Or: how a combination of a right-wing attack and facebook algorithms-going-horribly-wrong killed an important fact-checking blog (no, not this one). And, because of a mistake of facebook, my personal account as a side-effect.
Short version:End of June I logged into facebook, and received dozens of notifications. I supposedly posted a post containing hate speech on a page. Though I formally co-manage this page, I never contribute to it, and am only “emergency-admin”. So this was quite a nasty surprise.
The page represents a fact-checking blog, which actually researches intolerant statements and hatespeech made in (social) media and tries to counter them with facts and statistics. Both blog and page were targeted by right-wing trolls in the past, until now unsuccessful. The reports from last wednesday however resulted in a permanent ban of both the page and my personal account.
My account got disabled because facebooks algorithms wrongly contribute the reported post to my account. Algorithm Epic Fail no.1: disable the wrong account: I never posted anything on that page.
The content of the post actually is against hatespeech. The video posted, is made by german public television and still available all over facebook (see longer version below for details). Algorithm Epic Fail no. 2: not seeing the actual content of the post, but “deciding” on some key words (heck, it’s an algorithm..)
After several appeals to the facebook support, I got the message my account (and probably also the page) will be permanently disabled , and no matter what information I provide, it will never ever be reactivated. After another round of appeals, I am now “ineligible” to use facebook…
In short: an attack by right-wing trolls reporting an innocent video resulted in a permanent ban of a popular and effective fact-checking blog (and my personal account). Because facebooks algorithms can’t be wrong, can they?
It will probably never be re-activated. Unless my persistent clicking the “re-open case” button will result in an actual human being looking into it. Or, if somehow the masses rise and demand the page being re-instated (please do by the way).
Oh, for those friends who don’t have any other contact data and who want to keep in touch with the facebook account formerly known as Ka Ketelmug, the easiest way is to find me on my artist page: https://www.deviantart.com/twisted-kritters , on Twitter https://twitter.com/KKetelmug, or find someone who knows me who can give you some contact details, and we can keep in touch over Telegram for example.
In the future, you will find me on https://www.openbook.social/en/home as soon as it goes beta and I’m invited for it. Check it out. It will provide everything where facebook goes horribly wrong.
The G20 is over. The aftershock, not only of what happened inside the luxury chambers, but especially what happened outside the sealed-off area, might linger a bit longer.
In the mean time, there’s screaming all over the internet, the papers and among politicians. About the burned down cars, the smashed windows. Screaming of the mainstream, that “the left” should condemn the actions. Screaming from the “other left” how a few ruined the chances of many to make a point. Others screaming that bombs are far worse than a few burned out cars, so what the Hell is everyone screaming about.
And I sit here in my neighborhood, gnawing my knuckles.
Nope, I was not in Hamburg. Every “fact” I mention here either comes from the news, the big bad internet, or (woohoo) hearsay and rumors.
Nope, I didn’t go there to protest. Though everything the G20 stands for is a reason to protest. Climate change, the kind of political and economical deals which are made there, it’s a lot of issues I care about. Not to mention the fact a part of the city was hermetically sealed of, because of “security reasons”, and basically, human rights were switched off inside that area. Something I can’t stand.
Already weeks before, it became clear the people in charge were not keen on a strategy of “de-escalation”. The police boss in charge is known to be a hard-liner, and it showed. A little tent camp of people gathering for protests became the focus point of both physical, and juristic, confrontations. Also on the non-authority side things happened which weren’t really signs of peaceful protest . The first expensive cars were burned down, for example.
I have to admit, though I hate violence, most definitively against people, but also against objects, my reaction to those actions was *shrug*, that’s what you get when organizing something like the G20 a few 100 meters from an alternative neighborhood. If you want peace & quiet to make your deals, grab yourself a luxury castle in Bavaria or something. Plenty of those available. Already organizing the event exactly at that spot, and next sealing it hermetically off the rest of the city, was seen as a provocation by many, and not just the “lefties”.
Both in the city itself and in the media, the voices became louder, and more and more polarized. Even creative and artful protests such as the “1000 Gestalten” couldn’t change that anymore. The tone was set. Quite a few people I know had something like “Going there? I don’t feel like getting beaten up”.
So yep, the first layer of skin on my knuckles was already slightly damaged before the G20 even started.
Pushed against Hell’s Walls
I thoroughly began gnawing my knuckles after seeing how the “Welcome to Hell” demo was forced against a wall, people scrambling up that wall while part of the demo was being blown apart by water cannons, pepper-sprayed, and randomly charged by the police.
Now, the first stories I’ve heard was that it was all about the “mask ban” here in Germany. Bit of background: this is a law, which makes it a crime to make yourself unidentifiable during a demonstration. As in, wearing a scarf, sunglasses or even a red clown’s nose. And a crime. Not some petty offense, but a crime. As in one, where you can go to prison for. The reason why you are wearing a scarf, be it to indeed plan something really really criminal, or because it’s, well, cold, are not important anymore.
Hiding your face is a crime, and you should, and will, be arrested for it. Worse, some cops even feel it’s their duty to arrest you because you are hiding your face, and will charge into a completely peaceful demonstration to grab that one person who, maybe even for a few minutes, put a scarf in front of his mouth. I’ve witnessed this more than once. And I think the use of that much force for something which, in my humble opinion, should not be considered a crime, is most definitively excessive. What happened at the beginning of the Welcome to Hell demo was excessive.
However, maybe because of that often violent reaction of “Daddy State”, it has become a sort of, well, statement, to DO hide your face. Especially the so-called “Black Block” likes to make that statement over and over again. And dress in black (nothing wrong with that). And, indeed, march almost looking alike in a dense block, closed in by banners. So they can’t get dispersed easily. And yes, it looks scary from a distance.
Now, there might be occasions where this serves a purpose. Especially in other countries. From the Black Block with its masked, uniformly looking people, people actually take action outside the demonstration and then dive back in for protection. You might or might not agree with the action (sometimes no more than spray-painting a wall), but the strategy is effective. And it’s not only useful, but even necessary, in more totalitarian states, where just taking part in a peaceful demonstration might endanger your life. So better hide your face, better hide in a group.
But here in Germany? Excuses to all the Black Block people out there, but. It has become a statement. A demo is not complete with the Black Block marching up front, shouting slogans, and holding on firmly to those banners. Oh, it does have its uses as a “buffer” between the peaceful demonstrators and the police. But the whole densely packed, almost identical looking, group up front nowadays causes aversion even with people who would side with the “cause”. On the other hand, the whole “panicking” in the media about the Black Block is so utterly pathetic. If I’m really sarcastic: the Black Block has become a bit the Scouts of the left scene. In short, it’s more than slightly overrated.
The videos of the Welcome to Hell demonstration also showed exactly the weak point of the Black Block. Because they stick together. And keep sticking together. While behind them, the demonstration was broken up, and the Black Block was slowly but steadily forced up against the wall.
Later (hearsay) I’ve heard rumors the police charges weren’t aimed so much at the “Black Block” but at the Kurdish people right behind them. I don’t know if it’s true. And I really have no clue why the (Berlin) police charged the Kurdish people. But it broke the front of the demonstration, and set the mood for the rest of the weekend. Even though the demonstration went on – peacefully – ahead after this.
