Wednesday, 31 October 2018 13:57

Belgium – News media normalise neo Nazism in their election coverage

By publishing photos of nationalist Vlaams Belang members doing the Nazi salute (without exposing the violence and the dangers), media are normalising neo Nazism. This is Belgium's media monitoring highlight for October.

This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of October, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.

7sur7Date of publication: 14 and 15 October 2018

Media Outlet: Le Soir, 7sur7, and other news media outlets


Headline: “Vlaams Belang celebrates its victory in Ninove with Nazi salutes"

Description of the antisemitic content: The day after the local elections in Belgium, several media outlets reported about the victory of Vlaams Belang in the town of Ninove, where it collected 40 percent of votes (15 council seats out of 33). The articles reported that party members celebrated with Nazi salutes on the street and included photos to illustrate it. Rather than denouncing and exposing the gravity of this act, the papers merely reported it, thus normalising neo Nazism. By using these photos, the media outlets also associated something positive (the victory) with fascist symbols. Le Soir later removed the photo and replaced it with one of the Vlaams Belang leaflet, but most of the papers kept it.

Myth debunked: How to cover the far-right and neo Nazism is an issue that has been discussed and debated among journalists. Articles such as the New York Times profile of the “Nazi sympathizer next door” or Sunday Times profile of Generation Identity with the headline “Heil Hipsters” have been criticised respectively for humanising fascism and for glamourising it. The same usage of the term “alt-right” and “alternative right” has been condemned as “rebranding” of White nationalism by campaigns such as #stopnormalizing. Journalists and academics have analysed the media coverage of Nazism in the 1930s and compared it with the current media coverage of the far right, thus showing the dangers of downplaying its threats. What can journalists do to avoid normalisation of neo Nazism? First of all, not leave violence out of the picture, choose their words carefully, and constantly remind the readers of the ugly consequences of it.

More to read:

Normalizing fascists

It's Not That Hard To Avoid Normalizing Nazis

Is Fascism making a comeback?

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