The columnist has received notification from the police that he is under investigation for a comment. Reason for him to think about louder and less louder means in the battle of opinions.
I got mail from the police. Criminal Division 4 in Munich wrote to me to tell me that I was listed there as a suspect. I am charged with an offense under Section 140 of the Criminal Code: rewarding and condoning crimes.
The letter lists September 24 as the time of the crime, time: 12:02 p.m. At that point I would have left the following comment on Twitter: “Nuclear weapons on Zurich!” Useless to deny, I wrote that. Three words, no more. Still, I’m in trouble now.
I’ve written completely different things. I made fun of the Italians, which earned me a reprimand from the Italian ambassador. I called Fifa a criminal organization and Friedrich Merz a sausage. From the point of view of a lawyer, both presumably meet the criteria of insult.
In contrast, “Nuclear weapons on Zurich!” is comparatively harmless. Especially since it was a mocking reply to a tweet by my acquaintance Roger Köppel, editor of the Swiss “Weltwoche” and one of the biggest critics of Ukraine’s armament, who called for immediate negotiations with Vladimir Putin out of fear of a nuclear war. You Swiss cowards, I wanted to say: it’s not always about you.
I was offered several options by the police. I can admit the crime. I can hire a lawyer. A termination of the proceedings would also be conceivable against payment of a monetary condition. So I thought about how to react.
In my case, there is no preparation for a crime, the columnist’s arm doesn’t reach that far. If I could order the use of nuclear weapons, I would immediately open up completely different sides. Approval under Section 140 of the Criminal Code remains.
Do you approve of genocide when you recommend that the Russian President drop an atomic bomb on Zurich? Nuclear weapons should of course be rejected as a matter of principle, there is no question about that. On the other hand, such a tactical mini-bomb over Lake Zurich would also have advantages: the black money problem would be solved in one fell swoop. I know, I know I should stop these jokes. As you can see, the Swiss are even less fun than the Italians.
Where are the limits of freedom of expression? As the cabaret artist Werner Finck once said, freedom only begins where things go too far. That pretty much agrees with my opinion.
My tolerance is correspondingly high. For example, I have never asked to stop employing someone because they talked nonsense. I’ve never reported a person either. Believe me, I don’t just get praise and encouragement. Nevertheless, it would not occur to me to sue for an insult or an insult. Where is this supposed to lead? You make yourself look ridiculous.
Should you be more excited? This is not only a personal question, it is also a strategic one. In a certain milieu, it has become common practice to perform St. Vitus dances even for the smallest misconduct. That’s strange to me. But those who accept everything with equanimity, even the most outrageous things, may fall behind in the political debate.
Here’s a case that got me thinking. Two weeks ago, the historian Andreas Rödder invited to a conference in Berlin. “Wokes Germany – Identity Politics as a Threat to Our Freedom” was the somewhat unwieldy title. The focus was on the new culture of sensitivity advocating more discrimination against discriminatory views in the name of fighting discrimination.
Rödder is not only a respected scientist, he is also the chairman of the CDU Basic Values Commission. Even the guests invited as speakers had not attracted attention in the past with radical statements. Former CDU family minister Kristina Schröder was there, as was cabaret artist Dieter Nuhr and psychologist Ahmad Mansour, who had just been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit. It doesn’t get much more central, I would say.
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Four days after the end of the conference, the Green member of the Bundestag Marlene Schönberger wrote on Twitter that the conference had given space to anti-Semitic conspiracy stories. How did she get there? At one point Kristina Schröder had used the word “minority”. A minority owns the means of cultural production in the media and universities, these were Schröder’s words. The comedian Dieter Nuhr spoke of a powerful elite trying to steer things in their favor.
Whoever reads the statements made by Schröder and Nuhr in the context of the event immediately recognizes that they mean the small group of academically educated people who see themselves as pioneers of the new. When they talk about the elite, they are talking about people who consider dreadlocks to be exploitation, gender to be progress and justice to be a question of sparing citizen income. There can be no talk of anti-Semitism, unless one regards criticism of the elite as fundamentally anti-Semitic. But then you have to cash in on 150 years of anti-capitalist theory building.
What is the purpose of a Green MEP with such an accusation? Does she really believe that the CDU is now clinging to anti-Semitic clichés? Or is she just saying that to hit the political opponent? I bet the latter. You throw a dirt pebble into the water and are happy when it makes circles.
The deputy editor-in-chief of “Spiegel”, Melanie Amann, found the accusation so perceptive that she immediately took it up and forwarded it via retweet. In the next turn, the congress in Berlin becomes an assembly of people who prepare the ground for the new fascism. That’s what it said more or less clearly in an article on “Zeit Online” by the former “Spiegel” columnist Georg Diez, who now works for the New Institute in Hamburg, a somewhat obscure climate rescue hut that former shipowner Erck Rickmers for the purpose of relieving conscience.
How should one deal with such an accusation? An acquaintance whose judgment I value said: ignore. That was so ridiculous that it wasn’t even worth answering. I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you have to defend yourself. Whoever accepts everything without objection because he thinks the accusations are too absurd, will at some point go down the wrong path.
The limits of what can be said can also be shifted in this way: First you are a respected scientist. Then you are suddenly considered “controversial”, as the popular word of suspicion is called. At some point people say: “Can you actually invite him? In ‘Zeit’ it said that the border to fascism was fluid.”
There are people who think freedom of speech is rubbish. Unfortunately, you have to say it so clearly. You would never say it yourself. They would say that freedom of expression should be reserved for people who contribute to the progress of society, people like themselves.
Should we therefore proceed to copy the method? I would definitely be against that. It’s not just the small elite that lives off suspicion. There is also a large number of people who have an unerring sense of duplicity and falsehood, and who despise nothing more than they do.
• 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 stereotypes. His texts are always amusing – perhaps it is this fact that provokes his opponents the most.
You can write to our author: By email to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @janfleischhauer.