The first Czech terrorist and his links to the far-right

  • Tomáš Hošek
  • 21.1.2019 08:02

The historically first Czech terrorist was sentenced to prison last Monday, sparking debates about how much more dangerous the fear campaign against Muslims and migrants in the Czech Republic can get. The 71-year-old attacker, Jaromir Balda, is nowhere close to what the general discourse understands under the term “terrorist”; nevertheless, it would be unsound to downplay his actions by simply pointing out his mental state. Balda was undoubtedly maintaining close relations with the parliamentary anti-immigration Freedom and Direct Democracy movement and his case tells a lot about the appalling state of the nation-wide debate on the issues of migration and Islam in general.

After convicting a man in 2014 for sending threatening emails to the former Finance Minister, and another for attempting to join the ISIS a few years later, a third person in the modern Czech history has been sentenced to jail last Monday under the charge of terrorism offences. It was, however, for the very first time when the terrorist act has actually occurred on the Czech soil: In summer 2017, the Czech pensioner Jaromír Balda felled several trees to block railway lines at two spots in the Central Bohemian region, causing two passenger trains to crash into the trees, fortunately with nobody injured. Obviously, the Czech case differs significantly from most of the contemporary terrorist acts from around Europe, as it was committed with the intention to spread fear of migrants and Muslims by a man with clear links to the largest Czech far-right party.

Besides cutting the trees (and subsequently covering tracks by burning his gas-soaked shoes), the 71-year-old retired electrician also distributed fake leaflets around both crime scenes, purporting to be written by Islamic terrorists. By doing his best to make it look like the attacks were committed by foreign jihadi fanatics, incorporating the words “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) and using an intentionally broken Czech on the leaflets to threaten the “infidel dogs”, Balda attempted to arouse the Czech public to the resistance against Muslim migrants, to whom he referred to as a “horror” at the court.

 

The incident has undoubtedly become an extreme example of what the widely spread hysteria and fear of migration and Muslims among the Czech society could eventually lead to.

 

The given circumstances might leave the impression that the historically first case of an act of terror in the Czech Republic is not that big of a deal after all. Indeed, after facing five to 15 years behind bars, Balda’s sentence was eventually reduced to only four years and mandatory psychiatric care, mainly due to the pensioner’s age and diminished sanity. Although the consequences of Balda’s attacks could have been much more tragic and the adequacy of the final verdict might be questionable for many, the incident has undoubtedly become an extreme example of what the widely spread hysteria and fear of migration and Muslims among the Czech society could eventually lead to. Balda’s case is all the more alarming due to his close relationship with the anti-immigration and anti-EU movement Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), which is currently being represented by 22 MPs in the Czech Parliament.

As heard from the recorded phone calls between Balda and a local SPD representative, the pensioner previously expressed willingness to liquidate migrants, whom he referred to as “rats” and “woodworms infesting the whole Europe”, and talked about throwing Molotov cocktails at covered Muslim women. Balda’s radical views didn’t seem to raise any concerns within the party, which enjoyed the pensioner’s support at several events during the 2017 election campaign. In the course of the trial, the party’s Prague branch even posted (and later deleted) a facebook comment justifying Balda’s actions, saying “the desperate man saw no other way in protecting our country, women and children”. Furthermore, one of SPD’s high-profile MPs, Lubomír Volný, wasn’t shy of blaming the attacks on his party’s ideological opponents.

 

As long as the public discussion on migration and Islam is dominated by misleading interpretations causing irrational fear and hysteria, Czechia will be facing a growing risk of producing its own violent attackers.

 

Although the SPD later officially distanced itself from Balda and condemned any political acts of violence, one couldn’t overlook the effort of its top representatives to downplay Balda’s actions simply as a desperate act of a misguided and insane man. Such a narrative is, nonetheless, taking the focus off the fact that Balda yielded to the irrational fear and propaganda, which is being widely spread among the SPD supporters. Despite expressing regrets at the trial about putting dozens of lives in danger, Balda has shown little repentance for harming a particular religious group by his actions and motives. This firm belief in the necessity of “undertaking an action” to face the perceived threats created by migration flows arguably represents a widespread issue among the segments of Czech population affected by the intense production of scaremongering, hate fuelling and manipulation.

The rationale of Thomas theorem says that “if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” – it is, therefore, the interpretation of a situation that causes the action. As a matter of fact, Balda’s terror attack wasn’t solely a result of the man’s mental instability, but also of the widespread fear campaign produced by populist politicians, their active supporters and many of the alternative, as well as “quality”, media. As long as the public discussion on migration and Islam is dominated by misleading interpretations causing irrational fear and hysteria, Czechia will be facing a growing risk of producing its own violent attackers who simply “see no other way” than taking tangible action.

About author: Tomáš Hošek

Partners

Tento web používá k analýze návštěvnosti soubory cookie. Používáním tohoto webu s tím souhlasíte. Další informace