Petr Pithart Pithart and Zikmund 2010, 252. Pithart was the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic during the period 1990–92.
Pithart and Zikmund 2010, 252. Pithart was the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic during the period 1990–92.
The Czech Republic definitely does not belong to the group of countries targeted the most by the recent wave of migrants/refugees from Middle Eastern and African countries suffering from long-term civil wars and other military conflicts. The Czech Republic does not even serve as an important transit country for the migrants seeking to get into Germany via the Balkans or other ways. According to the official public census, the number of Czech citizens of Islam religion even declined in 2001–11. In 2001, 3,699 respondents declared as belonging to Islam, while the number of believers sunk to 1,921 in 2011 (Czech Statistical Office [CZSO] 2016). One finds similar low numbers when one looks at the number of asylum seekers and those granted asylum in the Czech Republic. As Table 1 shows, the number of people granted asylum actually sunk in the period 2004–13 and it did not increase much ever since.
Asylum seekers in the Czech Republic, 2004–15 Note: Number for 2015 refers only to the period January–October. Source: CZSO 2015, 11.
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 5.459 4.021 3.016 1.878 1.656 1,258 833 756 753 707 1.156 1.245
Asylum seekers in the Czech Republic, 2004–15
Note: Number for 2015 refers only to the period January–October.
Source: CZSO 2015, 11.
We can hardly call these data dramatic. Moreover, in the entire period in question, the highest number of successful asylum seekers were the citizens of Ukraine, Russia, or Vietnam (CZSO 2015, 11), countries with a long-term tradition of working migration to the Czech Republic. Taken from any point of view, one cannot rationally expect that the migrant crisis would grow to become one of the most prominent issues of Czech politics and party politics, reaching far behind the European Union (EU)-related dimension of the crisis.
Public opinion surveys nevertheless show deeper concerns of Czech citizens, with these issues typically leading to more hostile, or at least mistrustful, attitudes toward foreigners in general and (Moslem) migrants in particular. A survey of the academic research institute Public Opinion Research Centre (CVVM) shows that in March 2016, 40% of respondents claimed that too many foreigners live in the Czech Republic, while 51% claimed that the number of foreigners in the Czech Republic was “adequate”. Only 2% of the respondents claimed that there are too few foreigners in the country, and 8% “did not know” (Čadová 2016, 2). Looking at it from a longitudinal perspective, the data show a clear time correlation between decreasing willingness of Czech citizens for the permanent settlement of foreigners and solving the migration crisis, as Graph 1 shows.
According to the survey from May 2016, 61% of respondents were against the country accepting any refugees on its territory. This figure never dropped to <50% since September 2015 when this question was asked for the first time, and there is a clear trend of growth of the share of respondents who do not accept any refugees (Buchtík and Pilecká 2016, 2). In May 2016, 92% of respondents saw the immigration as a security threat to the Czech Republic, and this percentage remains on the same level since autumn 2015 (Buchtík and Pilecká 2016, 5). Securitization is the main trend in depicting the migrants in the media as well (Břešťan 2016; Tkaczyk et al. 2016). The Moslems, mainly ignored in the political debates of the 1990s, have been exposed to a steadily growing anti-Islam discourse after 2001, which stresses that they are strangers dangerous for the allegedly “ethnically homogeneous” Czech society (Topinka 2015, 31–34). Public opinion demonstrates a constantly high level of distance of the Czechs in regard to the Moslems (Topinka 2016a, 242), coupled with feelings of risk, danger, and threat. Increasing number of refugees in 2015 led temporally to the increasing coverage of issues related to migrants or Islam by the Czech media. The tenor of the news was negative, and the media used the concept of “othering” of the migrants (Burešová and Sedláková 2016).
It is therefore not surprising that the anti-Islam and antimigrant rhetoric is used by extremist politicians and their parties. This is a phenomenon typical for use in the toolbox of recent far-right parties in both Western and Central Europe (Fennema 1997; Brug and Fennema 2003). Moreover, most of the mainstream Czech parties and other important political actors, such as President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman, are more or less fiercely using the antimigrant card as well. In the same vein as in a case of “anti-Semitism without Jews” (Lendvai 1971), the majority of the Czech politicians opted apparently for populist rhetoric instead of an analysis of real challenges, risks, as well as the moral and international obligations stemming from the Czech Republic’s membership in the EU.
The Czech case can be placed within the context of the growing scholarly literature on migration and extremism in Europe as such. Wodak (2015) has comprehensively covered and analyzed the extreme right-wing populist discourse accepted by European extreme right-wing parties as legitimate forces within the mainstream political system. We identify similar central recurring concepts associated with anti-Islam politics, which – in the case of the Czech Republic – has insinuated into the vocabulary of mainstream political parties and official authorities without real experience. This is, as Wodak emphasizes, triggered by a strategy of provocation and calculated ambivalence in the rhetoric of populist subjects. Anderson (2015) explores the distinction between migrants and citizens in the case of UK migration, as well as citizen’s policies, through the use of the concept of community values. The ethnographic approach brings an interesting perspective on the immigration policy, as a system to control the mobility of the global poor, when comparing the vagrancy system to the link between modern nation-states and their citizens (Anderson 2015, 6–29). Similarly, Hampshire (2013) sums up the situation of the nation-states. The numerous common features shared by a rather large number of rich liberal democracies lead him to conclude that the intractable nature of immigration policy is a reflection of the contradictory imperative of the state. Furthermore, he suggests that normative as well as practical reasons of the legally protected principles of migration and asylum, as well as the successfully communicated business needs of a labor force, account for not translating negative public opinion on immigration into an equally restrictive policy. For our article, it is important to mention his validation of the gap between political rhetoric and the everyday reality of accommodating diversity in liberal society. This real experience is, however, not transmittable to the environment, where there are only a very limited number of Muslim immigrants (Hampshire 2013, 153).
