A few days ago I mentioned zlovenija, a tumblr page where activists here in Slovenia were collecting and publishing anti-migrant hate speech found on Facebook. Vile text from posts and comments suggesting the heinous ways in which the tens of thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants now passing through Slovenia should be slaughtered appeared next to images of the individuals who shared them, in most cases snapshots of the proverbial ‘guy or gal next door’.
It was an action that left me uncomfortable on two extreme levels: on the one hand it had a smell of vigilantism and mob rule that always rubs me the wrong way; and on the other, it clearly illustrated the confidence and comfort with which “everyday” people now openly share and support what is ostensibly modern day Nazi era rhetoric. (For the record, the latter bothers me much more than the former in this case, but that doesn’t mean one concern necessarily outweighs the other.)
The site has since removed most of the images (after asking those portrayed to make public apologies), its editors deciding to cease with the updates. It attracted a fair bit of local media attention and did stimulate some meaningful debate.
The action however continues. Stickers and posters were created from the website posts and now hang throughout the Slovenian capital’s city center. (How far beyond I have no idea.) So now, while you wait for the No. 18 bus near the main post office on Slovenska Cesta, you can read how one man, wearing a bright blue UNICEF t-shirt, suggested that refugees be put on a freight train directed towards Dachau.
Judging by how slow local authorities are to clear most stickers, posters and graffiti from public areas in Ljubljana, these ad hoc name and shame walls will remain for quite some time.
While passers-by who glance at those smiling faces may become a little more aware of what the guy or gal next door might be thinking, those portrayed won’t likely be shamed into a change of heart. For others, the main takeaway will be little more than a reminder to be more careful of what they post online.
Most people will simply choose to look away. The refugees are after all just passing through, leaving this latest crisis to eventually meld into the next while intolerance continues to fester just below the surface yet out in the open.
Which brings to mind a piece by Vlado Miheljak in the current issue of the Slovenian newsweekly Mladina, which he ends like this, and I paraphrase: The refugees will be leaving, but everyday people’s fascism will be staying.
More photos of the posters and stickers are