Well, let’s be honest. No matter how disciplined you behave. No matter how non-pacifist and full of resistance and power you feel. No matter how much you shout, or sing songs to keep the spirit up.
Daddy State has more resources than you. They have more vehicles, weaponry, gas, and can keep pouring in more forces. And will use those forces. Forces who might be individual human beings, but not in that situation. They have given away their individual responsibility, their conscience to a line of command.
Unless you are capable, and willing, to use the same amount of force as Daddy State, militarizing yourself is not a real option. The last thing anyone wants, is a full blown civil war in the middle of what is actually a peaceful demonstration. No individual in a demonstration wants that on their conscience. The only other option is indeed non-violent resistance.
And get beaten up, bruised by water cannons, poisoned by pepper-spray and so on. Indeed. It was not for nothing even in mainstream media the discussion about the excessive use of force started.
So, the skin on the back of my hand was slightly damaged, but at least something good came out of it, that discussion was long overdue.
Gnawing away, I started reaching the bones of my knuckles, when I saw what was happening in the “Schanzeviertel”. And the not-so-immediate reaction of “the authorities”. I was shocked to see the images of cops with machine guns “securing the area” house by house, pointing their guns at people standing in the window.
Why are my knuckles bleeding by now?
Because the neighborhood I live in isn’t that much different than the one in Hamburg. It’s a poor neighborhood with lots of people coming from different countries. Lots of strange artists and musicians. Weird little shops, “house projects” and quite a few DIY-initiatives. A bit of a free zone.
And our little neighborhood is subject to gentrification. Because, you know, those weirdos make an area lively. Pubs, clubs, shops and small initiatives pop up. Making it more interesting. So people want to move there. So investors come. Rents are raised, or houses are for sale instead of to let. And the newcomers start complaining about the mess, the garbage, the alcoholics, the homeless, the music on the streets and in the pubs, the graffiti, well, everything that comes with a lively neighborhood. So the people and the initiatives are forced to leave. Can’t afford the rent, pubs are closed.
And there’s protest against it. Just like in that neighborhood in Hamburg.
Occasionally, an expensive car is burned down. Or stones fly when “the authorities” are trying to take control. Just like in that neighborhood in Hamburg.
We had house searches where dangerous materials such as fire extinguishers were confiscated, just like in Hamburg when toilet brushes were confiscated. (if you ever wonder why people hold toilet brushes during demonstrations, it’s because they have been confiscated as “dangerous weapons” in the past). We’ve had the “danger zone” with 300 riot cops stationed for months in front of a house project because there were lose “suspicions” there was some kind of link between that house and the burning of cars.
All this kinda stuff was also happening in that neighborhood in Hamburg. The good stuff as well as the bad stuff.
Would the G20 been held 200 meters from our neighborhood, the chances would have been huge the same things would have happened here.
After the demonstration and everything building up, tenses would have gone up here too. Now rumors say the whole car burning and shop smashing was a deliberate action, where only big supermarkets and rich man shops were a target, no small shop owners were attacked. I don’t know if this is true. And not that this makes it ok. But it wasn’t just a wrong way of anger management. Other sources, including a few of the shops being attacked, state it wasn’t the alternative scene doing the really bad stuff, but drunk partygoers. They even state the so-called black-block people tried to prevent damage to small shops (sorry, post is in German, but if you can read it, do… it’s one of the most sensible reactions, and from people directly facing the consequences.)
Also here, there would probably be rumors about molotov cocktails and sidewalk tiles lying on roofs. It is still strange with all those rumors and the authorities waiting for army equipment to go “secure” the neighborhood, not one molotov cocktails has been thrown, or a tile fell down. But who am I.
There probably would have been improvised barricades here to. Ok, now I’m not a professional, but to be honest, those barricades looked not really effective. Bit of wood, a thin fence or two, maybe a piece of furniture. *Goes into grandma mode* In the old days of the squatting movement, barricades actually held. Sometimes for days. They consisted of for example long steel wire hammered in between the houses, were at least 3 meter high and firmly build in a short time. And only burned when the “enemy” started approaching. *grandma mode off*.
I’ve seen plenty of these “barricades” at May 1st too. When you watch a band in Kreuzberg, smell a bit of burning plastic, see the “barricade”, turn around and watch the band again, every now and then taking a step back to let the riot cops run free.
I’m not saying it’s ok to do this. Or burn cars. Or smash shops. Heck, I wouldn’t have liked to see my neighborhood turned into that kind of mess. Like a friend of mine once told people lightning up a garbage can on May 1st: “do you really have to mess up our neighborhood? If you’re so fixed on burning the rich, go burn the rich.” (which utterly btw, they actually did in Hamburg). The usual mess we have is fine, including the dog shit and the heaps of rotten garbage, but I just don’t like the smell of burned plastic, or the risk of collateral damage when cars are burned down.
Now, except the fact I wouldn’t like it when somebody burned my bike down (I kinda depend on it), and my general aversion to violence, I don’t see why a few individuals would have to be “punished” for something which is a far bigger thing. I also have my doubts if it would really stop gentrification. If it would keep my rent low, well, I would probably secretly support it. But I don’t think it matters. They’ll just park their car somewhere else. Heck, I actually know of one of my friends, – no, without much money – who left the neighborhood because of multiple reasons, but one of them was being afraid of collateral damage of a car burning down beneath her window, the other one was witnessing a squat being evicted, and people being beat up shitless by the cops beneath that same window. So it might actually have the opposite effect.
So, no, the end doesn’t justify the means. Especially since I have sincere doubts if those means would make a difference.
However, the reaction of “Daddy State” was pretty frikkin scary. I was glued to my monitor. Reading every live report I could find.
I could identify too much. Could imagine how it would be if uniformed cops in full riot gear would march into my street as if it was a war zone. Holding machine guns. Pointing them at windows.
I’d be scared out of my wits. And angry. Really really angry. Not with the people making the mess (honestly, though I do feel sorry for the owners of the damaged property, the actions itself I find mostly bloody frikkin stupid). But angry at the over-reaction of Daddy State.
Because, to be honest? Except for the so-called “political background” of the whole thing. I would really like to invite all the parties to an average New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam Zuid. No, nothing political about it. And yes, cars burned down & shops were plundered, so it was not just common goods. But the mess after that one night of “party’ is a multitude of what happened in Hamburg. Or even the worst May 1st in Berlin. And the solution there and then was to just let it burn out, clean up and repair (or not… some bus stops never ever got replaced) in the days & weeks after.
So the reaction of Daddy State was, again, excessive. Probably because it was political, and not just some random party night gone wild. Erdogan probably felt at home indeed.
And I gnawed my knuckles down to the bone.
The weekend is over. Wounds are licked. Streets are cleaned.
Humor kicks in. Yes, contrary to common belief, Germans do have a sense of humor. Like posting a picture of a street in the Schanzenviertel with people shopping, kids & musicians playing, and the caption “look at our neighborhood in Hamburg near Aleppo/Syria, it will never be the same!” Or a meme of “Je suis Auto”
Unfortunately, these are exceptions.
There’s a lot of confusion. A lot of accusations. From all sides.
There’s a lot of screaming. Pointing fingers. Condemning. On all sides.
The willingness of Daddy State to use this much excessive force scares me shitless. Especially the machine guns. It takes it all to a whole new level.
