Germans Think the World's Worse Than It Is



The image above is from the Germany Ignorance Report (pdf) of 2014, which quizzed Germans on how much they know about global progress on poverty, illiteracy, women's rights, child mortality, family size, etc. On almost every question, Germans err on the side of underestimating progress.

Why is this? Well, I got me a theory.

Educated Germans like to congratulate themselves on being unusually worldly. They have more money and leisure time than educated folks in many other countries, and they often use it to travel. And educated Germans are, in my experience, quite knowledgeable people.

So much for the educated upper crust, perhaps 15-20 percent of any society.

Ordinary Germans get their news mostly from the tabloid Bild and the 15-minute news segments broadcast at 8:00 PM every night on public television stations. And these follow the time-honored journalistic tradition of 'it bleeds, it leads'. For Bild, that includes crime, war, disasters, celebrity cocaine catastrophes and botox breakdowns.

The nightly news is written and delivered by educated Germans and conceived as a re-education and de-Bild-ification propaganda instrument aimed at the reechy-necked mob. Their priorities are different. Perhaps a little celebrity news as groundbait, especially if the celebrity is endorsing a socially-responsible cause. No news about violent crimes in Germany unless it's unavoidable. But plenty of news, tons of it, about war, poverty, and disaster, especially in the Third World.

I've always wondered exactly how interested ordinary Germans are in crop failure in Indonesia or the machinations of Congolese warlords, but interested or not, the TV nightly informs them. I suppose the ideological justification is to ensure Germans appreciate just how prosperous and peaceful their country is, and to induce vague feelings of survivor guilt about this fact. I surmise that the Third World Disaster Porn component of German public TV news may explain the result of the Ignorance Report.


After the Flood: Austrian Anti-Immigrant Party Doubles Vote Share

The province of Upper Austria in Austria just held a parliamentary election, the first major election in one of the areas most affected by the migrant crisis since it started this year.

The result fits the near-universal pattern in recent European elections although these results were particularly extreme: the anti-immigrant right-wing Austrian Freedom Party doubled (g) its vote share, from 15.3 to 30.3 percent. It almost caught up with the major center-right party, which dropped 10 points to 36%. The social democrats collapsed to 18.4%. So the far-right anti-immigrant party is now almost twice as powerful as the long-standing traditional social democratic 'mass' party in Austria.

The results of the migrant crisis are becoming clearer and clearer: anti-immigrant/Euroskeptic parties are experiencing massive gains. Existing cordon sanitaire policies, in which all mainstream parties in a European country agree not to form coalitions with the right-wing, is coming under enormous pressure, and will collapse in many EU nations. When your center-right party gets 15% of the vote, it's possible to exclude it. When it gets 25-30% of the vote, siphoning strength from both center-left and center-right, that becomes impossible. When the center-right finally decides wielding total power with a slightly unpleasant partner is better than trying to form awkward coalitions with Greens and Reds, the stage will be set for long-term center-right far-right domination.

What will happen to the Social Democrats? They will fade away into insignificance getting between 10 and 15% of the vote, like the Greens. Their voter base, such as it is, is union members, the working-class, retired bureaucrats and teachers, and immigrants. The working and lower-middle class in Europe are definitely not on board with mass migration, so many will defect to the far-right parties. Retired bureaucrats and teachers no longer have to worry about competition in the job market, but their numbers are dwindling. And the dependence of many social-democratic parties on votes from former generations of immigrants will render them unable to stop the hemorrhaging of anti-immigrant voters.



Religious Fanatics Threaten Yezidis and Christians in German Shelters

I remember when just a few short months ago, I was scorned -- scorned!! -- for suggesting that migrants to German would bring their conflicts with them, just like all migrants in history have always done everywhere.

How times have changed.

The Welt am Sonntag publishes a long piece (g) on religious intimidation in German refugee shelters. The culprits are usually Sunni Muslim extremists whose main targets are Christian and Yezidi migrants. Where they're in the majority, they insist all shelter residents follow Sharia law, and insult and threaten those who don't. To intimidate other religions, they chant the same Koran verses IS members recite before beheadings. Christians are not allowed to help prepare food.

