RESEARCH OF THE ONLINE SPACE IN REGARDS TO
XENOPHOBIC MINDSETS AND THE LANGUAGE OF HATE
This research is part of the project “Transition through art and knowledge”, funded in the framework of the Program for support of NGO in Bulgaria after the financial mechanism of The European Economic Area 2009-2014. The whole responsibility for the content is on the Mission Salvation Foundation and under no circumstances it can’t be accepted that it displays the official standpoint of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Operator of the Program for support of NGOs in Bulgaria.
The provided research, according to the project “Transition through art and knowledge”, of the online space for xenophobic mindsets and language of hate includes two stages. This present concluding report encompasses the second half of the implementation of the project (May 2015 – December 2015) and its aim is to establish if the implemented activities have influenced the negative social mindsets and the language of hate.
The initial research firmly established that the media, though they are avoiding the extreme xenophobic qualification and rather keep somewhat of a neutral expressing, they often turn into a provoker of the language of hate. It has emerged also a negative picture of the predominant readers’ comments, spreading hatred or calling for violence and taking the law into their own hands.
We need to note that the second stage of the research encompasses a period when the refugee’s wave toward Bulgaria became stronger. According to statistics of the State Agency for refugees at the Ministry Council, if in January 2015 there were 1070 registered applications for asylum, in June they increased to 1628 and the pick is in October (3545, i.e. three times more than the beginning of the year). (1) Naturally, this turned into a leading topic for the media who were daily exploiting it. It in turn has increased the fears and the negative mindsets in the Bulgarian society toward the people seeking protection. Into a powerful catalyst of these processes have turned the terrorist attacks in Paris from November 13. According to a research done by Alpha Research, the majority of Bulgarians (52%) think that the danger for Bulgaria is the same, like the one in France and the rest of the European countries. (2)
METHODOLOGY OF THE RESEARCH
In order to make a comparison with the results from the first online research, some qualitative indices have been measured and analyzed, such as number of negative and positive news, as well as number of negative and positive comments published on different online media and social networks. It has also been done a sematic analysis of the texts, which could establish up to what degree the language of hate has been usedn in them.
ANALYSIS OF THE NEWS PUBLISHED IN THE NETWORK
When a topic is constantly attending the media agenda and is always on the first page it inevitably starts turning into an important one for society. The refugee crisis, detaining of illegal immigrants, human smuggling and traffic, introducing the new quotas for refugee acceptance in the EU countries are the topics that have constantly circulated in the media, during the researched period and inevitably drew the public attention. The terrorist attacks in Paris for days were topic number one for all the media and greatly influenced the public mindsets and increased the fears.
In this research have been included and analyzed 65 news and articles from 40 different media sites. The data shows again that the so called neutral publications are predominant (53), while the ones carrying positive message are hardly 10, the negative ones are only two. (Fig. 1) In this present research, unlike the first one, the news with clearly expressed positive or negative charge are less, though the number of the analyzed publications is greater. (In the researched period November 2014 – April out of the total 55 news, 13 were positive and 6 negative).
As it has already been mentioned in the first report, similar results are not surprising, having in mind the basic role of the media, namely to inform and to give voice to the different view point concerning certain issue. At the same time, in spite of the prevalent publications in which the language of hate hasn’t been openly used, we need to keep in mind that the very topic for the refugees creates negative reaction amongst a great number of Bulgarians because of the existing stereotypes and phobias. Figure 2 shows the percentage distribution of the type of news.