But the worst is yet to come. Already in politics the discussion has moved from that excessive force to deeming what happened in the Schanzenviertel as a “terrorist action”. Putting burned down cars and plundered shops on the same level as killing dozens of people. Screaming for more “screening” of would-be activists. Of exchanging databases with other countries. Taking profiling, and therefore, being guilty until proven otherwise, to a whole new level.
And this means I’m now slowly running out of knuckles to chew on…
We Berliners live dangerously. We’re used to crossing busy streets and jumping out of the way of that crazy idiot ignoring a red light. We warm up our Döner from two days ago. In the middle of winter, we dance in our T-shirts in front of some street musicians (IF we like the music). We breathe the most polluted air in Europe and smoke a smuggled cigarette on top. When some Imbiss has tables outside, we will use them, even when it’s -10. One of our favorite districts for going out is the battleground of a full-fledged gang-war. We eat raw fish when the summers are so hot, the parks look like the Sahara. If the S-Bahn breaks down (like almost every winter) and we’re stuck for hours somewhere in the snow, we start singing christmas songs loudly with complete strangers. And at May 1st, we just take a small step backwards to let the riot go past & keep watching the bands while barricades are burning behind our back.
It is not easy to get us shocked. Or scared. Or randomly hate groups of people. We leave that to the luckily still relatively small amount of “worried citizens”.
We’re from France. From Holland. From Venezuela and Brazil. From Pakistan, Lebanon and Egypt. Some of us come from Spain, from Greece. From Poland or Bosnia. From Turkey, South-Africa or Japan. Some of us are import from Baden-Württemberg, the Ruhrpot, Ost-Friesland or Sachsen-Anhalt, or a “Fischkopf” from Hamburg. Some of us are “original”-Berliners.
But no matter where we come from, we all soon adopt the Berlin attitude: we don’t believe the hype.
After the incident last monday, we’re shocked, yes. But the general attitude is “You won’t get our fear, you won’t get our hate”.
By now, everyone having some sort of connection to the outer world must know about what happened in Berlin, this monday around 8pm.
For those who didn’t, just the bare facts. Someone hijacked a truck, and drove it through a crowd of people at one of the most popular Berlin Christmas markets. Twelve people died, many got injured. That’s all we know for certain. Everything else is not known. Though this might change in the time that I’m typing this.
Twelve people died just because they were at the wrong time at the wrong place, by the act of a criminal insane person. I call this person criminally insane. No matter your motives, be it personal, political or maybe for money, if you kidnap a truck driver, stab him quite a few times, drive his truck through a random crowd killing people, and shoot that driver, you’re insane, and you’re a criminal.
So yes. We’re shocked.
Even as Berliners, we’re shocked. But we leave fear and hate to others.
The most common, and very human, reaction is shock. Though we stay calm, we’re still shocked.
Now, violence, or people dying, is not uncommon on this planet. So why are we shocked if a relatively small amount of people die or get injured?
First of all, I think being shocked is still a good thing. It means what happened is still a rare thing. People die because of car accidents all the time. Or heart attacks. Or getting their purses stolen. We’re not even shocked anymore by rape (sadly enough). It is common. We’re all aware this can happen to us too. We’re weary when crossing a busy street. We try to sort of look after our health. We watch our bags when walking through a crowd. A woman walking alone in a dark street, tends to walk faster. But we’re not shocked when we read about an elderly lady being killed by a drunk driver. Unless we know her of course. We feel sorry for the person who just got her purse stolen, but well, shit happens. And rape, well, unfortunately, most women are way too aware it can happen any time, any place, to be shocked to read about it in the newspapers.
Luckily we’re still shocked if someone randomly drives through a market and kills people.
Or, as another recent incident showed, shocked about the almost casual way some hooligans kicked a woman down the stairs at a metro station. What was most shocking about it, was the utter indifference of the kicker. Walking by, seeing the woman, kicking her hard in her back, grabbing his beer, and walking on, laughing with his friends. It had a very strong “Clockwork Orange” feeling for me. And I was shocked mostly about the complete ruthlessness and lack of conscience of the kicker.
Or shocked when a “confused person” pushes a complete stranger in front of a subway train, which happened in january this year here in Berlin.
Or another mentally not stable person flies a passenger plane into a mountain.
Thank goodness, these are still incidents. Not common…
Next, we’re shocked because we can identifywith the victims or their family.
Though I’m personally not a big fan of christmas markets (I don’t like hot wine, I don’t get the fun of christmas-hats with glowlights, or over-expensive heartshaped sweets) and probably lack the cultural background to enjoy them, it could have happened to me. One of my colleagues or friends might have tried to convince me to at least try a christmas market and dragged me there. Or it might have been one of my friends or colleagues visiting that market.
In the case of the woman being kicked down the stairs, it could have been any of us. We could have been the one trying to catch a metro and suddenly finding ourselves down the stairs with a broken arm.
We could have been in that plane. Being pushed in front of the subway.
And just like these people, if we were in their situation, we wouldn’t be aware we were at risk, were a target, or maybe could have been prepared for it.
In the news we read a lot about death and violence. And the acts themselves are actually quite shocking. But we somehow manage to shrug them off. Because.. it won’t happen to us.
Doctors or nurses shot at an abortion clinic? We don’t work at an abortion clinic, and heck, that’s far away anyway.
A politician or ambassador being killed? We’re not politicians or ambassadors, and again, that’s some other country.
The death penalty for atheists? Luckily we don’t live in a country like that.
A banker’s son being kidnapped for ransom? We’re not rich.
People at a mosque being shot? We’re not muslims.
A homeless guy being set on fire? We’re not homeless.
A drug dealer being stabbed to death at the RAW Gelände? We’re not drug dealers. Though this might get close, we could get involved in something like that just by being around at that time.
A few gay people being beaten up at Alexanderplatz? We’re not… ho, wait-a-sec, we have a lot of gay friends or might not be completely straight ourselves. Now this IS getting close.
Maybe next time, when I travel with them over Alexanderplatz, I have to warn them not to act too gay. I don’t want to get beaten up by association.
Ho. Wait-a-sec. Again. Why would I warn my friends not to be too obviously gay? Why would I become scared? And start acting upon it? Isn’t that exactly what those homophobic people want??
One of the things which very unpleasantly surprised me yesterday was how soon it was deemed an “attack”.
Though nobody knew what exactly happened, and most important, the motives of the truck-driver, it was an attack almost immediately after the news got out.
The first thing I noticed was how fast facebook-friends declared themselves safe during the “Attack on Berlin”. Facebook later renamed the safety check to “Violent Incident”, but the damage was done.
Though the german media, even the tabloids, adopted a far more “wait and see what actually happened” attitude, facebook immediately jumped to a conclusion. It was an ATTACK. And of course, all over the world, people jumped to conclusions. It was an attack, it was an act of TERRRRORRR. But please don’t panic. Right.
One of the results was that friends and family, who really knew I was not the kind of person for visiting a christmas market, fervently tried to text, message or email me asking if I was safe. And I know a lot of fellow-Berliners, many not too big fans of christmas markets, had the same thing happening.
When in a city of a few million people, 12 people die because of some kind of freak incident, probably no one would have worried. But call it an attack, as facebook did, start talking about a terrorist act (like a lot of international, also mainstream, media did) and panic starts.
Even if later, it turns out to be not a terrorist act, but for example, a drunk or overworked driver, a criminal act gone horribly wrong, or some “confused” person running amok. Or other motives. The damage is done. The fear is sown.