In Hemer, Algerian migrants attacked Eritrean Christians with a glass bottle. In Freising, an Iraqi Christian family reported threats from a fanatical Syrian Muslim, who beat his children and threatened to kill the family and drink their blood. They eventually returned to Iraq. Christians from different camps in Germany reported that private security guards do little about these incidents, because the guards themselves are mostly Muslim.

Simon Jacob, leader of the German Council of Oriental Christians, says: "The number of unreported incidents is high. We must anticipate further conflicts that refugees bring from their homelands into Germany. Between Christians and Muslims. Between Shiites and Sunnis. Between Kurds and extremists. Between Yezidis and extremists."

Max Klingberg from the International Society for Human Rights says: "We have to free ourselves of the illusion that all the people coming here are human-rights activists. Among the ones who are already here, there is a non-trivial fraction which, in their religious intensity, are at least at the level of the Muslim Brotherhood. Volunteers have reported aggression rising the level of threats of beheading by Sunnis against Shiites, but the ones hit hardest are Christians and Yezidis. The chance of a Christian convert who doesn't hide his or her faith being attacked or subjected to organized harassment is almost 100 percent."

Two questions:

First, why is Germany allowing tens of thousands of violent religious fanatics into its territory?

Second, once these fanatics reveal themselves by illegal threats and violence, why aren't they immediately being deported?

If German politicians think only xenophobes want answers to these questions, they are mistaken. And they'd better come up with some convincing answers soon.

This is one reason why I think there's a 20% chance Merkel will lose her job before the end of 2015. Even her closest party colleagues and friends have made it clear the decision to open Germany's borders was hers and hers alone. She owns this crisis. She still has an enormous amount of good will buffering her, but she's burning through it faster than a spaceship re-entering earth atmosphere.

German Word of the Week: Jubelperser

On June 2, 1967, the Shah of Iran and his wife Farah paid a state visit to Berlin, West Germany. Wherever he went, there were demonstrations by Berliners against the hospitality being shown to the dashing autocrat. To shield him from these demonstrators, the Iranian regime arranged for a group of about 150 Iranians to accompany the Shah and cheer him on.

Since the people were Persian, and since they cheered and celebrated (jubeln in German) the Shah, they were called the Jubelperser (g) "Cheering-Persians". It's pronounced roughly YOU-bull-pair-zer. But these Jubelperser had a sinister side as well -- some of them were members of the SAVAK secret police.

As the protests came to a head during the Shah's visit to the Berlin opera house, the Jubelperser took a break from cheering, whipped out clubs, sticks, and batons, and began beating nearby demonstrators. German police, who despised the student demonstrators, stood by and watched without doing a thing except possibly smirking.

Later that day, when the Berlin police violently dispersed the demonstrators, policeman Karl-Heinz Kurras (g) for reasons that remain unclear to this day, pulled out his gun and shot student demonstrator Benno Ohnesorg (g) to death. Kurras was never convicted of a crime for the shooting. In 2009 it was revealed that he had been an unofficial collaborator with the Stasi. The death of Ohnesorg on June 2, 1967 greatly accelerated the radicalization of parts of the German student movement -- in fact, one terrorist group that operated during the 1970s was called the "June 2nd Movement".

Jubelperser has entered the German vocabulary to describe paid professional fans, or generally any crowd which displays unnatural or exaggerated enthusiasm. There doesn't have to be something a bit menacing about their display, but if there is, the term fits even better. Example of use in a sentence: "When a flightsuit-clad Angela Merkel ran awkwardly onstage to the sound of 'Rock You Like a Hurricane', the audience, mainly members of the Youth Wing of the Christian Democrat Party, dutifully cheered like Jubelperser."

The US and the UK Should Be Forced to Take Millions of Refugees

I know I'm over the limit on migrant crisis posts, but I thought I should just add, one thing for clarity's sake: the primary nations that should be taking in millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are the United States and then the United Kingdom.

