The following op-ed about the retreat of critical discussion under the intensifying pressure of political correctness was published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:
Thought Control Instead of Debate
Have the Germans Forgotten How to Argue?
By Cora Stephan
August 19, 2017
The country is the middle of the biggest crisis of the post-war era, yet the stillness of a graveyard lies over the land. Anyone who calls the problems by their names is quickly sent to stand in the right(ist) corner.
Oh, it just looks that way from outside. Just because Ralph Giordano and Günter Grass are no longer able to comment on the times, that doesn’t mean “the intellectuals” are remaining silent. They express themselves mostly elsewhere than in the traditional media, i.e., in blogs such as Achse des Guten or Tichys Einblick. At least Maxim Biller (in the Zeit) and Wolfgang Streeck (in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) have raised their voices — one of them is not a leftist and the other is no dummy. Both of them complain that moralizing and banning have taken the place of weighing the options.
The crisis resulting from mass immigration casts doubt on everything that has seemed dependable in recent decades. The Schengen Agreement on which freedom to travel within the EU is founded? Whittled down, like not a few other rules and treaties. Sovereignty, in the sense that a state should be able to determine who belongs to it? Problem resolved. To this day, no one knows who came for what reason and where he is now. Yes, “he”: Because it is mostly not women, and children who need teddy bears and toys, but young men. And often it isn’t Syrians or people with qualifications that would be passable in an industrial country like Germany. To say nothing of cultural differences — not just in terms of how they relate to violence and to women, but also to a work ethic and the rule of law. Meanwhile, realistic estimates suggest that taking care of the immigrants in the coming decades could cost billions of euros. Always assuming that those who have come will stay, even though only temporary asylum and protection are offered.
Relegated to the Rightist Corner
At any rate, we could talk about open borders attracting people who see Islam as an invitation to terrorism. Couldn’t that have been foreseen? Of course. But the people who — in the autumn of their euphoria — dared to pour water into the wine, may not now expect to be honored in retrospect for their vision. From the beginning, critical voices were relegated to that place in Germany that is escape-proof: the rightist fringe.
A recent study by the Hamburg Media School, which evaluated 34,000 press reports on refugee policy in the years 2009-2015, concluded that 82% were positive and only 6% found refugee policy problematic. The leading media ignored the fact that accepting immigrants “in great numbers, as well as the policy of open borders, would create new problems for society.” As Wolfgang Streeck says, they acted “as cheerleaders for a wave of charitable enthusiasm.”
Why? Did, as Maxim Biller thinks, a collective of 68ers and their ‘70s successors vent their “totalitarian, undemocratic idealism” here? Anyone who remembers the 1970s and the time of the communist cults in Germany is acquainted with that ruthlessly prosecuted battle against any deviation from the correct line. Highest priority: Never inspire “the approval of the wrong side.” That is doubly true today. Anyone who says anything that might please the AfD is a class enemy, no matter how pertinent his argument may be. The primary solution here is said to be the “fight against the right” — a rather vague objective which, at any rate, includes white, German men and women. That people from Arab areas tend to have a fanatical hatred for Jews is downplayed as a “cultural idiosyncrasy.” The preference of German leftists for “Palestinians” and their resentment of “Zionism” has, after all, some tradition behind it.
The “battle against the Right” bears strange fruit. One of the glitziest is the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, financed by, among others, the Family Ministry. Government money and government approval support moves against everything that has gone before and is not in line. “Reporting” [to the authorities] is the citizen’s highest duty. Reading the unsavory brochure affords the astonishing revelation that even a conversation among women about children and sexuality can be a rightist recruitment attempt.
Even the use of certain terms or phrases such as “economic refugee” or speaking of “ we and they” exposes your conversational opposite number as “rightist” and demands “reporting.” An absolutely unmistakable hallmark of rightist thinking is satire. In this, the foundation is right in step with the government. The Ministry of the Interior is assisting on Twitter: “We are speaking out against hate speech, whether criminal or not. Everyone has the right to voice an opinion, but objectively and without aggression.” Satirists, put away your pens! The arm of the people’s pedagogues is long. Down with Karl Kraus!
The fight against the Right has, for a long time, not been restricted to those familiar bull-necked neo-Nazis in their jackboots who are suspected to be in the German provinces — especially Saxony, which is notoriously under “general suspicion.” Not enough there. Except for propagandistic offenses, like swastika graffiti and such, rightist extremism in Germany is no more noticeable and violent than leftist extremism. Which, however, many people think is just great and say “Thank you, dear Antifa” when autonomous violence against the “rightists” strikes. “If it weren’t for the Antifa, there would be many more Nazis in my life.”
All of that — “exposing,” “convicting,” “apprehending” — does not exactly facilitate the free exchange of opinions. Where does that come from? What will it lead to?
I’m still vacillating between the available conspiracy theories. One seems to me to make sense. In Germany, the charge of being rightist or radical rightist leads to social exclusion. So it is always a good idea to denounce your opponent, e.g., the AfD, as rightist or radical rightist (in this case, the party cooperates). Both former parties of the people, CDU and SPD, are right to fear this new competition. As concerns Die Linke (the Left), as Maxim Biller so caustically remarks: Their legalistic milieu may see the “refugee” as a substitute for the long absconded proletariat. Or better expressed: For that underclass that politicians like to call the rabble or the mob. It is no longer a privilege to speak publicly. Anyone can mouth off on the net — even the intellectually challenged.
Following the money is also interesting. The flow of immigrants is a true blessing for the aid and relief industry — one of the country’s growth areas. Immigrants create employment opportunities for social workers, interpreters, language teachers, caregivers, psychologists and security personnel. Just the care of unaccompanied minors — 42,000 last year — in small groups or homes costs between 40,000 and 60,000 euros per capita annually. The Munich social consultant Brigitte Meier (SPD) estimates that 40% or so are not even minors. The attraction of the generous offers of the welfare state.
No one who acts meritoriously shall be vilified. But it would be underestimating the vision of the powers-that-be to think that they do not count on the loyalty of all those who owe their jobs to the state.
Taxes and Debts
And who is to pay for that? Tax receipts are bubbling up, is the saying, as if the money flowed from a spring. But it is coming from those who have work and pay taxes. So the taxpayers must be invited to pay again, because in times of cheap credit, acquiring debt is attractive. But this bucket will only go to the well so many times before springing a leak. Growth on credit causes social dissatisfaction.
In the big picture, all of that expands into an overload that affects the texture of the community. Why doesn’t the simplest approach succeed: “Consideration and discussion and then do something — a little bit wrong and a little bit right”? [Maxim Biller]
This has to do with more than just Germany. So we should “in the interests of neighborliness, work on a lasting expansion of the spectrum of subjects and possibilities of debate, and with pronounced disdain for the thought prohibitions imposed by the appointed distributors of pious PC thinking, and for the defamation they employ in their own defense. Europe is worth the risk we take in doing this.” [Wolfgang Streeck — once a leftist, he has nonetheless not stopped thinking.] Praise be — not all the intellectuals are silent.
Photo [not shown]: Anyone nowadays who does not silently bend over coming problems, but speaks publicly, risks acclamation from the wrong quarters.
|1.||68ers — Authors of the leftist “march through the institutions” — cf. the Frankfurt School.|
|2.||Karl Kraus (April 28, 1874 — June 12, 1936) Austrian writer and journalist, known as a satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright and poet. He directed his satire at the press, German culture, and German and Austrian politics.
It is also worth noting that some of the funniest and sharpest satire of the established order occurred in East German cabarets. Comrade Merkel learned her lesson.