As for example happened with the truck driver in Nice (who wasn’t a fanatic muslim, but a mentally ill person), or an axe-wielder in a train in Germany, the crazy guy in a train from Holland to Paris, or a burned-out nerd doing a coupe in dutch television. Too many examples of amok-runners (which is sad anyway) which were, sometimes only temporarily, deemed a terrorist act.
We’re not afraid of confused people running amok. They’re just, you know, crazy. And there’s not much we can do about crazy people suddenly deciding to, well, go crazy. They are so unpredictable, we adapt the “shit happens” attitude.
We’re not too afraid of violent criminals. Because, there’s still some sort of logic, an understandable motive, greed. They are nicely (relatively) predictable.
But we are o-so afraid of terrorists. Because they do not seem to be crazy. They seem to have some kind of rationality. We just don’t get their logic. We don’t get their fanaticism. But they seem to have a purpose.
Indeed they do. One of reasons terrorists perform terrorist acts, is not the act themselves. They want to inflict fear. It’s not the few people killed. They don’t really matter. It is the fear for that we, personally, might be next.
See above. Random acts of violence that could happen to us.
And anything which helps create the fear, helps the terrorists.
That’s what facebook did. That’s what quite a few mainstream media from outside Germany do.
I’ve heard stories about school trips to Berlin being cancelled. Because, you know, Alexanderplatz isn’t safe.
This is exactly doing what the terrorists want you to do. Start cowering.
Just like me telling my gay friends not to act too gay when traveling in the metro. That’s helping the homophobics.
The best you can do is stay calm. Don’t panic. Don’t give in to fear. Proceed as normally. That way you are taking away the terrorists main instrument.
Luckily the Berlin people acted that way. We mourn, we’re in shock. But we don’t let ourselves intimidated (IF it was a terrorist act, we won’t give them what they want). The christmas markets were open today.
Omg, how we would love to have someone to blame. Someone who is guilty of this. Well. There is. The truck driver.
But he (or maybe a she?) is the only we can blame. For now.
Unfortunately, there were quite a few people who happily jumped the bandwagon and used this utter tragedy for their own agenda, or personal gain.
And the worst has been seen. Especially after a (later deemed innocent) refugee from Pakistan was arrested. But already before this.
On the social media. Facebook, Twitter. Even before the innocent guy from Pakistan was arrested, immediately especially the xenophobes started screaming and throwing mud. Of course it was an attack. And a terrorist one too. And one to blame on refugees, migrants, or muslims. Close all the borders! Deport anyone with a skin color darker than bright white! Shave off all beards! Remove any female headcover!
After the refugee was arrested it got even worse. The german xenophobic party started using terminology such as “Merkel’s dead”. Memes started to pop up with the german chancellor with bloody hands. This also internationally.
But the social media were only the start. Especially from mainstream media from outside germany, the finger-pointing started. Immigrants. Muslims. Refugees. The german open borders. They were all to blame. Close the borders! Start deporting! Stop any humanitarian help! More security! More surveillance! Less privacy!
Then there were all the politicians. Using it to further their own agenda. Though I was never a big fan of Trump (*cough*) his reaction to the violence in Turkey, Zürich and Berlin was utterly disgusting. Nothing was known at that time. And he already started blaming immigrants and calling it an attack on christianity. I almost had to puke.
Every xenophobic politician in Europe followed suit.
And then it turns out, the refugee from Pakistan was innocent. And they became silent again.
But the damage was done.The past 48 hours, random acts of violence against refugees increased dramatically. Very dramatically. And motives and purpose of the committers of these crimes were very, very clear. No speculation needed.
Today a xenophobic spin-off of the Pegida organized an “anti-Merkel” demonstration at the market. To claim this horrible incident to further your agenda is so… plainly disgusting. It reminds me of the reaction of the xenophobes to the acts of sexual violence against women during New Year’s Eve in Cologne. All of a sudden, these white male chauvinists would protect women’s right. Well, if I was sexually assaulted, the last “knight in shining armor” I would look to for protection, would be one of the same kind of people as the ones that (in a group) pushed me up to the wall in a subway station, calling me a “leftish slut”. A “slut” because I was female, and “leftish”, since I happen to live in an alternative neighbourhood.
(Update: the xenophobic demonstration was met with a huge crowd of people holding hearts up. We don’t let hate win.)
And talking about pointing fingers. That video of the people kicking a woman down the stairs in a subway station? The guys looked dark-skinned. I’ve seen so much hate going on. The video was posted as “Afghan refugees attacking woman”. And other accusations without any real back-up. After it turned out, the kicker was an european hooligan, they went silent. Very, very silent.
But the damage was done. Not everyone (the video went quite viral) who saw the video, has also gotten the information of who the actual committer of the crime was. The story went on its own.
The same thing is happening again. We still have no clue what the motives of the driver are. Or who he is. Or she. The person is still on the lose. Which is kinda scary, since it’s the kind of person who is capable of stabbing someone multiple times and shooting him. But we don’t even know if the driving into the crowd was on purpose. It might have been a result of the struggle between the driver and his kidnapper. Or the kidnapper simply having no clue how to drive a truck. We don’t know.
But the fingers are pointed. And as so many examples from the (recent) past have shown, they might very well point in the wrong direction. What about the 60+ Israeli lady who is missing? Maybe she was behind all of it (not seriously meant, just pointing the finger to a very unlikely suspect).. At the moment, only rumors and suspicions exist. About smuggling cigarettes. About the hijacking having a criminal background (and gone horribly wrong). Now, the papers of a Tunesian have been found in the truck. A Tunesian, about to be deported, a known small criminal, someone who had the attention of the secret service for some time, and who’s phone had been tapped because he might have been planning an armored robbery. Someone who might have been “radicalized”. But we still don’t know if it was him. Leaving your purse with identity papers on the scene of a crime doesn’t really sound… smart? It’s not something your average burglar would do.
But even if it was this person, we’re still not sure about his motives. If it was someone with a muslim background, seeking asylum… Don’t generalize. Don’t point fingers. “You won’t get our hate”. As quite a lot of people from here, from Berlin have said, posted, put notes on the scene of the crime. And that’s the right attitude. Shock. Yes. Fear, don’t. Hate. No. The only ones profiting from fear and hate are the terrorists and the xenophobes.
No one is to blame. Not refugees. Not muslims. Not “Gutmenschen”. Only the driver of the truck.
A message to the xenophobes: Stop crying wolf. Unfortunately, people still believe you. But you have been crying wolf wrongly so many times now, they might stop believing you.
Same to the terrorists. Really, nobody believes you anymore when you claim a violent crime as your own terrorist act days later. Just give up, will you?
You won’t get our fear. You won’t get our hate. Just give up and get lost.
Boing. My guardian angel just gained enough experience points to level up again.
By utter coincidence and complete stupidity I managed to get in the middle of the action (again), watch riot cops charge into an otherwise very peaceful antifascist demonstration (again), wonder if I should do something heroic, see the streetlights reflect in helmet and clubs, decide against the heroic thing, and just shake my old head while the “riot” (which consisted of two small smoke-bombs thrown on the pavement from the demo, and lots of pushing and clubbing from the cops) went back & forth for my eyes.
