The Establishment Rebel


What is most remarkable about Germany's Thilo Sarrazin controversy is the fact that its outcome is still undecided. Usually arguments that challenge the beliefs of the mainstream and the ruling class are quickly silenced, and the heretics burned alive on the media stake. Here is a man who broke almost every political taboo imaginable -- who spoke honestly about the high economic cost of immigration, the failure of integration, the decay of the educational system, the incompatibilty of Islam and the West, and the alarming demographics of the German people who in a few decades will be a minority in their own country.

All this wasn't news to readers of the website, nor to anyone who has studied these matters thoroughly. Since the 1970s conservatives, sociologists, demography specialists -- and even several members of Sarrazin's Social Democratic Party -- have predicted the desperate situation Germany finds itself in today. Their warnings were suppressed, their views defamed, their voices silenced.

The response to Serrazin’s comment and new book might very well reveal that the Zeitgeist is finally shifting -- though it might already be five past twelve.

Books that point out leftist and liberal failures are becoming top bestsellers in Germany. The once highly popular talk-show host Eva Herman was fired by her TV-station after she wrote a book about the damages caused to the family by feminism; Herman survived the vicious media witch-hunt that ensued and struck back with a highly successful book exposing media manipulations. A few weeks before the publication of her explosive report on immigrant crime, juvenile magistrate Kirsten Heisig was found dead in a forest near Berlin. The official story of her suicide has been seriously questioned ever since, especially in the blogosphere; in any case, her book, too, became a well-received bestseller. Meanwhile German media intensely discuss the possibility of a new center-right, conservative party apart from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which is constantly losing its traditional conservative supporters. Some observers, including the well known and respected philosopher Norbert Bolz, even call for a rehabilitation of the notion of the “Right,” which in left-wing dominated Germany is generally defamed as “Nazism” and “extremism.”

It was in this atmosphere of a changing wind that Sarrazin planted his book like a bomb. And it went off with a bang.

Though the usual calls for his head came immediately, general support for him, especially among the people, was so great that many of the usual suspects among the ruling politicians and opinion makers hesitated to take firm positions, as if waiting for the final verdict on Serrzin to be rendered before voicing a strong opinion on the man. Pro and contra articles and op-eds filled the same papers on the day of the book’s release. Germany's largest tabloid, Bild, as well as the leading mainstream weekly Der Spiegel printed lengthy excerpts from the book in advance. It seemed as if they hadn't decided whether one could make more money with or against Sarrazin -- and went with for the former at the start.

It appeared that many on the Left wanted to milk the cow while slaughtering it. One week, Der Spiegel featured a cover story presenting Sarrazin as a demagogic agitator who was trying to manipulate the masses through “provocations”; the next week, the magazine’s cover story explicitly admitted that “integration has failed.” Even the head of the Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, who’s pushing for Sarrazin to be excluded from the party, conceded that much of what he says is true: “we can see that every day.” Several prominent figures such as the legendary, 92-year-old ex-chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Turkish women's rights advocate Necla Kelek, and the anti-Islamic liberal journalist Henryk Broder came to Sarrazin's defense. Scientists came to support, as well as critisize, Serrazin, and even the issue of Germany’s limited freedom of speech has been raised.

Most astonishing is that Godwin's Law didn’t seem to apply this time. Most bullets had already been fired in the first round, when Sarrazin stated his theses in an interview with the magazine Lettre International, published in September 2009. Stephan Kramer, General secretary of the influential Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (“Central Council of Jews in Germany”) routinely used the heavy guns by comparing Sarrazin to “Hitler, Goebbels and Goering" (as if one alone wouldn't be enough.) Curiously, Kramer, a zealous convert who is considered an embarrassment even among fellow Jews, subsequently earned heavy criticism for his attack. Even in the first run, approval for Sarrazin was so strong that the media campaign, which followed as predictably as the Amen at the end of the prayer, failed to destroy him. Instead he recovered, stood up again, and came back with a vengeance. And the reductio-ad-Hitlerum silver bullets, which failed to kill the first time, would seem anti-climactic if fired again.

Of course, an abundance of smears followed, most notably “racist” and “social Darwinist,” but compared to the N-word (“Nazi,” that is), they sounded comparatively lame.

Most accusations and epithets thrown against him were made without anyone having actually read the book, which immediately became a huge bestseller once it was released. It is, by the way, written in a style far removed political agitation: instead a dry, factual tone prevails, with conclusions supported by facts, numbers and statistics.

The climax of media hysteria was reached when Die Welt managed to provoke Sarrazin into making his now notorious “Jewish gene“ statement, which immediately caused a thunderstorm of mindless Pavlovian reflexes.

Among all the hysterical barking and yelping that ensued, the fact got lost that Sarrazin was basically right (Jews, Basques -- also mentioned by Sarrazin -- and other ethnicities do, indeed, share certain distinguished genetic combinations and also have a genetic identity.) The context in which the statement was also generally ignored: Sarrazin, who speaks in highly philosemitic terms about the intelligence of Jews, in fact wanted to emphasize that a Volk is not an invention or a construction but a real, living, concrete historically grown entity with rights of its own. Nevertheless, the combination of “Jew” and “gene” provided a welcomed alibi to take the focus off the things that really matter in Sarrazin's book.

But while running the media’s gauntlet, the author made a remarkably good impression defending his theses.

And another miracle happened: despite the heavy pressure, Sarrazin did not pull back and seemed determined to take the stand. That is, until he finally made an unexpected strategic move and voluntarily signed off from his post as a member of the Executive Board of the German Central Bank (Bundesbank). This was interpreted by some newspapers as “Prussian” ethics: since it would have been the responsibility of Germany's president Christian Wulff to discharge Sarrazin from the Bundesbank, the latter had spared the king the inconvenience and acted out of responsibility for the integrity of the state.

But Wulff is Sarrazin's opposite, not only in respect to his bland milquetoast physiognomy, which corresponds perfectly with his spineless opportunism: Wulff is a man who never strayed a single step from the mainstream of liberal political correctness, and was capable of uttering sentences like “Germany must be become more colorful (bunter) and more diverse.” Wulff is a typical representative of the country's ruling class and probably among the media as well as the people the least respected of all presidents until now (the chief editor of FrankfurterAllgemeine Zeitung even called him “non-existent”). Wulff had entered the controversy, unsurprisingly, by taking sides with the liberal hysterics; but the unprecedented use of pressure on the politically independent Bundesbank would have shed a bad light on the ruling class's intolerant and ignorant dealing with dissident opinions, especially when they have hit a major nerve of society.

Sarrazin defended his move citing his loyalty to the whole of the state: a confrontation would have harmed the president's prestige and the dignity of the ruling class. But this is exactly what so many in Germany were waiting for. Here is a man who wrote a book titled Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany disposes of itself” or “Germany abolishes itself”), and when he had a chance to really make those responsible for this criminally irresponsible “disposal” falter and fall, he failed to do so. Maybe it’s true that Sarrazin really is a Prussian of the Old School, who prefers order to revolution, but German patience is a notorious thing… and so is furor teutonicus, which has long slumbered during the country’s decades of hypnotic paralysis.