How does one of the country’s best lawyers become convinced that the government is working on a secret plan to replace the German people with migrants?

In the CDU they would like to get rid of their party member Hans-Georg Maassen. On Monday he was given an ultimatum: either he leaves voluntarily or they want to force him to leave the party.

The SPD needed three attempts to exclude Thilo Sarrazin from the party. The process dragged on for more than ten years. The party executive set up its own staff and hired several lawyers. We’ll see if the CDU has better luck. But the crucial message comes through: we don’t want anything to do with this guy anymore! Maassen is now definitely persona non grata, the great leper of German politics.

I know Maassen from the time when he was still President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Whenever he had business to do in Munich, his office manager occasionally called to see if he wanted to see each other. I remember Maaßen from these encounters as someone who viewed things with a cool keenness, conservative, sure, but rather reserved in judgment. The man I knew was anything but a fanatic.

Something happened in the meantime. And by that I don’t mean the loss of his post as head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. He gets attached to weird ideas and gets involved with weird people.

The first time I asked myself, “What’s going on?” was a year and a half ago. Then I came across a text in the “FAZ” that took a trip into the mind of the young politician Maassen. The article argued that Maassen had come to believe that an elite of “economic globalists” was working to establish a rule of the world’s 1,000 wealthiest families – with the backing of the World Economic Forum in Davos and, surprisingly, the Greens.

“Globalists?” I thought. That’s what they usually talk about in circles where it’s rumored that a small clique of financial jugglers are actually pulling the strings on Wall Street.

It hasn’t gotten any better since then, as far as one can tell. Maassen leaves posts on Twitter that are so weird that he quickly deletes them afterwards. He recommends video channels that babble about chemtrails and that Germany is a vassal state of the Americans.

His language has also changed. He now generally calls journalists “aligned journalists”, without which he can no longer get by. The other favorite word is “eco-woke”, as in: “eco-woke lawyers”, “eco-woke media” or “eco-woke opposite side”. The Greens are also terribly annoying to me, but for stylistic reasons I would consider variants of the criticism. You don’t gain persuasiveness by stiffening your language.

Is Maassen a racist or anti-Semite, as he is accused? There is no evidence for this, at least no convincing evidence has been presented so far. The fact that someone accuses someone else of adhering to a racist idea does not mean that they are a racist themselves. If that were the case, large parts of the left would have to be suspected of racism. On the other hand, it is undisputed that Maassen had the idea that the government was secretly working on an exchange of the German people. This seems to have developed into an obsession with him.

When I look at Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock, I see two politicians who are more or less successfully trying not to trip over their own two feet. Even if they had the desire to replace the Germans with the influx of large Arab families, they would be hopelessly overwhelmed with the implementation. It’s a mystery to me how you can come up with such a quark. Sure, if you spend your evenings with right-wing Spökenkieker, then yes. But as one of the best lawyers in the country, used to judging things from the cold vantage point of the law?

What should one call this trip to the edge of the political spectrum? “Self-radicalization” is a term that suggests itself. But does he hit? Radicalization always begins with oneself. It’s more like drifting away. A strange shift and narrowing of perspective that only lets you see things that others don’t – which then turns you on all the more.

I’ve experienced this before, with my long-time friend Matthias Matussek. Matussek was once one of the country’s most famous reporters. Regardless of whether he wrote about Princess Di or Heinrich Heine: they were texts to kneel down, powerful, funny, with sudden twists into the unexpected, not unlike the author in their unpredictability. And today? He sits in a dump somewhere on the Schlei and writes apologies to Putin. From the free spirit to the authoritarian banquet singer – you can’t stray further from your old readers.

At the beginning of the drift there is usually an insult, a misfortune that will not let you go and narrows your view. In the case of Maassen, it was the dismissal as head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Where there is only black and white, the imagined dangers also become greater and greater. If you are convinced that Germany is doomed, you will find evidence every day that confirms your assessment.

Many allegations are unjustified, and that also applies to the Maassen case. It’s faster to be a Nazi these days than you can say Papp. But instead of trying to catch up back to the middle by turning in, the drift tempts you to keep moving outwards. Every gesture of concession is now seen as opportunism, every concession as treason. The paradox is that the opponents aim for exactly that. They may say they wish the attacked would show some understanding, but the truth is that there is no greater favor they can do than to push themselves further and further to the edge.

Of course there are also fans. For every hater, there are two shouting, “Hold on!” That doesn’t make it any better, on the contrary. Maassen could, if he wanted to, join the AfD tomorrow. In this scene he is a hero. But he doesn’t want to lose the reputation that comes with membership in the CDU. That’s why he’s clinging to his party book. It’s the last thing that connects him to the world he comes from.

What can you do against the drift? If I were to set up a de-radicalization program, my first tip would be: switch off Twitter more often and meditate more instead. My second recommendation: keep in touch with people who think very differently from you.

To this day I’ve been associated with a number of people who are hard left and let me know about it at every opportunity. There are people who are proud to have blocked half the internet. I do not belong to it. I’ve never found it an advantage to only hear what I already know. Admittedly, it is sometimes a bit exhausting, but it keeps you from more mischief.

One may come to the conclusion that Maassen has a bang. But politics also has a place for bangers, and with good reason. The master’s house has many rooms, especially for parties. That’s why the hurdles for exclusion are so high.

I venture the prophecy that not much will come out of a party order procedure. Presumptions are not enough in court, not even in the party court. Maassen can also point out that he could continue with almost everything he is accused of with the Left Party or parts of the SPD. The wild waving of the club for racism, the strange theory that the US is driving us to war so that we can alienate ourselves from Russia and the Americans can dominate us again: all this can also be found left of center.

If the past few months have shown anything, it’s how close the far left and far right are. The horseshoe is actually a circle.

• 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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