Looking at the existing Czech literature covering the topics of Moslems and their treatment in the Czech Republic, there is a clear lacuna in scholarship when it comes to the stances of the main political actors toward Moslems in general and Moslem refugees in particular. There is a growing Czech scholarly literature dealing with Islam in general (refer Mendel et al. 2007, 445–457, for a comprehensive survey of the literature in Czech published until 2007), as well as Moslems living in the Czech Republic. Mendel et al. (2007) have been focusing mainly on the history of Islam in the territory of the Czech Lands and the general coverage of Moslems in the media, in books printed in Czech, and in Internet outlets (including anti-Moslem Webs). The anthology edited by Karel Černý (2015) has dealt with the integration of Moslems, as well as the relationship between Moslems and the Czech majority, and placed the Czech case within the broader (Western) European context. Yet, the book does not shed any new light on the position of the main political parties in the country vis-à-vis the Moslems. A collective volume edited by Daniel Topinka (2016b) has presented the newest and the most complex account on the Moslem population in the Czech Republic. The book is a complex study of the Moslem community, showing its internal diversity as well as diverse working and living careers, along with the rather individualized and privatized concepts of religion and religious practices. The book is a compulsory reading for everybody who wants to understand the issues salient for Moslems living in the Czech Republic, including how the community is discriminated against by the majority population. However, its impact on our research is mainly indirect, since the authors of this edited volume do not cover Czech political parties, and their research is based on data collected mainly before the refugee wave of 2015. The only book studying the way in which the Czech political actors deal with the Moslem and migration issues (Mareš 2015) pays attention to the extremist parties on the fringes of the Czech party system only. Apart from this, we have only a brief study on the perception of migrants by the Czech local politicians (Janků and Linhartová 2016). There is apparently a gap to be filled.
The main research question we pose is thus the following: how do the politicians use the anti-immigrant and anti-Moslem rhetoric in a country with only a couple of thousands Moslems and practically no migrants of the recent refugee wave? The focus of this paper will be on the “supply side” – the cognitive frames constructed by the main political actors – in order to simplify the complex reality and to offer an ontological and epistemic point of departure to the voters.
In order to answer this question, we organized the paper in the following manner. First, we provide a brief introduction into the concept of cognitive frames in order to delimit the scope and methods of research and to operationalize the research question. The ensuing section presents the sources of data for research and the method of elaboration of the data. Subsequently, the data are analyzed and the cognitive frames provided by particular political actors are compared in order to obtain a complex picture of the recent Czech political debate and the prevailing method of framing of migration-related issues. The discussion, including a debate on the potential political consequences of our findings, follows, and the concluding part sums up our findings.
Social facts, such as ethnicity and religion, in ordinary times, constitute only one of the several layers of identity that influence everyday life. Constructivism considers the real world, including values ascribed to social facts, to be a result of social creation. This system of constructions is reconstructed through a constitutive relationship among the discourse, everyday practice, and structure. Hence, there is not a statement concerning reality but only our constructed views on its character (Hendl 2005, 91).
Group identity is often treated as a natural entity outside the range of individual influence. While it is still a culturally based construction, the consequences of these conclusions are tremendous. The mythical naturalization of these products is often considered an objective and unalterable factor (Barša 2008, 22).
Especially, political identity is not primordial and static but conditional and continuously changing, and thus, the generally accepted perspective is amenable to be influenced and used by political mobilization (Linz and Stepan 1996, 366). A constructivist view of ethnicity provides a unique opportunity to obtain insights and examine how cognitive frames are using the concepts of nationality and ethnicity, more specifically, how these social facts are constructed and eroded in response to mass media and the process of political securitization (Obershall 2000, 983).
The concept of cognitive frame is a tool that helps to make sense of the world. As introduced by Goffman, the meaning of frames has implicit cultural roots but it is regarded as primary and taken for granted by users. Individuals are capable users of this social frame, irrespective of whether they are aware of them or not (Goffman 1974). Cognitive structures held in memory are used to read and interpret situations. Thus, frames guide the understanding of complex phenomena by placing them within the multifaceted picture. While connecting some aspects and discounting others, one is sorting phenomena (Kaufman et al. 2016). Frames are built upon the underlying structure of beliefs, values, and experience and often exist prior to the conscious processing of information for decision-making. By affecting decisions and the understanding of the world, cognitive frames can significantly affect how conflict is perceived (Kaufman and Smith 1999).
Framing may be used also as a term to describe how issues are represented in media because language activates cognitive frames, and frame analysis is conducted using a variety of sources and the distinguishing content and language attributes of those texts, which can be manipulated to augment public beliefs and their perceptions regarding these texts (Goffman 1974). Based on Lakoff’s (2014) perspective, these rhetorical frames play a key role in persuading a political audience. Reframing is a social change and influences how the public sees the world. Language is used to activate the change of the frame.
Fear of being dominated by another group, fear of being assimilated, or fear of not being able to integrate newcomers is the emotion that poisons interethnic relationships before it is possible to build one. Fears for property and life turn into hate. Very powerful tools in the dissemination of fear of “others” is the demonization and dehumanization of their characters by media, popular culture, and social media, which all may be used to gain political support. To deal with illegitimate fears, it is necessary to build effective communication to recall the general value system, repeat the truths that reveal what is right about those values, and act with courage to promote the sense of confidence and hope that allow the truth to be meaningful and powerful. Within such a context, one can honestly and openly discuss the facts that undermine such fears, so that the illegitimate fears do not even get established (Lakoff 2014).
