From Facebook groups mocking the Holocaust to false claims between Muslim immigrants and antisemitic attacks, these October highlights are an overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
UK – Home Secretary taps into the far-right rhetoric when he speaks about “no-go areas”
Date of publication: 19 October 2018
Media Outlet: Twitter
Author: Sajid Javid, British Home Secretary
Tweet: “These sick Asian paedophiles are finally facing justice. I want to commend the bravery of the victims. For too long, they were ignored. Not on my watch. There will be no no-go areas.”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid uses the term “no-go areas”, an expression imbued with anti-Muslim sentiments, which is generally used by the far-right to fear-monger over the existence of neighbourhoods where non-Muslims cannot enter. Furthermore, Javid also puts unnecessary emphasis on the descent of the perpetrators, which risks stigmatising a whole community rather than just the culprits.
Myth debunked: It is worrying that a public figure such as the British Home Secretary draws from the false myths spread by the far-right. Last year, Full Fact, the UK’s independent fact-checking charity, investigated the claim of “Muslim-only no-go areas” in Britain, and found out that there are no reports by the police that refer to no-go areas. On the contrary, in 2015, the Metropolitan Police denied Trump’s claims over “places in London… that are so radicalised that the police are afraid for their own lives”, and in 2016 a spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign Office said that “there are no areas in the UK in which the laws of the UK cannot be enforced.”
While figures available, which are “patchy and flawed” seem to suggest that Asian men (the religion of the perpetrators is not collected by the police) are disproportionately involved in child grooming, “the view in different parts of law enforcement is that it is wrong to take these figures and cases and say the race or religion of the perpetrator leads to them committing these crimes,” the Guardian reports. Not only is group grooming on the street a very small portion of sexual crimes against children in the UK (sexual abuse online have a high majority of white perpetrators), Guardian’s sources state. But there are also reasons – not connected with religion, ethnicity, or nationality – that can explain the over-representation of Asian offenders on the basis of demography and profession. Racialised statements, such as Sajid Javid’s, give the wrong message about who poses dangers to children, but also imply that it’s the religion or the ethnicity of the assailants that induce them to abuse.
More to read:
FRANCE – Students make Holocaust-related insults against their Jewish classmate
Date of publication: The story was reported by Europe1 on 29 October 2018
Media Outlet: Facebook
Author: Students at the School of Medicine, Paris 13 University
Description of the antisemitic content: In a private Facebook group, some Medicine students of Paris 13 University have mocked the Holocaust and insulted one of their Jewish classmates, Rose (fictional name). Initially, the students made antisemitic jokes in front of Rose: they ridiculed the Holocaust, made Nazi salutes, and invented a game they called “freespa” (contraction of Frisbee and kippah). When Rose pointed out the inappropriateness of their statements and said she felt humiliated, her classmates responded that it was just humour. A couple of weeks later, Rose found out that in a private Facebook group, the same students continued ridiculing the Holocaust and her. They proposed orientation weekend names using her surname, Bob, and Holocaust references: “Bob Auschwitz 2018”, “Bob-round-up 2018”, and “Nazi against Jews” with pictures of a Jewish student burning in a fire. Other posts classified the University's Jewish students with a comment and a grade, such as “Jew level 31, involved but able to be with goys?” or “Jew level 75, standing 4, ready for anything for her community”.
Myth debunked: The reason why Rose told her story to Europe1 reporters is not revenge, but to “denounce this trivialisation of antisemitism under the guise of humour”. Anti-Jewish jokes or Holocaust-themed mockery are not harmless fun. They create unsafe places, they humiliate, and they cause offence and distress. Antisemitism can take many forms and does not encompass only conspiracy theories and hateful insults. Banter and taunts on a horrific event such as the Holocaust, especially if done to humiliate Jews, are antisemitic and have a real impact on the life of people. Paris 13 University has started an inquiry over the incident and stated that they do not tolerate racist and antisemitic acts. But this is not an isolated case, Jewish student representatives have been voicing their concern at widespread incidents in France’s campuses for years.
More to read:
GERMANY – Author fails to find evidence of the “replacement” conspiracy theory
Date of publication: 14 October 2018
Media Outlet: Epoch Times, right-wing populist online newspaper
Author: Daniel Prinz
Headline: “Soon 300 million Muslims and Africans in Europe? Replacement of the nation and Islamisation not a ‘conspiracy theory’”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: The article reiterates the stereotypes of Muslim cultures being violent and incompatible with German values. It describes Muslim prayers in public spaces as “provocative” and a sign of an “Islamic claim to power”. Refugees are accused of using the “battle cry” of “Allahu Akbar! Europe belongs to us” when they cross European borders by sea. False myths such as the “replacement of the nation” and “Islamisation” are claimed not to be conspiracy theories, the proof of which would be the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, a UN agreement recently finalised. The language used frames migration as threatening. The author writes of “flood of migrants” of “biblical proportions” which is meant to “thin out, displace, and exterminate” the native population.
Myth debunked: Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam. There are five required daily prayers spread throughout the day. When praying, Muslims kneel in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca. For Christians who want to pray, there are plenty of churches where they can walk in any time of the day. But for Muslims, in countries where they are a minority, it is not easy to find a mosque or a designated prayer space every time. A shortage of mosques leads worshippers to pray on roads. Paradoxically, the same political movements that oppose the building of mosques, complain because Muslims have to resort to praying in the street. The “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” is not proof of conspiracy theories. It is a UN global agreement that tries to establish a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions. Nowhere in the agreement are there references to a replacement taking place. It is a notion, not based on any evidence, used by the far-right to fuel fear against Muslims.
