This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of December, 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.
Date of publication: 2 December 2019
Media outlet: Facebook page of Vlaams Belang, Flemish right-wing populist and nationalist political party
Politician: Tom Van Grieken
Description of the anti-Muslim and xenophobic content: On 2 December 2019, far-right European Parliament group Identity and Democracy organised an event at which several politicians spoke about the future of Europe, calling the event: “New Hope for Europe.” The most notable guest at the event was Italian politician and Federal Secretary of Italy's Lega Norde Matteo Salvini, known for his populist ideas. During his speech, he said: “First and foremost should be the protection of our identity, because Europe is either Christian, or it is not Europe. An Islamic Europe is the death (end) of our identity, the death of our dreams, the death of our rights.” Representing Vlaams Belang was party leader Tom Van Grieken, who also spoke at the event stating: “Our Europe is not a Europe of Mosques and Minarets but of belfries and Cathedrals. And so must it remain for centuries.” Vlaams Belang shared a ‘highlight’ video of the event, sharing clips of the above speeches with their followers.
Myth debunked: The “New Hope for Europe” event clearly displayed the presence of populism around Europe, and how this rise is largely based on fearmongering around Islam and immigration. By sharing a video of these troubling speeches, Vlaams Belang is making clear that they are in line with these ideas, with the party’s own leader clearly stating that Europe should only be Christian. Not only is this an attack on Europe’s Muslim population, but it is an attack on all other non-Christian individuals who call Europe their home. The speech and subsequent promotion of the event and speeches shows clearly that Vlaams Belang is an anti-pluralistic and anti-religious political party. Hosting Salvini, a man who has called migrants "an army of benefit thieves and criminals" and has made openly racist ‘jokes’ on live TV, further demonstrates this.
Within the Get The Trolls Out! project we have covered Vlaams Belang before, as they repeatedly spread anti-Muslim and xenophobic ideas, largely through their Facebook page, which has over 480,000 likes. Besides the video of the “New Hope for Europe” event, Vlaams Belang has shared several more posts using xenophobic and anti-Muslim tropes. The party is gaining power in Belgium, with recent polls showing that Vlaams Belang now hold 27% of votes in Flanders, making it the top party. Looking through comments on the Vlaams Belang Facebook page, it is clear that many followers agree with the ideology presented by the party and share similar populist ideas. With its increased popularity, it is vital to monitor Vlaams Belang’s narrative and ensure that they are not using their political platform to spread hate.
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