In case the communication fails to address fears arising from the status of migration policy, interethnic relations can be perceived to throw two different crises frames instead of a normal frame. People already have both frames in their minds; they are anchored in private and family experiences, in culture, and in public life. These aspects also create transposed experiences and information, which are presented publicly without the chance or will to be verified (Obershall 2000, 989). During peaceful times, the normal frame prevails. The interethnic relations are seen as cooperative and modest. These relations may face various problems; however, the existence or arrival of members of different ethnic or national groups is neither considered nor pictured as a threat to security. When groups of inhabitants begin to fear for their safety, it becomes dangerous and difficult to resolve strategic dilemmas (Lake and Rotschild 1996, 41). The crisis frame is activated by only one prevailing perspective. Selective representation of an aspect, preferred presentation of events with negative consequences, stereotyping of immigrants, and naturalization of their identity with implicated negative characteristics, together with the appearance of two antagonist sides “ours” and “their”, create the feeling that threatens the domestic nation as a whole (Dijk 2000).
The generally accepted view of immigrants is based on fear, which is built among the public through exaggerations and fabrications that fit the crisis frame. Mass communication and propaganda research help to explain why the use of ethnic insecurity and manipulation is successful for the crisis frame to eclipse the normal frame. Fear arouses appeals, originating in threats that are powerful and very effective in changing opinion and belief, and most importantly, the reaction is to remove the source of existing or alleged threats (Hovland and Hovland 1963). Nationalistic activists and political entrepreneurs build upon this fear of insecurity and polarize the society (Lake and Rotschild 1996).
Crises frames, supported by growing fear of the unknown, provide an opportunity for nationalists to mobilize a huge ethnic constituency and call for action against potential risks and moderates. Creation of a picture of fear works as a cycle of self-explanatory reasoning to justify the radicalizing rhetoric publicly. Ordinary people have difficulty in differentiating between the real imminent risk and the artificial risk described in the media. To be different is becoming even less tolerated by the majority than ever before. A request to defend “us” goes hand in hand with indoctrinating the general society with the beliefs and norms of the crisis frame about another ethnic group. The main idea is that in these extraordinary times, when one’s entire nationality is threatened, extreme measures are justified (Obershall 2000, 997). The concept of cognitive frames is used to provide a framework and to determine the research question and give directions to focus the research.
In order to study the formation of cognitive frames and to compare these, we interpret and contextualize the cognitive frames created and used by the Czech politicians in the context of more general political communication, securitization of migration issues in the Czech political and public discourse, and creation of the image of the “other”. The main aim of the paper is to answer the following research question: how do political actors use the anti-immigrant and anti-Moslem rhetoric in a country with only a couple of thousands of Moslems and practically no migrants belonging to the recent refugee wave? Taking into account the concept of cognitive frames and the comparative dimension of our research, we can decompose this basic research question in the following manner:
What are the cognitive frameworks on migrants and migration the Czech political actors construct? Do the Czech political actors use the tool of “securitization” We understand securitization in the intentions of the Copenhagen school as a socially constructed process in which the securitizing actors translate given topics and issues from other agendas to the agenda of security, framing the topic in security frames (Buzan et al. 1998). Humanitarian framing of the refugees and migration is on the contrary an act of desecuritization, namely, dealing with the refugees/migrants in a frame constructed around their complicated humanitarian conditions they face. Do the Czech actors use the tool of “othering” We use the concept of “othering” in the same way as, e.g., Edward Said (1985) did. Moslems as the Czech “others” are constructed as a homogenized and essentialized mass, completely contradictory to “us”. What are the similarities and differences among these cognitive frames? Is there a trend of creation of a single cognitive framework on migration among the mainstream political parties? Do the cognitive frames of mainstream and extreme discourses differ?
What are the cognitive frameworks on migrants and migration the Czech political actors construct?
Do the Czech political actors use the tool of “securitization” We understand securitization in the intentions of the Copenhagen school as a socially constructed process in which the securitizing actors translate given topics and issues from other agendas to the agenda of security, framing the topic in security frames (Buzan et al. 1998). Humanitarian framing of the refugees and migration is on the contrary an act of desecuritization, namely, dealing with the refugees/migrants in a frame constructed around their complicated humanitarian conditions they face.
We understand securitization in the intentions of the Copenhagen school as a socially constructed process in which the securitizing actors translate given topics and issues from other agendas to the agenda of security, framing the topic in security frames (Buzan et al. 1998). Humanitarian framing of the refugees and migration is on the contrary an act of desecuritization, namely, dealing with the refugees/migrants in a frame constructed around their complicated humanitarian conditions they face.
Do the Czech actors use the tool of “othering” We use the concept of “othering” in the same way as, e.g., Edward Said (1985) did. Moslems as the Czech “others” are constructed as a homogenized and essentialized mass, completely contradictory to “us”.
We use the concept of “othering” in the same way as, e.g., Edward Said (1985) did. Moslems as the Czech “others” are constructed as a homogenized and essentialized mass, completely contradictory to “us”.
What are the similarities and differences among these cognitive frames?
Is there a trend of creation of a single cognitive framework on migration among the mainstream political parties?
Do the cognitive frames of mainstream and extreme discourses differ?
With the exception of the President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman, we analyze public political speeches of the most relevant collective political actors – the political parties. For the mainstream political parties, we apply the classical criterion of political relevance. Among the extreme collective political actors, we selected those that are building their message to the citizens primarily on anti-immigrant and/or anti-Moslem rhetoric. For the purpose of this paper, mainstream political parties include the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), the ANO Party, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM), the TOP 09 Party, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), and the Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak Peoples’ Party (KDU-ČSL). Speeches made by President Miloš Zeman are included considering the symbolical importance and specific public perception of the ead of State in Czech politics.
