Saturday, September 15, 2007

POLITICSHYPE: No Black Sheep Is No Big Deal

Previously we brought you news of Switzerland's No Black Sheep campaign, which was criticized by many as racist, insensitive, demeaning, etc. Let's ignore for the moment the fact that there is an increasing problem with immigrant crime in Switzerland. One way or another, the Ausschaffung campaign appears to be accomplishing its mission, which is probably less about kicking out immigrant criminals than it is about generating coverage for the Swiss People's Party in the media, thereby increasing the chances that their boys and girls get elected (imagine, them doing that on purpose right before an election).

Well, it seems like everybody has to get into the act. The United Nations' anti-racism czar, Doudou Diène, put in his two cents. European political scientists have also been looking at this issue closely, and a leading Swiss observer in the UK has rebutted claims by at least one British paper that Switzerland is Europe's new "Heart of Darkness". The horror!

Wait a minute, if they were the heart of Darkness, wouldn't they be kicking out the white sheep?

Swissinfo has more (this is only an excerpt, here's the full story):
British Analyst Assesses "Black Sheep" Row
Copyright 2007 Swissinfo

Foreign coverage of the rightwing Swiss People's Party's provocative campaign and immigration plans is unlikely to dent Switzerland's reputation, says an expert.

Clive Church, a leading writer on Swiss affairs, said recent articles in the British press failed to give a full picture of national political debate in which differing views are in "increasingly militant collision".

Switzerland's biggest political party has come under fire both at home and abroad for a controversial election campaign, which has been accused of being racist. Posters show three white sheep kicking a black sheep over the Swiss border with the caption "Create security".

The black sheep posters underpin a People's Party initiative to expel foreign criminals, which was launched on August 1 – Swiss National Day – three months ahead of October's parliamentary elections.

On Friday the United Nations' special rapporteur on racism, Doudou Diène, called on the People's Party to withdraw the controversial election poster.

He warned that the poster would only provoke racial and religious hatred. The Swiss authorities say it is up to the courts to decide.

swissinfo: Is Switzerland really Europe's "Heart of Darkness", as one British newspaper claimed on its front page?

Clive Church: I think that's rather exaggerated and overlooks the electoral statistics. The implication is that the whole nation is gripped by these views, but the reality is you have a very divided country and a furious battle, with a minority – a very big one in Swiss terms – fighting to establish itself ahead of the [October] elections.

Rather than seeing Switzerland as a country that has already succumbed to racism, you have to see it as a country engaged in a very bitter political battle fought out in a style which 20 years ago would have been unthinkable in Switzerland.

The problem for other parties is that the People's Party has changed its political style and become much more aggressive; it has shown itself much more adept in the media age.

swissinfo: Do the actions of the People's Party - dubbed "racist" by the Swiss president, a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party - have the potential to damage Switzerland's reputation abroad?

C.C.: It's clearly not very helpful. If the Swiss are being accused of being racist, it clashes with the view of them as being highly moral.

But I'm not certain it will have a great impact. There is very little press coverage of Switzerland in Britain, so I doubt there will be much follow-up.

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