Who are rising Czech political star Filip Turek’s fans?

Josef Šlerka (investigace.cz) 2024-06-27
Josef Šlerka (investigace.cz) 2024-06-27

Across Europe, people debated what to take from the European Parliament elections earlier this month. But  in the Czech Republic, there was one story – and surprise – that stood out: the success of the Oath and Motorists (Přísaha a Motoristé) alliance, which won 10.26 percent of the vote and 2 out of 21 seats. Toward the end of the election campaign in particular, the media’s spotlight was shining squarely on the alliance’s leader, Filip Turek. 

Turek is a 38-years old former racing driver-turned-influencer and political commentator who spreads disinformation, especially about liberal values and environmental protection, and touts misogynistic messages. He collects luxury cars, firearms and Nazi war memorabilia, and has also been photographed performing a Nazi salute in a car.

Sociologists agree on one thing: Turek owes his success primarily to social media, and particularly to his video content. But who are his fans? And are they really neo-Nazis and supporters of Putin as many suggest? Investigace.cz’s in-depth social media analysis shows that they are not.

Take 21-year-old Petr, who lives in a small village in southern Bohemia and works at a car repair shop in the nearby town. He has a car, a girlfriend, and is now open to having children. He likes straightforward communication and humor. TikTok is his go-to app on his phone, and he enjoys playing computer games in his free time. He dislikes hearing that something is complicated, whether it is about relationships or the world at large. To him, girls are girls and boys are boys, and anything else is nonsense. He believes what he can see. Politics doesn’t interest him much, except for what directly impacts his life. He enjoys watching hockey and MMA fights, and likes lifting weights at the gym. He believes that one’s position in society is mainly determined by their own efforts, so he continues to try to better himself.

While Petr may not be particularly interested in politics, he still voted in the European Parliament elections this year because he’s had enough, and he wouldn’t let anyone take away his car with an internal combustion engine. Without it, he would have to take the bus to work every morning, which would take almost an hour. So, Petr went to vote and gave his support to Filip Turek. 

“Petr” is, in fact, not a real voter. He’s a figure – the modal fan – created by investigace.cz based on our analysis of  the TikTok account @filipturekpresident, which has nearly 38,700 followers. Petr was created by looking at a sample of almost 750 accounts that follow Turek’s profile. Using so-called affinity analysis, investigace.cz then focused on what other interests these users have besides the mentioned politician. (The data is sorted according to affinity, and those interested can see the methodology at the end of the article.)

Our colleagues’ research shows that Turek’s followers are primarily young men from rural areas and small towns. Based on the data, Filip Turek’s fans prefer straightforward communication. This is reflected in their interests and their worldview. These young men often prefer simple and clear answers to complex questions and may be skeptical of complicated theories or concepts. This approach can manifest in their rejection of political correctness and preference for traditional values and social roles. It would be inaccurate to call them stupid or uneducated; rather, they are anti-intellectual. Their interests include cars, sports (especially hockey, MMA, and fitness), and computer games.

“In Filip Turek, we find a reference model for what a young man from a small town expects from himself. It’s essentially a similar model that Dan Bilzerian (American actor and influencer) succeeded with on the international stage in the past. For similar reasons, men from larger cities might be interested in Bitcoin or meme stocks,” said Jan Schmid, a marketing researcher from the agency PerfectCrowd, on data from the investigace.cz analysis. 

Tell me who you like, and I’ll tell you who you are

When we look more closely at Filip Turek’s fans’ other favorite accounts, we find several basic thematic groups. The first group consists of politicians and political commentators. Turek’s supporters mainly follow opposition politicians and other accounts actively commenting on politics. Among these are accounts of former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, far-right leader Tomio Okamura, and communist MEP Kateřina Konečná. In fact, data from sociological research confirm that Filip Turek has attracted some voters from ANO and Tomio Okamura in the recent European Parliament elections. However, it’s worth noting that, as shown by a previous investigace.cz analysis, Czech TikTok is mainly dominated by opposition politicians.

The second type of popular TikTok account among Turek’s fans includes traditional and non-traditional influencers, such as well-known YouTuber and influencer Martin Mikyska who uses the pseudonym “Mikýř” (213,000 TikTok followers) or streamer and YouTuber FattyPillow (187,000 TikTok followers). FattyPillow, known for his colorful commentary while playing computer games, is among the most commercially successful YouTubers. Other notable accounts include Twitch streamer and musician Viktor Sheen (136,000 TikTok followers) and Marcus Revolta (181,000 TikTok followers), also known for being a member of the Church of Scientology. We consider both Mikýř and Marcus Revolta in the same group, even though Mikýř authored a series which covered the dubious practices of the Church of Scientology.

Screenshot from František Hrom’s account. Source: investigace.cz

Additionally, we find other figures such as Filip Ondrášek (165,000 TikTok followers), known as pruyem (which is to say that he is posting under the name “diarrhea”), who publishes humorous sketches from construction sites with the hashtag #stavbyvedouci (meaning “construction site manager”). There’s also František Hrom (223,000 TikTok followers), an account owned by Lukáš Duchek, the proprietor of two cafes in Domažlice, a small Czech town on the German border. The account shares the story of a fictional character called František Hrom, who is described by Duchek as: “a Czech farmer, a village redneck, embodying all the rural men in one, with all their habits, manners, and speech. He’s a self-reliant type who does everything himself. That’s probably why he caught on because he’s a character that the whole of the Czech Republic understands.”

