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Journalism reeks of betrayal of democracy

by M Klockner, B Druecke and J Steinbeiss
A "new normality" has taken root in our society. A climate of fear and severe, permanent encroachments on fundamental rights are shaping politics and social life. From the beginning of the pandemic, the media and politics have created a reality that almost treats the principles of democracy with contempt. These three articles are translated from the German in and Graswurzel Revolution.
Journalism reeks of betrayal of democracy
by Marcus Klöckner

[This article published on Nov 30, 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

The past months have shown what it looks like when politics and the media suffocate the democratic public. The most serious crisis of the 21st century takes place without public discussion. What some perceive as "discussion" is not worthy of a democracy. Isolated critical statements are contrasted with a reality constructed by the media and politics as non-negotiable. By Marcus Klöckner.

"First things first: We will defeat the virus. But what kind of society we will live in afterwards and what kind of world we will live in depends on how we act today." These words were spoken by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in an interview published by the Internet portal T-Online on March 16.

The statement is similar to what the Chairman of the World Economic Forum says in his current book on the Corona crisis. "Many people are asking themselves," said Klaus Schwab, "when will things will return to normal. The short answer is: never. Nothing will ever be the same again.” And Schwab finds further very clear words: "The world as we knew it in the first months of 2020 no longer exists, it has dissolved in the context of the pandemic. We are facing such radical changes that some experts are already talking about the time "before Corona" (BC) and "after Corona" (AC).

What motivates two figures in contemporary history, both of whom are anything but notorious heralds of the end of times and panic-mongers, to make such drastic assessments? How do they come to pronounce sentences that could have come directly from the pen of an author working on the ultimate dystopia? Both Steinmeier and Schwab, due to their positions, have far-reaching insights into the control centers of political course-setting. Schwab alone is so extensively networked into the world of elites and power elites as probably only a few actors on this planet are.

Anyone who has followed the events of recent months will have noticed that something has indeed taken root in our society that can be described as a "new normality". A climate of fear and severe, permanent encroachments on fundamental rights are shaping politics and social life. If one follows the logic of a pandemic, certain reactions and measures can be understood, but even then, the question arises: Why such an apocalyptic tenor?

If Covid-19 is a normal pandemic event, then it can be assumed that after a certain period of time, even if it takes a little longer, the situation will return to normal. In addition: According to all that is known about the virus so far, the immune system of the vast majority of people obviously copes well with the virus - 1,053,869 cases are opposed to "only" 16,248 deaths. What societies do not cope with so well, however, are chronically ill health care systems, which come under pressure more quickly than most Covid-19 infected persons in the event of treatment peaks. Nor can they cope when an entire country, or even a whole planet, is taken hostage because of the vulnerability of some. The measure and goal should be the motto - and not the destruction of entire industries and livelihoods, the traumatization of large parts of the population, a gigantic build-up of debt and the torpedoing of the economy. So why should a virus, which is dangerous for a part of the population, lead to apparently incomprehensible radical changes for mankind?

That would be a question worth discussing. Publicly. For example, on those platforms that are instrumental in intensifying the political discussion: Illner, Plasberg, Will, Maischberger. But where was that part of the actors who are concerned about our society, our political system and freedom? How many of those who took to the streets and demonstrated against the harshest restrictions on fundamental rights since the beginning of the Federal Republic sat there and presented their views? How many journalists from alternative media, who hold a different view than broad sections of the mainstream, have sat in the ARD press club so far? But also asked in a broad sense: Where is the pluralism of opinion in our media? Where are the voices from among the major editorial offices that do not support the government's policies on principle and position themselves accordingly with the necessary clarity in editorials, cover stories and commentaries?

Now things are getting gloomy
Virtually no discussion is taking place on the most serious crisis of the 21st century, in fact, verifiably and verifiably. From the very beginning of the pandemic, the media and politics have created a reality that almost treats the principles of democracy with contempt. There are isolated critical contributions, voices of a few journalists, such as Heribert Prantl of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, but they are confronted with a flood of articles and contributions that all point in one direction: Citizens, give up your liberty rights, do not question the statements of the experts, which we consider serious. But above all: follow what the politicians decide.

A stable and functioning democracy is one of the reasons why it upholds its own principles even in a serious crisis. This also means not only putting up with cracking political debates in politics, the media and society, but also making them possible with all our might. Such debates are like the lubricating oil in the wheelwork of democracy. But these gears of our state have not been lubricated for a long time. You don't have to be a mechanic to understand what this means. In the end, the machine flies around our ears.

