Charvat warned of three major past errors which have led to greater radicalisation. Photo credit: SYRI Institute.

Brno/Prague, Jan 24 (CTK) – The radicalization of Czech society has been exacerbated by the pandemic, as well as the proliferation of disinformation due to social media, but it had its beginnings in the 1990s, according to Jan Charvat, an expert from the National Institute for Research on the Socio-Economic Impacts of Diseases and Systemic Risks (SYRI Institute).

Errors in the current government’s communication have also led to an increase in the number of dissatisfied citizens, Charvat said. These people distrust the current political system so much that they wish for its radical transformation, he added.

In his press release, Charvat warned of three major past errors.

The first was the overlooking of those who were alienated by the changes of the 1990s. At that time, one-fifth of voters chose anti-system parties, rejecting the political transformation in the form it took place. A section of the electorate stopped going to the polls.

“The second problem is posed by the acquiescence to widespread disinformation during the migration crisis, its legitimation by the established parties, and subsequently the inability of Czech society to protect itself against disinformation narratives,” Charvat said.

There is the third problem of a worsening economic situation during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the government of Andrej Babis (ANO) failed to ensure adequate protection for all.

The situation is not being improved by the communication strategy of the current government of Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS), which has been unable to calm those worried by the surge in energy prices, Charvat noted.

“Each of the problems has a different weight, importance and impacts,” Charvat said. “However, taken together, they create an increase in the number of dissatisfied citizens who distrust the existing political system so much that they wish for its radical transformation,” he added.

“In the long run, this group has been addressed by those who spread disinformation,” Charvat said, adding that their motivation may be pragmatic, but also geostrategic, as a major portion of the disinformation scene is pro-Russian.

A large part of the political mainstream has not found an effective answer to the polarisation and radicalisation of society, while some established parties are trying to use it to their advantage, Charvat said.

The pandemic increased people’s readiness to listen to disinformation, and galvanised many who were not politically active before, he added.

At the start of 2022, Europe faced another crisis in the form of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In the initial stage, it was a shock for the disinformation scene, which kept totally silent for several weeks at that time. However, it gradually embraced the strictly pro-Russian interpretation of the conflict, now attacking the EU, the US and NATO, Charvat said.

At demonstrations against the government, one can hear calls, ostensibly for peace, that involve halting military aid to Ukraine, ending the sanctions against Russia, and a renewed purchase of strategic raw materials from Russia.

This argument has been partially adopted by Babis in his presidential campaign, as he is trying to woo dissatisfied voters galvanised by disinformation, Charvat said.

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