It was the disastrous decisions to launch a full-scale invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq that are the root causes of most of the turmoil and conflict from which the refugees are fleeing. All issues of expense, integration, practicality fade into insignificance against the moral culpability of the US and UK. In a just world, the US and UK alone would be forced to deal with the problems of integrating these millions of refugees, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Since we don't live in a just world, other countries have to deal with the nightmare the US and UK (with some help from regional actors) unleashed. But every American news article about the alleged failures of European leaders should begin with the phrase: "Since the United States has cravenly ducked responsibility for the refugee crisis it caused..."

Consider that phrase beginning all my remaining posts about refugees from the Middle East.

Venice: Where Ignorant Artists Clash by Night

When I visited the most recent documenta, there were dozens of dull didactic installations meant to indoctrinate visitors into the proper attitudes toward everything from organic farming to the Western Sahara. Fortunately, there were also intriguing works of art.

Yet the trend toward unoriginal laments on the state of the world from art bureaucrats continues unabated. Here is Okwui Enwezor, the curator of the current Venice Bienniale, writes in his introduction to the show:

One hundred years after the first shots of the First World War were fired in 1914, and seventy-five years after the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, the global landscape again lies shattered and in disarray, scarred by violent turmoil, panicked by specters of economic crisis and viral pandemonium, secessionist politics and a humanitarian catastrophe on the high seas, deserts, and borderlands, as immigrants, refugees, and desperate peoples seek refuge in seemingly calmer and prosperous lands. Everywhere one turns new crisis, uncertainty, and deepening insecurity across all regions of the world seem to leap into view.

...blah blah blah. To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, every single word of this is wrong, including 'and' and 'the'. 

A few charts from Our World in Data, the site run by economist Max Roser which turns the best and latest data into informative charts:





Corey's Awakening

A story very loosely based on my many interactions with activists over the years.

There was once a sensible, compassionate progressive (SCP). Let's call him Corey. Corey is a gender-fluid freelance graphic designer who lives in Seattle.

Over a period of months several blatant injustices suffered by Members of a Disadvantaged Community (MDCs) came to Corey's attention. He and his SCP friends exchanged many messages on Facebook and Twitter sharing their outrage. They also shared many tweets from MDC activists. But not the ones that contained death threats. Corey saw a highly articulate Assistant Professor on television who put these injustices into historical context.

Eventually Corey and his SCP friends decided that merely sharing social media outrage was empty symbolism. They decided to go to a local meeting of Outraged Activists to show their solidarity and support. Let's follow Corey's train of thought at the meeting: 
  1. Man, it feels good to be really attending one of these meetings. I am in the middle of MDCs but I feel completely safe. People are giving me approving glances.
  2. This first speaker from the local church is really eloquent. 
  3. Time for the next speaker, from the local No Justice No Peace campaign.
  4. Feels a little uncomfortable chanting No Justice No Peace and raising my arm. I'm really not much of a group person. But it's also exhilarating!
  5. Wow, this guy is sure using a lot of, er, uncompromising phrases. But then again, he's justifiably angry about real problems, so who can blame him?
  6. Some of his demands are reasonable, but some are really pretty much totally unworkable. I mean, do we really need to disband the police?
  7. Hmm, that statement about Hillary Clinton made me a bit uncomfortable. Not sure that's the vibe we need.
  8. Oh cool, another speaker, this one from the Local Branch 45 of the Unapologetic Militant Task Force.
  9. Wow, that's some salty language.
  10. Uh, are you allowed to say that about the President in public? Besides, I don't think that would fit in Obama's 'booty'. Do men even have booties? Well, he's probably just using metaphors and exaggeration for rhetorical effect. And the crowd seems to be loving it. 
  11. Wait, what do the Jews have to do with any of this? Doesn't this guy realize we're on his side?
  12. Is that dope I smell? Not that I'm against ganja -- to the contrary! -- but not sure this is the time and place.
  13. Wait, how did we progressives become the bad guys?
  14. I'm really not sure these Auschwitz comparisons are helpful. Besides, wasn't this guy just dissing the Jews?
  15. Speech over. Whew. Now people from the audience are being asked for their 'interventions'. This should be interesting.
  16. Wow, this guy is really taking that Auschwitz analogy to bizarre new lengths. 
  17. And now that I look closer, he's not wearing pants! Shouldn't someone tell him he's not wearing pants? Doesn't the audience care he's not wearing pants?
  18. Now two heavyset women have kicked him off the stage and started screaming talking points from a crumpled piece of paper.
  19. My friends and I have decided to discreetly exit the building now.
  20. Over some really hoppy IPA at One-Eyed Jeremiah, my friends and I have decided we will never speak of this experience again.