What media critics have been emphasizing for a long time is now once again becoming clearer: many journalists see themselves in a completely perverted way (which can be explained by their socialization and origins) as "state-supporting" and try to support political decisions wherever they can. In many cases, they no longer act as controllers of politics, but as supporters. How serious this fact weighs can be seen in the current crisis.

On November 20, the Berlin Tagesspiegel featured the following lines in its live ticker for the demonstration: "The police initially only watered the demonstrators with water cannons. The wet clothes now make it uncomfortable for them. It is a harmless tactic of the police to disperse the masses with little violence. In the professional world, water throwing is considered the so-called milder means in contrast to batons, for example. Pay attention to the formulations: "just sprinkled", "uncomfortable", "harmless tactics", "the masses" (instead of demonstrators, citizens), "milder means".

In the meantime, the statement has been reworded, but that does not make it any better. A basic attitude, which raises many questions, came to light. How would the editor, from whom the statements were made, have written about the use of water cannons in a demonstration in Russia? Just as trivializing, appeasing?

The fact that the Tagesspiegel's live ticker at the end of the "reporting" still reads: "The police director of operations has the final word" may be dismissed as a trifle, after all: someone must have the final word. But it is not that simple. All these seemingly harmless examples, which show a closeness to the state in journalism, together with other corresponding inconsistencies in reporting, add up to a frightening overall picture.

In journalism, it smells like betrayal of democracy. That sounds harsh, certainly. But when one observes the contempt with which journalists treat citizens who demonstrate for their rights to freedom even in this difficult situation, who demand that other experts also have their say, to take a more differentiated view of the pandemic events; when one sees how self-evident journalists are that they not only accept but also defend serious encroachments on fundamental rights, what can one talk about? A great moment of democratic awareness?

Time and again, the media publish articles in which it is first said that of course one does not want to talk about the conditions in an authoritarian regime, but hardly ever is a comma and a "but" added.

Journalist Vanessa Vu writes in an article in the ostensibly so "liberal" weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT:
"So, what is going wrong that we have almost 700 times higher infection rates? Is it our government with its half-hearted measures and its chaotic communication - or is it ultimately the population that, perhaps for historical reasons, has a problem with state authority and is reluctant to be told what to do from above? Probably both."
And Vu continues: "You don't have to copy Vietnam. Concerns about data protection, appeals to personal responsibility and the federal system are justified. But there are also middle ways" and then the ZEIT journalist refers to the "democracies" in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

What follows is basically a plea for more consistent action by the state. The dispute between the federal government and the states is seen as negative (and the lines of conflict behind the dispute, which have their justification, are obviously perceived as annoying). The author presents the willingness of the populations in states like Taiwan and South Korea to accept and "go along with" the measures proposed by the government as an act of reason. The author ignores important questions, such as the prevailing understanding of democracy, the understanding of freedom, and in general: the trained mental structures that produce this allegedly praiseworthy behavior.
The article is basically characterized by the wish that finally a strong state "takes hold", "protects" the population. The entire tension between the state, civil liberties, and the individual's desire and feeling for freedom is faded out in an almost grotesquely naïve manner:
"The noodle soup saleswoman in Vietnam or the factory worker in Taiwan do not have it easy either. Nevertheless, they pull themselves together and do their part to keep the community healthy and the pandemic short".

The lines sound as if they were taken from a communist party newspaper that ideologically glorifies the value of the collective accordingly.

While the media has been speaking out for decades of individual responsibility and preaching the neoliberal idea of state withdrawal up and down, these same media are now calling for the strong state. The same media that brutally divided society by supporting the Hartz reforms now want citizens to act in solidarity as a collective. With these roles back and forth, some may feel dizzy, but the behavior is only superficially contradictory.

Those who have not yet understood it: Many journalists act primarily as representatives of their own class.

When distributional issues were on the agenda, which involved levies on their own class as well, the state could not be pushed back far enough from its responsibility toward the weak. But now that a virus is circulating that does not stop at class affiliation, that is, now that journalists themselves feel they are in danger, the state can hardly go far enough with its power to act.

Journalists, it should not be forgotten, are masters at selling their world views and interests as the common good under the guise of apparent objectivity. It is no longer surprising that, in an Orwellian manner, one should speak out emphatically against hatred while at the same time spreading it oneself. Whoever attacks "those up there" verbally minimally too harshly spreads hate speech, whoever "suggests" that so-called "corona skeptics" forfeit their right to [an] intensive place" is given an exclusive room reserved for them in a large newspaper. When the YouTuber Rezzo spreads the word in the media that tougher action should be taken against Corona demonstrators,
it becomes clear from which direction the wind is blowing.

