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How do you cover a madman?

The Slovak Spectator recently carried an editorial asking how the media should treat Jan Slota.  Slota is the leader of the Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS,) a neo-fascist political party spitting vitriol towards Hungarians, Roma, and Jews.  For most of the period following its 1989 founding, SNS floated around 5-10% in national elections and managed to seat a number of deputies.  In 2006, however, they arrived on the national stage when the center-left Smer party brought them into a governing coalition.  As a result, Smer was suspended from the Party of European Socialists; they’ve since been somewhat reinstated, and some commenters argue that Smer is firmly in control of the governing agenda with SNS simply serving to deliver some votes.  (Smer is currently extremely popular.)

Slota himself is a nasty mother.  Among his greatest hits:

“We will sit in our tanks and destroy Budapest.”

“The best policy for [Roma] is a long whip in a small yard.”

“[Hungarians] are a cancer in the Slovak body.

But now, in addition to representing approximately 10% of Slovak voters, Slota’s party is a member of the wildly popular governing coalition. So how is the press supposed to cover his garbage? The Spectator remarks:

“Slota represents a traumatising experience for any decent journalist: reporting his outbursts is distasteful but, equally, ignoring the statements of a ruling coalition politician would be no better.

Media guidelines would suggest a highly pragmatic approach, telling readers what the person is saying and what are his actions; reporting their impact; and avoiding the labyrinth of reaction and counter-reaction from other politicians seeking to use Slota’s notoriety to obtain their own small morsel of the media-attention cake.”

Before his inclusion in the national coalition, Slota was treated as a bit of a curiosity by the press.  However, his party’s current prominance makes their unacceptable discourse a part of the national discussion.  Columnists and pundits have asked Prime Minister Robert Fico to punish Slota politically for his remarks, but nothing has come of it.  The whole situation is uncomfortable; when Slota trashes foreign officials, how shouldthe press handle it?  Does it fan the flames of hatred to even report such crap as the idea that the government pay Roma to undergo sterlization?

The full Spectator piece is here.  Any comments on how this is dealt with elsewhere, suggestions comments opinions etc are welcome as always.

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One Response

  1. “We will sit in our tanks and destroy Budapest.”

    I think I’ll march around campus mumbling that under my breathe for a while and observe people’s reactions. Maybe I’ll run up to random grad students, hit them with my messenger bag and call them dirty, rotten Magyars.

    Seriously, what a nutcase.



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