Many thanks to JLH for translating this piece from Die Achse des Guten:
Heiko Maas: From General Suspicion to General Intimidation
by Alexander Wendt
July 15, 2016
Recently, the Federal Criminal Police, with 25 other police authorities, conducted raids all across Germany against alleged originators of so-called Facebook hate-posts. Spiegel Online cheered that the action was “a warning shot, a kind of educational measure with augmented resources.” “Educational measure” is SED-speak of the murkiest type. The STASI Operation Vermin was an “educational measure” in 1952, under which more than 10,000 unreliable citizens were forcibly moved overnight from the border area into the interior. Another educational measure was making the inmates of the Youth Work Centers (for recalcitrant youth) do the “duckwalk.” Or the collective punishment of recruits in the NVA (national army). Or the displacement of the politically defiant into the deepest reaches of the province.
It was always about humiliating one group or another, in order to discipline a great collective. Or, in the language of a state that sees itself as the guardian and spokesperson of its citizens, educating them.
The fact that an editor of the assault weapon of post-democracy should make Honecker-like noises as formerly a commentator of the Neues Deutschland did, ought not be the subject here. And also not that the raids were directed only against right extremists and not against those who put the private addresses of AfD members on the Internet and call for “house visits,” or those who believe that the country would finally have some peace if the 2.000 delegates of the last AfD convention were simply killed, or those who use Indymedia to call for civil war in Berlin.
No, what this should about is that Minister of Justice Heiko Maas thinks scarcely any differently than the Spiegel Online assault weapon. “The resolute action of investigative authorities should motivate everyone to think before getting creative on Facebook,” said Maas after the police operation. And with that, he crosses a red line. Would a representative of the state seriously comment on the arrest of a shoplifter: “This should make everyone think who enters a supermarket in the future.” Or comment on one of the infrequent convictions for hate speech (paragraph 130 criminal code) by noting: “Everyone should take that to heart before opening his mouth.”
That kind of threat speech has long been the preserve of despotic regimes.
Maas, who has never had a problem expressing general suspicion of groups he doesn’t like (“disgrace for Germany”), has now moved to general intimidation. Of course, a search is not a criminal sentence, but it is a criminal procedural measure for finding suspected (incriminating and exculpatory) evidence. Naturally, those accused persons affected by searches must be presumed innocent until their conviction. In the adult justice system, only convictions are generally preventive. A search is by no means something that should make people who are not accused “think twice.” Until yesterday, even critics of the government would have expected to hear such threatening speech at most from the mouth of the Turkish or White Russian minister of justice. A minister of justice in a democracy, who speaks to his citizens in this way, must go. If necessary, by denying his party their votes at the next general election.
What Maas wants is apparent. He would like to use the few investigations of hate speech and other crimes committed in the Internet to expand his battle lines. The Amadeu Antonio Foundation, under the leadership of Anetta Kahane, who grew up in the GDR and who by virtue of Maas’s wish “advises” Facebook, is already anticipating this expansion. So Vera Lengsfeld’s page is closed (no basis given) because of a critical essay on Merkel. The ban was lifted (again with no comment) after numerous complaints. Or the leftist author Micky Beisherz was banned from Facebook for using the wrong trigger words.
Maas’s all-inclusive threat suggests that police and prosecutors’ offices have thus far only been pursuing a tiny part of the “hate” on the Internet, but could at any time, at his pleasure, spread out to those who do not heed his warning. Investigation numbers thus far show that actual infractions of the law by statements on the Internet are extremely rare. In North Rhine-Westphalia, between January and April 2016, a self-contained central investigatory group of police identified 192 presumed infractions, identifying 78 persons as under suspicion. Nothing is known of the number of convictions. In relation to the millions of Facebook posts in North Rhine-Westphalia alone, it becomes clear that actual infractions in the Internet are a very small percentage. Criticism — even malicious — is mostly not criminal. As to someone who ignores that and feels he must pull out the state truncheon to threaten all those “who get creative on Facebook” — discussion gets nowhere. Only removing him from an office for which he was never suited.
It is also a task for those journalists who know what a constitutional state is. It does not matter whether someone is left, middle or conservative. Herbert Prantl of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Jens Jessen of Die Zeit, Deniz Yücel of Die Welt: This means you.
|1.||SED = Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the single party in Soviet East Germany, resulting from the forced melding of the Socialist and Communist parties. After several transmogrifications following the 1989 peaceful revolution and consequent absorption of the GDR into the Federal Republic, it ended by being Die Linke (The Left).|
|2.||Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the SED.|
|3.||Once the official paper of the SED and still operating out of Berlin as a socialist newspaper connected to Die Linke.|
|4.||Global network of political activists and journalists.