For the purpose of the semantic analysis, we have used again the free online program NETPEAK, which quantitatively measures the words in the text. In the so called neutral news and articles the offensive qualifications have been missed and the most often used arsenal of words are “refugee”, “immigrants”, “quotas”, “aliens”, “traffic”, “smugglers”, “traffickers”, “solidarity”… Of some interest is the interview on Focus Radio with the member of the parliament from the Patriotic Front party Hristian Mitev, entitled „In the human trafic often people with positions are being involved”. (3)The discussion topic are the suggestions of the Patriotic Front for changes in the Penalty Code for the purpose of limiting the human smuggling and traffic. It is well known fact, that the representatives of the ultra-right parties like using a more aggressive language; however, in this case the parliament member hasn’t taken the liberty to speak with offensive qualifications in regards to the illegal immigrants. The semantic analysis finds that the most often used word in this text is “traffic” (13 times or 2.71% out of 1208 words), followed by “refugees” (9 times), “smuggling” (6) and “smugglers” (4), “criminal” (5), “criminality” (2 times). “We are in solidarity and we should do whatever we can to help” and “Europe should take part of the refugees from us and accommodate them some other place. I don’t want us to take any more people” are the two opposite positions of the Bulgarian politicians on the refugee’s topic, which are in the publication of frognews.bg. (4) Another used by the media approach to attract greater reader’s interest is the use of provocative titles. Such is the case with two of the articles in this category. One of them is published at www.vsekiden.com and has the title “Biological bomb tics at the refugee camp in Elhovo”(5). The second is published at The Bulgarian Times and is entitled “A refugee’s tsunami is heading toward Bulgaria from the Black see”. (6) Although the materials themselves do not contain negative suggestions, similar titles that are greatly exaggerated are able to provoke fear and hate. Quite revealing for the responsibility of both, the media and the politicians, is news at the site inews.bg. It reports about a meeting of Boyko Borisov with the authorities in Switzerland, where the problem about the refugee crisis has been discussed. The speech of the Bulgarian Prime Minister has been quoted which without aiming at a similar target can also create xenophobic mindsets in society, by using expressions like: “refugee’s pressure”, “spending huge money”, “the whole of Europe is shaking”. (7)
In the publications with positive message often are used words like: “rights”, “protection”, “asylum”, “help”, “support”, “incorporation”, “integration”, “took care”, “humaneness”. For instance, in the interview with the rights defender Iliana Slavova from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee for the inews.bg website, the word “rights” has been used 12 times, “legal” – 6 times, “protection” (5), “asylum” (4), “security” (3), “help” and its derivatives (7 times). In this group falls and interview with Ivodor Kovachev for the БНР, where he tells about the motivation of the team from Mission Salvation Foundation to work with refugees, as well as for the successful examples for integration. “Friends”, “humaneness”, “meeting needs”, “to stretch out a hand”, “mercy and compassion” are the words here that carry the positive charge and suggestion. At this present research we also stumbled across publications which are positive but in spite of that provoke negative comments. For example, such is the case with the article “Are you afraid of the refugees” of “Deutsche Welle”. The reason to write this article is the terrorist attack in Paris and its purpose is to point the public attention toward the necessity to distinguish refugees from terrorists. “The cruel terrorist attacks in Paris have sown new fears. In Bulgaria, as well as in the whole of Europe, the negative mindsets against the refugees most probably are going to get stronger.”, the author gives a prognosis. The two commentaries under the article are negative and pointed against both, the refugees and the author.
The negative articles this time are only two but in them quite openly the language of hate has been used. The first is published at the portal of the nationalistic party “Ataka”. The hostile tone is set right in the title: “A residential area in the capital suffers from syrian presence”. Depicted are apocalyptic pictures of beatings and rapes. Allowed is an offensive qualificationса about the refugees: “insolent aliens”. And to make it more dramatic, there have been used a number of times words like “raped” (2 times), “fear” (2 times), “aggressive” (2 times), “terroristic” (2 times), “shriek”. Author of the second article “The Isliamic invasion goes on. However, would Europe survive?” is Angel Dzhambazki form the nationalistic party VMRO. It is posted on his blog. The semantic analysis shows that here the arsenal of means of expressions includes words like: “invasion” (6 times of total 1324 words), “aggressive” (3 times), “flooded” (2 times), “immigrant’s tsunami” (2 times). Fear and hate suggests also the sentence: “They come to seize territory.” It is unacceptable for media and politicians to play with such easily flammable problems only to draw audience or to capture new territories of political influence.
