On 9 December 2016, the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (German language association) has declared the word “post-factual” (postfaktisch) the Word of the Year. The justification explained that discussions in politics and society were increasingly centred on emotions instead of facts. In their rejection towards “those at the top”, bigger and bigger tiers of society were willing to ignore facts and even to accept obvious lies. This was why the word was reflecting a profound political change.
In its choice and its justification, the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache has given a clear indication for the targeted polarisation in current Germany, that is, the attempt by “those at the top” to marginalize their critics and to represent themselves like their thinking and acting was oriented towards “facts” and on “reality” and thus rational. In contrast their critics were “emotional”, in the sense of irrational, “ignoring facts” and even “accepting lies”.
Obviously the idea is to “disempower” the citizens. And, if we add the fact that the word “Brexit” was ranked second because the result of the referendum had been a “triumph of post-factual politics”, the goal of this word choice becomes more than clear. Lacking was only a third rank for the word “populist”. After all, for “those at the top”, the populists are those who seduce the dumb people to “post-factualism”, such that we now have referenda being deeply disliked by “those at the top”.
Precisely the circles who are favouring a “dictatorship of relativism” (Pope Benedict XVI) now intend to silence criticism of their positions and the mainstream media with the word “post-factual”, bringing to bear unproven conspiracy theories and all their means of power against the freedom of expression.
Another aspect is what could be read on the internet page www.nachdenkseiten.de (12 December 2016), in reference to the lies of our politicians and the mainstream media connected with them: “Fake news can be extremely dangerous and are responsible for millions of casualties. Particularly dangerous, however, have turned out to be the ‘Fake news’ being spread not only through social media but also over classical media.” The text lists three examples of many: The lie that in 1990 Iraqi soldiers had grabbed babies from incubators in Kuwait, the lie of a “horseshoe plan” during the NATO war against Yugoslavia; US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s lies on 5 February 2003 in the United Nations Security Council regarding alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Grotesque is the correct wording for all this. The irony is striking when one grabs the essence of all this. Yes, these processes need to be characterized clearly. But then it is not possible to unsettle people and to make them doubt what they see – and this exactly is the goal of the campaign: “‘We at the top’ are doing things quite well, don’t get deceived by the ‘populists’, better follow us.” … And we will use our means of power against all those who don’t.
But what are the facts about “those at the top” in Germany?
There should not be any “those at the top”. Not according to law, because according to its constitution, Germany is a democratic state. All power comes from the people and all citizens have equal rights. The French Revolution has abolished all privileges of the first and the second estate and the “Grundgesetz” (Basic Law) of 1949 has confirmed this for the Federal Republic of Germany. Those in public offices or elected representatives are bound to law, servants to the people. This is the literal translation of the word “minister”, holding their office only temporarily – the time period being determined by the people.
Then there are citizens who have much more money than others, who are “prominent”, who are setting the tone in the media etc. etc. But also these people are under nearly the same rules as the politicians holding public offices. The only exception is that they are legally not bound to the will of the people. But even regarding property, Article 14 of the “Grundgesetz” stipulates that “its usage […] should also serve the general well-being”.
It can be demonstrated for the current Germany that this small group is personally well linked, is meeting frequently, at festivities or rounds of talks – also internationally – where decisions, including those regarding political and economic questions, are discussed and decided beforehand.
We have become used to this “fact” – unfortunately, because a structure of power and decisions emerged acting outside the law, outside division of powers and control of powers and outside the constitutional framework … unconstitutional. And if more and more citizens are under the impression that those they have elected are more and more often committed to other ideas and other interests than those of the voters, then this is not an “emotion” but a “fact”. But digesting unpleasant facts may justifiably lead to emotions – we are but humans, after all.
How can we explain that central political decisions like the introduction of the Euro, the accumulation of power in the EU institutions, Bundeswehr missions abroad, or the chancellor’s migration politics have been made against a majority of the citizens and that even these decisions excluding the people have been whitewashed as “leadership” – ignoring the fact that Germany has had a “leader” before?
