Ethnic minorities give thumbs up to Local Nazi campaign
"In everyday life a right-wing activist has to cope with obstacles which other people wouldn't even notice. When compared with us normal people, for him the task of making contact socially can be extraordinarily difficult. The result: isolation and loneliness." An excerpt from the heavily ironic "Be Kind To Your Local Nazi" campaign - an unprecedented attempt to change indifference towards neo-Nazi skinheads by making fun of them. For the past year TV ads, posters and T-shirts have featured skinheads in a series of embarrassing social situations, caused by their arms raised in the Hitler salute. The campaign has certainly been popular, but has it had any effect? My colleague Rob Cameron spoke to Obonete Ubam, chairman of the Czech Republic's League of Ethnic Minorities.
"The motive and the topic really hit the target the way it should have, because to fight neo-Nazism and skinhead organisations and right-wing extremists, I think choosing humour is one of the sharpest weapons. So I think it was just great, and just hit the right target group."
That's right - it was certainly quite a radical departure from previous rather lacklustre anti-racism campaigns. But some people complained that the campaign could have actually provoked skinheads into more violence, and that it was actually quite a dangerous idea to try and mock them, to make fun of them. How do you see that?
"Well yes, it was actually a sort of risk. But we can now say that it did provoke them, but did not cause any more violence. I have heard a lot of stories from a lot of people who were members of these groups, and who actually quit these groups, because they realised how ridiculous they were to the people around them."
You're saying that members of skinhead groups actually quit those groups as a direct result of the campaign. Do you think that really happened?
"Yes. Personally I've received a couple of e-mails from these people, from teenagers aged about 17-18, who had flirted somehow with skinhead groups, and after this campaign they definitely denied any connection with these groups."
The government's human rights commissioner Jan Jarab, who also had a role in the campaign, said at the beginning that it wasn't really targeted at hard-core neo-Nazi skinheads, but more teenage boys who found the idea of dressing up in combat gear and shaving their heads rather glamorous. But what it didn't do really was address the wider problem of tolerance of minorities in Czech society. Do you think the government is doing a good job of addressing this problem?
"I think the job in some ways could be better, but the main thing - for us now - is that the government is at least doing something. Because in previous decades, there has been no serious attempt which would lead to any kind of project to help society with this problem. And we're very much glad that in the past three or four years, the government is doing something. The government is supporting organisations who are capable of preparing such campaigns, and from my point of view, I see this as very positive."
Obonete Ubam, chairman of the Czech Republic's League of Ethnic Minorities speaking to Rob Cameron.
You can find the English version of the "Be Kind To Your Local Nazi" TV spot here: http://www.panackove.cz/data/_subpct/handicap.mpg. The campaign culminates on Saturday with an "Open Air Happening Against Racism" on Prague's Stvanice Island, for more details, see - http://www.musicbeats.cz/.