Jul 21, 2011

Kooks n crackpots … give ’em publicity, own the consequences

The Right continues to whine and dine at an impressive rate.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


The Right continues to whine and dine at an impressive rate, with a new "victim of PC" visitor to our shores being announced -- Thilo Sarrazin, former member of the Board of Germany's state bank, and author of Deutschland Schafft Sich AbGermany Abolishes Itself, who is being brought to Australia by the Centre for Independent Studies, for its Big Ideas conference in August. Germany Abolishes Itself has been presented as a startling new truth-telling, blah, blah, about immigration and multiculturalism, but its core argument is nothing new -- simply a restatement of the hysterical notion that Muslims are taking over Europe -- and specifically Germany in this case -- with a higher birth rate, welfare dependency, etc, etc. As with all such books, the argument is made by relying on statistical improbability -- take the highest possible Muslim immigrant birth rate and the lowest possible European-German one and crunch the numbers. Even then, you only get a 25% Muslim-European population by the end of the century. Hardly a takeover, and a figure of 10%-12% would be more likely. Where Sarrazin does have something novel to say is in his outright racialism. For years Sarrazin has been making tetchy remarks about Turks and Arabs, which rapidly degenerated into an obsession with bloodlines. Like home-grown obsessives, he is obsessed with not merely the veil, which is rarely seen in Germany, but also in any form of headscarf whatsoever. As Timothy Garton Ash demonstrated in a filleting of the book, Sarrazin can't get his figures consistent on how many Muslim women are wearing the headscarf, but, in the words of La Hanson, he doesn't like it, and he has a nasty turn of phrase when speaking of it:
"I will not show respect for anyone that is not making that effort. I do not have to acknowledge anyone who lives by welfare, denies the legitimacy of the very state that provides that welfare, refuses to care for the education of his children and constantly produces new little headscarf-girls ..."
Ah the fecund brown-skinned ones, producing new coiffed breeders. With no evidence at all, Sarrazin then goes on to say:
"This holds true for 70 percent of the Turkish and 90 percent of the Arabic population in Berlin ..."
Not only that, but the natives are polluting the flower of German womanhood:
"Since Arab boys can’t make out with their Arab girls they use easier-to-get lower-class German girls, whom they then despise for being so easy to make out with."
And sometimes Sarrazin's pronouncements tend to the self-parodic:
"The Turks are conquering Germany, just like the Kosovars conquered Kosovo, with a higher birth rate."
These sorts of remarks had led to Sarrazin getting the push from a political post -- he is a member of the most conservative faction of the Social Democratic Party -- and kicked upstairs to the Bundesbank. What made it impossible for him to continue fully in that position was the part of the book where he began to dabble in genetics, arguing that all Jews had a gene unique to them, which made them more intelligent on average than others. Sarrazin argued that there was nothing racist about this -- after all, he noted, the Jews in this respect are just the same as the Basques. When Germans start arguing for the essential racial difference of Jews, people start to take notice. There is, of course, nothing racist about observing that there is genetic variation within the human species -- but such variation maps onto no religious or racial (i.e. skin tone) category. Sarrazin's defenders hit back at charges that he was anti-Semitic by arguing that he was in fact philo-Semitic. Yet in Europe, philo-Semitism has long accompanied anti-Semitism, and been its pretext -- those crafty Jews tricking innocent folk into wars, they must be controlled, etc, etc. And of course accompanying his crackpot theories of Jewish genes, he speculates that Turks may be genetically predisposed to lesser intelligence. This is all nasty untermenschen sort of stuff. For his defenders, who include the part-German Oliver Marc Hartwich, of the CIS, Sarrazin is a victim of the PC brigade because his ideas have been attacked as abhorrent, the usual Right whine. To write a book attacking a whole race/religion of people as welfare scroungers and promote racialist theorising is legitimate -- to push back against it vigorously is censorship. Pathetic. Sarrazin's visit to Australia adds another character to the rogues' gallery that the Right seems increasingly willing to entertain (it is unfair, but irresistible to point out that like the pop-eyed Lord Monckton, Sarrazin has a defect that seems to express his ideas -- a pinched nerve gives him what is described as a "permanent smirk" on the right side of his face). Increasingly there seems to be a willingness by