Delimitation of the extreme political actors in the case of the Czech Republic is based on analysis of the long-term acting and most visible actors. Based on research already conducted by the team led by Miroslav Mareš (Mareš et al. 2015), we can sort out the following actors. First, we must take into account the popular initiative called We Do Not Want Islam in the Czech Republic (IVČRN) and its political follow-up Block against the Islam (BPI) as representatives of monothematic anti-Islam politics. Both are connected with one another through the person of the leader Martin Konvička.
Both are connected with one another through the person of the leader Martin Konvička.
The corpus of our sources consists of three materials for each actor, materials that express the actor’s preferences concerning migrants/refugees and migration issues. The procedure for the selection of text for our analysis was as follows. First, we scanned the Web pages of selected political actors in the time span covering the period between January 2015 and June 2016, which corresponds with the peak of the political and public debate on migration issues. After the first reading of all documents, we selected the three most informative and typical texts for each of the actors. With respect to the materials used, our first preference was for the “collective” documents issued officially as party position papers or official statements. If we were not able to find such materials, we opted for interviews with the party chairs or members of the highest authorities of the parties. As these media outlets were included in the official Web pages of the parties, they meet the criterion as institutional, and not private, expressions. In some cases, typically small far-right parties, even the leaders’ interviews were not issued by the parties at all and, therefore, we had to consult blog entries marked as the official statements of the parties.
For the purposes of analysis, we grouped the actors into three clusters according to the role they played in the Czech politics in 2015–16. The first cluster includes President Zeman, as well as governmental parties (Social Democrats, ANO, and Christian Democrats). These parties are in power and, as such, should “ex officio” pay attention to the broader humanitarian, international, and European contexts. The second cluster consists of the parliamentary opposition (Communists, Civic Democrats, and TOP 09), parties that typically use more radical rhetoric to contest the capacity of the government to deal with the problem. The last cluster consists of the parties of the far-right (SPD, Ú-NK, IVČRN, and ND), which are the typical “entrepreneurs” of the antimigrant discourse.
An independent observer might assume that the stances of the left-wing political actors, Social Democrats, and the President of the Republic – who places himself on the left wing of the political spectrum – shall be more moderate and develop, at least partially, the humanitarian framework of the discourse on migrants. Christian Democrats could be expected to demonstrate affinity to a “Huntingtonian” interpretation of the migration crisis as an element of the clash of civilizations, and ANO, being a party with strong elements of populist discourse, could be expected to surf on the wave of general public moods, securitizing the issue of migration and “othering” the Moslem refugees.
In fact, President Miloš Zeman is known for his very critical and provocative vocabulary when speaking about Islam and migration. Zeman strongly supports the protection of borders by the common EU forces and the establishment of detention centers against outside threat of “illegal and economic migrants”. According to Zeman, these migrants threaten Europe by creating ghettos of “culture of murderers and religious hatred”. Because of the “national, ethnic, religious, social and economic structure of immigrants has Europe zero chance to absorb them” (Zeman 2015). The presented framework has deeply primordial argumentation. The threat is linked with the pure existence of Islam as such and a violent behavior that does not respect European law, as well as a culture that rises directly from the Quran and other Islamic texts. Different interpretations are not mentioned or discussed at all. Besides the strong security frame, the immigration crisis is also presented in the viewpoint of a socioeconomic threat: migrants, “mostly young, well-nourished men with iPhone are coming instead of fighting on behalf of their state or working on developing it” (Zeman 2016a). Zeman assumes that the character of migrants is undoubtedly evil because they have abandoned their families. Migrants do not want to work in their own countries with their standard of living; moreover, they live here only from social benefits because their workforce productivity is very low. His discourse is based on the term “immigration wave”, against which one has to establish the “flood barriers” to be built before the water is already in cities (Zeman 2016b). The humanitarian aspect is limited to statements that the Czech Republic is already an important donor – a supporting help – in the Middle East. The European cooperation shall help to protect borders but shall not force the states into any immigration quotas as the basic failure is that they have allowed them to come into Europe in the first place. The President has used very offensive generalizations to rouse the basic human instincts to survive, which gain even higher power because of his official mandate. The way he frames the topic is, in fact, hardly differentiable from the radical frames of the far-right subjects.
Another left-wing actor serving in the position of the Prime Minister in 2015–16, the Czech Social Democrats, has been developing a cognitive framework since the beginning of the mass migration to Europe. It has been a fairly complicated process considering some internal diversity of opinion on the matter. Some Social Democrats are stressing on the humanitarian aspects of the crisis and on the necessity to develop an EU-wide solution; meanwhile, other top politicians securitizing the migration crisis are framing it in terms of border controls and reduction of numbers of asylum seekers. In September 2015, the official document summarizing the party’s position on the crisis, as well as the proposed solution, was approved. Some of the ambiguities remain even within the document. On the one hand, the ČSSD stresses that “ [t] he whole situation is a test of action readiness and coherence of the EU-28 countries. No single EU country is able to solve the serious and long-term problem of migration isolated and on its own. […] The EU must distinctively strengthen its common foreign and security policy.” On the other hand, this position paper stresses that “[i]t is unacceptable to introduce quotas or any other permanent measures of compulsory relocation of the migrants” (ČSSD 2015). ČSSD favors the principle of voluntary solidarity among the EU member-countries, sound control of the external borders of the Schengen Area, as well as creation of detention camps beyond the Schengen borders. We can see a combination of the “soft” securitization of the migration issues and the acknowledgment that there is a humanitarian dimension as well. The official position of the party is not to try to use the strategy of “othering”; ČSSD stresses instead the necessity to fight “fascism and racism” and to “grant efficient and sufficient aid to those who get asylum in our country and who would like to live here, an aid aimed at the best possible integration that will include education, language instruction and assistance with acquiring of job and housing” (ČSSD 2015). Even the hardliners, such as the Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec, do not use the rhetorical figures of the “othering” of migrants. Chovanec has strongly criticized the idea of compulsory relocation quotas, but his main arguments are of “technical” character, such as the unwillingness of the migrants to live in the Czech Republic, which would anyway cause their further movement to Germany (Chovanec 2015).
