A Tale of Two Protests (Germany, end of January 2024)

«He taught me everything I know about flying, and combat. He said to ignore the propaganda, focus on what you see. I’ve never seen the Minbari fight dishonorably. They never pull a sneak attack.»
Sinclair to Ivanova in Babylon 5: «Midnight on the Firing Line»

There are currently two types of protests in Germany. There are the peasant/trucker/etc. protests. Groups of hard-working individuals who see their jobs made impossible by a government that does not have their interests in mind. A government that should represent them, but instead works to promote an ideology without any relation to reality.

For example, by making it more expensive to impossible to grow food in Germany (incl. having to leave 4% of the area unused, yet still having to pay taxes for it, or heavy taxes on fuel — which neighboring countries to not have to pay, or lots of other regulations). The long-term consequence is that Germany has to import more food, from countries that use less eco-friendly techniques and over large distances with high transportation costs (Climate change anyone? What happened to «eat local»?).

Not only is the whole approach bad for the environment, it also makes Germany much more dependent on food imports. Akin to our dependence on energy. So, now we cannot function without importing huge amounts of energy and food from other countries. An insane globalist strategist might find that a good development — if countries are directly dependent on other countries to survive, they have a reason to cooperate. A more sane person would look at the inherent instability and human nature and see a recipe for catastrophes, famines, war, deaths.

The reaction of the established parties and the mainstream/corporate media is mostly negative to the peasant/trucker protests. As is typical for Germany, anything that does not fit the current left-wing government/left-wing media narrative is said to be right-wing. Or at least right-wing adjacent. So far, being called right-wing is a death sentence in Germany. So far.

There is also a different kind of protest. A left-wing partly-state-financed so-called research network listened in to a private meeting. In that meeting, members of conservative/right-wing party members and other people listened to a talk by Martin Sellner of the «Generation Identity» (Austria). After the so-called research network reported about it (about a month later), there are anti-right-wing-extremism protests. The content of the private meeting depends on whom you ask. People who were there say it was about «remigration». Finding ways to deal with the large amount of «migrants» that have entered Germany, especially since 2015. Especially those who are here illegally or commit crimes. The left-wing network and politicians/media used the term «deportation» (apparently not used during the event), insinuate a similar ideology to the holocaust, and called for anti-right protest. That they do have a strong conflict of interest and used illicit measures to listen in to a private meeting is ignored or justified with «public interest». That not only sees the «public» as separate from those who took part in the event, it also raises questions for the kind of privacy you can expect in Germany.

The calls for protest are also interesting. Partly, they are calls against right-wing extremism. Personally, I am not a fan of extremism. No matter whether it is right-wing (e.g., actual Nazis/skinheads), left-wing (e.g., Antifa), eco-terrorist (e.g., climate gluers, paint-throwers), Islamic (e.g., boom, screech), or whatever. Mankind should be adult enough to deal with differences verbally, not with force.

Unfortunately, at least in Germany, force seems to be accepted by mainstream media/government/courts of law when it comes from the right (rather: left/eco-terrorist) people and hits the right people (here: people seen as right-wing politicians/voters/etc.). This included a judge saying that left-wing terrorist had good intentions when they attacked right-wing people on the street. Or the usual positive treatment of eco-terrorists.

There is also the problem that the protests against right-wing extremism is also wholly directed at the last opposition party in Germany, the AfD. The party is conservative/right-wing and does include right-wing extremist views. But that is hardly the whole party. Reminds me of the out-group homogeneity (the «other» is seen as more similar to each other than they are). Also, much was made of the fact that some members of the AfD were at that event, while it was mostly ignored that there were more members of the other, so-called conservative party (CDU). It is also rather strange that listing to a speaker is seen as sharing this speakers views. As Aristotle said, «It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.» If you cannot listen to different positions without being seen as supporting these position, well, then good night. How can you find out what other people think, and why they think it? And how you find common ground? How can you debate intelligently?