what was once the respectable Right to fish in the polluted waters of irrationalism, whether it's the crackpottery of Monckton, anti-vaccination obsessives such as Melanie Phillips, and in this case Germans preaching forms of racial superiority. This is really a return to form by the Right -- for years, the wilder moments of postmodernism gave them the opportunity to portray themselves as defenders of the Enlightenment. But irrationalism -- about race, about science -- has long been at home on the Right, as capitalism requires mythical "pre-political" communities -- such as race or nation -- as compensation for its alienating effects. What is remarkable about the CIS is its willingness to trash its own reputation by repeated association with a whole toolbox full of cranks. In the case of Monckton and others, I would hope that they be brought out as often as possible -- in Monckton's case, if the Right will no longer host him, the Greens should, such is his invaluable status to their cause. But Sarrazin is something else -- the type of Northern Protestant German who manages to look back on his own country's history with a nostalgia made possible by blocking out one crucial period of it entirely. Sarrazin remembers '50s West Germany as a golden age. He wishes that Turkish "guest workers" had never been brought to Germany in the 1960s -- without whom of course, there would have been no economic miracle. Thus, his version of the past half-century is a beguiling fantasy, not least in the incredible charge that it is the Muslims who failed to integrate -- when it is obvious to anyone that it was the exclusion of guest workers from permanent residency or any form of social reciprocity by German chauvinism that isolated guest workers, and taught them that they could rely only on each other. This is obvious from any comparison of the position of Turks in Germany, and Turkish-Australians. But Sarrazin would run a mile from any sort of Australian-style integration, which involved an expansion of the idea of what it is to be Australian, not the obsessive preservation of a mythical and sainted culture. Germany of course has abolished itself -- but it did so in 1939-45, when it became the agent of radical evil, and forever associated with that act. Germans cannot fully connect with their history because a breach runs through the middle of it -- and thus they remain isolated in the present, a sort of generic EU-land amidst destroyed cities rebuilt as charmless high-rise towns, their culture now largely a collection of habits. Compared to the damage Germans wreaked on themselves, immigration has done very little to change the picture. Their current hodge-podge of multiculturalism policies may be far from satisfactory, but it's a hell of a lot better than their last experiment in vigorous monoculturalism. That latter episode plays no part in the thinking of people such as Sarrazin or Hartwich, so they can never see what is obvious to those outside -- that the spectacle of a German speaking about the dilution of a pure culture by cultural/racial inferiors, buttressed by arguments from genetics, shows such a blithe failure of self-awareness, and lack of moral seriousness that it should not be associated with. Sarrazin or anyone else can say what they like, where they like, as far as I'm concerned -- but those who give them financial aid and publicity to say it, have to own it. The CIS will claim that it doesn't agree with racialist thinking, etc, etc, but those will be weasel words -- even among ideas you disagree with, you have to make decisions about what you will and won't grant legitimacy to by your material support. Germany as a nation cannot be held to collective blame for WW2 and the Holocaust -- but nor was its occurrence there pure coincidence. The unique character of Nazism was produced by an obsessive concern about the purity of German identity, its encirclement by enemies, and its preservation at all costs. Sarrazin's easy slide from arguments about immigration and welfare dependency to his obsessive concern with "little headscarf girls", and inter-racial s-x is a voice from the depths. There are plenty of respectable people to make arguments about national identity and social welfare, and the CIS shames itself by being associated with a figure who peddles this junk, in this century. In that respect, it will be interesting to see if Jewish community groups can break off from their full-time Zionism long enough to challenge notions of essential Jewish genes -- or whether they are now so co-opted to the political Right that they will smile and "wait till it blows over". But why not conclude with a quote from the man himself, speaking of Islam:
"In no other religion is the transition to violence, dictatorship and terrorism so fluid ..."
Islam? Really? When most of us think of rapid transitions to violence, dictatorship and terror, it is another grouping that we think of first, Herr Sarrazin of Deutschland ...