Balkan Migrants Are Not Refugees And Should Be Quickly Repatriated


Horst Seehofer wants to create detention centers on the borders of Germany to detain migrants from the Balkan states and send them back swiftly.

Great idea. As I've pointed out on this blog ad nauseam, the mainstream German press is manipulating its readers by referring to all illegal immigrants to Germany as Flüchtlinge (refugees). That is factually false.

There are currently two main sources of illegal immigration into Germany.

The first of these are economic refugees from certain Balkan countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo) and certain states on the Russian periphery. Their home countries aren't rich or particularly well-governed, but they are stable and not at war. This group makes up between 50 and 60% of current illegal immigration into Germany by land. The above graph shows that between January and March 2015, 61.6% of 'refugees' came from West Balkan countries.

By and large, they are immigrating illegally -- that is, without any legal right to remain on German territory for a long period (many can enter legally). Over 99% of them will never qualify for political asylum, because they are merely economic migrants -- people fleeing a relatively poor country to a richer one. They are not facing starvation or epidemics, they are merely facing a relative lack of promising economic opportunities. While their motives are understandable, economic migrants are not, and have never been recognized as refugees under international law. No country is obliged to accept or accommodate economic migrants. No country has ever or will ever do so, except for reasons of ethnic affinity (such as when Germany permitted ethnic Germans to immigrate from Russia).

The second group are people fleeing war, deadly persecution, and extreme hardship in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and a few other countries. These are about 50% of current immigration flows. Many of these people -- especially Middle Eastern Christians or Shiites facing genocide by ISIS or other extreme Islamic groups -- have a legitimate claim to political asylum in Germany. Almost all of them actually do get legal recognition as refugees and are awarded political asylum. 

Seehofer is proposing changes to make rapid processing and deportation of migrants in the first group easier. This is not populism, it's not rabble-rousing, it's a good idea. Economic migrants in the first group have no legal right to be in Germany, and paying to house them while their frivolous asylum claims are processed is a waste of scarce resources. Currently, stories are circulating in Albania and Kosovo that Albanians are welcome (g) in Germany and will be allowed to stay if they can only get in, and that life is great up here in Germany. Of course, they aren't welcome, and have no legal right to stay. They should be detained humanely, fingerprinted and quickly deported. As large charter buses arrive back in Tirana and Prishtina, word will get around that Germany actually is beginning to enforce its humane and reasonable laws, and perhaps Albanians will set about working to improve conditions in their own homeland.

Migrants from the second group are genuine refugees. Germany and many other countries should offer these people political asylum and access to housing and support until the severe problems plaguing their homelands are resolved. This is both a moral and a legal obligation. Ensuring the swift and reliable deportation of illegal immigrants in the first group will free up vastly more resources to provide humane accommodation to refugees in the second group.

Once you clear up the confusion caused by the misleading labeling of all migrants as refugees, the reality becomes clearer, and a possible way out of the current horrible disaster of German immigration policy becomes clearer.

Iraq War 2005 = (sort of) Greece Bailout 2015

American economic historian Jacob Soll notes the self-righteous anger shown by German economists at a recent meeting:

But when the German economists spoke at the final session, a completely different tone took over the room. Within the economic theories and numbers came a moral message: The Germans were honest dupes and the Greeks corrupt, unreliable and incompetent. Both parties were reduced to caricatures of themselves. We’ve heard this story throughout the negotiations, but in that room, it was clear how much resentment shapes the views of German economists.

