Calling Bullshit on the Anti-Refugee Video Taking the Internet By Storm
With Open Gates is a mishmash of comically fake and out-of-context footage, bad subtitling and Islamophobic propaganda.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK
With Open Gates: The Forced Collective Suicide of European Nations is a racist propaganda film that has gone viral. The video, which is designed to scare people about the supposed menace of refugees, has notched up approaching four million views in just a few weeks on YouTube – a figure that has raised significantly following the Paris attacks. As you can see at the top of the video above, the uploader, 'Death of Nations', has been using the Paris terrorists attacks as a way of promoting it.
Back in September, as the refugee crisis in Europe got dramatically worse, I wrote about the bullshit anti-refugee viral memes that were being spread across Facebook and Twitter to vilify people fleeing violence in Syria. I wanted to show that forming an opinion on one the most important issues of our time using something a fascist drew up on a meme generator is stupid. Unfortunately, With Open Gates has made things more stupid. At first, debunking it seemed about as good a use of time as talking politics with a toddler. But while the film has lowered the bar for racism and fidelity to the truth, it has raised the bar for the influence and virulence of online refugee-bashing. After seeing the number of views keep rising, I decided it was time to call bullshit.
The 20-minute video is a mishmash of comically fake and out-of-context footage, bad subtitling and Islamophobic propaganda. Let's take these elements in turn:
FOOTAGE TAKEN COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTEXT
The video begins with the narrator claiming the other side of the refugee crisis is "how it will change Europe". What follows is a montage of selectively chosen footage designed to present refugees and migrants as violent and dangerous. Some of it is genuine footage from the past 12 months, but a lot of it has absolutely nothing to do with the current crisis. It's just a collection of random footage of people that aren't white in circumstances that aren't stated.
Take the above clip at around the 2.40 mark. I managed to trace it to a protest that happened in August 2011 in the Spanish resort of Salou, which had been called after the death of a 50-year-old Senegalese street vendor following a police raid. Here's the proof:
Take this one at 2.55:
So, nothing to do with the current wave of immigration, and everything to do with tempers fraying thanks to some pretty legitimate grievances.
Here's another clip of angry men looking like some sort of "foreign menace".
As you can see above, these guys are in fact a bunch of German IS supporters attacking a Kurdish rally back in 2014. Bad but again, nothing to do with refugees.
Here's another, implying that refugees beat people up:
It shows pro-Kurdish demonstrators clashing with Turkish nationalists in Frankfurt who were holding a demonstration against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), a group currently embroiled in a conflict with the Turkish state. Not a bunch of refugees gone an a rampage.
And here's a final one at 7:43, shown during a segment criticising Sweden's "failing" immigration model:
What it actually shows is a Slovakian migrant worker being beaten up by an antifascist who apparently mistook him for a Nazi:
FOOTAGE PRESENTED WITHOUT CONTEXT
The bits in the montage that really are to do with the current wave of refugees are presented without any context whatsoever. At the beginning, for example, you can see shots of refugees rioting in Lesvos as a white Greek woman says "You have to do something. Somebody has to protect us".
It's sad that she feels threatened, but what happened in this case was that unregistered refugees were prevented by the Greek authorities from boarding a ferry bound for Athens and got stuck on the island for days. After the trauma they had likely already faced on boats across the Aegean, it's hard to imagine how stressful this must have been.
It's a similar story for the other chaotic clips that show refugees breaking through the fence Hungary shamefully put up on the Serbian border or trying to board the ferry in Calais. When European countries and institutions offer no safe passage to people fleeing violence and no real humanitarian response when they arrive, emotions can run high and things can go wrong.
OBVIOUSLY INCORRECT SUBTITLES
Another section of the video tries to smear refugees by showing clips of them "bored" at supposedly luxurious asylum centres, throwing food away and Donald Trump repeating the myth that they are all "strong, fit men". The point here is to make refugees seem selfish, ungrateful and on the take. The problem is they aren't, which is why the video has to resort to putting words in people's mouths.
Take this clip at 12.35. It claims to show a refugee saying, "I want money because I want to smoke and give it to my mother in Syria."
What he actually says – and it's quite obvious because he's speaking English – is, "I want money for smoking and telling my mother in Syria." Presumably he wants to do what anybody else that had just completed a life threatening journey across several continents would want to do: call his family.
Or take this clip shortly after, at 12.41. The video quotes him saying. "People in Croatia told me here is good, good, good asylum. We go to Germany because their money [is] very good."
What he actually says – again, very clearly in English – is "me go to Germany because Germany is very good."
OBSCURE AND IRRELEVANT FOOTAGE OF ISLAMISTS
Not satisfied with presenting refugees as thankless, greedy troublemakers, at various points the film turns to the issue of radical Islam in a desperate attempt to smear people fleeing war as dangerous Islamists. Never mind that in many cases these people are actually fleeing the real dangerous Islamists of IS. Unable to establish any actual link between the two, the video turns to using a bunch of fake, obscure and hyperbolic footage.
For example it shows a video of Islamists on a "refugee train to Germany"...
...that has nothing to do with refugees and was actually filmed in Paris back in 2010.
It shows other random, unrelated clips of extremists like this one from a Stacey Dooley documentary I remember watching in 2012 on BBC3 about the EDL and Islamists in Luton.
There's also a super-random moment at 4.52 where the narrator says, "the high Muslim birth-rate is changing the political landscape. Imran is looking forward to replacing Belgian law with Sharia law, including amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, and death to homosexuals." Who the hell is "Imran"? What's his story and what does he have to do with the refugee crisis? The film doesn't say. Perhaps because the answer is absolutely nothing. This bit is lifted from an article written in 2012 on the Christian Broadcasting Network that admits most people don't take Imran's group – Sharia4Belgium – seriously.
OTHER RANDOM RACIST BULLSHIT
The video also broadens out into a more general discussion about immigration which is replete with Islamophobic propaganda. The most ludicrous example it comes up with is the story of a rape epidemic in the capital of Oslo which it claims is entirely down to "immigrant non-western males".
The story actually dates back to 2011, when it was widely reported on far-right websites, and has of course been wildly distorted. The journalist Ali Abunimah found the police report on which the story was based and had the most pertinent sections professionally translated. It actually shows that the vast majority of rapists in Oslo for that specific dataset were Norwegian citizens. And though assault rates were all committed by "foreigners", this comprises a specific category of which there were just six cases. In fact the report specifically cautions against drawing any link between ethnicity and sexual assault: "Crude generalisations that have given the impression that rapists are only foreigners – and primarily Muslims – are shown to be inadequate and erroneous".
AN ANTI-SEMITIC MESSAGE
The message of the video ratchets up the anti-refugee rhetoric to a whole new ideological level, making Britain First look comparatively PC. About nine minutes in, it quotes former BNP leader Nick Griffin saying that an "unholy alliance of leftists, capitalists and Zionist supremacists have schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation".
It ends with a quote from Barbara Lerner Spectre, the founding director of the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden, who says, "Europe is not going to be the monolithic societies they once were in the last century. Jews are going to be at the centre of that." She's talking about Jews playing a role in making Europe a more tolerant and diverse place. But taken out of its original context and spliced into an anti-refugee film, it implies that Jews are at the heart of a project to destroy Europe as we know it. This is an anti-Semitic trope claiming that immigration is part of a Zionist/Jewish plot to destroy the white race – something the far-right likes to call "white genocide".
These Nazi overtones are swimming among enough run-of-the-mill bigotry and dramatic footage that millions are happily sharing it. Many are probably unaware that they're sharing something Leni Reifenstahl would have been proud of, but I'm not sure that makes it any less sinister.