Hate creates hate
Politically motivated hate speeches have increased in recent years as confirmed by public opinion. But noticeably, communicologists say, such speeches are further encouraged in election cycles
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You read a text that reflects almost the same views on many current political developments as yours. You agree with the author about the name issue, or about what inter-ethnic policy should be. In support for these views you set out to share the text on your profile on the social network Facebook. And just before you share, you change your mind. Because you know that part of your virtual friends will immediately declare you a traitor to the Macedonian national interests. Attacks that you might not be ready to defend from, not because you feel you are not right, but primarily because of the electrifying atmosphere in which no one listens to arguments, no one talks, but everyone shouts.
In that shouting labels are very easily stuck, which are, or undoubtedly encourage hate speech that has intensified in recent years. So you can read or hear that a person, ethnic, political or any other group should be expelled from the country, burned, gone as it had done harm to the country.
The developments in the territory of former Yugoslavia in the early nineties may be a lesson about the effects of violence in speech. In that period the media often broadcasted politicians’ statements that might not have directly contained hate speech, but undoubtedly encouraged it. It contributed, after years of blood, people to be still willing to find excuses for everything their government had done, even genocide, for others were bad, they caused them harm. So today it can often be heard that the war in Yugoslavia actually started in the media.
By some definitions, hate speech means propagation, justification or glorification of crime and encouraging crime to social groups and their representatives, on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation. Hate speech is considered relocation or transfer of ideas about the superiority or inferiority of one social group or its members and the use of symbols that incite hatred and emphasize superiority or subordination of social groups and their members.
Presence of hate speech in the Macedonian public space was confirmed by the public opinion survey conducted in February this year by the agency Rating for the needs of the Macedonian Institute for Media and the website “Bezomrazno“. In this study, even 79.4 percent of the population see hate speech among politicians and supporters of political parties in the country, and over 70 percent believe it has been growing in recent years.
In many cases, hate speech perhaps does not come straight from the mouths of politicians, but undoubtedly creates an atmosphere which encourages such a speech full of judgment and lack of understanding different attitudes.
Ethnocentric rhetoric in focus
Hate speech or its encouraging by politicians increases in the pre election and election period. Just as early parliamentary elections were announced, the avalanche of disputes immediately started, above all among party supporters.
This time, most striking were the calls directed to the Macedonians or Albanians. Namely, VMRO-DPMNE leader, Nikola Gruevski, at the party convention for president election in the boiled atmosphere and iconography asked to win at least 62 MPs and a president, so that after that some mathematicians not to blackmail them as a party, coalition, as Macedonian people and nation. Otherwise, the prime minister, who is now running for a fourth term, said that others would create the destiny.
Bujar Osmani, spokesman of the party managed by Ali Ahmeti, however, sent another message. He, on his Facebook profile, predicting that these elections would determine who would be more factorized in the next government, DUI or VMRO, sought support from Albanians in winning 25 DUI MPs.
Igor Micevski of the School of Journalism and Public Relations said in the past three years they had conducted a series of studies concerning, among other things, ethno-nationalism, politics and hate speech in the media.
“The findings showed that intolerant discourses are increasingly spread around the electoral process, but not only in those conditions. But their strengthened presence in the media certainly has to do with party positioning for certain issues”, says Micevski.
Sefer Tahiri, Professor at the South East European University, says that hate speech is intensified during the elections.
“Ethnocentric rhetoric is aimed at increasing political party mobilization of citizens who are motivated neither by a name, integration, economics or social policy, but with the tried recipe, that is defending ethnic interests or calling for collective organization, without respecting individual rights”, says Tahiri.
Almost the same day with the announcement of double elections, arguments started on social networks, so members of both ethnic camps started a heated verbal mutual dispute with words that expressed undisguised hatred.
These comments usually come from people that are not known in public life, but their social network profiles are usually seasoned with photos of party iconography.
According to communicologist Marko Troshanovski, politicians’ speech only mobilizes radical party structures and rejects other citizens.
“Ethnically polarized debates in politics create ethnically divided citizens. Additionally, this speech creates a perception that the coalition of the two largest ethnic blocks does not function civically and united, but ethnically and divided. Hate speech creates a spiral of ethnic hatred and division and expands to other levels of society and again closes the political agenda within ethnic frames”, says Troshanovski.
Burying the political elites in their own trenches
Almost every election cycle is a new incentive for violence and hatred. So in the campaign for early parliamentary elections in 2011, Gruevski several times called the then leader Crvenkovski Greek, bigger than Samaras and more famous than Zorba, pointing out that Macedonia had major pests than Branko, but survived.
In 2008, DPA leader Menduh Tachi from the parliamentary platform announced “slaughter house” in the election. Although after that he tried to clarify what he had thought, on the field things happened that corresponded with his announcement. In the elections there were armed incidents and they were evaluated as undemocratic.
“Hate speech lasts longer and escalates in each campaign period. It buries the political elites in ethnic trenches out of which they cannot come out, such as the Greek buried Greek elites and made them rigid for any solution to the name”, says Troshanovski.
Tahiri reminds that calls for ethnic mobilization by political parties were intensified in the last local elections.
“From the first performance of leaders and representatives of political parties the priority of ethnic discourse can certainly be felt, with ethnocentrists’ struggle on both sides”, says Tahiri.
For the elections, for which all interlocutors agree that reinforce ethnic divisions, the question is whether the inciting hate speech leaves more serious traces?
Micevski believes that although in Macedonia no sociological research has been carried out that will examine the long-term effects of media coverage and spreading hatred, there are things that can be seen with the naked eye.
“If the manifestation of hatred, even verbal, is part of the system and is driven by those who have the power, then it becomes a norm of behavior. In this sense hate speech, manifestation of xenophobia, extreme ethnocentrism, ethnic-stereotyping etc. create conflict friction between social groups (especially among ethnic groups) and are a timed incident – an incident waiting to happen”, says Micevski.
Tahiri predicts that in the case of Macedonia, this practice will lead to increased levels of ethnic intolerance in the society.
“Intolerance is high anyway, thanks to the media and politics, which in the absence of real alternatives for the future of the people, always treats voters according to the principles and categories of crowd psychology”, he says.
Editor: Tamara Causidis