Debate 1: ‘If they are elected by the people, they can say whatever they like,’
  • Opens Tuesday 15 October 18:00-20:00 (CET)
    Moderators: Ian McGahon (Ireland), Balint Josa (Hungary)
    .
    If local politicians are elected by the people then they can say whatever they want. They represent the people and if the people are racist then they must represent these racist views. Do you think this is the case? Should local politicians really be able to say what they want? Do they have no responsibility? Should they just represent hatred or they are to educate their own voters? We will use some examples of hate speech by politicians from Ireland, UK, and Hungary but we invite you to bring your own incicents as well.

  • Yesterday, British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative party announced measures that would get tough over the benefits to European migrants.

    One of the actions implemented will concern the availability of social housing for migrants meaning they’d now be kept off council house waiting lists in England for at least two years, under plans for councils to introduce a residency test.

    Kevin Sheahan, Senior FF councillor of the Rathkeale electoral area last night told Limerick county council that Ireland needs to adopt a more Christian attitude and follow suit by implementing an Irish-First Policy.

    Fine Gael and Labour members stormed out of the monthly council meeting when Mr Sheahan persisted in his demand for a notice of motion to be sent to the Department of the Environment calling for an Irish-first policy to be drawn up for social housing.

    "People can come here on a plane or a boat and be housed in perfect accomodation...I'm saying Irish people first, " he told Newstalk Lunchtime.

    When asked whether it was fair to discriminate against non-nationals given Ireland's own levels of emigration Mr Sheahan said that he was not elected to represent that group and that Fine Gael and Labour were not supporting their electorate, allowing the country to become "a soft touch".

    http://www.newstalk.ie/Limerick-Cllr-Kevin-Sheahan:-Nonnationals-are-leapfrogging-the-housing-list
  • What do you think about the article above - should local councillors be able to say what they want?
  • Representatives should keep in mind that they have a huge responsibility about public speech standards. If they set the bar low, radical extremists set it even lower. Also the media and local news have this responsibility.
  • I am not familiar with this particular topic or the politicians involved, but I do think that the issue as hand is quite global: Being a democratically elected public officer should not be taken as an 'entitlement' to promote, in any way, anti-democratic postures such as discrimination. Politicians and public figures are expected to uphold the values that favor Rule of Law, the system that legitimizes their political power.
  • They are also well aware of the fact, that as being a politician they are on the spotlight, so any comment which makes solidarity with a majority works best in the short run. All is about emotional abuse and a heightened attention to contexts, which shapes social cliches and generates an altern sort of victim from "The Irish People". With this curve, victimization turns against those who fight against it and supports cultural premises, which says: "this is the nature of the world" - and speakers say as this is intelligible.