Even the hardliners, such as the Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec, do not use the rhetorical figures of the “othering” of migrants. Chovanec has strongly criticized the idea of compulsory relocation quotas, but his main arguments are of “technical” character, such as the unwillingness of the migrants to live in the Czech Republic, which would anyway cause their further movement to Germany (Chovanec 2015).
As expected, ANO presents immigration in a populist discourse. Since ANO does not provide the public with many party position papers on key policy issues, the main source of the party line on migration are statements made by the chairman Andrej Babiš. According to him, the United Nations (UN) and the EU are not able to act, issuing mere proclamations, unable to solve the problem. Fear and distrust of people toward the EU is thus logical. Therefore, migration policy needs to be retained strictly in national hands. The screening process of migrants should be moved outside of Europe and conducted prior to their entry into EU territory. Economic immigrants can be chosen at these distant hot spots based on the need of the country of entry as well (Babiš 2015b). Strong statements reflecting the prevailing moods of public opinion are dedicated to rejection of the compulsory quotas. The humanitarian aspect is turned around by stating that Europe must be, in the first place, responsible to Europeans. Babiš suggests supporting Slovakia, which sued the EU against the quotas (Babiš 2015b). The only viable solution is to secure the border against the uncontrolled entry of a high number of migrants. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or another armed force needs to be used in case it is not possible to stop the current situation (Babiš 2015b). Migrants are described as an illiterate mass, not able to speak any other language and aiming just to reach the countries with the highest social benefits. Migrants should not be let into the country also because of previous European experience, with no chance to integrate migrants from the Middle East and North Africa. Allegedly, they have completely different attitudes to and perceptions of the society. They are dangerous since they do not want to integrate into but want to change our society. Therefore, the European civilization and culture are threatened. Immigrants are compared with “attack of the groups on the lower level of civilizations, which in history destabilized other empires” (Babiš 2015a). Xenophobia in the Czech Republic is therefore only the result of uncontrollable chaos, which causes all the fear. Babiš also used the rhetorical image of association of migrants with terrorists (Babiš 2016). The prevailing framework is built on securitization. Humanitarian aspects are mentioned in a very incoherent manner, only where it fits the overall presented cognitive framework acceptable to the majority public opinion. The clear (negative) assumptions about the character, behavior, and aims of immigrants are used as an explanation. The feeling of otherness is built in a less-pressing manner than by President Zeman. The language of ANO is more cultivated, but the spread of fear and the strong words about how critical the situation is and the possible outcomes may be considered a very populist way of using just specific information for own political success.
The smallest coalition party, the Christian Democrats, also stresses the importance of securing the external European border. However, they emphasize the humanitarian and economic arguments, such as that it is eight times cheaper to help refugees in countries of the Middle East (KDU-ČSL 2015b). KDU-ČSL insists on the application of asylum laws, on making them stricter, and on returning illegal immigrants not qualified for status. Security and legal measures are not used without some elements of the humanitarian aspect of the crisis and the dehumanizing of migrants. They recall “Christian solidarity and humanity in general as a Christian duty to help fellowmen”, even though the need to “differentiate between people coming because of war and because of the wish to improve an own economic situation” is stressed (KDU-ČSL 2015a). Even economic immigration is not demonized as it also has an important role for the state. There is no tendency to oversimplify the role of migrants, and the party chairman Bělobrádek had to explain himself publicly for the statement that the immigration crisis may help to solve the decreasing birth rates as well as some of the economic needs in terms of new labor force (Bělobrádek 2016). Even though the European Christian tradition and culture are stressed here, it is done in a contextual, rather positive, and tolerant manner. KDU-ČSL differentiates between Islam as a religion, which has various interpretations and shall not be denounced completely, and political Islam as an ideology not reconcilable with democracy and human rights. The European values need to be presented to Moslem members of society in “dialog, stressing our values and their roles. Successfully integrated members of different communities are not a topic of the discussion as we do not actually know about them and therefore there is rising awareness against generalization” (KDU-ČSL 2015a), so we can see “soft” elements of othering here. The motto of the KDU-ČSL to “minimize suffering and ensure security” for migrants in extreme situations and for Czech citizens summarizes how complex is the framework articulated by the party.
We have shown that the stereotypes of the moderate-left and radical-right stances do not apply very much for the Czech parties that governed between 2015 and 2016. Now, we move to the analysis of the parliamentary opposition comprising the far-left Communists and two right-wing factions of the Civic Democrats and TOP 09. All these parties can be expected to maintain at least a balance between the securitizing and the humanitarian frames. Both right-wing parties are fully democratic, and Communists, although constantly having some antisystem stances, shall – as the left-wing party – solidarize with the suffering migrants.
In fact, the migration crisis does not belong in the most prominent topics on the “Communist” agenda. The Web pages of the party do, however, offer many articles discussing the topic and written typically by deputies of the party or by party experts. These contributions are not composed in a single tone. We can, however, summarize the analysis of the KSČM Web page with the observation that even among Communists, securitization of the issue is the most typical approach on how to frame it. KSČM frames the migration crisis in the context of the long-term party ideology and policy formulations. Therefore, the KSČM stresses on the international community’s necessity to solve the crisis, but at the same time, the party rejects the principle of obligatory quotas suggested by the European Commission as a “bureaucratic diktat from the EU” (KSČM 2015). The argument to support the application of the principle of voluntary contribution of the member-states to the joint effort expressed here is based on cultural differences as the potential source of conflict and problems. In the course of time, materials of the KSČM on migration are clearly heading toward securitization. As the chairman Vojtěch Filip presented it:
Communists are striving for an international approach that would include not only the EU but also the UN, NATO, and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE). Securitization is completed by stressing on the humanitarian aspects of the crisis and calling for individual and fair treatment of asylum seekers (KSČM 2016). An interesting element of the Communist treatment of migration issues is the comparably low level of “othering”. Cultural differences are mentioned but not in a way that exacerbates the political implication of these differences. The official documents stress the necessity to fight racism and xenophobia (KSČM 2016). The cognitive framework of the KSČM thus combines two strong messages: (1) securitization of the issue, operationalized both in terms of strict border control and international engagement to settle the conflicts in the countries of origin of the migrants; and (2) the humanitarian dimension of the migration crisis, with strong emphasis on following the Geneva Conventions and other principles of international law prescribing how to deal with refugees.