ANALYSIS OF THE COMENTARIES PUBLISHED ON THE NETWORK
The research of the online space shows that the internet forums are again overflowing with offensive qualifications as “aliens”, “intruders”, “mob”, “parasites”, “trash”, “scum”, “orcs” and “jihadists”. Total of 1457 commentaries have been analyzed from 46 publications, at 14 different media. Out of the 1457 reviewed commentaries hardly some 147 are positive, 487 – neutral and 776 are negative and they are a display of hostile speaking. (Fig. 3)
In this present research the deleted by the moderators of the media extremely vulgar statements and offences based on race, ethnos or beliefs, in this account also calls for violence and taking the law in their own hands, are comparatively less (67 out of 1457 total, while in the first research they were 72 out of 935 total). This fact, however, is not calming. The existence of even only one such an extreme manifestation of xenophobia and hate toward the different one is alarming. (Fig. 4 and Fig. 5)
The diagram below, representing the percentage distribution of the types of commentaries, shows the significant prevalence of the discriminative and malicious language over the good manners. More than half of all of the analyzed commentaries (53%) contain offensive qualifications in regards to the refugees or the representatives of the Roma community in our country. Furthermore, in them one can find not only a language of hate but also undisguised desire for revenge and use of the mob law. “Let’s mine the boarder”, “Lets shoot on meat”, “Can’t we make concentration camps and gas the refugees?”, “soap factory”, “We just need guns and munitions”, “The intruders are going to be burnt in the incinerator” are just part of the staggering appeals, one can read under the articles. There is a very small share for those who are taking the opposite position, namely for protection of the marginalized groups (10%). Around one third of the commentaries are keeping the neutral tone and don’t take any side. (Fig. 6)
If we compare the types of commentaries from both researched periods we can make the following conclusions: The positive commentaries are decreasing during the second period, whilst the so called neutral are increasing up to double. Serious is also the amount of the negative commentaries under the articles. (Fig.7) The increase fear in society provoked by the amplified refugee’s wave toward Bulgaria in the second half of the year, as well as the terrorist attacks in Paris from November 13 when 130 people got killed, is one of the possible explanations for the altered picture in the forums.
In the present research the conclusion of the previous one is being confirmed, that media publications, though they don’t carry negative message, still cause before anything else the reaction of the xenophobic tuned an intolerant part of the audience. In only two out of 46 total publications the positive tone exceeds the negative one. The people, who support the ones seeking protection in our country, appeal for more “humaneness”, “All boarders should open up and gather the people, feed them, get them washed, medically treated, file them and review each individual case”. Discouraging is the fact that even the articles that are well meant and tell about the human side of the issue with the refugee crisis, provoke hostility and intolerance. And furthermore, it makes impression that the language of hate is geared not only toward the foreigners but also toward the authors of the articles. For example, such is the case with Ruslan Trad who wrote for actualno.com the article “The jihadists will be glad if you hate the refugees”. (8) In the commentaries underneath one can see extremely offensive words about Trad, like: “porker”, “skunk”, “Islamic reptile”… Under another publication, quoting Rosen Plevneliev, who appeals for ethnic and religious tolerance, the offensive arsenal of words is geared toward the President himself. (9) The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is also turning into an object of hate by the xenophobic tuned people here. The reason is the critic of the international organization to Bulgaria concerning the deportation of Roma people from Gyrmen village and the use of language of hate by the political leaders. (10) From all of this we can make a conclusion that xenophobic people do not show respect and they are not impacted even by the representatives of some significant national and international institutions.
