks read "an interesting book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" - which is an antisemitic, forged text from the early 20th century purporting to document an alleged worldwide conspiracy among Jewish people.
This article was originally written for the Institute for Independent Journalism in the Czech Republic, an independent, nonprofit organization and registered institute involved in publishing information, journalism and news reporting. Its analyses, articles and data outputs are offered to all equally for use under certain conditions.
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