As the internet woke up with photos of a camera woman of the nationalist Hungarian TV channel N1TV, which is closely associated with the far-right Jobbik party kicking and tripping on three different instances, refugee children running from police. Petra Laszlo, was filming refugees scrambling from police crackdown, when there was a father with his daughter in his arms, who Petra tripped by sticking her leg ahead of her. When he fell down and came up and started asking why was he kicked down, Petra continued to film it. German TV channels picked up the footage, and it went viral, with other instances coming out, when she kicked on two separate incidents, a refugee boy and a girl. She has since been dropped by her channel, although the incident sparked furious debate in Europe.
However bizarre this incident is, it somehow doesn’t defy logic. Questions were asked, about if she was just doing her job, because sensationalism sells on TV. A rambling, incoherent, frothing at mouth Syrian dad, with a scared helpless looking child would make a great footage after edit on a nationalist channel. It will justify exactly the narrative being promoted, of Europe under siege. But what if it is not as simple? What if she is just an example of a simple day earning living person, being swept off by fascist propaganda, being in the middle of it 24 / 7? What if she is genuinely in a moment of hatred and anger actually thought of kicking a young girl, who was fleeing brutal bombing in her own country? What if we are seeing a start of a kind of xenophobia, rarely so virulent since the 1930s? This narrative, this fever pitch rhetoric, this partisan and divided Europe is very similar…to what we saw eighty years back. And that didn’t end well. Fascism is an idea. A little bit of fascist is there in every ethno-religious-sectarian group, which raises its ugly head, during times like these, with war and economic downturn being the norm of the day.
Why is Viktor Orban, Hungary’s maverick head of state, fuelling this? A bit of context is necessary. Orban is old guard, was a nationalist student leader who was spearheading the 1989 movements of opening up Eastern Europe. What makes it doubly ironic is his role in opening borders of Hungary then. However, he is now just reflecting the mood of his country and broadly a massive section of European populace. And he did that by following European rules, or in other words, he paid EU back by their own coins. Hungary declined to open borders from non-EU crowds, thereby stifling the increasing number of refugees to the exodus in the west. In the midst of all the media hype, Orban masterfully took the opportunity to lecture Europe, in words that are hardly used in the stiff upper lip high nosed European bureaucracy. Orban played to the gallery saying European Christian roots are at a threat, and Europeans risk being a minority in their own continent, and the demographics are going to change due to this incessant incoming.
Ofcourse Hungary had to let these people go, and there was never a doubt Hungary will keep them in a camp. But in the two days of this drama, and the subsequent media coverage the message already was passed and resonated to a certain section of European crowd. Eurosceptics from Britain to Slovakia, were rejuvenated. Fascist, ultra-nationalist and far right forces were on the street chanting Orban’s message. And Orban successfully took the wind from the sails of his own country’s Jobbik party, putting himself further right than the far right. Orban’s party put up billboards warning migrants “not to take our jobs”. One can only imagine the caustic irony of the number of Polish and Hungarians and Czechs going to West Europe to do jobs like construction and taxi driving, and how Arab migrants might now take those.
But the problem is deeper. The main narrative is why Europe is bearing the brunt, and why not the Gulf countries. Other than Germany and Sweden, there is unbelievable anti-migrant sentiment in Europe at present. Bloomberg News tried a shoddy explainer piece on why Gulf countries are now reluctant to take in refugees, and did more harm than good. So, Gulf states are bombing ISIS and involved in conflict, so are the Europeans. Gulf states might have blowback from refugees changing demographics, so will the Europeans. Nativists might rebel in Gulf states, Nativists are being violent in Europe as well and there IS a blowback currently happening as we speak.
Interestingly here are a couple of figures in the refugee data released by UNHCR. Striking on the refugee data charts, that the males outnumber the females and children massively. 66% are males, and also 8% are from “other places” which include places like Ivory Coast, with absolutely no wars going on. Exactly the reverse trend than any other wars we have seen in recent memory, where women and children were sent off as refugees, with men staying behind to fight. This is a new phenomenon absolutely NO ONE is highlighting. Also, a very important question that is being pondered in Europe is that if these “refugees” are not staying back to fight and make their “own” country a better place, what loyalty will they have for their host countries, as diverse and culturally different as Scandinavia to Germany to Italy, to England? This is the predominant policy question with far reaching implications. As we speak, there is massive battle going on in the historic and mythical Greek island of Lesbos, where migrants are fighting pitched battles with local police.
The European Union dream is falling apart, and that is not sensationalism or conflict mongering; that is a fact. European leaders should act fast to ensure stability. As far as ethno-nationalism, war and social cohesion is concerned, Europeans don’t have history on their side.