The foreigner vs. us

Formation of us and them groups through clickbait

A brutal fight broke out in a tram in Brno. A man beat a foreigner until blood was shed, other passengers looked on

A fierce battle broke out in a tram in Brno, where two men started to fight in front of the eyes of other passengers. A twenty three year old Brno native started fighting with a year older foreigner during a tram ride with the foreigner ending up covered in blood on the floor of the vehicle. The winner of the fight was subsequently chased down by the city police.

Astute passengers already suspected a problem when the two men got on on the tram line number 3 from the stop Stará Osada. The moment the tram started moving, a big argument broke out. Shouting and obscenities stopped being enough for both nervous travelers as soon as the train reached the Žabovřesky district.

The first to strike was the man from Brno who punched the foreigner square in the face. The tram driver tried to extinguish the dispute by shouting at them to stop, the younger man attacked the foreigner in a scathing way. He kicked and punched and left the man lying on the ground covered in blood, then got out. Since none of the four dozen passengers intervened, the city police came to the case. „The officers in the tram, whose floor was heavily stained with blood, thoroughly examined the attacked man and called an ambulance for him. A patrol unit of the city police was looking for the suspect in the area and thanks to a good description from the driver, they found him in Stránského street in a few minutes,“ said Jakub Ghanem, spokesman for the Brno Municipal Police. The perpetrator, who emerged victorious from the entire conflict, is now in trouble. „The officers handed him over as a reasonable suspect of a crime. After careful treatment, the rescuers took the second man to the hospital for surgery,“ concluded Ghanem.

SOURCE: Šťastný, Michal. “V Brněnské Šalině Se Strhla Brutální Bitka. Muž Do Krve Zkopal Cizince, Cestující Přihlíželi.” Brněnská Drbna – Zprávy z Brna a Jihomoravského Kraje, Brněnská Drbna, 10 Feb. 2023,


Us and them rhetoric

In-group and out-group concept is used to describe the fundamental distinction penetrating much of today’s discourse: a person identifies as a member of a group, which gets its identity from negating the other. The out-group is full of non-members, people who the members don’t identify with[1] . I argue that by highlighting the otherness of crime victims, crime related media is implicitly building an “us and them” mentality which is a slippery slope leading to a “us vs. them“ mentality. In our case, the difference is small: they’re not a victim of a crime, they’re a foreigner that was attacked. Such small differences can easily add up over time and with enough repetition amount to very real consequences, such is the case of the Roma[2] in the Czech republic.

According to the Journalist ethical codex valid in the Czech republic[3] , they “cannot make or cover topics which would inspire the discrimination of race, color of skin, religion, gender or sexual orientation”. Notably nationality is missing, which leads me to think that maybe it’s time to consider adding it to the list to have a tool to combat harmful nationalistic tendencies and the formation of in and out groups.

The industry practice of trying to singularise every crime case by including identifiers such as age, nationality, ethnicity, region or even “digging up dirt” to make a case more interesting does not seem sustainable. The official Czech Police statistics include a number for crimes committed by non-Czech citizens, which remains important information for example for migration research. However, one can wonder if sensationalizing crime is a good use of the media space, and if including these small identifiers leads to more polarization and prejudice.

Ambiguity, clickbait and ragebait

Clickbait refers to the use of a sensationalist headline to capture the reader’s attention and make them click a link to an article, image or video[4]. The public’s obsession with true crime is well established[5] so putting “brutal fight” as the first words of an article title most probably wasn’t a coincidence. The article also performed well, staying on top of the “most read articles” section for over a week. Focusing on the fact that the victim was a foreigner in the title can be seen as a tactic to capture attention and clickbait – the curious reader will read the article to find out the nationality of the victim. Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, most comments already assumed that the victim was Ukrainian.

The journalists didn’t respond to my inquiry asking if they knew the nationality of the victim or not, in the official statistics of the Czech Police there is only a bracket for crime committed by foreigners without further specifications[6]. It is not clear under what circumstances the news are allowed and know the country of origin of people who committed crime on Czech soil – there are cases in which the news openly shared the nationality of a perpetrator[7], but there is no further information about victims.

The comment section

In the ethical codex, The Gossip declares not to tolerate racism, xenophobia and “bad manners” on the platform, mentioning a three strike and you’re out system (which there are no other mentions of anywhere throughout the site) and asserting trust in the reader to be able to argue logically, not to stoop down to insults[8].

The comment section is mostly filled with comments that already suppose that the victim was Ukrainian, degrading and relativizing the crime as it happened to “just an Ukrainian” – as if only a certain group of people has the right to be safe in public transportation. The aforementioned Journalist ethical codex valid in the Czech republic talks of the responsibility of the media outlet’s responsibility to prevent the viewing of hate comments, comments that endanger the safety or physical integrity of individuals or which can cause violation of basic human rights. Every website sets their bar for deleting/preventing the viewing of comments deemed as undesirable, but it seems that The Gossip mostly focuses on moderating the discussion by deleting spam and ads. Virtually unmoderated comments of your local gossip website might be taken more seriously when viewed in the broader lens of contributing to polarization and xenophobia.

about the source:

The medium is a local news site focused on the city of Brno and by extension the South Moravian region of the Czech republic. The main target audience are people living in Brno and the region, the scope of the news limited accordingly. The name can be loosely translated as “Gossip of Brno”, but the literal translation would be the female gossiper of Brno. The code of ethics of Drbna covers the same information as their parent company Trima news, but it’s rewritten in completely different language: familiar, easy to understand, assumes a good relationship with the audiences, being written from a point of view of “just a simple girl”. The site mainly makes money off of advertising, so they don’t stray away from publishing sensationalized stories about local crime. Admittedly the site never tries to say they’re a serious source of news, but presents itself as your neighborhood source of gossip based on current events.


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