Conference hears of interdisciplinary approach to combatting hatred across Europe 

Aoife King, Communications Officer | Trinity Long Room Hub | | 01 896 3895

A network of scholars and practitioners from the NETHATE consortium came together this week at the Trinity Long Room Hub to look at hate from a range of perspectives. 

NETHATE is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Network (ITN) led by Trinity College Dublin. With 15-Phd students funded from different disciplines and universities, the project is coordinated by Professor Arun Bokde of Trinity’s School of Medicine. This week at the Trinity Long Room Hub experts provided their reflections on the project to date, and at a public event on Tuesday 23 April, renowned peace activist Jo Berry shared her personal story of peace and forgiveness.  

The overarching goal of the NETHATE project is to combat hatred in Europe by engaging in projects from three different perspectives:  Psychology and Neuroscience, Technology and Social Media, and Culture, Ideologies, and Religion.

Trinity Long Room Hub graduate fellow, Soraya Afzali, is one of the PhD candidates participating in the project which is now nearing completion. Her PhD with Trinity’s School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies looks at ‘The Role of Charismatic Authority in the Propagation of Hate’. Her project with NETHATE takes a socio-cultural perspective on the use of politics and religion by groups that agitate against Persian-speaking diasporas in Austria, Germany and Ireland.   

Speaking on the interdisciplinary panel this week, Soraya said hate is curated on a very “systemic” level in contemporary society. She spoke of how here in Ireland, there are structures that “by design” keep asylum seekers in Direct Provision centres, unable to advocate for themselves, and unable to seek employment.

Touching on the use of emotion, religion, history and group identity, Soraya also spoke of the many tools of manipulation used by far-right populists including figures such as Viktor Orbán in Hungary.

The propagation of hate online was also under discussion. “The platform economy is dominating us more and more”, said Professor Pekka Räsänen from the University of Turku, who suggested that the line between offline and online is becoming increasingly blurred. One thing that has remained stable, Professor Räsänen noted, is that minority groups are still most likely to be victimised and this targeting of minority groups is replicated in online forums.   

Meanwhile Professor Jeroen Temperman (Erasmus School of Law) spoke about the legal framework of hate speech and the “high threshold” needed to prove incitement of hatred under the UN Convention. Fellow panellist Vladimir Pojarskich, a PhD candidate in Communication and Media Psychology at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany, discussed a roadmap for intervention developed by the network in terms of combating hate speech and hate crime.

Speaking at the Trinity Long Room Hub on the 23 April, Jo Berry, founder of the charity ‘Building Bridges for Peace’ told her story to an audience which included members of The Glencree Centre for Peace & Reconciliation. She spoke about the day that she learned of the death of her father Sir Anthony Berry who died at the hands of the IRA in the Brighton hotel bombing. “I felt that I was now part of the conflict in Northern Ireland.”

She went on to speak about her search for something positive and peaceful that would come from this awful tragedy. This ultimately led to her peace work with the man who planted the bomb, Patrick Magee. [original article]