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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Who is actually responsible for the growing hostility?

By Matevž Tomšič

 In Slovenia, the social atmosphere is increasingly toxic. This is not only reflected in the almost proverbially low culture of dialogue, the true dimensions of which are expressed on social networks, when swearing, insults and more or less open threats appear on a daily basis in very large quantities. Attacks on individuals’ property and death threats are on the rise. And not just to exposed politicians, but also their family members. Such a threat – not only to her, but even to her children – was recently received by the Prime Minister’s wife. Something similar was sent to the editorial board of the weekly Demokracija.

It is an act that transcends all boundaries of civilisation. If threats to politicians and charlatanistic actions at their housing facilities are unacceptable, then acts, which predict the murder of their family members, are something utterly rejected. Even if this is a kind of “joke”, it is beyond the scope of such a loosely understood freedom of expression. Therefore, law enforcement authorities are expected to take decisive action and sanction for such conduct.

In the discourse of the dominant media, when it comes to the spread of hatred, one usually points the finger at the right half of Slovenian politics and society. This is – as in many other cases that are the subject of media coverage – a distortion of the facts. Intolerance and hostility abound on both the right and the left. However, a review of developments over the past year shows us that it is the left that has caused this negative trend to escalate. The trigger for this was, of course, the formation of the third Janša government, which triggered a real hurricane of frustration, anger, and indignation among the leftists. And aggression! All anti-government protests that were organised during this time were full of all these negative sentiments.

A vicious circle of hostility

The motto of these protests became the slogan “death to Janšism”. This slogan “adorned” many banners displayed by protesters. These self-proclaimed fighters for social justice like to declare themselves peaceful and accuse the government of spreading hatred. According to them, death threats clearly do not fall into this category. Some of their advocates were quick to explain that this is not really a threat at all, as it is not intended for a specific individual (or group), but for a specific phenomenon. (The anti-Janšists themselves did not even bother to define what exactly they meant by “Janšism”.) Of course, it is not the same if the exclamation “death” refers to a specific person or is intended for something more abstract, such as an ideology. However, the socio-historical context must be taken into account here. The slogan “death to Janšism” is a paraphrase of the slogan “death to fascism” used by the communists while carrying out the revolution. It was an integral part of official documents, including decrees on the liquidation of political opponents. This means that with it, people were sent en masse to their deaths. This slogan was therefore anything but abstract. And modern-day left wing protesters are overwhelmed by a very similar mentality to their revolutionary role models, as they believe that only they can be in power. In this sense, their call for the death of Janšism is far from innocent.

Aggression escalated from protest to protest. The banners were followed by charlatanistic actions as well as physical attacks, such as a brutal confrontation with photojournalist Borut Živulović. Then came the aggressive actions of the opposing side, which were directed against political representatives of the left pole. And the vicious circle of hostility spins forward.

Dr Matevž Tomšič is a sociologist, professor at the Faculty of Applied Social Studies, and president of the Association of Journalists and Publicists.


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