Contrary to the Communists, the Civic Democrats have used the migration crisis as one of their profile issues since the very beginning of the first mass wave of migration toward Germany in the spring of 2015. There was no substantial internal dispute within the Party on how to frame the crisis, yet the Civic Democrats adopted an official position in the form of a policy paper as late as in April 2016 (ODS 2016). This material contains different parts, including some materials of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists, a brief conservative “civilizationist” essay written by Roger Scruton, and (together with some actualization) the declaration adopted by the ODS club in the House of Deputies previously in September 2015. The policy paper thus presents a rather stable cognitive framework. The Chairman of the Party, Petr Fiala, even declared that the Czech Republic must join Slovakia and other countries trying the EC for the quotas at the European Court of Justice (Fiala 2015).
This material contains different parts, including some materials of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists, a brief conservative “civilizationist” essay written by Roger Scruton, and (together with some actualization) the declaration adopted by the ODS club in the House of Deputies previously in September 2015. The policy paper thus presents a rather stable cognitive framework.
The Chairman of the Party, Petr Fiala, even declared that the Czech Republic must join Slovakia and other countries trying the EC for the quotas at the European Court of Justice (Fiala 2015).
TOP 09 as a traditional liberal–conservative party acknowledges democratic and humanistic values. Respect for human rights and tolerance transformed the TOP 09 to be the party speaking out against the populist misuse of immigration. This politically quite unique and isolated approach propounds a balance in the rule of law for everybody as well as solidarity:
TOP 09 however insists on the application of the Dublin Regulation until there comes another legal document that will determine the EU member-states’ responsibility to examine an application for asylum seekers (TOP 09 2015b). Even though symbolic quotas for the redistribution of immigrants are rejected in accordance with the overall perspective in media and other political subjects, TOP 09 gained a derogatory label of “welcomers”. Emphasis is, however, put on an approach of integrating possible immigrants to prevent “horror” stories of failing/missing integration processes in Western Europe. Still, the TOP 09 has used a comparably very modest and liberal rhetoric (TOP 09 2016). The party was the only one in our sample to compare the threat arising from accepting migrants with the threats brought by politicians who disseminate fear and panic among the Czech population (TOP 09 2015a). Facing decline of support in the public opinion census, even TOP 09 turned to the inclusion of some elements from the “civilizationist” discourse:
Thus, TOP 09 stresses on the need to strengthen financial and humanitarian help in the locations of crises and in their neighboring countries, in addition to requesting an increase in funding for the external border of the EU and guarding the coasts. Even though the immigration crisis is framed within the security perspective, the argumentation used includes aspects of our responsibility to fulfill legal and human commitments, which is in direct clash with the generally presented picture. The language used is not attacking and derogatory.
Two of the far-right parties analyzed in our paper had some MPs in 2015–2016, namely, the Ú-NK and SPD. Did the parliamentary presence differentiate these parties from the nonparliamentary anti-Moslem far right in any way?
Ú-NK can be labeled as a populist party with strong far-right inclinations. As a product of the split within the original party Dawn of Direct Democracy, the party retains similar points of the program as those of contemporary Okamura’s SPD, such as direct democracy, referenda, revocability of politicians, and nationalism. Strong emphasis on nationalism frames the party’s treatment of the migrant issue. Stronger the cognitive framework is, the less sophisticated it is. Migrants are depicted primarily in terms of security threats. Acceptation of the refugees is not possible because it would lead only to “escalation of big social, economic, and cultural problems” (Černoch 2015). As the chairman of the party, Milošlav Lidinský, explained:
The framework of security threat is reinforced by other rhetorical figures such as the decay of Western civilization. Migrants are – according to the leading politicians of the party – a kind of European “others”, whose “integration in Europe is impossible because of incompatibility of cultures, religions, traditions, and education” (Černoch 2015). Invoking European Christian tradition, the Ú-NK politicians do not totally deny the humanitarian aspects of the migration crisis but the securitization discourse prevails: Europe cannot cope with such a great amount of migrants; therefore, her borders must be closed. Border police forces shall be reestablished in border regions, no asylum shall be granted to any refugee within the Czech territory, and people shall be permitted to organize home guards, augmenting state armed forces (Ú-NK 2016).
Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) is the other follower of the Dawn of Direct Democracy. Immigrants are framed clearly negative in its discourse as a security-wise, socioeconomic, and cultural threat. The vocabulary used is not only very provocative but offensive. Apart from “othering”, there is a strong element of dehumanization of immigrants. Hatred and fear are disseminated in a very radical manner, without considering any context and consequence. The beginning of the illegal immigration process is the beginning phase of the conflict, which threatens freedom, democracy, and the existence of the Czech Republic and the Czech nation (SPD undated). People coming to Europe are allegedly only illegals, bringing only violence, thievery, and infection: “Peaceful refugees are just a lie”, and therefore, there must be “zero tolerance of illegal immigration” (Okamura 2015). There is also strong welfare chauvinism present in SPD’s frame. The Moslem religion of immigrants means that Europe faces a planned invasion of aliens. It is not possible to integrate Moslem migrants into domestic society at all. Therefore, any area they live in becomes a no-go zone and parallel society. Migrants are seen as uneducated and nonworking individuals misusing the social system, who were raised in the armed culture of violence starting with street criminality to terrorism because of their religious radicalism. The rising number of Moslems would mean the collapse of the Czech Republic (Okamura 2016). The only solution is to close the border.
