The tone in communication becomes rougher. Fuelled by so-called social media, personal communication is also changing, becoming more aggressive and less tolerant both in face-to-face interaction and in messaging in social media. As digital platforms expand their reach ever further, they tighten their grip on the information we circulate and are exposed to. Fake news is thriving in this new media environment – presenting a threat to our democratic societies and providing a ground for a surge in openly hateful racist and xenophobic comments either in social media or in verbal encounters between citizens.
Such comments are an attack on the rights of different ethnic, religious and/or national groups, in clear violation of the principles of equal human dignity and respect for the racial and cultural differences among human groups. Hate words and hate crime are directly connected. Hate speech can also negatively influence matters as large as transnational migration and regional security and be seen as a precursor for further steps into radicalisation.
New skills and competences against hate speech for European citizens
Citizens need therefore new skills and competences to be better prepared to deal with this phenomenon. This is especially true for all those who are working in public positions. Many of them are unprepared to the changes in the way in which our democracy is endangered and which aspects of aggressive communication pose a threat. Arguments Against Aggression project raises their awareness and provides them with tools that help them to cope with hate speech and aggression and handle respective situations.
Against aggressive, racist or xenophobic messages
The general objective of Arguments Against Aggression project is to equip citizens with communication and argumentation skills that they can use in social media sites or real-life interactions whenever they are confronted with aggressive, racist or xenophobic messages, inequalities and gender violence. In this way, they will be able to transform unproductive shouting matches or passive-aggressive avoidance into actually productive conversations that should end with participants having a clearer understanding of each other’s views, and build skills and motivation to take action against injustice.
The specific objectives of Arguments Against Aggression
- to develop a catalogue of the most common prejudices and possible answers and communication strategies that can increase the effectiveness of the arguments;
- to compile user-oriented guide and training resources containing argumentation tools and strategies against various kinds of prejudice: refugees and migrants, political extremism, sexual orientation;
- to give immediate access to answer and communication strategies through development of mobile applications for smart phones.
Who is targeted by Arguments Against Aggression?
The primary target groups are adults who are working in public positions, e.g. civil servants who have contact with citizens, teachers, youth workers, persons in cultural institutions, or people working in public media.
The secondary target group are people working in refugee and migrant organisations, in the civil right movement or in organisations against racism or similar fields. These stakeholders are the key actors in education and civil rights.
Arguments Against Aggression project provides these target groups with information and training materials and best practice about effective tools and methods, in order to help them to cope with hate speech and in handling respective situations. They will be able to acquire skills and knowledge to apply interventions in a preventive stage, and to focus on self-esteem, empathy towards out-groups and managing negative emotions. In the end, this approach will reduce racism and xenophobia and combat the spread of hate speech and aggressive communication in social media.