The Úsvit campaign: copied poster and empty phrases

Published: Apr 29, 2014 Reading time: 3 minutes
The Úsvit campaign: copied poster and empty phrases

For the past few weeks, the Úsvit movement led by the Czech politician Tomio Okamura has been campaigning for the European Parliament elections in May. Last week, they published a poster which is to be plastered to thousands of walls across the country. A spokesman for the movement spoke about the Swiss inspiration, specifically that the idea for poster was drawn from the Swiss People’s Party. However, it is merely a copy of the metaphorical picture – a white sheep kicking a black sheep out of the Swiss (or Czech, in this case) flag. This poster, presented by Úsvit, is accompanied by slogans such as: “Support for our families, not the aberrant,” and “our labor, not migrants’. The “sheep” poster was primarily used by the Swiss People’s Party, however, in the past this theme was also used for the German far-right NPD, the Italian Northern League and even in the Czech Republic by the far-right National Party a few years ago.

The Úsvit campaign uses infamous myths and misleading wording. For example, they say that foreigners are taking citizens’ jobs, but this is a deceptive statement. In fact, employers must give job priority to the Czechs or other EU citizens (Czechs have the same right in other EU countries). As for the mythical social migrants: the statistics of Czech ministry of Labour and Social Affairs prove that the use of social benefits amongst migrants is almost zero. In contrast, businesses in the Czech Republic advocate for equal rights for foreigners who are working in the Czech Republic and are paying taxes.

Maladjusted immigrants and religious fanatics

This European Parliament campaign often operates with the terms maladjusted immigrants, maladjusted minorities and religious fanatics. And of course, it is unclear who falls under these terms. How can one measure adaptability or fanaticism?

Migrants (EU and non-EU) make up only around 4 percent of the population in the Czech Republic, which in comparison with other European Union member states is a very low number. Czech society is largely homogeneous. Most immigrants come from the European Union, and the majority of them are Slovaks. So, who are the inadaptable immigrants or religious fanatics? Most immigrants who come to the Czech Republic from outside of the EU come from Ukraine and Vietnam.

These phrases are essentially void of meaning, but they have the potential to attract the attention of a wide range of people. Therefore, the danger is that these phrases will permeate public discourse and create artificial topics that are not based on reality. Additionally, they will push the boundaries of expression of what is socially acceptable and what is not.

The immigrants from Muslim countries are the people who are most often labeled as religious fanatics.  It is, of course, impossible to judge and condemn someone solely based on where they come from and what religion they practice. After all, freedom of religion in the Czech Republic is anchored in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. During the last census, it was recorded that slightly more than 3,000 people adhere to Islam. Muslims in the Czech Republic do not even constitute 0,1% of the population, and that number has not increased, and there is no reason to assume that it will. Okamura frequently mentioned “the tide of religious fanatics,” as just another myth whose purpose is to cause unnecessary and irrational panic.

Inspiration from European countries

The Úsvit campaign adopts the rhetoric of several European countries, such as the aforementioned Switzerland. However, the situation in the Czech Republic is different in many ways, one of them being the number of foreigners and their countries of origin.

At the same time, various causes of unrest abroad are not caused by the lack of integration, but as the results of different social reasons that cannot be simplified to the “maladjusted immigrants and religious fanatics.” These are just cheap phrases that easily attract the attention of voters.  They do not reflect reality, and they do not offer solutions, just populist notes (and as it turns out with the poster example – still quite rough around the edges.) It is problematic if a similarly irrelevant statement spreads through mass media and Internet.

Thanks to the fears of the unknown, migration is a topic that is already extremely controversial and can spark volatile emotions, especially if it is presented in the right manner. As in all other situations, the basis of rational arguments are facts, not simple solutions and empty phrases.

Author: Program Migrace; Člověk v tísni