Sunday, December 17, 2017

Dramatically different headlines about the "far right" Prague conference

Tomio Okamura, the Czech-Japanese leader of the Czech nationalist party, SPD, who got over 10% in recent elections was naturally viewed as a counterpart of Marine Le Pen in France or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. She has endorsed him before the elections, and so forth. I think Okamura is an articulate politician with perfect Czech who proposes "direct democracy", a ban on Islam, and other things. But I think that in many debates, he was able to talk about lots of more general political questions as well – although I don't claim to agree with him on a majority of those – so I think it's wrong to consider him a one-topic politician.

I have never considered to vote for him (and I probably have much more trouble with his typical voters' views and sentiments than with himself) even though Marine Le Pen, his apparent "counterpart" in France, would be likely to earn my vote. The difference is clear: in France, everyone else has suicidal opinions about some essential questions while in Czechia, opinions about multiculturalism that are clearly at least approximately compatible with my views are promoted by almost all political parties. For this simple reason, I believe that Okamura's average voter is unavoidably "more radical" than Le Pen's.

At any rate, Okamura has invited the stars of the European nationalist political spectrum to Prague for a conference during the weekend. They were very nice to each other, some protesters – including Okamura's own, multicultural brother – appeared in front of a building. But there was a somewhat greater number of big fans of these parties during numerous events, too. They clearly enjoyed the events.

Aside from Le Pen and Wilders, less famous folks from other countries have attended the gathering. For example, UKIP lawmaker Ms Atkinson was attacked by a Czech leftist. Her shoulder was injured and she rightfully complained about the "fascist filth". ;-)

Now, how do the journalists deal with such a story? Most of them thankfully wrote somewhat neutral stories with titles informing that these parties – unfortunately often called "far right" – have gathered in Prague to criticize the European Union and propose a Europe of nation states instead (a goal I obviously consider a proposed improvement).

Well, some of the titles were much less neutral. The New York Times wrote a story titled
European Far-Right Leaders, Meeting to Condemn the E.U., Are Greeted With Boos
Cool, so one-half of the story is some boos. Compare the NYT title with a title in a top Czech news server,
Standing ovations and waving with the flags. Le Pen and Wilders have attracted hundreds of fans.
Compare the NYT and headlines. Can you spot a difference? ;-) These two titles were somewhat cherry-picked but the generalized message of these titles is basically true. In Czechia, only, a small PC server meant to defend the gypsies, ran a negative article that was comparable to the NYT story. Others were neutral, matter-of-fact, and sometimes picked positive aspects. chose the following summary in their title:
"Tomio for president!" [Literally: "Tomio to the Castle".] Islam's critic Wilders described Czechs as a nation of heroes, he earned explosive ovations.
Well, it's probably nice for a nation to be labeled a nation of heroes. ;-) Incidentally, Tomio isn't running for the Castle – he has basically endorsed the current president Zeman's reelection bid. Some other titles say that Wilders was strongly urging Czechs to keep on resisting migration, he said that migration has to be fought against by the walls if they're needed. Some other Czech journalists prominently speculate that the Western European nationalist leaders came to benefit from Okamura's success, and so on.

But you can rather easily get to the balanced information through the Czech media even if you only follow several (or one) of them only. In the U.S., especially if you're one of the people who only pay attention to the titles, you're being manipulated big time. You may conclude that some extremist, hated politicians have gathered in the Czech capital and the nation has booed them.

That has nothing to do with reality. There were just hundreds of critics of the conference. A vast majority of Czechs is obviously OK with the event. On top of that, the Czech nationalist leader is half-Asian (quarter-Japanese, quarter-Korean) and he was born in Japan. This simple fact by itself is enough to ridicule the idea that his voter base is some bunch of sick folks who are controlled by xenophobic feelings. Clearly, one sees that even these people's views must be sort of meritocratic.

On top of that, even folks like Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders show their natural tolerance for other ethnic groups by having Tomio Okamura as their good friend, don't they?

Underneath the hateful propaganda, there are political parties whose political program is basically as legitimate and non-radical as the political programs of other parties. But a huge fraction of the citizens in Western Europe and the U.S. are being discouraged from even "daring to consider" this interpretation of these parties. It's a sign of a serious shortage of democracy. As long as anyone assumes that the media "have to be" basically sensible, he's being squeezed and manipulated into some heavily distorted, hateful views towards some parties and their voters that are comparable to 10% of these nations.

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