Anti-racist campaign considered a success

Be kind to your local Nazi

The provocative anti-racist campaign "Be kind to your local Nazi" which ridicules neo-Nazi skinheads was launched in the Czech Republic at the beginning of September. Despite the campaign's success in Britain and Germany there was plenty of uncertainty about the effect it would have in this country. An opinion survey reflecting its impact was published this week and suggests that the novel approach worked unexpectedly well. Daniela Lazarova has the story:

Never before had skinheads been presented as objects of ridicule and pity. The sight of two Nazis being used as poles for a washing line, as they do the Nazi salute, raised many an eyebrow but it appears to have had the desired effect. Although only a third of Czechs registered the campaign it hit right home with the target group it was intended for. The government's human rights commissioner Jan Jarab explains:

"Among the target group of youngsters between 15 and 24 the result was overwhelmingly positive . There were measurable differences between the group of people who saw the campaign and the control group in terms of how negative their view of neo-Nazis and skinheads was. It also got very positive reviews from experts in the field, from people in the advertising business, journalists -even the Prime Minister liked it."

Some people would say that there is a danger in underestimating the brutality of neo-Nazis and skinheads .....

"I am aware of that. We had to evaluate this danger when we took the decision to air such a provocative campaign. But on the whole, the danger is not so great. For one thing, the moderator in the TV shot says "We believe that they are dangerous and brutal". Well, of course they are. And then you add that on top of that they are laughable. So it is not saying that they are ONLY laughable. And secondly, we had a specific target group in mind. These are young people who join such movements not particularly because they read Adolf Hitler at bedtime but because the skinheads have set a certain fashion. They dress differently- in a very macho way - that could be attractive to some youngsters. So when you create an anti-fashion there's a chance it will have an effect this group of vulnerable kids. The campaign does not aim to effect ideologically committed fascists -but then they only represent a minority of what I would call the skinhead subculture."

What kind of reaction did you get from skinheads themselves?

"It was furious, which shows that we hit the target. In fact it was more furious than I expected. I mean I would have expected a furious reaction from people who actually look like the skinheads in our campaign but we got a similar reaction from far-right political associations whose members don't look like skinheads and who could have said - well, this has nothing to do with us. And yet they were infuriated and tried to conduct law suits against us. I think that's a marvelous response."

According to the statistics half of the target group- 16 to 24 year olds- registered the campaign, gave it high marks and appeared to be positively influenced by it. Although this may not appear to be a stunning success -this particular age group has been fairly immune to other forms of anti-racist propaganda in the past. As a result the government which commissioned the campaign, and co-financed it together with the EU - feels it is worthwhile to pursue this form of campaigning in the future.