A book was published this week that is likely to antagonize the left-wing world of belief. Anger and indignation are already boiling up.

I’ve been thinking about writing a slater. My friend and longtime colleague René Pfister has published a book, it came out this week. It’s called “A Wrong Word” and describes the new left-wing culture of sensitivity, which is also spreading in this country.

I congratulated my friend on the publication of his book. But maybe I should keep that to myself? It would probably be best if I condemned it to the ground here. The people who want to take him down are just waiting for applause from the wrong side. I can already see them sharpening their knives.

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Unfortunately, I can’t do him the favor of a slating. I speak now as a journalist and not as a friend. As a journalist, I feel obliged to tell the truth, and I can therefore only recommend the book to anyone who wants to know where the madness comes from, which gives us debates about whether Winnetou should be put out of circulation or a party song like “Layla” or the too revealing representation of women on fairground booths. It’s the best I’ve read so far about the new leftist culture of faith.

Pfister moved to Washington three years ago for Der Spiegel. Of course, he has settled in one of the neighborhoods where only people live who think Trump is a creature of hell. I never asked him what he voted for, but I suspect that like any good “Spiegel” editor, he vacillates between the Social Democrats and the Greens. But the longer he lived in the States, the more doubts grew about the current state of left-wing consciousness – as he describes it himself.

The year before last his son was supposed to write about Columbus at school. Coincidentally, Pfister witnessed a discussion in which the son exchanged ideas with a classmate about whether he should mention in his school essay that Columbus was a fairly courageous man despite all the problematic aspects. “Too risky,” the classmate replied, “it could bring you into trouble.”

This is everyday life in a country whose founding documents included the defense of freedom of expression: Two 13-year-olds are talking about whether it is allowed to write that Christopher Columbus was not only a despicable monster, but perhaps also understood as a child of his time must be. As I said: Too risky.

Pfister sought out the victims of the new fundamentalism, which is one of the many merits of his book. There is the story of Ian Buruma, Editor-in-Chief of the New York Review of Books, one of the most respected literary magazines in the world, who dared to clear a few pages from an author who had been accused of multiple sexual assaults.

The man had been acquitted of all material allegations in a due process of law. His text dealt with the question of what it means for society when an acquittal no longer counts because the MeToo movement still thinks you are guilty. That was enough to cost Buruma his job as editor-in-chief.

Or there is the story of data analyst David Shor, who was a respected pollster among the Democrats until he was suddenly considered intolerable. his offense? He had tweeted about the riots following the death of George Floyd, pointing out that violent protests before elections had always hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans.

Or the story of the climate researcher Dorian Abbot, who was supposed to give a lecture at the famous MIT. The lecture was then cancelled. Students had protested after Abbot had posted a video in which he complained that Asian students were being systematically disadvantaged at his university to make room for other minorities. Even insisting that all students be treated equally can now be considered a misdemeanor.

The supporters of the new movement like to claim that cancel culture is a bugbear, an obsession of conservatives who cannot get over the fact that other voices are challenging them for the supremacy of discourse. When they are confronted with cases like Buruma or Shor, they say: isolated cases.

It’s always all isolated cases – up to the moment when a police officer misbehaves. Then there is talk of structural racism. But that’s the trick: denying what is obvious until even the victims start to ponder whether they may have just imagined it all.

Pfister does not elaborate on this, but after reading his book I am more convinced than ever that the new leftist belief is a psychological disposition. It’s seldom the happy, life-affirming type you meet in the ranks of those asking for a sinner’s head because they either know the wrong people, have invited the wrong people, or are suspected of having the wrong ideas themselves. This type used to make up the particularly pious part of the church community, but today it focuses its energies on monitoring ever-changing language rules.

Wrong word: How a new leftist ideology out of America threatens our freedom of expression

Modern man thinks that guilt is an emotion to be avoided. The religiously educated, on the other hand, is immediately aware of the joys that can lie in the awareness of having made a mistake. If it were otherwise, Catholicism would not have become a world religion. Entire belief systems are built upon an effort to remove the stain of guilt. Confession, contrition, indulgences—everything rests on the assumption of fundamental guilt. “This can be your confessional,” is the motto of a primer on soul-searching penned by American anti-racism guru Ibram X. Kendi.

There are enough reasons to blame yourself as a white middle-class person. If one owes one’s prosperity not specifically to the exploitation of other peoples and continents, then it is definitely due to the overexploitation of nature through an energy-intensive lifestyle. That’s why the transfer of the new doctrine of salvation to Germany also works, although Pietism never really got beyond Baden-Württemberg. Either you discover the racist in you afterwards. Or the secret misogynist. Or the environmental offender. We are all climate sinners, that would be, if you will, the lowest common denominator.

I’m afraid my friend will hear a lot more in the coming weeks. A particularly zealous abbess of the new doctrine, the Germanist Annika Brockschmidt, has already sounded the alarm bell.

“While fascism is robbing LGBTQ people of their civil rights in the USA, the Washington boss of ‘Spiegel’ writes a text about ‘how left-wing activists are forcing a new ideology on society in the name of equality and anti-racism’: unbelievable.” Pfister’s theses are “irresponsible”, “bizarre”, “dangerous”, Pfister himself a “bourgeois stirrup holder of fascism”. In short: the whole thing is a “disgrace”.

As the saying goes: whatever is true is true.

• Read all of Jan Fleischhauer’s columns here.

The readers love him or hate him, Jan Fleischhauer is indifferent to the least. You only have to look at the comments on his columns to get an idea of ​​how much people are moved by what he writes. He was at SPIEGEL for 30 years, and at the beginning of August 2019 he switched to FOCUS as a columnist.

Fleischhauer himself sees his task as giving voice to a world view that he believes is underrepresented in the German media. So when in doubt, against the herd instinct, commonplaces and thought templates. His texts are always amusing – perhaps it is this fact that provokes his opponents the most.

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