And am completely unaffected by it. Physically (hence the xp for the guardian angel) as well as mentally. Only worried about the kids in the demo, or the people who were hit.
I just get very, very tired of this, it is so unnecessary. But I guess if they had let the demo walk peacefully to the end point, the tabloids would lack headliners tomorrow, and certain conservative politicians can’t scream for more police to control our neighborhood.
*sighs deeply again and congratulates guardian angel on another level*
I always hear I’m a pessimist. But today one of my colleagues managed to top even my blackest views.
During a meeting, we were worrying about the impact of the US elections on global environmental policy, considering the candidates for positions of power (for example, the EPA).
All of a sudden, one my colleagues loosely remarks “ah well, extrapolating the current trend, we might have to deal with the AfD leading the Environmental Ministry in a year time”.
I literally spit out my coffee…
(for people not living in germany: the AfD is the leading xenophobic party here, and shares the tendency towards conspiracy theories as well as a firm disbelief in anything having to do with (natural) science. They won considerably lately. Though still marginal compared to the trend in other countries)
So… Today the court decided the partial eviction of the Rigaer was indeed illegal, and neither the owner of the house, or the police were in their right to violently clean those rooms out.
They now have to evict the premises, and give them back to the former users.
With help of the bailiff.
Here’s the link and here a vid , where the senator tries again and again to duck the question: why did he evict the premises, if there was no document available to justify this eviction, nor for keeping a huge police force at the site for weeks?
I SO want a video of this: A bailiff, possibly with police support, kicking the security of the owner and the police supporting the owner out.
And in the mean time, Henkel, the senator responsible for the danger zone, still refuses to talk with the people from the neighborhood about the whole “your civil rights are suspended here” thing.
Possibly because by now he has A LOT to explain:
personal data of people searched in the danger zone ending up straight from the police files on nazi websites
the only person caught hot-handed burning cars down, turned out to be a Pegida activist, and a police informer
it was the testimony of this police informer on what’s going on inside the Rigaer house which was one of the basics on which the danger zone was installed -> hear-say around the neighborhood (yeahyeah, I know….) says when the guy was exposed as a police informer & kicked out of the scene some time ago, one of his last words was “I’ll get my revenge”…
now it turns out the eviction of part of the Rigaer was illegal. And this senator, who keeps referring to “respecting the legal state”, obviously had his own interpretation of “legal, illegal, scheißegal”.
Well… I wonder how he’ll make up for the destruction of the inventory of the pub, the kitchen for refugees, for the destruction of the inner house garden, and the weeks of in-house heavy surveillance of the people living there, including bluntly refusing visitors entering the house after 9 pm…
Of course, the article ended with a reference to the “riots” of last saturday. Something the senator keeps referring to too. Which I seemed to have completely missed out on, though I was present at the “scene of crime” for three hours…
And I do frikkin hope it’s the end of the political career of this “hawk”, and the end of the Danger Zone (hey, we can keep dreaming, can we?).
Gosh… our neighborhood made the national and even the international news. It seems last saturday we had the worst riot of the past five years, or started the Revolution-with-capital-R, depending on which media you’re reading. Woho. I witnessed the onset of world wide revolution?
Bad news though, for those cheering the revolution on, we’re still more busy doing our dishes. I hate to disappoint people, but, I actually didn’t see much of this riot, or this revolution (again, depending on your point of view). And I joined the demo from almost the beginning, till it officially ended.
But well, I’m used to New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam, so maybe I’m just biased. A bit of fireworks, a fence of a building site brought down, and a huge police force of 1,800 cops including heavy material such as a water-cannon, a bulldozer and an armored vehicle, don’t constitute a riot in my humble opinion.
At the end, drunken party-goers mixed with the demo, and yes, bottles were flying. That’s when I left, the demo was over anyway. But a few flying bottles or stones don’t make a riot. Again, I’m used to New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam, where you bike back home avoiding the shattered glass of every bus stop in the neighborhood, holes of molten asphalt because of spontaneous self-combusting piles of garbage, a true layer of broken glass bottles, and yep, usually at least one burned out or turned-over police car. This mostly even doesn’t make the local paper…
But maybe I just missed out on the riot by leaving when the demo ended, or, if I read the police reports, in the “wrong” part of the demo… Bad timing again?
(short note to the vid on the right: they first show the “riots” – which mostly seem to consist of pushing & pulling, people getting arrested and other people wondering why and protesting this, then the actual demo before all this. Leave it to ruptly to edit creatively)
But djeez, we made the international press? Sunday afternoon I was sitting with a few people in front of one of the house projects, when someone from one of the balconies shouted down: wow, we made the NATIONAL news. We were quite surprised.
Because. To be honest. We don’t really get it. What revolution? Well, actually.. what riot?
A bit of history & background
Of course, riots & angry crowds don’t just fall out of the sky.
There’s usually something which leads up to them.
For more than one year, we’re up over our heads in the so-called “Danger zone” (officially installed in september 2015, but, see some of my other posts of july 2015, it actually was in effect beforehand) by the Berlin Senat for Inner Affairs. The danger zone means, basically, your civil rights are suspended, and you can be searched, or held without a reason, or premises can be raided, again, without a real suspicion of “criminal activity”. For people living in that area it feels like being in a state of siege with permanent controls, getting banned from the premises and even house and home searches. There is a huge police force constantly present in front of certain house projects, especially the so-called “Dorfplatz” (Village Square).
For more background and a bit of history: check this post of a local blogger from last february.
The weird thing about this danger zone phenomena is, is that it is supposed to make a neighborhood more safe. You know, service to the people and all that. Weirdly enough, the average inhabitant of the area doesn’t feel more safe by all those lovely uniforms. As some put it, they never were bothered by the squatters, heck, the house projects are a good defense against gentrification and rent raises. But they are thoroughly bothered by not just the fear of being selected for a search (which even happens to 9-year old kids), but the constant noise and search lights of the “occupying force”. Which is how many people now see those “protectors of the people”.
Though the actual zone is a few blocks away, the “overflow” is very notable in our part of the neighborhood. Mechanical mosquitoes (i.e. police helicopters) fly low and slow over our streets till deep in the night, causing even usually pretty relaxed people like me making bazooka noises. Friends visiting from other neighborhoods are astonished about the huge police presence everywhere. But. The human mind is capable of getting used to almost everything. Even vans full of riot cops driving around all the time, or the constant circling of surveillance helicopters. You shrug. You sigh. You just try to live your life. And again Pigface’s song “You get used to living in the warzone” plays on the jukebox in your head…
What it practically means… check out this vid, where even the mayor of this borough and other politicians tell us the Danger Zone and the suspension of civil rights, and of the rights of renters, is a frikking bad idea.
So yes, a lot of people are pretty pissed off by the whole situation. They want their streets, their “kiez” back.
But enough to start a revolution and declare the independence of the neighborhood? Or at least do that rioting thing? If so, it failed. Again, I didn’t see a riot…
The efficient use of force and the “State Mandate on Violence”
What I saw was a police force 1,800 strong, who seemed to have no clue what they were doing. The bulky stuff such as water-cannon, bulldozer, armored vehicles and the whole arsenal of heavy equipment was parked somewhere on one of the bigger streets, & never left that parking spot. Most of those 1,800 cops were just outside the so-called riot-zone, sitting in their vans typing away on their smart phones.