Clemens Fuest, of the Center for European Economic Research, who has advised Mr. Schäuble, kept reciting numbers about Greek debt and growth, and said the Greeks had failed at every level over the past several years to manage their debt. He believed they should simply be thrown out of the eurozone. Henrik Enderlein, of the pro-European Jacques Delors Institute, said that Greece should stay in the eurozone, but only if it applied more austerity and better management. Daniel Gros, director of the Center for European Policy Studies, theorized that Greek debt and economic woes could be countered only with better export numbers.

All points were important, but to hear it from these economists, Germany played no real part in the Greek tragedy. They handed over their money and watched as the Greeks destroyed themselves over the past four years. Now the Greeks deserved what was coming to them.

When I pointed out that the Germans had played a major role in this situation, helping at the very least by insisting on austerity and unsustainable debt over the last three years, doing little to improve accounting standards, and now effectively imposing devastating capital controls, Mr. Enderlein and Mr. Fuest scoffed. When I mentioned that many saw austerity as a new version of the 1919 Versailles Treaty that would bring in a future “chaotic and unreliable” government in Greece — the very kind that Mr. Enderlein warned about in an essay in The Guardian — they countered that they were furious about being compared to Nazis and terrorists.

When I noted that no matter how badly the Greeks had handled their economy, German demands and the possible chaos of a Grexit risked political populism, unrest and social misery, they were unmoved. Debtors who default, they explained, would simply have to suffer, no matter how rough and even unfair the terms of the loans. There were those who handled their economies well, and took their suffering silently, like Finland and Latvia, they said. In contrast, a country like Greece, where many people don’t pay their taxes, did not seem to merit empathy. It reminded me that in German, debt, “schuld,” also means moral fault or blame.

Here lies a major cultural disconnect, and also a risk for the Germans. For it seems that their sense of victimization has made them lose their cool, both in negotiations and in their economic assessments. If the Germans are going to lead Europe, they can’t do it as victims.

I agree that Nazi comparisons are moronic (the better historical analogy is the Treaty of Versailles). But many mainstream German commentators react with outrage to any criticism of Germany’s handling of the Euro crisis, no matter how well-informed.

The German reaction to criticism reminds me of the reaction of certain Americans (and some others) to criticism of the Iraq War in, say, 2005. In both situations, countries which were pursuing their own self-interest (probably a very short-sighted and foolish version of it, but self-interest nonetheless) wanted everyone not only to let them pursue it but to admire them for doing so.

The other dynamic, which proved so fatal to many European America-philes, was a version of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Some of the critics of the American invasion were delusional leftists who always criticize the United States in harsh and often unreasonable terms. Since I despise these sorts of people and everything they stand for, the America-defender thought, I must instinctively support anything they oppose. This dynamic, known as ‘punching the hippies’, reappears throughout history and has been responsible for millions of dumbass decisions by otherwise generally smart people.  

Because of these two dynamics, any criticism was chalked up to resentment, ignorance, or prejudice. Sober questions about whether the policy was effective or morally justified were met with the kinds of deflection and misdirection that people universally resort to when defending a decision an action they vocally supported, but which is rapidly, publicly going pear-shaped. The conversations went a little like this:

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified and will lead to positive results?

-- What are you implying? Have you seen the protesters with their Bush = Hitler signs? Let me tell you, if morons like that are against it, it’s probably a good idea.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- Why don’t you ask a Kurd or a Marsh Arab or one of Saddam’s countless torture victims that question?

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- Europe is full of anti-American cranks who are going to hate us no matter what we do, so I don’t particularly care about their opinion.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- People who think modern problems can always be solved peacefully are foolish, naive, and irresponsible.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- You’re trying to make this into an American thing. Don’t you realize the coalition of the willing includes Britain, as well as many Eastern European and Micronesian nations?

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- The historical analogy you’re implying in your question is both inaccurate and deeply offensive.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- I see this is the thanks we get from Europe for saving their asses twice during the last century.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- If America has to go it alone in spreading democracy and freedom in a troubled part of the world, I guess that’s just what it will take.

And so on and so on, ad infinitum. I see basically the same dynamic playing out now in Germany, as the agreement reached after the recent summit is being roundly attacked by the vast majority of non-German observers, and not a few German ones as well.