Can the interests and goals of the circles, to which many of “the high and mighty” are committed more than to those of the majority of the people, be characterized in detail? We can investigate the decisions and try to find out who was benefiting and who not. And we can try to associate the decisions with ideologies.
One example: After World War II, Herbert Marcuse, probably the most radical representative of the Freudo-Marxist “Frankfurter Schule” had postulated that under the circumstances of his time it would be next to impossible to activate the classical working class as revolutionary subject. The working class was too strongly manipulated by the authoritarian, anti-pleasure institution of family, by school and media and corrupted by consumption. But with openly “underprivileged” and “suppressed” fringe groups like women, non-heterosexual persons, drug “consumers”, foreigners and so on there was a difference. These were able to unfold their revolutionary potential. Later, parts of the “left” were following the strategy of “emancipation” of fringe groups, hoping for radical changes in society by the emancipation processes. Today, in 2016, this ideology can look back on many successes, from the EU’s “human rights” ideas to the Federal Chancellery.
A second example: Globalization and free trade. The German politics and the German industry striving for economic hegemony are doing all to achieve an ever bigger export surplus, to recruit “specialists” from all over the world and to globally implement the four freedoms of the EU domestic market: free trade with goods and services, free movement of capital, free movement of persons. One is proud to be “export world champion”, takes a stand for TTIP and CETA and urges to convert Germany more and more into an “immigration country”. The problems connected with this politics are not discussed. For example the effect of the enticement of specialists for their countries: these people would be needed for economic (re-)advancement of their countries. Or that a permanent export surplus means, for other countries, to be forced to live with trade deficits. The stability law of 1967, still effective, has set the goals of price stability, high employment, steady and appropriate economic growth and foreign economic equilibrium (magic square) for German politics. Article 109 of the “Grundgesetz” even constitutionally binds the budget economy of states and federation to the goal of an economic equilibrium.
None less problematic is the European Central Bank’s monetary policy supported by German politics – against the will of the “Deutsche Bundesbank”. For quite a while now the ECB has been flooding the money markets. The latest ECB decision to keep interests at the lowest level and to extend the buy-up of bonds beyond the previous deadline has brought applause mainly from one institution: the stock market. The market in speculative money is already heated irresponsibly. Warnings about this kind of monetary policy are becoming louder, but the policy is left unchanged. Who will pay for the next crash? Who will be taking responsibility for it?
In addition: Especially in Germany, many middle class people have accumulated savings in order to achieve a humble return with fixed interests. Stock trading is alien to most Germans. The ECB’s zero interest policy is directed against these savers. Their return is close to zero and again the middle class has to take the rap for a dubious policy.
The official figures regarding the situation of the German economy and the extent of unemployment are misleading. The fraction of people in the country threatened by poverty is not decreasing. On the contrary: the official figures are showing growing numbers year per year. Many working people still need state subsidies in addition to their wages. The number of people in the low-paid sector has grown and is to grow further. And it is not clear how these people will care for their retirement.
After the elections in the USA, the “New York Times”, most famous US mainstream newspaper, wrote that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was “the last defender of the free world.” Outgoing US President Obama mainly came to Germany to politically court Mrs. Merkel and to enthronise her. Even the Swiss NZZ am Sonntag, on 20 November 2016, in a two-page comment decided Angela Merkel to be “the last of her kind”, and specified: “In Europe, the populists are marching, in the USA Trump will reign soon, and Great Britain is focused on itself. Right in the middle Angela Merkel remains the last defender of the liberal Western world. After eleven years of chancellorship she nowadays seems to be more important than ever.