The IVČRN is a political initiative that brings together opponents of Islam with extreme-right conviction. This initiative was founded in 2009 as a Facebook group of like-minded contributors led by Martin Konvička, a university associate professor, who became leader of the Initiative and, afterward, also a chairman of the Block Against Islam. They have organized the petition against quotas on immigrants, which garnered around 180,000 signatures (Konvička 2016b). Their point of departure is absolutely straight:
Migration crisis is thus an invasion of young men connected to terrorist organizations. How these young men will treat Europeans was supposedly expressed during the “Black Friday” in Paris, On Friday, November 13, 2015, simultaneous terrorist attacks took place throughout Paris, and almost 130 people were killed, including 89 in the Bataclan music club.
On Friday, November 13, 2015, simultaneous terrorist attacks took place throughout Paris, and almost 130 people were killed, including 89 in the Bataclan music club.
The ND party represents an example of an extraparliamentary far-right party led by an anti-Semitic politician and publicist Adam B. Bartoš. The party does not produce coherent program materials; rather, it publishes brief statements and comments. The Web page of the party looks more like a Facebook page (without the possibility to interact). Attacks against migrants and against the allegedly weak position of the Czech government on this issue are some of the most-frequented topics of the party’s agenda. An analysis shows clear elements of “othering” and securitization of the migrants, while the humanitarian concerns are completely missing. “Islam is not a faith in the strict sense but it is a political ideology with religious elements which can be compared to ideologies of Zionism or Marxism” (ND 2015b). Migrants are systematically called “aliens” and the very typical motive is the call for use of the Czech Army to defend the state borders breached by the migrants:
There is, however, nothing we can analyze as a concise cognitive frame produced by the ND party. The message created by the party is simple: migrants are Moslem “aliens” who are posing a security threat for the Czech Republic, Europe is facing a “tsunami” of the terrorists steered by the Islamic State and the EU is not capable of stopping it. Therefore, the Czech Republic must abandon the EU “paralyzed by the multiculturalism […] not to lose our traditions, habits, territory, and – in the end – even our lives” and deploy armed forces to protect the security of the country (ND 2015c).
Our findings fill the gap in existing empirical research on the Czech–Moslem relations and their politicization in the context of the refugee crisis. Our paper can also contribute to theoretical or comparative discussions. Previous research showed that there is potential for the politicization of Moslem issues in the Czech society since the events of 9/11 of 2001 (Topinka 2015; 2016a). The migration crisis poured the fuel to ignite the political debate, and all Czech political actors participated in this endeavor. Only a few of them did not capitalize on the securitization of the problem, and even fewer of them, namely, TOP 09 and the Social Democrats, did not use instruments of “othering” while depicting the Moslems. We showed that the anti-Islam rhetoric is not a phenomenon isolated at the far-right wing of the Czech party system. Yet, the concept of “normalization” proposed by Wodak (2015, 143– 148) does not actually work in the Czech Republic. There is no spillover of the far-right rhetoric from the margins to the core of the party system, but a mutually independent process of securitization of the migration discourse produced both by the far-right and moderate-right wings, as well as centrist parties (such as ODS and ANO) and President Zeman. Despite Wodak’s assumption, the far right did not actually take over substantial portions of the voters from the moderate parties in the 2017 parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic.
Despite Wodak’s assumption, the far right did not actually take over substantial portions of the voters from the moderate parties in the 2017 parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic.
On the basis of our analysis, we can map the stances of the Czech political actors to the migrant issues. Such a conceptual map of the Czech discourse on Moslems in the context of the discussions on the refugees coming to Europe in 2015–16 must take into account two dimensions. We can draw the first axis along the difference between the securitized discourse and the one that desecuritizes the migrant issues in favor of framing the discourse on migrants as the help that people who are facing human catastrophes in their countries of origin need and who shall be therefore provided with humanitarian aid. The second dimension deals with the strategy of “othering”. On the one hand, there is extreme dehumanizing of the refugees, as opposed to the position treating the refugees as human beings of the same “qualities” and “nature” as “us”. The nature of the data we worked with, as well as the method of analysis we used does not allow us to measure the distance, so we offer a typology of existing cases. Table 2 summarizes the parties’ stances.
Conceptual map of the frames of the main political actors Source: The authors.
Securitized frame Mixture of both securitized and desecuritized frames Desecuritized frame National Democracy; IVČRN SPD; Ú-NK; Miloš Zeman; ODS ANO; KDU-ČSL; KSČM ČSSD; TOP 09
Conceptual map of the frames of the main political actors
Source: The authors.
It is also relevant to compare the way in which the Czech political actors are able to recognize and thematize the international and European dimensions of the migration issues. Here also, we cannot provide any “measurement” of the relative distance among the stances. The nature of the data we worked with allows us only to mark whether and how the Czech political actors consider framing of the migration issue under such framework. Table 3 summarizes the international aspects of the survey.
International dimension recognized by the analyzed political actors Source: The authors.
Actor Visegrád Group EU NATO UN Other KSČM No ANO No No ODS No No No President Zeman No No No No ČSSD No No No No TOP 09 No No No No KDU-ČSL No No No No Ú-NK No No No No IVČRN No No No No No ND No No No No No SPD No No No No No
International dimension recognized by the analyzed political actors
Source: The authors.