The account ondrejmlcak (209,000 TikTok followers) can be considered to belong to to another type of group of TikTok accounts supporting Turek. Signed as Ondrej Blonďák  (“Blondie”) Mlcak, his description reads: “Humor is essential 😂/Sorry for living./Car mechanic/Style is everything!!” His content features videos with straightforward humor and advice to men about women, filmed in his workshop.

Screenshot from the content list of Ondrej Blonďák Mlcak. Source: investigace.cz

This leads us to accounts related to specific hobbies, particularly cars. It’s no surprise that fans of Filip Turek, who ran for the European elections for the Motorists party, enjoy TikTok accounts associated with cars. These include accounts of professional car customizer do3ry (31,000 TikTok followers) talking about car tuning, and David Škarda (64,000 TikTok followers), who reviews and discusses cars. There are many such accounts in this group.

Another group consists of sports accounts, especially those focused on hockey and MMA. Here we find the official account of the Czech Ice Hockey Association (100,000 TikTok followers) and MMA fighter Filip Grznar (103,000 TikTok followers). This group also includes accounts like powerlifter Jan Krasinský (192,000 TikTok followers), who posts strength training content.

Screenshot from Anabolic Horse account. Source: investigace.cz

The last prominent group is travel, featuring accounts such as Letenky od Kuby (“Plane Tickets from Jakub” – 66,000 TikTok followers) with tips on cheap flights worldwide and Turista Sváťa (“Sváťa the Tourist” – 64,000 TikTok followers), who shares videos from his travels around the world.

Investigace.cz analysis, of course, is not exhaustive. We could also mention that a significant portion of Turek’s fans follow the account Ostravsky gastrošef (“Gastro Chef from Ostrav” – 161,000 TikTok followers), which shares recipes for men: Kung Pao becomes “Kundpao,” a play on a crude Czech word for vagina, and his sushi replaces raw fish with cheese, salami, and pickles. However, the overall list of all cited accounts gives us a fairly detailed picture of the interests of new European Parliament member Filip Turek’s supporters.

Screenshot from Ostrava gastro chef’s recipe. Source: investigace.cz

While it’s important and interesting to see what content Turek’s fans follow, it’s equally interesting to note which accounts are absent from this group. Firstly, we find virtually no neo-Nazi, anti-system, or overtly pro-Russian accounts. Although Filip Turek was associated with neo-Nazism during and after his campaign, his fans aren’t following neo-Nazi accounts, at least based on the sample investigace.cz analyzed.

“There is virtually nothing among these accounts that openly or strongly comments on explicitly political topics,” sociologist Marie Heřmanová said of the data. “Partly, this is due to the nature of communication on TikTok, which focuses more on ‘vibes’ and the presentation of a certain lifestyle, specific persona, or corresponding sense of humor. It’s also connected to how we perceive politics in general – recent research shows that lifestyle topics (like cars or bikes) play an increasingly significant role in voters’ decisions rather than traditional political topics like taxes or pension reform,” Heřmanová added.

Moreover, for all that we find among Turek’s supporters, one group is conspicuously and almost entirely absent: women. Excluding the accounts of Kateřina Konečná and Babiš’s ally (former minister of finance) Alena Schillerová, the world of his fans exists practically without women. More precisely, various popular influencers discuss relationships with women, but women themselves do not speak to Turek’s supporters on these accounts. According to Marie Heřmanová, this isn’t entirely surprising. “There are more female influencers (so far) – young female voters have plenty of role models among influencers and celebrities, and women’s rights are a heavily discussed topic on social media,” said the sociologist. She believes that Turek filled an unoccupied niche: a male role models focused on cars or sports, where male identity as such isn’t addressed. “This is clearly visible with Filip Turek, where these topics prevail. He managed to fill this unoccupied space, connect these interests into a coherent persona, and offer something extra,” Heřmanová concludes.

Cover illustration: Midjourney, prompt by Josef Šlerka

Methodology for Calculating Affinity [EXPAND]

For the analysis of Filip Turek’s followers, we selected 750 random followers who follow between 20 and 800 other accounts. Using the Research API, we identified these accounts. We focused on accounts followed by at least 5 percent of these 750 followers. To exclude generally popular accounts (such as those of celebrities and influencers), we calculated an affinity score. For example, Tomio Okamura’s account is followed by about 65,700 people on Czech TikTok, which is approximately 2.6 percent of the 2.5 million Czech TikTok users. In our sample, however, 15 percent of Filip Turek’s followers follow Okamura’s account. Therefore, the affinity score is 15/2.6, which is approximately 6. This means that Tomio Okamura’s account is almost six times more popular among Filip Turek’s fans than it would be in a random sample.

The original, Czech version of this article was published on investigace.cz

Josef Šlerka

Josef Šlerka has worked as a data analyst and reporter at Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism since 2021. He used to head the Czech Fund for Independent Journalism (NFNZ). He is also the head of the Department of New Media Studies at Charles University in Prague.