    It might works well in urban legends and community blaming, when from the function of law they depict "what is right" with two-face stories, which tell "what is so" ... Nationality feeds the feelings of those who feel unsafe and hurt by history. And an emotional reward is ginven when said: "Irish first".
  • Politicians know how to hide hate speech among the lines. This can be as dangerous as explicit outspoken discrimmination.
  • Csilla. That is very good point, however nothing can justify this in light of human rights or just in the mirror of humanity morals.
  • This is a paradigmatic issue about verbal acts: progressive speakers - if plus talented - can manipulate people EMOTIONALLY. So, it might works to "soften up" people emotionally with the contrary, mianly with "living" examples. High school programs with face-to-face firts meetings with asylum seekers or with those who are hatred works a lot!! With the adult population it is helpfull to use the media's "sofistication" and ethics to ask BOTH SIDES via interviews. To show up as many faces and hatred people in media and let them talk should work. So the key point is to educate the media first ... ! :P Than they can be activated and learn to do the right way.
  • Yes, that is absolutely valid. The responsibility of the media is as high as the politicians. But in this system of the present representative democracy where should be the quality control. One can always say that I was elected by people so I have the power......the legitimization is as manipulativ.
  • It would also be good to hear arguments from those who believe in unlimited power of the majority over minorities and can support the justification of any discrimminative approach in democracy.
  • This issue is very discussed in Italy, public declaration of hate toward someone are not as ordinary as they are meant to be. We see them both in policy and in other fields such as television, newspaper… here I’m going to concentrate about politicians behavior, sometimes it seems that this declarations were a mistake made by the politician that was not able to control himself\herself. Well right now I may say that it is not a mistake, but a tool to get more voters or approvals. This is the oldest way to get voters: pointing on the feelings and emotions of the people, find a public enemy to hate and a leader or an idea to love. Very often here, some politicians use the “emperor cult” which means bombing with message of love, affection the Italian citizen. Feelings and policy must be divided. Politics messages should be rational and practical, but in particular THE POLITICIANS MUST GIVE THE GOOD EXAMPLES, is true that they represent people but should do it in a good way. Moreover , stopping hate speech and reporting it , it’s not something against freedom of speech but MEANS THAT RESPECT CAME FROM THE LANGUAGE THE WORDS WE USE, SOMETIMES THE PROBLEM IS THE WAY IN WHICH SOMETINGH IS SAYD , PEOPLE SHOULD BE EDUCATED ON HOW EXPRESS AND STAND UP FOR THEIR IDEALS, PEOPLE SHOULD REMEMBER THAT DIFFERENT IS GOOD. UNTILL POLITICIANS DON’T CHANGE WE CANT EXPECT PEOPLE TO DO IT.
  • I absolutely agree with Diego's point. Sadly, what we see is politicians verbally abusing their opponents the moment they seize power. It gives a negative example to society how quickly discrimination and hate speech emerge and come to the forefront.First of all, politicians should represent the people who elected them. No education or personality traits could excuse hate speech in the public sphere. I don't know anyone who would like to be represented as an ignorant and narrow-minded foul-mouthed voter. The problem as I see it is that we don't hold our politicians accountable both for their actions and words. We need to work towards creating a more active civil society as this will ensure our politicians do represent and take into account the opinion of the majority of people.
  • As long racism or nationalism is popular racist populist can always emerge. Here is local example from Hungary:
  • Local Hate Speech example Hungary

    In the early nineties and before foreigners coming to Hungary were an exotic minority. Hungary was never a target destination for Asylum seekers, and to be honest most of the world is not aware of the existence or how bouts of the country. In the year 2004 we joined the Eu and 2008 the Schengen zone. This two steps brought a radical change in our policies towards refugees and asylum seekers, and we are now forced to take care of them in a Eu conform way, and upkeep several Refugee centers also in a Eu level standard.
    What is even more relevant, that the country has 2 non-eu and several non Schengen borders, so we are serving as a gateway towards the more richer parts of Europe, and we have to barricade for example Germany, from the tide of refugees coming from the conflict zones, like Syria and Kosovo and Afghanistan. We had to open new centers, but our office for migration failed to involve the local governments and more important the public, on where should these centers being opened. They announced the openings 3 month before the first families arrived, and the protests were xenophobic and full of incitement and hate towards the refugees. Our world famous Jobbik (movement for a better Hungary) took the opportunity and organised demonstrations, collected signatures against the camp, and the local mayor also took part and used the heated discussion for his goals.
  • On the video you see the protest organised by local politican in vamosszabadi
  • they interview the people saying deeply racist things showing xenophobic slogens
  • the local factory owner offering to retreat if the camp is coming.
  • But the whole demonstration is packed into a civil society movement of locals who are afraidd that "african refugees will abuse their children"...for as they say on this video "in africa young girls at the age of 12 are given to marry 40-50-60 year old men..."
  • the local jobbik dressed in civil clothes saying the democracy is endangered if they dont close the refugee center due public pressure
  • I think politicians know that minorities are an easy target and some of them act on that to get popularity when what they are doing or have done to their electorates. It's easy to pass on the blame to a group that don't have a voice while also denying them a voice. The minorities a voice is as much a fault of the popular media as it is populist politicians who are unprepared to deal with difficult questions. It is a politician's responsibility to represent everyone in an area, in Ireland all residents have the right to vote in local elections and so have a right to be represented.