ANALYSIS OF PUBLICATIONS IN THE SOCIAL NETWORKS
In the present research is followed the development of the 14 Facebook groups, included in the initial report (“Friends of the refugees”, “Humanitarian aid for the refugees in Bulgaria”, “NO to the Syrian refugees in Bulgaria”, “NO to the refugees in our see capital”, “Refugees, OUT of Bulgaria”, “Friends of the refugees in STARA ZAGORA”, “Movement for language without hate”, “Immediate deportation of all illegal immigrants from Bulgaria”, “Defending the rights of the immigrants in Bulgaria”, “Sofia xenophobia”, “People against racism”, “Anti-hate”). Six of them are a union of people with xenophobic mindsets and the rest have been created for the purpose of supporting the immigrants or counteracting on the language of hate. The analysis of two of these groups, formed by the principle of antipathy for the refugees (“Refugees, OUT of Bulgaria” and “NO to the Syrian refugees in Bulgaria”) are not active, and one has been shut down (“NO to the refugees in our see capital”). In the opposition camp there is also one that is not active since February (“People against racism”). All of the other groups, showing sympathy for the refugees are not only functioning but they are also increasing the number of their members. They continue to be places where to coordinate mutual activities in support the ones seeking protection in our country, as well as raising up issues and solving particular problematic cases, related to individual refugees. During the seminar entitled “The refugee crisis – the challenge to be an answer”, organized by Mission Salvation Foundation, one of the administrators of “Friends of the refugees” shared that they often face malevolence and offensive qualifications, which they are forced to delete from the discussions. The most active of all the xenophobic groups is “Immediate deportation of all illegal immigrants from Bulgaria”. (11) Its sympathizers have also increased slightly in number (from 1212 to 1252 by Dec 17, 2015). Its’ main activity is to publish different articles related to the refugees, under which follow countless offensive comments: “Talibans”, “lackeys”, “aliens”, “slugs”. “These are parasites who live off the back of our state!”; “They carry diseases, one plague and we are over!”; “Close the boarders and kick these Muslims out before civil war erupts.”
The present research is extended by adding two more Facebook groups: “National protest against the outrages in Bulgaria” and “I am against accommodating refugees in Bulgaria”. The reason to create the first one is not the refugees yet there is a video posted on it which instils fear and hate against the immigrants and language of hate has been used: “Taliban”, “there is a structured army of 3000 war units behind me who have been raised and taught since birth how to slaughter and kill”. The alarming fact is that it’s been liked by 7390 people until Dec 17, 2015 and shared 23,507 times. Besides that the commentaries underneath again abound with offenses: “skunks”, “terrorists”, “jackals”, “f**king bastards”, as well as appeals to use the mob law: “The whole of Bulgaria to raise up against the refugees”, “All the scum OUT!” (12) The most active amongst the Facebook groups, uniting people with xenophobic mindset is “I am against accommodating refugees in Bulgaria”. It makes an impression that it’s been liked by more than 13,200 people (until Dec 17, 2015). The whole content in it is geared toward the immigrants and the commentaries are completely negative and containing offensive qualifications of the kind: “trash”, “scum”, “mob” and “parasites”.
The present research confirms the outlined negative picture of prevalent xenophobic mindsets and language of hate amongst the users of the online media content. Furthermore, the negative commentaries under the publications have increased during the second period, while the ones in favor of the marginalized groups have decreased. As it was mentioned, to a great extent this is due to the increased fear in society, caused by the intensified refugee’s wave and terrorist’s actions in Paris during the reviewed period. In this sense, the project “Transition through art and knowledge” hasn’t been able to impact the more global public mindsets, though different channels were used to send positive messages and to present the human face of the refugee crisis. Besides this project’s website, https://project.missionbg.org/, these were also different media, where Ivodor Kovachev, chairman of the Mission Salvation Foundation and manager of the project, gave interviews. For the popularization of the work with the refugees, representatives of the team also got involved, as well as volunteers from nongovernmental organizations. As another limitation we need to mention that people, who are subordinated to the xenophobia, can be hardly impacted in positive direction. Indicative to this is that even the publications with positive messages, are provoking in them the language of hate. The research further shows that such people do not have respect even for significant authorities with rang of the president or representatives of prestigious international organizations. Here is why the only possible decision would be to effectively enforce art 162 from the Penalty Code, providing sanctions for those, who use the language of hate.