My advice to Germans still clinging to the Finance Ministry’s viewpoint: give up. There's no defending the indefensible. It’ll make your life, and everyone else's, much easier.

UPDATE: Krgthulu's mailbox is buzzing with angry Germans:

You see, I’ve been getting a lot of mail from Germany lately, in a break from (or actually an addition to) my usual deluge of right-wing hate mail. I’m well aware that this is a highly distorted sample, since I’m only hearing from those angry enough and irrational enough — seriously, what do the writers expect to accomplish? — to send such things. Still, the content of the correspondence is striking.

Basically, the incoming missives take two forms:

1. Obscenities, in both English and German

2. Bitter accusations of persecution, along the lines of “As a Jew you should know the dangers of demonizing a people.” Because criticizing a nation’s economic ideology is just like declaring its people subhuman.

Again, these are letter-writers, and hardly representative. But Germany’s sense of victimization does seem real, and is a big problem for its neighbors.

Europeans Don't Seem to Fancy Roma or Muslims Very Much

Pew recently studied the views of various EU nationals toward certain minorities. The main results in three graphs:

Unfavorable Views of Roma Widespread

Italians Most Critical of Muslims

Greeks Divided about Jews

A few observations:

-- Italians really don't like minorities very much, do they? All the ones I know do, though!

-- Roma (formerly called gypsies) come off worst of all. Even in Germany, which bears the historical guilt of having murdered hundreds of thousands of them, opinion of Roma is evenly split. And this after the EU's much-ballyhooed Decade of Roma Inclusion. The Guardian in 2003 noted:

Statistics on education and employment show how overwhelmingly the odds are stacked against them. In the Czech Republic, 75% of Roma children are educated in schools for people with learning difficulties, and 70% are unemployed (compared with a national rate of 9%). In Hungary, 44% of Roma children are in special schools, while 74% of men and 83% of women are unemployed. In Slovakia, Roma children are 28 times as likely to be sent to a special school than non-Roma; Roma unemployment stands at 80%.

Of course, this being the Guardian, these dismal numbers are attributed solely to discrimination by non-Roma. Now -- mandatory disclaimer -- I am not denying or advocating discrimination against Roma. I am a nice, caring person with properly Advanced and Tolerant views on all important Social Questions, and I also would like to note that I have excellent personal hygiene! I do, however, happen to know a number of people who have worked in/with Roma communities who would violently reject beg to differ from the argument that nothing about Roma culture or values contributes to their problems:

The following day, while chatting with a group of Gypsies in the small Transylvanian village of Dealu Frumos, I get an insight into a side of the Roma that I have been constantly warned about but have not yet encountered. A young man and his friends are telling me about tsigani de casatsi—house Gypsies—"bad ones, who don't work on the land like us but just steal for a living." Without warning, he wrenches my notebook from my hands and shoves me against the car. I am punched in the kidneys, and my arm is twisted behind me. A blade is held to the side of my neck, and suddenly I am surrounded by roaring Gypsies, maybe 30 of them, more appearing every few seconds from the surrounding houses. My translator, Mihai, is punched in the head. "Money! Money! Money!" his tormentors bellow. I am allowed into the car to retrieve my bag, but Mihai is kept outside, a hostage to my ransom. I offer all the money from my wallet, and Mihai pulls free and throws himself into the back seat. As we drive off, we do an inventory of our injuries. Apart from bruises and shock, my main injury is to my hitherto benign image of the Roma as a wronged and misunderstood people.

The average Guardian reader is apparently expected to believe on faith alone that it is per se impossible for a minority group to display any distinct social characteristics, even though they have been breeding largely among themselves for 32 generations. It may be of interest to note that the most recent and reliable study puts the mean IQ of some European Roma populations in the mid-70s. I suppose we can just be glad the pollsters didn't ask these questions in Bulgaria or Romania, countries with huge Roma populations.

-- As I've noted before, this survey tends to undermine the notion of a wave of anti-Semitism sweeping Western Europe. Anti-semitic opinion in Western Europe is largely concentrated among Muslim populations. As this poll shows, the farther south and east you go in Europe, the more mainstream anti-Semitism becomes.