Czech Republic

Czechia Celebrates Its First Terrorist

He was so terrified of hypothetical radical Muslim immigrants committing hypothetical terror attacks in his beloved country he went and sadly unhypothetically beat them to it.

Last week saw a historical first: courts have decided on a sentence for terrorism committed in the Czech Republic. In a country running on xenophobia and intolerance rallying behind the banner of defense against terrorism, it is rather telling that the whole case held absolutely no consequence and (possibly because) the terrorist was a home-grown alt-right nutjob whose only saving grace was incompetence.

The reasoning Jaromír Balda gave for his acts is nothing short of genius: he was so terrified of hypothetical radical Muslim immigrants committing hypothetical terror attacks in his beloved country he went and sadly not hypothetically, beat them to it. The pre-emptive terrorism was then supposed to spark an anti-immigration sentiment which would prevent further terrorism. Perfectly logical, obviously.

Achieving this surely admirable feat was planned in a similarly masterful way. In 2017, Balda had attacked two trains by felling trees onto the tracks with the intent of derailing them. In order for this to have the desired effect, he also scattered leaflets around the fallen trunks. Those showed up during the court proceedings and are just way too good not to share: “Allah akbar,” they announce boldly and in order to leave absolutely no doubt regarding the heinously foreign origins of their supposed authors, they go on: “czechish unbelieving dog. Wi hire, with us Islam and djihad.” Kudos for getting “dog” right, although it does, somewhat oddly, appear to address only a singular atheistic canine.

Spelling mistakes obviously mean foreigners were responsible, right? Right?

The good news is that the first Czech terrorist stayed true to our national roots and actually failed to do any real damage; no lives were lost and the damage to trains was mostly superficial (on account of pure luck, according to the drivers of both trains); this would make the whole sordid affair only yet another absurd episode in the grand history of Czechia, were it not for the politics involved. As usual.

Burn their cunts

Absolutely no one will find it utterly shocking that Balda was a supporter of the alt-right anti-immigration anti-logic party SPD. While he was not a member, as the party hurried to point out, he participated rather overeagerly in their pre-election campaign, be it by handing out leaflets (including, but not limited to, doing this on the day of the elections which happens to be illegal, oops), sticking stickers with the face of anti-immigrant immigrant Tomio Okamura on his car, house and several public buildings (“he dropped them wherever he went,” recalled the mayor of Balda’s hometown. Also, oops, illegal.)

Now, a political party, even one built around hating whatever happens to be fashionable to hate this month, can hardly be blamed for the acts of every single one of its supporters, even if one of those turns out to be a half-senile terrorist. However, the court proceedings have unearthed another gem of party member-to-supporter communication, this time a phone call between the prospective lumberjack and SPD’s coordinator for the region Blanka Vaňková. The entire thing is rather disgusting so here is the Greatest Hits version: Balda likened immigrants to woodworms eating Europe from the inside and claimed he would go after them like he would “go after rats or other vermin” (which, since his solution involved trying to drop trees on unrelated people, is rather an alarming prospect for the wildlife in his general vicinity). Then, after steady encouragement from Vaňková, he switched towards fashion critique: „And those bitches who wear them Arabian bags, I’d set them on fire. Take a little Molotov, throw it under their feet, so their cunts and asses burn, that’ll change their minds about dressing like that. Then there’s some eugenics and discussion about the way elections in Prague went, with Vaňková declaring her desire to sweep the city off the surface of the Earth for not voting correctly.

Now, the media debate around the case was essentially framed by the question of whether Balda is a violent fanatic or a victim of populist propaganda, with an unhealthy dose of questioning the man’s mental health. What got lost in all the stating and re-stating of the obvious (spoilers: the answers are “both” and “of course he’s mental”) is the role media itself has played. It would be all-too-easy to pin Balda as a victim of disinformation webs and chain e-mails that spread the 100% guaranteed news of freshly committed Muslim atrocities in the West or Western atrocities committed in the name of Muslims (I swear to God, Sweden bans Christmas every year!), but in truth even the so-called mainstream media participated in the hysteria that eventually led towards the act of incompetent terrorism. Balda masterminded, committed and ultimately screwed up his crimes in 2017 at which point the so-called immigration crisis was already in steady decline; but thanks to the wonderful possibilities offered by the media’s ability to batter dead beasts of burden, the paranoia created by constant linking of terrorism to immigration stays with us still.

Do Not Mention the T-word

Viewed through the typical optics Czech media so helpfully provided us with for so many terror attacks, Balda is a textbook lone wolf attacker: a discontented, not very bright individual seeking to channel his frustration (before his anti-Muslim period, he crusaded against the Roma), tempted and seduced by a radical ideology that prompted him to make his mark on the world. He actually sort of succeeded in that regard; while SPD initially denied any connection with him, after the surfacing of the abovementioned phone call and a bunch of photos of Balda with party elite (truly his most heinous crime to date: he plays the accordion), several members of the party including its Prague cell have expressed support for his actions, blaming “fanatical multiculturalists”. The way things are going, Balda will be considered a national hero in five years and canonized in fifty.

We have some very nice, traditionally established labels for people like Balda; lone wolf attacker is one and domestic terrorist is another. Funnily enough, neither of those show up in the media, further reinforcing the unspoken but ever-present claim that terrorism is something only those filthy foreigners do – but when a Czech attempts politically motivated murder, we immediately refer to mental issues and avoid mentioning the nasty t-word altogether. In a way, it is a means of protection against cognitive dissonance; admitting the full extent of the crime to ourselves would mean admitting we are part of a society that not only participated in instigating the t-word using media but also elects representatives that actively encourage, rationalize and justify the t-word – as long as it’s nice, patriotic, Slav-friendly domestic t-word. Can’t have anyone else derailing our trains.

Euphemization of and downplaying the impact of Balda’s short-lived career in crime also showed in the actual sentence; a man who attempted to commit murder in the name of intolerance will be spending four years in prison. To put things in perspective – the week before, a man who grew marijuana and used it to make a balm which he gave out to his friends was sentenced to five. Good to know we have our priorities straight.


Michal Chmela
Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.