At the same time on a more local level the project succeeded to achieve significant result. As an example we can mention the involvement in the work with refugees some of the facilitators at the Center for Culture and Education “The Palace of the Happy People”, who up until this time have never had any interactions with such marginalized group. A high esteem for their work and dedication was given to them by a representative of the State Agency for Refugees at the Ministry Council. During the seminar-discussion “The Refugee crisis – the challenge to be an answer”, organized by Mission Salvation Foundation, Mrs. Krasimira Hristova, head expert from the “Social Activities and Adaptation” at the State Agency for Refugees shared: “I can express gratitude for the work of Mission Salvation Foundation and to the wonderful facilitator which they provided for the year 2015. She is an exceptional philologist and professional in Bulgarian language, who treated the refugees with great love and exclusive correctness. The days she would come to Ovcha Kupel, the groups were packed with refugee children and even adults.” For the integration process of those seeking protection in our country were included also volunteers and they in turn provided various types of support. The free part time or day care for refugee children at the Art Kinder Garden “Happy Kids” and the school study hall at the Palace also contributed for the encouragement of a tolerant treatment and acceptance of the ones different than us, not only by the children, studying at the center and also by their parents. That is why we can expect that more similar projects would help out in the fight with the language of hate and the xenophobic mindsets in Bulgarian society.
(1) Държавна агенция за бежанците [http://www.aref.government.bg/?cat=8] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(2) Социологическо проучване на Алфа Рисърч, ноември 2015 г. [http://alpharesearch.bg/userfiles/file/1115_Public_Opinion_Alpha_Research.pdf] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(3) „В трафика на бежанци често участват и длъжностни лица“ – [http://www.focus-news.net/opinion/2015/07/10/33625/hristian-mitev-pf-v-trafika-na-bezhantsi-chesto-uchastvat-i-dlazhnostni-litsa.html] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(4) „Ангел Джамбазки: Бежанците тръгват по Черно море“- [https://frognews.bg/news_92934/Angel-Djambazki-Bejantsite-tragvat-po-CHerno-more/] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(5) „Биологична бомба цъка в бежанския център в Елхово“ – [http://www.vsekiden.com/175777] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(6) „Цунами от бежанци към България се задава от Черно море“ –[ http://bultimes.com/tsunami-ot-bezhantsi-kam-balgariya-se-zadava-ot-cherno-more/] -Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(7) „Борисов: Харчим огромни средства заради бежанците“ – [http://inews.bg/%D0%9F%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/%D0%91%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%B2-%D0%A5%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%87%D0%B8%D0%BC-%D0%BE%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D1%81%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B4%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B0-%D0%B7%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%B8-%D0%B1%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B5_l.a_c.367_i.468920.html] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(8) „Джихадистите ще се радват да мразите бежанците“ – [http://columnist.actualno.com/article/884/author_id/74] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(9) „Плевнелиев: У нас и по света се използва езикът на омразата, това е опасно“ – [http://news.bg/politics/plevneliev-u-nas-i-po-sveta-se-izpolzva-ezikat-na-omrazata-tova-e-opasno.html] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(10) „ОССЕ скастри България: Спрете с изселването на ромите и езика на омразата“ – [http://www.24chasa.bg/Article.asp?ArticleId=4868728] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(11) „Незабавна депортация на всички нелегални имигранти от България“ – [https://www.facebook.com/%D0%9D%D0%B5%D0%B7%D0%B0%D0%B1%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BF%D0%BE%D1%80%D1%82%D0%B0%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%B2%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%87%D0%BA%D0%B8-%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%82%D0%B8-%D0%BE%D1%82-%D0%91%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F-600620263332651/?fref=ts] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(12) „Национален протест срещу безобразията в България“ – [https://www.facebook.com/%D0%9D%D0%B0%D1%86%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BD-%D0%9F%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82-%D1%81%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%89%D1%83-%D0%B1%D0%B5%D0%B7%D0%BE%D0%B1%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B7%D0%B8%D1%8F%D1%82%D0%B0-%D0%B2-%D0%91%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F-190311954354955/?fref=ts] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.
(13) „Аз съм против настаняването на бежанци в България“ – [https://www.facebook.com/A%D0%B7-%D1%81%D1%8A%D0%BC-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B2-%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%8F%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B5%D1%82%D0%BE-%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%B1%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%86%D0%B8-%D0%B2-%D0%91%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F-1603155573279588/?fref=ts] – Последно посетен на 17.12.2015 г.