17 July, 2014

When words are weapons

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Category: European Action Day, Guest writer
Gubaz Koberidze
8 pm

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Written by Blogger from Movement against Intolerance

 22 July 2011 was a not returning point in the XXI century Europe. 77 people were murdered in Norway and this was the proof that hate is a weapon of mass destruction.

Two years later, in the context of the International Day against Racism the Council of Europe officially launched the No Hate Speech Movement.  It was an amazing opportunity to get people committed to tackle hate speech online in one of the most needed moments in the recent European history. A bit more than a year before the European Elections, when all the previsions warned about the right-wing extremism increase, the Council of Europe gave people the chance to be active in the protection of the fundamental values of Europe.

Some months later, the electoral campaign started and a lot of racist, homophobic, islamophobic, xenophobic and intolerant messages were flowing both online and offline. On 25 May 2014 European society witnessed the worst results in its history. The new Parliament is defined by the strong presence of all kind of extremism. A wide range of radicalism, from xenophobic populism to neo-Nazism, is now shaping the voice of the house of European people sovereignty.

At the same time, the FRA – Fundamental Rights Agency issued different reports, researches and surveys on hate crimes.

  • A survey of nearly 6.000 Jewish people shows that 33% of all respondents faced verbal or physical violence.

  • A survey of more than 93.000 LGBT people shows that 25% of all respondents suffered violence just because they are LGBT.

  • A survey of 23.500 members of ethnic minorities shows that 18% of all Roma and Sub-Saharan Africans have been victims of racially motivated crime.

http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_images/infographic-hatecrime-frc-2013.jpg

Specialized European networks and NGOs have always emphasized the link between hate speech and hate crimes.

One indicator that shows a link between hate speech and hate crimes could be found in the research carried on by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz published in The New York Times.  “A recent Southern Poverty Law Center report linked nearly 100 murders in the past five years to registered Stormfront members.”

Stormfront is the America’s most popular online hate site. It was founded in 1995 by Don Black, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and its most popular “social groups” are “Union of National Socialists” and “Fans and Supporters of Adolf Hitler.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/opinion/sunday/seth-stephens-davidowitz-the-data-of-hate.html?_r=0

All around Europe things are getting worse but the case in Greece is interesting and especially painful. The great depression, alongside the increase of Golden Dawn party and the financial welfare State cuttings might lead to collapse of the very essence of Greek Democracy.

Some years ago, as a proposal of the High Commissioner of UNHCR, a network of NGOs was established to tackle hatred and violence in the air. This platform was focused on data collection of hate crimes and the information gathered by this group was very useful to understand what was really happening on the ground. Some isolated incidents against immigrants and refugees suddenly became an organized escalation of violence. Authority’s position on the matter evolved from denial to minimization.  However, the murder of the singer Pavlos Fyssas and thereafter the spiral of violence that ended with the assassination of two Golden Dawn members, made it clear that a strong reaction was needed from the Government. Therefore, they initiated the process to declare the party as a criminal organisation. Justice acted against the Board Members of this neo-Nazi group. During that time, social media were exploiting of hatred and it was the oxygen for the violence cycle.

That is why it is so important to have an active No Hate Speech Movement, not only to protect the values of democracy and fundamental rights but also to provide more security for potential victims and solidarity with vulnerable collectives.

Hate speech is not the complete message, the message is the damage caused to victims when they suffer an attack. When someone is targeted just because of their race, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation or other characteristics, the perpetrator is sending a message to all the community which the victim belongs to.

This is what hatred can do, but as it was said by Stine Renate Håheim: ‘If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show together’.

 


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