It is interesting who in the past weeks praised Mrs. Merkel again, after in the years before she was already supported by a giant wave of mass medial adulation, especially from the German Springer press and the Bertelsmann media group. Therefore, one may ask what interests, which ideologies, and which powers are represented by these media groups. What is certain is that all these media have fully supported the war policy of the United States since the nineties – and therefore the word of the “last defender of the free world” has also to be understood in a military sense; that it is about wars - also against Russia.
As the complaint about the “post-factual” citizenship guided by “populists” mentions in one breath the supposed forces in the background: They are supposed to sit in the Kremlin in Moscow. The Russian government is said to be the main enemy of the “free world”, even more dangerous than IS and terrorism. Therefore one must conclude: “defense of the free world” means in plain English “war against Russia”. And if you look more closely and explore the positions towards Russia represented by those who are to be postmarked as “populists” you are in for a surprise: Nearly everybody among them does not want war against Russia, but cooperation and a feeling of togetherness for the benefit of both sides.
The search of those “on the top” for Trojan horses in Russian politics has increased in intensity and absurdity, and one remembers the times of McCarthy in the late forties and the fifties of the last century when communists and friends of communists were smelled in all critics of US politics. Now US think tanks, US intelligence agencies and US policy have ensured that this perspective is to be taken over in the entire “free world” – especially in Germany. On 14 November 2016, the US “Atlantic Council” issued a “study” entitled “The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses” and published a new list of the Trojan horses piloted by Russia. On the German list (“Key pro-Russian actors in Germany”), alongside Pegida and the political magazine Compact, are the Alternative für Deutschland, the party Die Linke, the Deutsch-Russisches-Forum, the Petersburger Dialog and also the SPD Members such as Matthias Platzeck, Gerhard Schröder and Sigmar Gabriel, even on the list is CDU politician Ronald Pofalla – so even persons, who belong to “those at the top”. Angela Merkel is not on the list.
But the bow is overstretched. All clamour and shouting will no longer help. Keeping the number of the transition’s “victims” as small as possible that is the purpose. Even in (non-German) European mainstream media, the critical voices increase. On 6 December 2016, the German edition of the Russian website Sputniknews – in German mainstream media such things are not mentioned so far – reported on an article in the Danish highest-distributed newspaper “Politiken”, requesting to come to an end of “Russophobia”. There can be no security in Europe as long as the West cuts back the interests of Russia. Literally, the article says: “There is one thing the world really does not need, and this is a new ‘Cold War’”. There must be an end to the bad habit to stigmatise all those as “Putin’s Trojans”, who do not want to take part in the panic-stricken agitation against Moscow. In the Western media, “every Russophobe” would get a column, “if his article was only malicious enough.” “But no one believes the comments on Russian aggression. The debates about Russia recall the assertion that the earth is a disc. Nobody makes the effort to look out of the box, in order to ascertain the causes of bad relations.
And it is to be read that the West has made many mistakes against Russia: the boast about the victory in the Cold War against the USSR, the extension of NATO contingent to the Russian borders, the declaration of Russia as a third class country, such as the attempt to involve the Ukraine and other countries close to Russia into NATO.
In 2017, there are important regional elections in Germany as well as the elections to the German “Bundestag. In fact, Germany is faced with the choice to devote its policy, its economic life and its social life to the probably even armed “defense of the free world” in an outdated unipolar world order under German leadership … or to the German constitution, to international law and the pursuit of cohabitation beneficial to all sides in a multipolar world.
It is one of the facts of today’s world that there are many states and peoples in the world who are no longer willing to dance to the tune of foreign Western powers. The European Union, too, will not be viable in its current form.
The cultural attack of the past decades has caused too many victims and is now provoking more and more opposition.
But the “empire” remains defiant. Now Germany is to pull the coals out of the fire. Should it do so, it will burn its fingers.
One means of imperial power is polarization, stirring up the citizenship against each other or against “those at the top” in such a way that it comes to violence. This has to be prevented. This requires wise ways of transition. They are to be found also in Germany, when people face each other honestly and in equality, determined and clear to the point ... and humanely in their contacts. •
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