Editors ́ Picks
Opinions are weapons. If you can shape and harness mass opinion, you can take aim and destroy. In discussions on freedom of speech, neutrality, rational debate and indeed Western classical philosophy, this context is often ignored.
We live in the age of social media. Never before have mass opinions been so visible and available as a resource for those in power. It has never before been so malleable. When we talk about free speech and neutrality, people often forget or ignore that those in favour of setting limits to free speech (as in making laws against hate speech), feel the force of angry mass opinion against them. And it’s only a few steps away from targeted opinion, to targeted violence.
Enter the Alternative For Deutschland party, Germany’s most popular and established (more than) far-right party. Sure they have elements within the party that are simply your ‘normal with conservative opinion’ types, but given the stances, attitude and rhetoric used by the party, it’s safe to say that the AfD stands for racism and the idea of an ethnically pure Teutonic Germany. The political representatives of this party (90 of whom now sit in the Bundestag, showing the party has significant political sway in Germany, and therefore also in Europe) exhibit the most miserable triad of political and emotional problems: self-pity, self-righteousness and an absence of self-reflection.
Self-pity à la AfD: the party’s constant criticism that no one is taking them seriously and that the media is not fair to them, despite occupying a vast chunk of the German media attention (and occupying the Bundestag with meaningless parliamentary inquiries and applications).
Self-righteousness à la AfD: Only they can understand the true Germany and everyone else suffers from a pathetic and diluted white guilt.
No self-reflection à la AfD: When considering Germany’s past, the AfD can ignore Nazi times, given they are simply a “bird-shit” of German history (Alexander Gauland’s actual description), and at the same time replicate Nazi language.
These three ideas are important when taking into account the AfD’s newest initiative, the “Neutrale Schulen Hamburg“. The party claims that teachers are breaking the neutrality code and making false and damaging claims about the party to their students. The portal allows students to anonymously denounce their teachers. The purpose is, according to the AfD, “to strengthen a democratic and free discourse”. The real purpose is of course to create a climate of fear. Any teacher being denounced will be publicly humiliated by the targeted mass opinion and hatred of AfD party members.
Christian Piwarz, the culture minister in the state of Saxony, said that the AfD was breeding a “despicable mindset of snoopery as was known from the times of the Nazi dictatorship or the Stasi [the East German secret police]”.
Once again, the plans demonstrate the three elements of self-pity, righteousness and absence of reflection as political weapons. The party and its members pity themselves, ‘even in schools we are denounced’. They are righteous, ‘we are saving Germany from itself via destroying ultra-left teachers’. And they lack self-reflection, you don’t ‘strengthen democracy’ by making people fearful of expressing themselves, nor by replicating Nazi and Stasi tactics.
This is a highly cynical initiative by the AfD and one which has garnered intense media attention here in Germany. Despite the name of creating neutral schools, the platform is clearly intended to neutralise criticism of the AfD and has been rejected by the Schools Authority in Germany. Furthermore, the attempt by the Hamburg AfD to intimidate party-critical teachers has also had the opposite effect as thousands of teachers and students from all over Germany used the contact form for anonymous messages to make fun of the AfD and to flood the portal with satirical contributions and historical facts.
The AfD talks about saving children from “political indoctrination”, yet it’s clear that must save ourselves from a dangerous party, which seeks to weaponise opinion.
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