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58 thoughts on “Kooks n crackpots … give ’em publicity, own the consequences

  1. Martin C. Jones

    Oh, come on – that crack about Nazi Germany at the end was completely unnecessary. You can criticise a man without criticising his country, and conflating Sarrazin’s views with those of Germany in a piece attacking Sarrazin’s broad-brush portrayal of ethnic groupings is both ironic and insulting to Germans.

    For the record, Sarrazin’s views have been the subject of vigorous debate in Germany for several years, and they are by no means commonly accepted. Rundle fails to mention that the German Bundesbank kicked Sarrazin out in October of last year (a tricky process, as that required the approval of the German President), and that significant portions of the Social Democratic Party (including its current leader, Sigmar Gabriel) attempt to throw him out of that party, too.

    He is not quite as marginalised as Mr. Monckton is in England, but Sarrazin does not represent Germany.

  2. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Don’t bring up the Nazis, Herr Rundle. It’s almost too easy. Go for the Thirty Years’ War instead – no better example I can think of showing religion – Catholic and Protestant in its most violent, dictatorial, and terrorist. And most of it happened in merry old Deutschland. Württemberg losing three quarters of its population – how do you like them apples?

  3. Sally Jones

    anti-vaccination obsessives such as Melanie Phillips. Guy Rundle Wrote:

    So you support unbridled vaccinations do you Guy? Are you a parent Guy? I am sorry for nit-picking your excellent article, but it’s a big NIT to PICK.

  4. Gavin Moodie

    I agree that Rundle skates close to Godwin’s law, but it is hard to respond otherwise to a German complaining about despoiling the nation’s racial purity.

    Loved ‘ . . . a whole toolbox full of cranks’.

  5. Sally Jones

    anti-vaccination obsessives such as ——- Guy Rundle Wrote:

    So you support unbridled vaccinations do you Guy? Are you a parent Guy? I am sorry for nit-picking your excellent article, but it’s a big NIT to PICK.

  6. Flicka

    Quick factual question: what exactly is an ‘unbridled vaccination’, and how does it compare to a ‘bridled’ one? And should we be using equine metaphors in this context? Really? The concept of a vaccination being ‘given its head in the home straight’ is quite icky…

    Have to say, I had all the required ones as a kid and seem to have grown up fairly healthy and not at all covered in spots or dead.

    I thought the ‘vaccinations are evil’ group were the same crazed loons as the ‘fluoride in water is a mind control device’ and had mostly died out now or at least moved to the Blue Mountains where they could do no harm. Am psyched to know they still live among us!

  7. AR

    From what I’ve read elsewhere, via, he seems to have swallowed whole mad Mark Steyn’s noxious nostrums.
    Just ocz someone is a nutcase doesn’t make their views incorrect but the Steyns & Sarrazins make it difficult to so opine.
    Which I think is GR’s point – why does the (allegedly) sane Right align itself with such people?

  8. michael r james

    Posted Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    [For years Sarrazin has been making tetchy remarks about Turks and Arabs, which rapidly degenerated into an obsession with bloodlines.
    What made it impossible for him to continue fully in that position was the part of the book where he began to dabble in genetics, arguing that all Jews had a gene unique to them, which made them more intelligent on average than others. Sarrazin argued that there was nothing racist about this — after all, he noted, the Jews in this respect are just the same as the Basques.]
    This is a little curious given the origin of Herr Sarrazin’s name. It derives from Saracen which, though lost to pre-history, originally referred to the desert-tribes in Arabia and Mesopotamia. Later, in the middle ages with Isl*m in full flowering and the Crusades holy war in full flight, the term came to denote M*slims. It is a fairly common name in France, almost certainly deriving from miscegenation with the Maghreb population of north africa.

    Herr Sarrazin needs to be careful what he wishes for because a genetic test may well find that trace of a genetic fingerprint from his forbears that may horrify him (and as a geneticist I can tell him that this technology is well up to the job these days).

  9. Malcolm Street

    Guy and AR – my theory about the way the Right is increasingly giving prominence to loons who used to be way out on the fringe is that it is another side-effect of the fall of communism. While an alternative political/economic system existed preaching greater equality (however appalling its reality), capitalism had to at least make some overtures to not only looking after people but also rationality, to be able to say that there was also an intellectual case for its superiority.

    Now, without an alternative, the reality is laid bare. Capitalism has gone feral, doing its best to break up the public sector to provide new opportunities for private investment in maturing markets. In the USA, where the process has gone the furthest, the business logic of reducing wages as a percentage of GDP and reducing taxes at the top end has run up against the reduced purchasing power of consumers. The difference has been made up with debt, but consumers and governments are as far into debt as they are able to handle (if not over). So how do you keep the ball rolling a bit longer? You scapegoat whatever elements of the public/collective sector remain and insist that your agenda hasn’t gone far enough. And the loons? They come in handy for destroying the potential for rational analysis and diverting attention by scapegoating.

  10. Linda Stewart

    @Fractured Flicka

    Do you have to be so rude and sarcastic to someone who might even be a nursing mother? you don’t know that she’s not, or does it matter either way, or do you even care?

    Going by your comment you are rude, obnoxious and completely uninformed. I would post you some links but you are probably illiterate as well.

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