I guess they missed out on the riot too…
The cops near the demo seemed utterly confused, or maybe got contradictory orders. Every now and then it seemed like they were trying to close off the demo on both sides, but then obviously got another order, and in single file flocked away trying to look semi-useful somewhere else. Or they went into the demo in turtle formation, only to come to the conclusion this meant they were surrounded quickly by people who just ignored & walked around them. Confusion a plenty, still no criminal caught hot-handed and another order followed. Maybe look for potential rioteers somewhere else? There was some use of pepperspray, and some uncoordinated charging maneuvers. Leading to a bit of panic in the small streets.
We were never really closed in. It was almost as if on purpose room was created to bring that one part of a fence of a building site down..
I was quite surprised we were allowed to walk through the danger zone.
So I do wonder. If even innocent demonstrations such as the Night-Dance-Demo are completely surrounded by cops. If a peaceful anti-nazi protest is met by the deployment of huge amounts of pepperspray and quite some hectic charging and arresting of people. If a sitting blockade protesting a prestige building project ends with one guy losing his eyesight because of the immense power blast released by a water-canon. How come 1,800 cops having some truly heavy equipment at their disposal couldn’t prevent a full-fledged riot washing over the neighborhood?
Maybe there was not much of a riot (or a revolution, yes, yes, I get it now)?
The only other options are that either the cops are completely incompetent, or (warning: conspiracy theory ahead) they wanted to have a riot, to next enforce more police surveillance in our “kiez”.
But.. they keep talking about riots all the time??
Yes, and I still wonder how I managed to miss seeing them. Or those 100s of cops getting seriously hurt.
What I DID see, were thousands of people filling one of the broadest avenues in Berlin over its full width, for miles. And yes, the demo sparkled in the orange street lights because of all those police helmets mixed in.
What I did see, were the neighbors along the route, who rolled banners down their balconies, put their speakers outside so we had some music, or (this has become tradition in the danger zone itself, everyday from 21.00 to 21:30, it is LOUD in the Rigaer str. ) hammered away on pots & pans.
What I saw was the older guy in an electric wheelchair, who (on the crosswalk!) blocked a police van.
What I saw were the owners of the evening shops and the small restaurants putting their thumbs up to us. (Utterly by the way, these shop-owners in the danger zone refuse to sell food to the ca. 300 cops constantly present in front of the most threatened house project, and even deny them access to their bathrooms).
Extreme-left activists? Sure. Especially the girl in a hippy skirt walking bare-footed. Or the people with their kids in a buggy. Or the 60+ couple in dungarees (yes.. dungarees).
Nothing of this in the press of course.
But the press was definitively right about the atmosphere. It was NOT pleasant. At all. It was very grim. People were scared. And they were angry. We’ve HAD it.
That whole danger zone thing
We’ve had it. Really. That whole danger zone thing really, really gets on your nerves.
After months of seeing cops in full riot gear on every street corner.
Of knowing you can be searched and your personal data taken without being a “suspect” when you go shopping or bring your pet to the vet.
When you want to distribute food, but realize you forgot your ID, so you decide to bike a big detour around the danger zone (at least I still have a choice, since I don’t live smackdown in the middle of that zone).
When sitting with a couple of friends in an empty parking spot results in a “warning” since you haven’t paid for that parking spot, you are not a car with license plate anyway, and this “warning” is being emphasized by a few vans of riot cops driving by and a helicopter starting to circle above your head. Yes, I get slightly pissed (though I just sigh, and go from the parking spot to the edge of the side-walk).
When you have to be afraid the pub you go to with your friends for a drink can be raided any minute, for no reason.
If when I collect more food, and realize I have to bike through at least three police lines with an utterly full backpack, I might be searched for “dangerous goods” (where I do have to admit, vegan porridge could be considered an explosive).
It influences the daily lives of every one in this neighborhood. And there’s the bigger picture. The things that do not have an impact on my own life, but which create a atmosphere of fear and anger. And very, very, unpleasant surprise.
When a part of the Rigaer house project is evicted, supposedly to make room for refugees (but of course, with a “legal” renting contract, as if a random refugee could afford the “new” rents in this neighborhood), and these premises are secured by dozens of cops, who, because of the danger zone, are allowed to search anyone, including the people who legally live there, or can refuse visitors for the inhabitants after 9pm, since “it’s too late in the evening”.
When the personal data collected during the several thousands identity checks & searches since the installment of the danger zone. straight from the police files, ends up on a right-wing website (see also here).
When the Senator, responsible for Order and Regulations, is about to burst into joy, since finally they caught one of the arsonists red-handed, but it turns out to be a police-informer, and not an extreme “leftie” but an active member of the Pegida (the xenophobic right-wing movement in Germany). And the testimony of this arsonists a few years ago is one of the reasons the danger zone was installed.
When the day of the demonstration, on each and every corner at least 25 cops are standing, who keep a more than watchful eye on you, when you wait outside a bakery with a couple of other food-savers.
When our beloved senator in a press-release says, he won’t use a de-escalation-strategy, but it will be eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth, and just not starts exclaiming “this is war, baby”. And people decide not to go the demonstration, because they’re too scared.
You start to become grim.
Grim doesn’t mean violent
Let’s make clear: I hate arson. I don’t like burned-out cars. I don’t see how damaging one person’s private goods could benefit a political goal. I don’t get why you should get “personal” with a person you don’t even know. And though I don’t own a car, I’d be frikkin devastated if someone burned down my bike, on which I depend. I don’t understand how you can take the risk of collateral damage and accidentally burn something else down.
I don’t like hard words, or threats. I don’t identify with “hard-liners” (yes, I’m a bloody hippy after all). I cannot, in anyway, condone beating up a traffic cop, and next taking refuge in a house project. It not only goes against my principles to just bloody beat someone up, but running into a house project afterwards is just plain cowardly, and STUPID (again, just as most of the riot and/or violence stuff, I got this from the press or hear-say, so I might be biased and wrong about what actually happened or the background). But the subsequent invading of the house & confiscating dangerous goods such as fire-extinguishers or heating coal was completely out of proportion. And it wasn’t the first, nor the last time.
Maybe I’m just not pushed that far. And others are. It somehow reminded me of that old dutch poster “stones are no arguments” which includes a poem, ending with “but maybe stones are our first uncertain words in the only language they seem to understand”. The language of violence.
A very sad conclusion indeed.
I hate violence. Or situations, where a crowd in small streets starts panicking. And yes, I was about to shit my pants in three colors too. Not so much for being arrested or beaten up (though I really rather not, thank you, especially since I usually AM that stupid innocent bystander), but for being trampled by a crowd panicking.
How can this end….
Somewhere I still hope, the Senator responsible for the whole situation will fall flat on his face. Even from official sides, it has been made clear, the whole Danger-Zone thing is a part of his personal campaign to get elected in the “Abgeordnetenhaus” (Parliament). (Edit 13.07.2016: he actually did fall on his face.. see my next post: turns out the partial eviction of the Rigaer was illegal, this should be bad for a politician who keeps shouting about how the “legal state” should be respected.)
But I suspect somehow, the whole uproar about those dozens of wounded officers, and the whole “riot, riot, riot” screaming by the press service of the police (nicely taken over by the press, they can’t afford to pay real journalists anymore) are needed to justify bringing 1,800 cops into the neighborhood. And the heavy equipment, which was uselessly stashed away in their parking spots (but how beautifully it shined in the street lights…).
