For xenophobia to grow like a tree

Prague, Czech RepublicDecember 6, 1993
Jiri StranskyPresident, Czech P.E.N.
The situation in this country and throughout Central Europe differs from the American situation: the consequences are similar, but the causes are different. In the last fifty years, this country has gone through two totalitarian systems. Both Nazism and Communism intensified envy and jealousy and intolerance – which are fortunatelyall too recognizably human.
During the First Republic, there was widespread anti-semitism in Czech villages as well as in Czech cities because the Jews were hardworking and had a better life. Now too, people envy each other for little things, and one word is enough for xenophobia or any kind of intolerance to grow like a tree.
Six months ago, the weekly Politika published its list of supposed Jews among the cultural leadership of this country. The P.E.N. Club was the first to respond. We protested because we felt that this was a clear example of how the media can nurture envy, hate, and intolerance towards ethnic minorities. The ground was well prepared: by the time the list of artists appeared, all Politika had to say was that the people mentioned were Jewish –  – although there were many on the list who were not Jewish at all or only distantly. All were well-known people, either artists or scientists, and the list gave militantly intolerant groups a focus for their hatred.
Although Politika is finished now, a week ago we discovered that another publisher has published the so-called Protocols of Zion. In a court hearing this publication was allowed to go without punishment because at the beginning of the text the publisher stated that he believed that it was a forgery, and that he was only publishing it for the information of the public.
The media have given people the idea that in a democracy everyone can do what he likes. Before 1989, people mistook anti-Communism for democracy, and people still think that those who are against Communism are automatically democrats. They do not realize that anti-Communism can be as totalitarian as Communism itself. MEDIA AGAINST INTOLERANCEA Conference Organized by The Fund for New Performance/Video
Franz Kafka CenterPragueDecember 6, 1993