In one protest call (by a group of unions), the AfD was simply labelled as right-wing extremist party. Thus, the protests against right-wing extremism are suddenly protests against the AfD as a whole. You also see it during the protests when anti-AfD signs are shown (incl. «kill AfD members»). This means in essence, the protests are anti-opposition party protests, or put it differently, pro-government protests. Especially when members of the current government encourage the protests and take part in them.

One (actual) journalist in a right-leaning newspaper made an astute observation here — you do not usually have pro-government demonstrations in democracies. That is something you find in dictatorial regimes. And I think he is right. In my view, we have a government that tanked the economy in the past two years, that makes many ideological decisions that will harm Germany’s future to years to come. A government that is not interested in representing the voters — and certainly not the 20% nationwide who would vote for the AfD. Instead, it seems the rise of the opposition party (AfD) as a danger for themselves, tries to frame it as an attack on democracy (kinda ironic), and wants to fan public opinion against this party in order to use legal means against it.

And it is pretty easy to get a lot of people on the street in the name of a fight against so-called right-wing extremism. Due to Germany’s history, right-wing is still a death sentence for many people. You just do not have right-wing opinions, it is not something «good people» do. Whether these opinions are really right-wing, who defined right-wing, whether they are really «bad», etc. — well, that is hardly ever questioned. Nor whether a counter-weight to left-wing politics is needed to keep a country on course. So there are lots of people who are willing to protest, to feel good by being against «evil». Heck, even a university I know asked students and employees to go to the protests — by distributing the call by the unions and calling for protests themselves. It is hard for me to see the calls for «human dignity» as anything else but hypocritical — where was their concern for human dignity during Covid when they forced unvaccinated to get vaccinated by making the situation «uncomfortable» for them? In the union letter, there was also the sentence that nobody should be discriminated for, among others, their political opinions. Wait, what? I am reminded of the old communist «useful idiots» here. No to mention the usual conflict of interest considering where most research funding comes from.

So, yeah, the current government has a vested interest in these protests. One way to try to ignore the peasant/trucker protests and to make it appear that they are actually the only legitimate parties that can govern. And I am pretty sure they will try to use the protests to use so-called legal means against the opposition party.

Which is a shame. First, it will not solve the major problems that Germany has and that will escalate in the future. The strength of the opposition party would fade into nothingness if the current government would make better decisions. Well, that is not going to happen. Not as long as they use the easy way of calling their opponents «evil». Second, it prevents using the diversity of opinions — both in the country and in the political parties — to come up with better solutions. It’s the inability to communicate, to work together, that is most damaging here. When the AfD entered the political arena, the established parties first wanted to deal with it rhetorically. That failed. Then they agreed on a «firewall» — no party should ever cooperate with it. A gift for the left-wing parties and crippling to the so-called conservative party (CDU), which did not have anyone with partly similar views to cooperate with. That «firewall» worked when the AfD was in a single digit and the government decisions were more or less sane. It does not work when the ruling parties tank the country and 20% (30% in some states) want to vote for the AfD.

In the end, you need different perspectives on issues.

That does not mean agreeing with parties that are your political opposite. People can detest what a party stands for, and depending on the position, that will be different parties. For someone on the right, left-wing parties might be detestable. For someone on the left, it might be right-wing parties. That is fine, we all have our preferences. It would be nice, though, if people would make «steelmanning» a precondition. Before you can condemn a party or position, you have to state what they stand for in a way the party itself would agree with it. That might prevent that people hate strawmen of what a party ostensibly stands for. It would also make the diversity within a party apparent. And cooperation might strengthen the more moderate parts of a party. (I have the suspicion that this was one reason for the «firewall». Without cross-party cooperation, an thus isolated party can become dominated by more extreme positions. I guess the idea was to let the party spin out of control, have them public promote insane position that alienate almost all potential voters. I also think, while the danger remains, that strategy failed.)

So, yeah, people do not need to agree with political parties that are their opposites. But it can mean that some measures can be agreed upon by parties who have fundamental differences. That is how democracy should work. It also makes sure that all citizens — left, center, and right, as well as libertarians — have the justified feeling that their views and perspectives are heard.

And after all, we can solve complex problems only by working together.