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March 23, 2023

Victor Ponta on HotNews incident: Hatred begets hatred and intolerance begets intolerance

A callous message directed against Premier Victor Ponta was posted on the Facebook account of the HotNews news website on Wednesday. The Facebook page’s administrator, who had posted the message, was fired and the website’s representatives apologised to the ex-Premier and to their readers.

One of the administrators of the HotNews website shared on Wednesday, on the website’s official Facebook page, a news article dealing with the way Victor Ponta lampooned Dacian Ciolos after the latter explained the origin of his middle name (Julien). The posting was accompanied by the comment: “I hope you croak, Victor Ponta!”

On Thursday, ex-Premier Victor Ponta commented on the incident that took place on Wednesday when a HotNews employee was fired for posting an aggressive message directed against the ex-Premier. Victor Ponta said a spiral of violence has been created online, one which he does not support and does not encourage.

“I haven’t commented on the HotNews Facebook posting incident but what followed afterward deserves to be understood because it defines the way life in Romania will look like in the following years! Hatred consumes us all, without exception, and the monster of intolerance is bigger than we like to think!

  1. Pantazi (HotNews’s editor-in-chief) called me and apologised on behalf of the editorial office. I considered it a gesture of normality (extremely rare in our country). I immediately told him that I understand the situation and the topic is closed in my view. I wasn’t the one who called HotNews, I wasn’t the one asking for some sanctions to be adopted, nor did I think I should react differently.
  2. I am already extremely used to (and vaccinated against) all kinds of personal attacks levied against me and my family. Since 2005, a spiral of aggressiveness and hatred has been gradually but implacably built, one we are no longer able to stop. Hatred begets hatred and intolerance begets intolerance. Obviously, its “author” and first beneficiary was Traian Basescu – and obviously, after 2012 he himself became the victim of the monster he built. But many others followed and are following Basescu, and now this is a generalised phenomenon.
  3. I won’t respond to the attacks carried out by journalists for the simple reason that it is not my business to control what they do. I’m fighting politicians who are my opponents, not journalists. Based on this principle, I never sued a journalist. I have no enemies among journalists and I have known so many of them to understand that crossing the line between politics and the press is usually a mistake.
  4. I’m sorry for anyone who loses their job. And I can sympathise, especially since, although twice his age, I often passionately write on my Facebook account things that can be considered offensive or out of line, things I subsequently regret. That journalist was probably censured because he used the account of a press agency for a far too personal posting, but I’m not in the position to judge this.
  5. For a young person, the dividing line between sarcasm, disagreement, criticism (on one hand) and fiery hatred (on the other hand) is very difficult to find – as a parent I know that it is my fault if I see excessive behaviour in my children and that it all has to do with the manner in which you educate emotional control and the capacity to tolerate something you disagree with! Hard work.

The important thing however is to look at the “online” reactions to a gesture of normality done by Cristian Pantazi (otherwise for years a fierce critic toward PSD and myself) or to an opinion expressed by Catalin Tolontan – another journalist who was never among my supporters!

The waves of hatred, swearing and libel rapidly turned toward them. Obviously, they have “sold out” to Ponta and PSD. Obviously, I deserve “to croak” and so the person who came up with this should be encouraged. Obviously, Ponta, PSD and all those who vote for them – being evil – should die or, in the best of cases, go to jail (regardless of how and for what reason). And Pantazi and Tolontan and any other person who considers that there is a limit that should not be crossed should either rapidly change their opinion or also “croak” in jail!

I have just three questions:

  1. How many politicians and journalists will still have the courage to express moderate points of view (absolutely normal and necessary in the U.S. or Western Europe) knowing they would be immediately subjected to “online” lynching of the proportions reached by the one Mr. Pantazi and Mr. Tolontan were subjected to yesterday?
  2. What did the young journalist understand from yesterday’s episode? That he erred crossing a fine but essential line in journalism? Or that he is in fact the representative of a new movement the likes of the “Cultural Revolution,” which has only enemies and certainties and no doubts? Had the filing deadline not expired, would I have seen him as a candidate on PNL’s or USR’s lists?
  3. What will PSD’s members and voters (who, whether we like it or not, number in the millions, over 40 percent of this country’s population) understand? That while in 2014 they were all “unread, stupid and anti-reformists,” in 2016 they have become “lawbreakers and corrupt” and in 2018 they should really “croak” because that’s what people from the “online” world believe?!?! And what will be their reaction to this feeling?!? I can foresee it and it frightens me just like the intolerance of the others does!

If you answer these questions rationally and correctly, you will become just as worried as I am! And if we become worried then maybe we will also start looking for solutions – although it is probably already too late!” Victor Ponta wrote on his Facebook account.

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