To sum up, there was not a single relevant political actor who would not use any instrument of securitization in the discourse on migration. In general, moderate actors used mixed frames, while the far-right parties placed migration only within the discourse on security. There are two exceptions to this “rule”: Civic Democrats and President Zeman. The “deviation” can be explained by the comparably higher level of criticism raised by both of these actors against the way in which the EU deals with the crisis. Therefore, the stronger Euroskeptic elements in the discourse of moderate actors are reinforcing the tendency to securitize the cognitive frames.
There is also a clear distinction between the far-right parties and the remaining actors in the way in which they work with the dimension of international solutions of the migration crisis within their cognitive frames. The far right is just neglecting any international dimension and the cognitive frames purely focus on the alleged domestic impacts. Among the remaining actors, we can – with “cum grano salis” – observe a correlation between the increasing level of recognition that the crisis is to be solved by the international community and the increasing ability to include both securitized and humanitarian concepts of the migration crisis into their cognitive frames.
The Czech political actors are more diverse in the way of using the element of “othering”. The hardest position on dehumanizing the migrants was adopted by the extremist parties on the fringes. Other far-right parties, as well as ODS and Zeman, stressed the “otherness” and cultural differences without denying the human nature of the migrants. There is correlation between the level of securitization and the level of “othering” in particular cognitive frames. On the other hand, the actors that use the mechanism of “othering” in a rather sparing way or do not use it at all show an increasing tendency to recognize humanitarian aspects of the refugee crisis. The Czech example suggests that it is in fact “othering” that pushes a frame from the humanitarian to the securitized discourse.
In general, the analysis of the Czech parties shows that there is no actor (regardless of the level of “othering” present in the particular cognitive frame) that does not use securitization as a tool to handle the discourse on the migrants. Even the moderate political parties are sensitive to public opinion shaped by enormous space dedicated to the topic of immigration, presented as an overall security problem. Therefore, they are very careful about presenting their opinions about the crisis and on what should be done. This is mostly visible in the framing used by TOP 09 and KDU-ČSL, who had adapted wording without much content and explained themselves to minimize the image of the party’s welcoming of immigrants as this may be considered as a political suicide.
With the exception of the far-right parties that work with the frames stressing the Moslem threat constantly, the Czech political actors have developed their cognitive frames of the (Moslem) migrants in reaction to media coverage and amid increasing concerns expressed by the Czech population since 2014. The Czech political actors surf on the wave of prefigured concepts and prejudices, and especially at the peak of the refugee crisis, they did not open a rational discussion but started a race among separate cognitive frames to capitalize from the public fears and perceptions of danger based on rather imaginative assumptions. The parties did not actually address the migration issue as such, but only its popular perception and imagination. The results are actually not unexpected but they confirm that the parties are not trying to shape public opinion but try to follow the public moods.
The first part of the analysis was aimed at exploring what are the cognitive frameworks that the Czech actors use (RQ1) and whether elements of securitization (RQ1.1) and othering (RQ1.2) are present. The second, comparative part of the research was aimed at finding out what similarities and differences do the cognitive frameworks have (RQ2), whether there is a single cognitive framework or more (RQ2.1), and whether there is a difference between the political mainstream and fringe parties (RQ2.2).
The answers could be summarized in the following way. There are many cognitive frames that partially overlap regardless of the presenters. What is prevailing is the framing of the immigration crisis with a strong blend of securitization. This perspective is common to all subjects. On the other hand, political parties such as ČSSD, KDU-ČSL, TOP 09, and KSČM also add a humanitarian perspective, which needs to be taken into consideration. This perspective is added when the parties in question search for a solution and the measures to be taken. ANO is more populist than other mainstream parties in its inadequacy to the humanitarian perspective and so is President Miloš Zeman. The far-right parties are omitting the humanitarian aspects, using a far stronger vocabulary of securitization and stressing especially the arguments that use the technique of othering of the migrants. The far-right rhetoric evokes pictures of “flooding” or even “tsunami” or “invasion” by dangerous and culturally incompatible strangers defined in very primordial and stereotyped categories. The most extreme rhetoric completely dehumanizes the immigrants as objects with a purely negative character. The wide use of the instrument of othering, together with the complete disregard for any humanitarian dimension of the migration, differentiates thus the most extremist cognitive framework from the mainstream cognitive one.
English name Czech name Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists Block Against the Islam Czech Social Democratic Party Public Opinion Research Centre Czech Statistical Office European Commission European Court of Justice European Union We Do Not Want the Islam in the Czech Republic Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak Peoples’ Party Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia North Atlantic Treaty Organization National Democracy Civic Democratic Party Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Freedom and Direct Democracy party United Nations Dawn – National Coalition
International dimension recognized by the analyzed political actors
Asylum seekers in the Czech Republic, 2004–15
Conceptual map of the frames of the main political actors
|Securitized frame||Mixture of both securitized and desecuritized frames||Desecuritized frame|
|National Democracy; IVČRN|
|SPD; Ú-NK; Miloš Zeman; ODS|
|ANO; KDU-ČSL; KSČM|
|ČSSD; TOP 09|
|English name||Czech name|
|Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists|
|Block Against the Islam|
|Czech Social Democratic Party|
|Public Opinion Research Centre|
|Czech Statistical Office|
|European Court of Justice|
|We Do Not Want the Islam in the Czech Republic|
|Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak Peoples’ Party|
|Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia|
|North Atlantic Treaty Organization|
|Civic Democratic Party|
|Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe|
|Freedom and Direct Democracy party|
|Dawn – National Coalition|The Dangerous Discourse of “Us” vs. “Them:” Spain's VOX Discursive Practices Popular and Scholarly Primordialism: The Politics of Ukrainian History during Russia's 2022 Invasion of Ukraine Turning Ukrainians into a separate nation Legal Performativity: Recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the Czech Republic The Basque Language (Euskera) As an Ideological Instrument in the Historical Construction of Basque Ethnic Identity