Ableism has a lot of different manifestations and while all of them are harmful, some can be downright sinister, because they use disabled people to violate the human rights of others. People engaging in this type of ableism, do it very cleverly. They proclaim themselves our allies and often pose as the only ones who truly care about us as oppose to government, feminists, or liberal media outlets. And at the first glance it could look as though they really do care, so let us take a second look.
At the beginning of April 2022 Slovak politician Marian Kotleba, the leader of Ludova strana nase Slovensko (LSNS), a party with neo-Nazi leanings, who does not like to be called extremist, was pronounced guilty of sympathising with the ideology of neo-Nazism and sentenced to six months in prison with year and half suspended sentence. He also lost a seat in parliament. Although this is a reduction of the sentencing from October 2020 which he appealed against, it is still a huge win for justice especially in the country that has a history of letting politicians off the hook. Plus it means that we can now call him an extremist regardless of whether he likes it or not.
Neo-Nazism masquerading as charity
I decided to write about it on my blog because this case relates to ableism. Marian Kotleba was sentenced because of the cheques his party has given to families with disabled children.
You may ask, what does helping disabled children have to do with neo-Nazism? Well, the cheques in question were for 1488 euros. This number is a known neo-Nazi dog whistle. 14 stands for 14 words slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” and 88 stands for “Heil Hitler” since H is the 8th letter in the alphabet. The cheques were also given to the families on the anniversary of the foundation of the fascist Slovak State.
You may argue, as Kotleba did, that it is a mere coincidence. I doubt that, but I would be willing to give him a pass if all the money were given privately, alas that did not happen. The families were given the money in a form of oversized cheque with the party’s logo and they were photographed with it.
In all the pictures that were published on the party’s website, the members of the party are standing with the family and the cheque is put on their disabled child in the centre of the photo. I used the phrase put on intentionally because the cheque is not given to them but put on them however it fits. Disabled children (and they are always children, remember that because it is going to be important) in these photos are reduced to an inanimate cheque holder. Their dehumanisation is completed in the articles that accompany the photos in which they become the sum of their diagnoses and nothing more.
And the ableism does not stop there, the members of the party proudly proclaim in these articles that they are the only ones who care about disabled children, but do they care at all?
Living in a palace, a fairy-tale or a horror?
In 2014 when Kotleba was the governor of Banska Bystrica, he refused to invest four and a half millions from EU funding that were supposed to be used for deinstitutionalisation of a care home in Lucenec for disabled adults. The care home based in a former palace was inaccessible and isolated. The few of its clients who were able to move into smaller houses in Banska Bystrica (without the help from Kotleba) said that their lives drastically improved after the move. They were able to find work, enter romantic relationships and participate in society much more than before.
Kotleba did not care about any of that, because he does not see disability as an identity. For people like him being disabled equals being ill and ill people should be treated in isolation away from society until they are healthy and productive again. Someone needs to explain to him that disable people can be (and are) as productive as non-disabled people. The only thing we need is accessibility.
In the Christmas video where Milan Mazurek (then a member of LSNS) delivered the money to families of disabled children, the conversation centres around physical therapy and “curing” the disability.
This approach is also the reason why his “charity” is only aimed at disabled children, because he assumes that disabled children can be cured or grow out of their disability and become “normal” members of society.
In the worldview of LSNS disabled adults are burdens beyond saving.
They are going to microchip us all!
Marian Kotleba and members of his party are among the biggest anti-vaxxers and Covid-19 deniers in Slovakia. In 2018 they tried to pass legislation that would end mandatory vaccination implicating that vaccines are the reason why healthy babies become disabled.
In October 2019 LSNS published an article on their website about helping a disabled girl, claiming she was born without disability and only developed cerebral palsy and epilepsy after getting her first mandatory vaccination. I am not a doctor and I cannot speak about the health conditions of this child since I don’t have enough information about it. As someone born with cerebral palsy I can, however, tell you that many disabilities don’t manifest right after birth. Parents often notice something isn’t right only after their child doesn’t progress as they should. Some of the milestones disabled children aren’t reaching, occur at the same time as their first vaccination. In those cases correlation doesn’t equal causation.
From the start of the pandemic members of LSNS were downplaying its seriousness and claiming that the Covid-19 vaccine is just a farce to microchip people. Someone should probably tell them that if Bill Gates wanted to see what people buy in Tesco or watch on adult websites, he could do it via their laptop.
On 17th of November 2020 (ironically the anniversary of Velvet Revolution) LSNS, Communist party and Robert Fico (former Prime Minister who had to step down after the murder of investigative journalist who wrote about Fico’s connection to mafia) organized a rally at which they called for early elections over Covid-19 restrictions.
Let me ask you this: If Kotleba cares so much about disabled children, many of whom are vulnerable, why did he organise a superspreader event?
Pitting one minority against the other
When they are not trying to kill us with Covid-19, extremists love to use disabled people to spread racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia or every other type of hate you can imagine.
The government does not give enough money to parents of children with disabilities? (Let us not forget that we are always children, even after we reach adulthood, so all the money meant for us should always go to our parents). That is because the government wastes resources on Roma people, immigrants, and those LGBT perverts, but when LSNS will be a part of the government they will stop that! We just need to give them the power and everything will be rainbows (or rather not). This type of hateful rhetoric should not be tolerated in the 21st century but unfortunately it got Kotleba elected several times already. Thanks to Invisible Pink Unicorn his party never made it into government. While being disgusting and possibly illegal their hate speech also disregards the possibility that a person could be a part of more than one minority, yours truly, Once and Future Cripple is a proud disabled queer.
On Wednesday 12th of October 2022 people in Slovakia got to see the terrifying consequences of such rhetoric when a young Nazi sympathiser killed two queer people in front of a gay bar in Bratislava.
Disabled equals prolife, right?
Alongside with extremists the other group who loves to use disabled people to further their bigoted agenda are prolife activists, or as I like to call them propregnancy activists since they usually stop caring about a life of a child the second after it is born.
When several MPs (Kotleba was one of them) tried to pass various laws that would restrict the access to abortions in Slovakia (fortunately none of them have passed) they started a heated public discussion about the topic.
One of the arguments of prolife activists were disabled people. As I wrote in another article on this blog, disabled people are people, not arguments.
My disability isn’t a free pass for your hate
Today is Human Rights Day. The needs of disabled people should never be used to further any hateful agenda or to violate the rights of others, so next time when you see an extremist proclaiming to care about us ask yourself: If I would take disabled people out of the equation will this message still be acceptable?