And what I’m mostly afraid of, is it will get only worse. The call of reason “maybe we should, you know, try TALKING with each other” of the people in the neighborhood and even the local parliament (of which most parties are against the whole danger zone thing) won’t be heard anymore after one pic of another of a burned-down car, or that one orange-flaring piece of pyrotechnics on the streets (I just stepped over it…) every paper published. (Edit from 13.07.2016: by now, even the german Chancellor has something to say about it: TALK. Thereby “backstabbing” her fellow party member, the Berlin Senator, who refuses to talk…)
And in the mean time, I have the feeling I’d better shut up about having taken part in the demo. Since I’m now considered to be rioteer. Someone who throws bottles and stones, or burns cars down. And where the reason *I* went to the demo (yes, scared shitless, but I won’t let myself be intimidated…), namely, to protest against this absurd danger zone where all your civil rights are suspended, and against the whole gentrification thing, is completely overshadowed by the picture of one bright orange rocket..
Cleansing the underground, cleansing the neighborhood, cleansing the population: A rant about bad things happening, over-reacting, pointing fingers, underbellies & crocodile brains, and my personal aversion against (self-)proclaimed protectors. And why it might actually come to me dressing up in bright pink, slapping faces with my house-shoes.
People sometimes tell me I’m a pessimist. I rather describe it as “I hate it when I’m right”. Or worse, when my more absurd jokes become true (hey, Life, that was a frikkin’ JOKE!). But lately, I’m beginning to lose that sense of pitch-black humor, and feel the need to hide under a blankie, being “sick & tired of waiting for this world to end”.
I’m sick and tired of hate. Sick and tired of generalizations. Sick & tired of polarization. Sick & tired of “cures”, which are worse than the “disease”. Sick & tired of (self-)proclaimed “protectors”.
Yes… many bad things happen. Thing I can’t, and won’t condone. Things I can’t and won’t laugh away. Things which make me want to hide in a dark corner. But the reactions to those bad things are so out of proportion, I have to shake off that blanket.
“Cleansing” the underground
Recently, an underground – neofolk – party had to close, because the owner of the venue where it took place received threats from “the Left”. I’m very much aware that, in some undergroundier than underground music scenes, there are some “bad apples”. I walk around in those scenes, and am not one of the people who shuts up when I spot “brownish” tendencies. And I’m not the only one. The reaction however, of some people outside that scene, to threaten the venue where a party from that scene takes place with violence, and on the net, start a hate campaign, is completely out of proportion.
Condemning a whole (albeit very small) music scene because of a few bad apples, and a lot of unfounded suspicions, will only lead to polarization. To the people who threatened the owner of the venue: you in fact give the opportunity to those few bad apples to take over that scene, because this kind of intimidation won’t make people give up their music. But it will make any kind of discussion completely impossible. I’m on the fringe of that scene, and consider myself an antifascist. Believe me, I can really do without the “protection” of some self-proclaimed, uninformed, self-righteous, outsiders.
And be realistic: the fascist threat isn’t coming from a few dozen people dancing slowly to neofolk music by candle light…
“Cleansing” the neighborhood
Another local “incident” of the past few weeks: cops invading squats in full riot gear because an uniformed person dealing out parking tickets was beaten up. Probably more than just the parking ticket happened, but still, beating someone up with 5 people is not ok in my book. Now I know dealing out parking tickets in Berlin isa risky job (just like telling people not to smoke in a small pub where the owner smokes himself). And really, not just in this neighborhood. It still is not ok to beat someone up for it. However, the reactions of the cops to this incident was absurd. It became the excuse to invade a local squat in full riot gear, and quite a few other actions following this. Resulting in the confiscation of a few fire extinguishers (hooray!). It was not exactly the first time the cops interpreted their task of “keeping the peace” in a rather, well… violent and disproportional way (for example last summer).
Dear cops: I applaud you. Very brave. It will most definitively help to release the tension in the neighborhood and make us all just love & want to hug you. Especially if you invade another house a few days later because of a small bag of garbage dumped 20 meters away from the helmeted, shielded, and well-insulated invaders. Or raid a small bakery because a few “suspicious people” are buying their breakfast there. Or get up a ladder in full riot gear to silence the music coming from a nearby balcony. Circling low above the neighborhood for days in a row with helicopters until deep in the night also makes me wish I had a bazooka at hand. And, as always, when such an “incident” happens, I just love being followed by a police van when I walk the streets with two friends of mine. Gosh, I never felt so safe in my life, having our own, private, surveillance unit.
Again, me, as one of the people living in the neighborhood, can do without this kind of “protection” from outsiders. Really, dragging people out of bakeries, invading a house because of some garbage thrown out, trying to intimidate with helicopters or following any group larger than 2 people on the streets, does not make me feel any safer in my neighborhood.
Again, this kind of intimidation won’t work, it will only lead to polarization. And again, be realistic: the chances that this will lead to a “bloody revolution”, the government being overthrown or Friedrichshain declaring its independence are pretty minimal.
“Cleansing” the male population
Last but not least. A very belated reaction to the “incidents” on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and other cities. Just to bring it back into memory (though I don’t think people have forgotten, yet…), on New Year’s Eve near the Central Station of Cologne, a lot, and I mean a LOT of women were sexually harassed or even raped, and subsequently robbed, on a scale rarely seen, by a mob of drunken men. This is bad. This is very very very bad. However, the reactions in the press, the social media and especially, the violence coming from “gangs” of hooligans and other self-declared “protectors of the german woman” were completely out of proportion. Within hours, the rumors about “nord-african” or “arabic” looking attackers, or “refugees” were all over the net, and the hate-campaign started. Again, leading to generalization & polarization.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure there are quite a few male chauvinist sexist pigs among refugees or people from the Middle-East. I just don’t think there’s more of them among those groups as in any other group… (hey, I’m a pessimist, remember?). And I’m all in favor of rooting this out. But…
Pointing the finger
What scares me are the reactions. First, I see people from whom I thought they had some kind of brain all of a sudden supporting the Pegida-movement.”oh, they were right about the hordes from the middle-east threatening our o-so woman-friendly culture”.
Already much has been said about this elsewhere, so I guess I don’t need to repeat the statistics in detail. Just a quick summary: most refugees are christians; gang-criminality, including robbery and group-rape (aka “gang-banging”), is associated with poverty & bad perspectives and yep, being an immigrant is associated with poverty & bad perspectives; rape is caused by rapists, not by the clothing the victim wears nor the “ethnicity” or “religion” of the rapist: there’s no statistical evidence of a higher occurrence of rapists within “refugees” or ” people from the Middle-East”.
Not to forget the instrument of robbery under cover of sexual harassment or grinding up (“antanzen”) is not exactly a new strategy. It is, unfortunately, a pretty well known, and used, instrument by petty criminals for example in touristic areas or by gangs in Berlin (who supposedly already have divided the different club-districts among each other). We had quite a few nasty incidents last summer here in Berlin. The latest trend I’ve heard about distracting someone to be able to rob him/her (usually her) is to set his/her hair on fire… This resulted in a completely stupid and helpless reaction of “law and order” (leave your phone at home, or don’t use it openly, don’t wear expensive jewelry). Which boiled down to another nice case of victim blaming. Just as stupid as the reaction of the mayor of Cologne: keep those men at arm length.. yeah, right… So the phenomena is not new, and to blame it on certain groups or the victims is pointing the finger in the wrong direction.
