Ideological preoccupation

In the face of the Berlin attack, some media commentators in Germany try to maintain a politically correct worldview and disqualify those who disagree with it.

December 24, 2016 21:30
4 minute read.
GERMANS WITH signs of love after the Christmas market terrorist attack in Berlin.

GERMANS WITH signs of love after the Christmas market terrorist attack in Berlin.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Typically, ideological preoccupations produce prejudices impermeable by reality. Regardless of what is happening, many people continue to see the world as they want to see it, rather than looking at the facts as they are. Even a dreadful terror attack like Monday’s in Berlin, which left 12 people dead and dozens injured, doesn’t open the eyes of some German media commentators who, apparently, prefer to continue to live in a politically correct dream world rather than facing reality.

When I tuned into the German Radio station WDR2, a commentator spoke with a tone of moral indignation, lecturing about the difference of good people and bad people. Yet, a major part of this indignation wasn’t reserved for the alleged Islamic State terrorist who killed 12 people but for the chairperson of Germany’s CSU (Christian Social Union) party, Horst Seehofer, who had dared to say that the attack of Berlin requires a readjustment of security and migration policy.

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WDR2 commentator Anna Engelke interpreted this rather obvious and trivial statement by Seehofer as an expression of moral corruptness, expressing her hopes that “there may be politicians who have a more noble side than the one exposed by Seehofer.” The problem is not that Engelke disagrees with Seehofer, but that she condemns his – maybe disagreeable but certainly legitimate and probably even necessary – consideration as unacceptable and illegitimate. This expresses precisely the dogmatic-totalitarian attitude with which people on the political Left, taking the moral high grounds, try to disqualify any kind of view and political opinion that doesn’t conform with their worldview. And it is this attitude that, among others, drives people to support people like Trump, Le Pen and, in Germany, the right-wing AfD (Alternative for Germany) party.

If a commentator of a publicly funded major German media outlet presents it as a crime to only consider an adjustment of security and migration policy after what happened in Berlin on Monday, then we shouldn’t be surprised when people who identify with right-wing movements like PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) venture out to the streets to condemn the media as “Lügenpresse” (lying press).

Attempts to disqualify critical attitudes about certain elements of migration policy and other topics, as expressed in the WDR2 commentary, give right-wing parties like the AfD the monopoly to deal with such matters and the opportunity to usurp them for their right-wing ends. Often presented as a lesson learned from Nazi dictatorship, the disqualification of certain ideas that are rendered by some wise guys as preliminary racism, carries in it some of the same authoritarian totalitarian attitude that it pretends to oppose.

People are required to blindly submit to the dogmata of left-wing political correctness, rather than to think freely and open about the problem. Right totalitarianism gives ways to Left totalitarianism from which people escape back to the right-wing views of the AfD party.

Swinging from one extreme of ideological preoccupation to the other, German discourse on matters like migration, cultural conflicts, terrorism and security, never seems to arrive at a perspective of intellectual soberness. Consistent with this pattern of ideologically prejudiced thinking and moral disqualification of people who have a different point of view, a commentary in Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung condemns Klaus Boullion, minister of the interior of the German state of Saarland for having said after the Berlin attack that: “we have to acknowledge that we are in a state of war.”

Describing Boullion’s statement as an example for how incidents like the Berlin attack “bring out the bad in people,” the editorial by Kurt Kistner argues that talk of war would be inappropriate as the Berlin terrorist would turn out to be a narcissistic, lone perpetrator, belonging to some insignificant splinter group, rather than expressing the ideological ambitions or political goals of a wider movement.

One can barely imagine how a point of view could be any further from reality. Kistner’s assessment reflects complete ignorance regarding the reality of global Islamist terrorism which expresses a prolonged, orchestrated and often state-sponsored form of asymmetric guerilla warfare based on a far-reaching ideology and directed by clearly stated political goals that pertain to the eradication of Western culture and Western forms of political order. Libraries are full of books by historians, political scientists, scholars of Islam, Middle eastern studies and many other disciplines who explain the reasons behind and the objectives of Islamist terrorism.

But Kistner’s commentary is not merely uninformed.

It represents a totalitarian ambition to impose a dogmatic and prejudiced worldview by disqualifying those who see things different as morally inferior. If people like Kistner and Engelke continue like that, we shouldn’t be surprised if the next Donald Trump is elected in Germany.

The author, a German-Israeli social scientist and journalist, holds an MA in sociology and is a PhD candidate at Hebrew University.

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