One should not have an ideological-tactical relationship to liberalism, pluralism and tolerance. Corona "reporting" is increasingly showing a tendency towards the authoritarian. "If necessary, even with violence", one could overwrite the basic tenor.

One thing is certain: On this basis, no public discussion worthy of a democracy can take place on weighty issues such as vaccinations or freedom of travel, which will be the focus of attention in the coming weeks and months.

The slowing down of time
The Corona pandemic as real dystopia
by Bernd Druecke
[This article published on 3/31/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an interview with Wolfgang Rüddenklau appeared in Graswurzelrevolution No. 343 in November 2009. (1) As editor of the "anarchistically written" GDR opposition organs "Umweltblätter" and "telegraph," Rüddenklau played a major role in the emergence of a grassroots movement in the GDR from 1986 onward. In the GWR interview he described the rapid developments and the emergence of open spaces, free alternative schools and hundreds of occupied houses and housing projects in the GDR in 1989/90 as "the freest time of the country" and "acceleration of time".

In contrast, I perceive the corona pandemic year 2020 as a slowing down of time, as unfree time that people in the European Union have experienced so far. The coming together of more than two people is prohibited, freedom of assembly and movement is extremely restricted and social life is minimized in order to contain the spread of the pandemic. In order to protect the elderly and other risk groups, many of the measures appear (temporarily) to make sense and have so far been largely complied with.

What seemed unimaginable a few weeks ago is now a reality. We are experiencing a turn of an era, the likes of which have so far only occurred in dystopian science fiction novels, but not seriously in real life. Covid-19 is spreading worldwide, and autocrats like Orbán are taking the opportunity to take a big step forward on the road to dictatorship. Macron and other heads of state talk about "war" and push militarization. With his rhetoric of the "war against the Chinese virus", Trump is fueling racist hatred against Asian-looking people.
In comparison with this militaristic war rhetoric, Merkel's speech to the population comes across as pleasantly matter-of-fact. But she, too, has closed the borders and wants to deploy the German Armed Forces. Merkel apparently knows only Germans and is counting on nationalism instead of international solidarity with the people in Italy who were extremely affected by Covid-19 and the refugees in the Greek camps, who live in inhumane conditions in the middle of the EU and are now all the more endangered. While Merkel gives an empathic speech, she continues to have them deported. While the German government is bringing back more than 100,000 German vacationers*, she cold-heartedly refuses to accept even one of the many children from Moria and other Greek misery camps. Bini Adamczak sums up this mendacity: "The pandemic teaches us how vulnerable we are and how dependent on each other. And it teaches us that we can only act together and in solidarity” - says Merkel. As if she had not only experienced socialist socialization, but also studied feminist philosophy. What a pity that the declaration falls on the same day that Germany suspends the humanitarian admission of refugees and forces further deportations. But an ethic of vulnerability that excludes some of the most vulnerable is lying. A solidarity that is to be forced into the borders and the service of the nation is not one.

Human dignity is not only trampled on by the right and neoliberals. In March 2020, forced evictions continued in the red-red-green government of Berlin. While it calls on the population not to leave their own homes, the red-red-green city government is forcibly evicting people from their homes and into homelessness. Outrageous!
Enforcing human rights!

The neoliberal ideology has failed. The Corona Crisis shows us how important it is to realize human rights and dignity for everyone worldwide from below. It is necessary to enforce the human right to housing and an unconditional basic income for all in order to prevent many people from being thrown into misery and falling ill. Right now, the homeless, the fled and precarious are particularly endangered in their existence.

Since the closure of pubs, cafés, bookstores and businesses, millions fear for their existence. At the same time, many are short of food due to the closure of blackboards, and several who are now condemned to short-time work can no longer make ends meet.