But well.. I guess the people who now all of a sudden go over to the Pegida camp are probably just as fact-resistant or susceptible of conspiracy theories as that Pegida guy I tried reasoning with (until he started denying the Holocaust, then the discussion stopped from my side).
The underbelly & the crocodile brain: fear is all you need
Second, I see fear. I see people sharing this “Taharrush gamea” (organized sexual harassment) phenomena when referring to Cologne, and being afraid this might become “normal”.
Well, except for the fact there’s a lot of discussion about this phenomena, especially about the (pre-)-organized aspect of it, rape culture isn’t exactly new. Any woman in any culture, also in our oso beloved western culture, does not at least take a deep breath and mentally prepare herself before walking through a mob of drunken young men. One of the yearly events in our neighborhood I hate the most, the so-called “Biermeile” on the Frankfurter Allee, I mostly exactly hate because of this. I think the average hair color there was some darker shade of blonde, and I observed a higher occurrence of mustaches. Also, I do not enjoy walking past a club just around the corner on a saturday, which “clientele” used to consist mostly of young white males from the surrounding countryside. It changed ownership a few times after that, now programming mostly russian artists. The cat-calling and harassment diminished, but sure as hell is still there. Typically enough, it was the least when that club programmed popular turkish artists… Again, I don’t like generalization. Not when it comes to blonde hair, or mustaches, or being from the countryside, or russian or turkish.
Again (yes, I’m a pessimist), I’m quite sure all groups have quite a few male chauvinist sexist pigs among their ranks. Believe me, there’s no pre-organization needed for sexual harassment on a huge scale. Just add alcohol, add “group dynamics” or male-bonding-rituals: many of these men would not try to grab you, or even do some cat-calling if they were on their own. My impression is that often, they are more trying to prove themselves in front of their mates, than actually trying to get their hands on you. Though it’s still frikkin scary and disgusting. Add the above named factors, and the crocodile brain takes over and any woman suddenly becomes a potential prey, who “should know her place”. And me, as a woman alone, I rather avoid places on a weekend night where I know I might bump into a group of drunken men, exactly because of this.
Oh great.. there are the protectors again
Third.. I see this “phenomena” of “we have to protect our women from the invading hordes” and these self-declared protectors patrolling public spaces (and beating up anyone dark-skinned in the process). Protectors. Oh really. Knights in shining armor. Sure. Need a white horse? Get real. I’m a woman. Not german, and probably a tiny bit too dark to be considered “worthy of protection” by those self-declared protectors. But heck, even if I was german and a platinum-blonde, I’d rather pass on that protection. I wouldn’t trust it. Rely on a group of male chauvinist pigs to protect me from another group of male chauvinist pigs? And expect them not to turn on me to “express my gratitude” for being protected? I don’t think so….
A flux of pink indians
Nope. If I would see any group phenomena which would actually protect against large scale, organized or not, sexual harassment of women, it would be self-organisation. Of women solely, yes. Non-aggressively of course. What I’m thinking of, is something like the “pink ladies” (or Gulabi Gang) in India. If you don’t know what this is, look it up. Rape culture, again, is everywhere. And in India, a group of women, wearing pink saris, organized themselves to educate, to protect and, in unfortunately some cases, to avenge. And how did they avenge? By beating rapists with house shoes, and thereby publicly shaming them…. I don’t like revenge, I don’t like publicly shaming.. but heck, I laughed me ass off with a vid of a group of pink ladies slapping a group of rapists with house-shoes and giving them a good verbal bashing… Thereby making clear that sexual harassment is not cool, it’s not normal, it’s not something any woman asks for, no matter where & with whom she is or on her own, or what she wears, and it’s something you should be fukking ashamed for even thinking about it.
And believe me. Male chauvinist pigs won’t like women organizing themselves. Not the so-called aggressors, and not the so-called protectors. One the regular demonstrations I participated in, was the so-called “witch-night”, when a huge group of women only, went on the streets to claim them back. No other demonstration I participated in, not even the most controversial ones, met so much verbal, and also physical aggression from the “general public” as that one. Yes, from males. No matter what age or background or even “intellectual” level (heck, one of the most aggressive reaction usually came from the balcony of a fraternity, and from mostly white, university students).
We don’t need reactions which are out of proportion and only lead to more hate, more generalization, more polarization.
But a Flux of Pink Indians… I’d like to see that happen on the Biermeile on Frankfurter Allee next year… Actually, I might even put on a pink sari for that..
Because of the discussion I had with a friend of mine this afternoon on the state of the world, & because an old friend of mine asked me to comment on something he was writing, again on the state of the world, this little piece of text came to mind.
I’ve read it years ago, and it keeps being in the back of my head, cause it somehow describes the current “state of the world”, at the least the western one, and at least what reaches us from politicians and press. The world is in a state of fear. More specific – in the definition below – in a state of “dread”. The strongest kind of fear. Terror is the wrong word. Terrorist don’t scare us so much by their acts of violence. They scare us, because we dread what might come next…
And dread, as the author points out, is the most potent tool. And imho, not just of storytellers…. (btw. the writer is a scifi author, mostly known for his “Ender” series, yes, the ones about the genocide of an alien race, and his short “horror” stories, which indeed are frikkin scary… because he plays with “dread”.. not horror)
Orson Scott Card – Maps in a Mirror – Introduction: “Which brings us to the most potent tool of storytellers. Fear. And not just fear, but dread.
Dread is the first and the strongest of the three kinds of fear. It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not yet identified what it is. The fear that comes when you first realize that your spouse should have been home an hour ago; when you hear a strange sound in the baby’s bedroom; when you realize that a window you are sure you closed is now open, the curtains billowing, and you’re alone in the house.
Terror only comes when you see the thing you’re afraid of. The intruder is coming at you with a knife. The headlights coming toward you are clearly in your lane. The klansmen have emerged from the bushes and one of them is holding a rope. This is when all the muscles of your body, except perhaps the sphincters, tauten and you stand rigid; or you scream; or you run. There is a frenzy to this moment, a climactic power—but it is the power of release, not the power of tension. And bad as it is, it is better than dread in this respect: Now, at least, you know the face of the thing you fear. You know its borders, its dimensions. You know what to expect.
Horror is the weakest of all. After the fearful thing has happened, you see its remainder, its relics. The grisly, hacked-up corpse. Your emotions range from nausea to pity for the victim. And even your pity is tinged with revulsion and disgust; ultimately you reject the scene and deny its humanity; with repetition, horror loses its ability to move you and, to some degree, dehumanizes the victim and therefore dehumanizes you. As the sonderkommandos in the death camps learned, after you move enough naked murdered corpses, it stops making you want to weep or puke. You just do it. They’ve stopped being people to you.“
This is the “semi-official” report from the incident a few weeks ago, published on a dutch blog (in dutch, sorry..), about when I was stopped by the dutch border cops & threatened with 3 days detention because, omy, I dared to tell a Syrian refugee where the train to holland left, & chatted with him in the train crossing the border between Germany and Holland.
And since then, I’m registered as a “refugee smuggler” in their computer system. Since I can’t let this just happen…. and I hope it will wake up a few more people.