Since this is a hot topic, it would not do for pengovsky not to chip in his two eurocents: Zlovenija.
A rather smart logo of Zlovenija
The wave after wave of refugees washed up something even more disturbing. A deluge of racist, xenophobic, hateful and whathaveyou comments regarding the refugees which would not abate. Things like “a bullet’s too good for them”, “get my gun”, “where’s Hitler when you need him”, “those trains should go straight to Auschwitz” and so forth. Just lovely. :/
Soon enough, a Tumblr appeared, collecting the pick of the crop of the couch-Nazis and putting their comment to their (more or less) hi-res photos, thus creating a striking contrast between people holding their puppies, spouses or children and their comments, most of which, to put it mildly, could provide grounds for criminal charges.
And yet, there is something inherently wrong with Zlovenija (a wordplay on Slovenia and Zlo (=Evil)). People smarter than pengovsky have weighed in, both in favour (here, here and here) and against (here and here to give a couple of links almost at random), but no-one touched on what in pengovsky’s views is the most crucial takeaway of the entire enterprise. Namely, that with this the bad guys actually won.
You see, whatever noble intentions led the creator(s) of Zlovenija, they are defeated by the very form chosen. Name-and-shame lists were, in what little experience Slovenia has with democracy, mainly tool of the political right. Think udba.net, a list of allegedly collaborators of UDBA, the Yugoslav secret police. The list that was used time an again to name-and-shame people who held public office at various levels. Or various “who’s-who” lists allegedly detailing networks of communist/gay mafia that supposedly runs Slovenia. Or various lists of journos who reported things the right-wing was unhappy with. Pengovsky was added to such a list. A bullshit scare tactic, but still, not something to be liked or wished for.
But wait, I hear you say, Zlovenija is exposing hate-speech! Surely, that can’t be the same as putting together lists of undesirable journalists? In substance, no. But in form, there is no discernible difference. And when the next list is made, pointing that out will be useless.
With Zlovenia choosing a similar name-and-shame silencing technique, lists of undesirables are one step closer to becoming fair game. Which is all that the reactionary side ever wanted. Not to win, but to call it a tie, to muddle the field so much that everyone looks equally dirty. Whenever the progressives pick up tools of the reactionaries, they lose. Twice. First, because they allowed themselves to drop to the reactionary level and second, because they can’t play that game well.
Just take a look at all those removed photos which were replaced by “apologies” by the authors of the comments. Only that precious few of them are actual apologies. When it all began, the blog set out some very harsh requirements for getting the offending picture and comment removed. It included posting a more or less groveling message with the author stating that he/she is aware of how wrong their actions were and to promise never to do it again. The requirements have since been loosened to disowning the comment via a short explanation. And now you’ve got everything, from “I was drunk” to “I’ve no job” to “I was afraid for my family” to “I’m angry there’s so much social injustice in Slovenia”… It’s quite an impressive list of non-apologies. Everyone’s got an excuse for being an asshole. And suddenly, that’s alright.
Well, fuck it. It’s not alright. And it goes to show that naming and shaming, while silencing some people does precious little to change people’s hearts. Because these people are going to get drunk again. They are still going to be afraid (no matter how baseless their fears are), they are still going to look for someone to blame for the situation (social or otherwise) they’re in. And since they can’t take it out on refugees, they’ll take it out on someone else. Women. The Roma. Socialists. LGBT community (there’s a nice one, with the referendum on same-sex marriage coming up and all). People with brown eyes. You name it. The list (sic!) is endless.
Zlovenija je šla offline. pic.twitter.com/YCRp0c2QYV
— Bosonoga (@_bosonoga) October 27, 2015
Just how bad an idea Zlovenija was, is aptly demonstrated by the fact that it has jumped into the offline world, with pictures being printed in large format and plastered in public venues. Seriously? How is that suppose to be educational? Not to mention that the author(s) of the blog remain anonymous, while the authors of hate-speech comments are up there with their names and pictures. I mean, if you’re going to out people, at least have the decency to put your own name to it.
How to go about hate-speech, then? Tricky. But as a journo colleague Lenart Kučić tweeted, there are no shortcuts. First and foremost, there’s the legal framework. Hate-speech is a punishable offence. Therefore, reporting it to the authorities is a must. Blogs like Zlovenija are nothing but a form of digital vigilantism that can only end in tears. Sure, Facebook is being an asshole and is often refusing to remove plainly abusive comments. But fuck Facebook. Use Slovenian Criminal Code instead.
But it does not stop there. What is needed is compassion. Despite plenty of hate speech on social media, there were a lot of good deeds in real life. People volunteered to help with the Civil Defence and Red Cross. Other people donated food, clothes, basic shelter. The police and the army are earnestly trying to keep the situation in balance the best they can. In short, there seems to be not a bad guy in the field. All of which makes the couch-Nazis look despicable, irrelevant and sad.
Point out the good thigs and you’ll see there is more than enough to counter the bad things.
But trying to “teach them a lesson” is not a good thing. Because rest assured that lessons will not be learned. Or rather, lessons that will be learned will be on avoiding detection and plausible deniability, they will not be on compassion. In that respect, Zlovenija only compounds the problem, it does not help solve it one tiny bit.