Conspiracy theories often go hand-in-hand with hate speech against marginalised groups, as we have covered many times in the Get The Trolls Out! project. The most recent example of this is David Icke, who has become well-known in the mainstream in recent weeks by utilizing the COVID-19 pandemic to spread disinformation; however, antisemitism has been at the core of Icke’s work for a very long time.
The current climate of fear and anxiety surrounding the coronavirus pandemic is acting as fertile ground for the dissemination of conspiracy theories and discriminatory discourses. Since the outbreak in Wuhan, Chinese people, and people of East Asian appearance more broadly, have been attacked and abused because they were seen as carriers of the virus. But as the infections spread across the world, specific religious and ethnic groups have also been targeted. These attacks range from shaming Muslims for allegedly failing to adhere to lockdown measures, to global conspiracies about Jewish people, drawing on historical prejudices and racist perceptions.
Several Get The Trolls Out! partners submitted a joint complaint letter to the city of Aalst, in Belgium. The complaint was regarding the annual Carnival parade which took place in February this year, which heavily featured antisemitic and racists elements.
We all have seen images of Nazi ghettos and concentration camps. But through whose eyes are we seeing this past?
2019 unfortunately took off where the last year left us, with many examples of individuals and entire media outlets spreading anti-religious and racist views. We’ve created a countdown of some of the worst perpetrators of the year:
In number 12, we have the Belgium paper Doorbraak who published an article recounting a speech Wim de Wit made at an IJzerwake event in which he claimed “In principle, freedom of expression still applies, except when it comes to Muslims, Negroes, holibi’s [homosexual, lesbian and bisexual individuals], Transgender people, transvestites, Gypsies, feminists and certain politicians.”. Read our article where we criticise Doorbraak for their lack of journalistic criticism of the speech.
In 11th place, we have the French TV Channel LCI, which broadcast an episode of ’24 Pujadas’ where they invited Robert Ménard (known for his racist, anti-migrant and anti-Muslim stance) along with Guillaume Tabard (editor-in-chief of Le Figaro) onto the show, where Tabard said ‘We had lived through deadly Islamist terrorism in France, so if we want to keep score, we are not yet even’. Read our article on why LCI’s decision to include these guests and the statement is insensitive and wrong.
In 10th place, is the Hungarian public service website Hirado for reporting a government press conference on Brussels’ distribution of migrant cards. Despite the government spokesman suggesting that the recipients of this financial assistance were ‘anonymous’, and that there might be some ISIS members involved, Hirado decided not to critically report on this discriminatory rhetoric, thus allowing the Islamophobic statements to appear factual.
Coming in at number 9 is the Belgium party Vlaams Belang for their Islamophobic rhetoric in November. When an asylum centre in the city of Bilzen was torched down, many assumed it was supporters of Vlaams Belang due to their protests on the site a few days prior. Their party leader was outraged by the assumptions but used his speech to spread anti-Islam views and that Islamisation of the country would be supported by his opponents.
Greek lifestyle magazine ‘Athens’ is in at number 8, for publishing an article where the author suggests that ‘Jewish banks’ are partially a cause of the Greek debt. This article displays blatant antisemitism, promoting dangerous antisemitic theories and furthering well-established conspiracy theories.
In 7th place, is the French online newspaper Atlantico, for an article published about the Decathlon – Hijab controversy, where the sports chain created a ‘running’ hijab, which caused a backlash on social media by people claiming it was an example of the ‘Islamisation’ of France. The article’s headline suggested the hijab was a ‘victory for the Muslim Brotherhood’, thus spreading anti-Muslim sentiment.
In at number 6 is PI News, a far-right German news website, which discusses the latest birth rate figures, and suggests that the rise in foreign-born babies reflected the ‘Islamisation’ of Germany and Europe. It also states the number of ‘true’ Germans is lower than what the figures reveal. Using these far-right tropes, the article spreads strong anti-Islam ideas, and encourages its readers to agree with them about the scale of the ‘problem’.
Number 5 is another entry from Hirado, along with its sister public broadcaster MTI, and it is due to their spreading of fear-mongering lies on refugees, stating in an article that ‘40,000 migrants are about to set off from Turkey and Greece towards Central Europe, to be joined along the way by many more’, followed by multiple similar stories on the subject.
In number 4, is the Belgium group Vismooil’n VZW for their extremely antisemitic float which displayed caricatured orthodox Jews with several antisemitic features, including long ugly noses, bags full of cash and coins and rats in their dresses, while attending the annual Carnival parade in the Belgian city of Aalst. TV broadcasters and city officials barely made any comments on its antisemitic nature.
In 3rd place, is the British far-right news site Politicalite. The article reads like a conspiracy theory and uses many of the well-known far-right tropes such as the ‘Great Replacement’ theory. It is written by Bethany Helmsley, who also writes for a blog called ‘Spotting The Serpent’s Tail’ where they recently published a post calling for ‘for the “cleansing” of those who make Britain multicultural.’
German paper Der Spiegel just misses out on top spot, settling for second place. The article suggests it was an ‘investigative piece’, but it used well-known anti-Semitic tropes to push an anti-Jewish narrative, specifically in reference to two lobby groups which they suggested had influenced German politicians.
And our troll of the year goes to – Rod Liddle and the Spectator. In November, columnist Rod Liddle had an article published in the right-wing paper, suggesting that ‘Muslims should be prevented from voting in the next general election’ causing outrage on social media for its clear Islamophobic comments. Following the backlash, Riddle defended himself by saying that his suggestions were ‘patently a joke’, despite the multiple examples of Islamophobia in his work prior to this.
GTTO partner Symbiosis – School of Political Studies of the Council of Europe has filed a report on YouTube requesting the definitive ban of the Konstantinos Plevris’ account for its antisemitic content.
Online lifestyle website Athens Magazine spread antisemitic conspiracy theories and disinformation in an article that claims to unearth the sequence of events and policies behind Greece’s debt. This is Greece’s media monitoring highlight for October.
The Church of Saint Catherine in Brussels covered with tape an antisemitic sentence written on an information placard, after receiving complaints from a Belgian blogger and several visitors.
An article published in popular news magazine Der Spiegel portrays the work of two Jewish lobby groups in Germany as dubious and worrisome, invoking the antisemitic trope of scheming Jewish cabals. This is Germany’s media monitoring highlight for July.
Press Release of Anti-Racist Associations
The undersigned anti-racist associations demand that the Prosecutor of the Republic urgently carry out the arrest warrant issued against Alain Soral on 15 April 2019 for publicly denying the Holocaust.