Many women and children are exposed to their beating husbands and fathers. The women's shelters are overcrowded. Mental illness and suicides will increase under the conditions of "home" isolation.
Culturally, economically and socially, our societies are threatened with the threat of the worst. Neo-liberal globalization and the EU's policy of apathy have led to massive cutbacks in the health sector as well. As a result, the pandemic is causing many deaths, particularly in Italy and Spain, where many hospitals have been closed in recent years.
"We are experiencing the moral and political total bankruptcy of neoliberalism, governments and the EU," state Verena Kreilinger and Christian Zeller. (2)

What to do?
It is important not to get used to the state of emergency and the lack of freedom. Crises also offer opportunities for change towards a solidary, egalitarian society. Solidarity is a characteristic that many also show in the Corona crisis. People support neighbors who are at risk when shopping. On March 21, the International Day against Racism, banners were hung in thousands of windows, against Fortress Europe and for solidarity with refugees. Against the EU refugee policy, for example, a demonstration took place at the Central Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (ZASt) in Bremen, where all participants observed the rules of distance.

Instead of nationalism and capitalism we need a solidary, free socialist society that tears down borders and enables everyone to live in dignity, free cooperation and mutual help instead of competition and exploitation. Or, as Maria Braig puts it in her article on page 3: "So let us stay together, let us remain in solidarity with all those who need our solidarity, no matter which border divides us."
Stay healthy and at home! Anarchy and happiness,
Bernd Drücke (GWR Coordination Editor)

See nothing, hear nothing, learn nothing!
Education policy in the (financial) crisis

by Joseph Steinbeiß

[This article published on 9/14/2009 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Some people have rubbed their eyes in wonder: There is talk everywhere of "rethinking" in the banking and business world - repentant top managers are probably now only claiming their million-dollar claims to bonuses, salaries and pensions in German courts with a guilty conscience - and one book after the other with revelations about the equally murderous and suicidal madness of market-liberal ideology and its consequences is coming onto the market. If one were to believe the common media reports, the world is in agreement: Good that it's over!

It is only at the universities that this "new", already highly ephemeral insight does not really want to assert itself. They continue to rely on third-party funding from solvent companies, university rankings by the grace of Bertelsmann, and above all private or privatized degree programs and educational institutions - as if there had never been a financial crisis. Not even the jargon has changed. Understandably: After all, it took long enough to learn all those phrases in hideously bastardized English with which, contemporary and apparently fully in vogue, one could invoke the blessings of an uncontrolled capitalist market for education. For something, the effort of learning vocabulary is said to have been good for something. It was good for nothing. It does harm. For at present it is proving that not only trading in U.S. securities can be a high-risk business: Relying on a private university for one's professional future in Germany is no less worrying. One by one the gates have to close. While the private university in Witten has been struggling for years to survive, the death throes of the Hanseatic University of Rostock were over with alarming speed. Now it's time for the International University (IU) in Bruchsal, Baden-Württemberg, specializing in business studies and communications management. Both were previously run by the private Education trend GmbH. It is to be expected that in the foreseeable future, more commercial enterprises will withdraw from the tertiary sector and separate their "education branches". If a company gets into difficulties, it can easily do without a private university. "Human capital" naturally pays off late: after graduation or possibly only after a graduate has joined the Group. In return, private investors can already collect large sums of money when they set up their universities - in the form of state subsidies. In addition, those who take up studies at a private university usually have to reckon with horrendous fees. A degree at the International University cost 20,000 euros. Of course, such sums are only spent by those who can be promised advantages on the job market - or more precisely: promised. This is what the new "business universities" promised: with many colorful pictures, enticing Internet presentations, the prospect of belonging to the earning elite after graduation, and gratefully seconded by a policy that never tired of praising the blessings of "diversification" and "specialization" in education and training through the commitment of business. For 200 students in Bruchsal, this dream has now come true. It was an expensive dream. Ironically, professors, on the other hand, never seem to have succumbed to the siren song of the "brave new world of education" of the rich and private. At least, this is suggested by the difficulties that almost all German "business universities" had in recruiting competent personnel. For a long time, their level provided material for laughter in the corridors of the country's time-honored universities. And when, with lucrative offers and windy promises of "prestige" and "progress", some experts could be attracted, they usually had nothing more urgent to do than to apply for a state professorship. Even now there is loud reflection on whether the state should not be obliged to take over the scientific staff of the damaged "business universities". Companies that are involved in the education sector therefore have little to fear from negative consequences: Profits are privatized and losses socialized. Their commitment to education policy usually lasts only as long as it does not disturb the balance sheets. If it does, the alleged "saviors of education" disappear like a spook. A forced alliance of state universities with the business community is simply nonsensical for ensuring a reasonable, fair social education. It is time that, if not those responsible for education policy, then at least the universities should draw conclusions from the latest developments and try a little less eagerly to sell off their chemistry studies to Bayer AG and their humanities at the next flea market.
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