More to read:
HUNGARY – Public broadcaster spreads disinformation over antisemitism in Western Europe
Date of broadcast: 26 October 2018
Media Outlet: Hirado TV programme on MTVA, Hungarian public broadcaster.
Headline: “Members of Jewish communities leave Western Europe”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: The Hirado news report, broadcast on TV at prime time, claims that Jewish people are leaving Western Europe because of the threats posed to them by Muslims and migrants. “In recent years, Muslim immigrants to the European Union have come to such an enormous number that a kind of anti-Semitic atmosphere has emerged in a number of Western European cities, - explained Daniel Deák.” The piece also praises Hungary for providing a safe space for Jews: “Hungary is not the country from which masses of Jewish people move to Jerusalem, but they are starting to leave Western European countries.”
Myth debunked: Hirado is right in stating that antisemitic attacks occur in Western Europe. It is also right to say that there has been recorded an increase in numbers of Jews leaving for Israel from some European countries. But the article is blatantly deceiving and false when it asserts that “the attacks are clearly attributable to migration”. This claim, around which the whole piece is built, is heavily biased and not proven. It is based on the interview of a single Hungarian expert and it does not explicitly state the sources of the figures on hate crimes in Britain, France and Germany. Among the very small body of research that exists, the most important is the 5-nation study "Antisemitism and Immigration in Western Europe Today. Is there a connection?" by the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism that sheds light on the issue and refutes that antisemitism is on the rise because of refugees. In saying that Hungary is a safe place for Jews (implying that this is thanks to the anti-immigration and anti-Muslim government policies), the piece also completely fails to understand and recognise antisemitism in Hungary. Two-thirds of Hungarian Jews believe antisemitism is a serious problem in their country, and about half say they have experienced it firsthand, according to a survey done by sociologists András Kovács and Ildikó Barna in partnership with the Szombat Jewish paper and TEV.
More to read:
BELGIUM – Opinion piece perpetuates blood libel narratives
Date of publication: 30 August 2018 (but edited on 18 October 2018)
Media Outlet: De Wereld Morgen, the opinion website of De Morgen
Author: Robrecht Vanderbeeken
Headline: “Trade Union’s struggle for Palestinian rights”
Description of the antisemitic content: In this article on the role of trade unions for Palestinian human rights, a Belgian researcher at Ghent University accuses Israel of kidnapping and murdering Palestinian children for their organs. “Gaza has been starved and poisoned for more than 10 years by the land-, sea- and air-blockade, children are kidnapped and executed for their organs”, stated Robrecht Vanderbeeken. After complaints by the Forum der Joodse Organisation, in October, the editors agreed with the author to remove that sentence from the article and to publish a correction. The website now states that while Israel kidnaps and murders Palestinian children and uses organs belonging to Palestinians it kills, the article was wrong “to suggest causality between the kidnapping and murder of children by the Israeli occupation army and the removal of organs for transplants.”
Myth debunked: The statement “Gaza has been starved and poisoned for more than 10 years by the land-, sea- and air-blockade, children are kidnapped and executed for their organs”, later deleted, perpetuated existing antisemitic narratives about “blood libel”. According to this false allegation, which dates back to the Middle Ages, Jews murder Christian children to use their blood for ritual purposes, especially for the Passover. Whenever a Christian child went missing, local Jews were often blamed and pogroms targeting Jews followed. Blood libels persist in modern times. For example, after a cinema in Kemerovo, Siberia, caught fire killing 64 people (41 of them children), Russian social media abounded with blood libels, accusing Jews of plotting the fire on the eve of Passover.
More to read:
GREECE – Broadcaster gives platform to far-right editors but hides their identity
Date of broadcasting: 3 October 2018
Media Outlet: “With you” TV programme, on SKAI TV, one of the main broadcasters in Greece
Headline: “The first impression experiment. To what extent do stereotypes establish themselves in Greek Society”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: On the daily show “With you” on SKAI TV, a short video described as a ‘social experiment’ was aired and presented to a panel of guests in the studio. The video, which was scripted and produced by the TV programme, showed a Greek person chasing a migrant of Pakistani origin. Prompted by this footage, the panel of guests engaged in a debate where they were allowed to express a series of derogatory anti-Muslim and racist remarks without being unchallenged by the host. Despite being introduced by the host as “ordinary citizens”, some of the guests were editors of far-right newspapers. One of them was the editor-in-chief at Eleftheri Ora, far-right nationalist paper. Immediately after the show was aired, Eleftheri Ora website triumphantly published an article claiming that their voices had been heard.
Myth debunked: Journalists and TV hosts often face challenges on how report hate speech and racist violence, and can sometimes fall victim to political manipulation. But journalists also have a duty to their readers and viewers, as well as significant responsibilities in exposing the lies of those who want to create societal divisions. As the National Union of Journalist in Britain states “press freedom must be conditioned by responsibility and an acknowledgement by all media workers of the need not to allow press freedom to be abused to slander a section of the community or to promote the evil of racism.” The way the host conducted the programme was highly unprofessional. Offensive remarks by the far-right were given legitimacy. This normalised anti-Muslim and anti-migrant violent views and actions and contributed to creating an unsafe environment for minorities living in Greece. Not revealing the identity of all the panel of guest also constitutes a serious case of misinformation towards the viewers.
More to read:
BELGIUM – News media normalise neo-Nazism in their election coverage
Date 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 the nationalist Vlaams Belang party 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: