Democratic autocracy ?


As an avid watcher of the History Channel, I was fascinated by the programme: “The Making of a Dictator”, particularly that hate speech turned out to be a fundamental tool of dictators.

Initially, one may argue that respecting freedom of speech means respecting that freedom for those with whom we disagree. But hate speech is not merely a lunatic shooting his mouth off. A legal definition of hate speech is that it “is intended to insult, offend or intimidate a person because of some trait [race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability].” I would add that it also incites violence.

For instance, Hutu extremists were able to incite genocide in Rwanda partly because years of propaganda made Hutus view Tutsis as dangerous sub-humans, who had to be eliminated.

Hate speech is most effective when the target population is in a state of alarm and despair, such as it is now, with the persistent economic downturn and everyone forecasting worse times ahead. Incidentally, the situation was similar in the run-up to World War II, after the Great Depression (1929-1939).

In those days the moment was seized by Hitler, who preached that the blond, blue-eyed and tall Aryan race must fulfill its destiny as the master race of the world, to do which it needed to “seal off alien racial elements, so that the blood of its own Folk will not be corrupted”.
Today, this ideology which led to one of history’s most abominable massacres finds echoes in contemporary political discourses.

For instance, Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary, speaks openly of not wanting “our” colour mixed with others. He preaches that Hungary is leading a battle to save Western civilisation against the Muslim migrant invasion, so that “there shall be no gangs hunting down our women and daughters”.

Lamentably, Viktor Orbán, who richly deserved the description given of him by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights His Highness Prince Zeid Ben Raad, as one of Europe’s xenophobes and racists who have “cast off any sense of embarrassment”, is part of a trend in Europe.

And beyond Europe, the US, the most powerful country in the world, also professes to be afraid of the invasion by “many gang members and some very bad people… people that have lots of problems… rapists” bringing “drugs” and “crimes” from “South and Latin America” and “probably from the Middle East”.

This revival of hate speech prompted Noam Chomsky, the American linguist, philosopher, historian, political activist and social critic, to warn against the rhetorical excesses of leaderships, who are stirring up hate, anger, fear and terror.

Of course, one may argue that these are democratically elected leaders, not dictators. But this is even more worrying. After all, Hitler was appointed chancellor after the Nazi Party had won the elections democratically. And today, elected leaders are using the same logic and rhetoric as Hitler. Is democracy producing dictators in the making?


Victor Orban


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