    Politicians, media and judiciary have to be far more responsible with the language that they use, they can influence and what they say could lead to hate crime being justified by a perpetrator.
  • I agree that this provoking is packed into the "clothes" of civic society movement. Mass order and armed "support" gives people the feeling that their issue is rightous and hilarious. I still think that this is a mentality problem and the middle-class population can be changed and even turned against politicians. For people xenophobia and "alian"-thing is a form of free expression. This all revelas the NATURE OF HUMAN: 1.) you can't conflict too many ideas into your mind cos' it might confuses or challenges you, 2.) You can't open up yourself for new experiences, cos they might take you off or cheat you, 3.) you can not know who you are, so cling to sharply bordered identity (suggested by hate speakers), 4.) we became our nation, our religion and whatever is outside of it, it will freeze and numb people ...

    So with protests the matter is that there is no way to temper the absolute freedom of expression in such legal actions. If people need a role model and had lost touch with religion or altruistic views, it may help if we show human rights equality as a "humanity brand" for them, which will pay back in their life in future ...

    Here in Hungary not only isolated civic fighters, but huge organizations fulfill the role of a "watchdog" and publish their reports on a regular base. Moreover, big for-profit agencies and advertisers can also proact as a PRO BONO (latin:" for the nation") in the name of humanity.

    To be rather optimistic, let me link a fresh news from TASZ (www.tasz.hu), Hungary's well respected and slightly institutionalized community:

    "NGOs Call for Advertising Boycott over Anti-Roma Statements in Hungarian Media

    The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) is joining with a coalition of Hungarian NGOs are calling on domestic companies and Hungarian divisions of multinationals to take a stand against hate speech in Hungary. The NGOS are asking, among others, Vodafone and T-Com, FEDEX, IKEA and Procter and Gamble to reconsider advertising in a Hungarian newspaper which published an article talking about Romani people in unacceptably racist and prejudiced language."
  • Csilla. This seems to be a very good example of how to act for human rights. And your idea to brand "humanity" and human rights is very crucial and will take time and united efforts in the near future on national as well as European level.
  • Thanx a lot, If we change the curve of thinking and pop up with a surprising idea it can work maybe! Should bear in mind for-profits too, who are neglected in a way and they might as well desperateliy seek for "victims" to save from our cruel world. :)
  • This can be a kind of "re-branding" and this is not from the devil ... only a good (marketing, khmm!) technique to change mass thinking in public.
  • Human rights is cool :)
  • We leave this forum open for further comments during the European Local Democracy Week so other visitors can read these ideas above and comment ...
  • Like was "Black is Beautiful" and yet so much more. Good bye, be good! It was a joy to discuss these serious issues with all of you.

    Hope everyone will think of it a little more each day and act so.
  • Nevertheless the camp opened, and first people coming from Kosovo arrived. All fears overestimating the impact of the newcomers are present, but the discussions are over. There is no rise of criminality, no outbreak of new viruses, and nobody cancelled his business, but actually two new shops and a bar opened, creating quite some new workplaces. So the hate campaign did not work!
  • The Major from Badalona (a city next to Barcelona) will be judged because of his statements about Roma people coming from Rumania. He said (many times and among other things) that they are one of the main causes for insecurity in the city.

    He was elected, it is true...but not to make xenophobic populism. He was elected as the Major to improve the city conditions, not to use a part of it as scapegoat. He is clearly using the fears from the people that can vote to reach support. Someway, he creates the problem and then 'offers the solution'.

  • In the Southern part of the EU where the countries need to make fast and result-oriented decisions in order to face
    social problems and let the country out of crisis it is a great pity to see when a party leader talks offensively about mayors of the major cities. This sparks a debate about the irrelevance of using such language. It also underestimates reputation of the mayors who have made significant contributions to their communities during hard period of time. As a result people are disoriented and mostly - a new destructive step is made driving away energy of everyone involved from solving problems of economic crisis.
  • Danger of words!
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