Saturday, 16 May 2015

Events took the worst turn conceivable: In order to justify tough austerity policies, a conservative MP representing the Portuguese governing party PSD quoted from the blog of Pedro Cosme Vieira, an economics professor, but he drew only derision and contempt rather than praise and approval. An opposition politician double-checked and discovered that the scholar from the north Portuguese city of Porto has used his blog to spread vile, racist propaganda.

For example, all the migrant boats in the Mediterranean could be sunk by battleships; potential survivors could then be shot one after another. Initially, this would lead to the deaths of up to 5,000 people, but in the end no one would dare to risk making the trip to Europe. For years, the professor has been getting away with swaggering about "black scum;" pensioners, who could be shot in order to solve the social security funds problem; or about AIDS victims, who could be "put down" without, in his view, causing too much of a stir among the population. 

Several years of blogging, no reaction

João Teixeira Lopes: 'There was no reaction at all' "The most amazing thing of all is that it took such a long time until those statements led to any consequences," sociologist Joao Teixeira Lopes, who also teaches at Porto University, told DW. His dubious colleague had been blogging for more than five years without becoming caught in the crossfire of public opinion. His views had been called - at worst - bizarre or eccentric, but never disgraceful or unacceptable. "To some extent, his readers condoned or adopted his statements. There was no reaction at all. I think that's alarming."

Cosme Vieira's employer, the University of Porto, set a bad example. When, eventually, public outcry increased, it issued a statement which called the professor's opinions strictly private opinions that did not reflect the university's views. In addition, the university's ethics council would be tasked with investigating the professor's actions. That was definitely the wrong signal, according to Teixeira Lopes. "The university should have opened disciplinary procedures immediately, and it should have raised its voice very clearly against racist practices and statements."

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