Political discussion and links behind the cut:
The political blog Rationalgalerie calls the Gauck nomination “a nightmare for freedom” and also criticizes the role of the media in the Wulff resignation and Gauck nomination.
Political blogger Jacob Jung responds to the complaints of the mainstream media that only the “net community” is opposed to Gauck’s candidacy (and ACTA and data storage and blocking of law-breaking websites), whereas the overwhelming majority of the population is in favour of Gauck. Jung also asks who this fabled “net community” is supposed to be, namely everybody who has internet access, that is four fifths of the German population. In short, the so-called “net community” is the overwhelming majority of the population.
Here is one example, an article from Cicero, a bourgeois conservative magazine catering to upper middle classes who consider themselves part of the elite (in short, an awful rag), about how the “net community” created an evil parallel universe Gauck and how awful all of those Twitter attacks are. But then Cicero believes that Joachim Gauck will be a president for the elites rather than for the people. Though to be fair, the article isn’t that bad and draws parallels between Joachim Gauck’s views and particularly his idea of “freedom” and the Republican Party in the US.
Jacob Jung’s post also touches on something that bothers me and not just since the Gauck nomination was announced, namely the constant invocation of some nebulous “net community” as a fringe group out of touch with the true wishes of the population. Whereas the term “net community” only illustrates how out of touch both many politicians and large parts of the mainstream media are with both the internet and 21st century life. That said, it seems to me as if there is a generational divide between Gauck supporters and Gauck opponents. Gauck opponents are overwhelmingly young, in their twenties and thirties, whereas many older people (not all though) don’t mind Gauck. I have personally never heard anybody, regardless of age, say that they actually want Gauck as their president, the best I’ve heard people say is that they don’t mind him. So much for the supposed “president of hearts”.
Joachim Gauck is an embittered old man who is mired in the past and cannot let go of his role as an East German civil rights hero (more on that later). It’s no surprise that many young people don’t want this embittered old man as their president (he would be the oldest president in postwar Germany, only Paul von Hindenburg back in the Weimar Republic was older), since the GDR and whatever Stasi informers might have made a career in post 1990 Germany are not exactly the most pressing issues of the day. And since young people are more likely to be active internet users, the opposition to Gauck mainly plays out on the web. Besides, it’s not as if the mainstream media, whether newspapers, magazines or TV programs, is really doing its job here, since they keep dismissing anti-Gauck sentiments as the opinions of a fringe group.
Jacob Jung also counters the accusations that most of the problematic statements of Gauck were taken out of context. Now many of the posts and articles I linked to actually offer a whole lot of context and relevant links. And even if Gauck did not really mean what he said when he called the Occupy movement incredibly silly or called the racist Thilo Sarrazin “brave” for addressing the concerns of many or when he equated the Third Reich with Communist East Germany, he still said all those things. And if he did not mean those things, this makes him a very bad rhetorician. And considering that making clear speeches is a prerequisite both for the job of a pastor and a politician, this lack of rhetorical skills still makes him the wrong person for the job. For who needs a president who constantly has to explain what he really means, because he cannot express himself unambiguously?
Anatol Stefanowitsch, currently professor of English linguistics at the University of Hamburg and formerly at the University of Bremen, has a must-read post countering the accusations that the “net community”, whoever that may be, has created a sort of evil parallel universe Gauck by taking statements out of context and twisting his words.
Telepolis, a popular tech news site, also takes on the “filter bubble” accusations and wonders why all those who accuse internet based Gauck critics of living in a filter bubble don’t seem to have a problem with the fact that the public TV and radio station MDR deleted a poll on Gauck’s candidacy, when the result was not as expected.
Publikative counters the accusations of having taken Gauck’s supposed support for Thilo Sarrazin out of context by quoting extensively from a TV interview wherein Gauck expressed sympathy for people feeling overrun by foreigners, particularly muslim foreigners.
Jacob Jung’s post also touches on Gauck’s past as an East German civil rights hero, which is usually offered as the main argument why he will make a good president. Jung quotes one Georg Rein, who stated in a radio program I could not find online that while Joachim Gauck was a Lutheran pastor in East Germany, he was not part of the religious opposition to the Communist regime and only joined the civil rights group Neues Forum in October 1989, i.e. one month from the end. This also matches my recollection that I did not hear Gauck’s name mentioned until much later.
At the group blog Der Freitag, Hans-Jochen Tschiche, who is one of the founding members of the Neues Forum, the same East German civil rights group that Gauck joined in October 1989, also sets the record straight regarding Gauck’s reputation as a civil rights hero.
Meanwhile, speculations about the nature of Gauck’s relationship with the Stasi and the contents of his Stasi files (he was a pastor in the GDR, so of course there are files on him) are reappearing as well. Telepolis has a summary.
Regarding possible alternative candidates, comedian Georg Schramm, who suddenly found himself a favoured counter candidate supported by the Pirate Party and Left Party, has declined. He feels flattered to be considered for the office, but believes that the office is a target of political and media manipulation and that it should either be abolished or changed to a directly voted post.
Meanwhile, the Left Party is considering nominating Beate Klarsfeld, French-German journalist and anti-Nazi activist. Beate Klarsfeld is certainly a highly respected person and I would definitely prefer her to Joachim Gauck. However, as Telepolis points out, Beate Klarsfeld is also 73 years old and thus even one year older than Gauck (who would be the oldest postwar president anyway) and as much bound to the Third Reich and her activism against former Nazis as Gauck is bound to the GDR and his activism against former Stasi agents and informers. Hence, her candidacy would still have some of the same issues as Gauck’s, namely that this president, whether Gauck or Klarsfeld, is a man or respectively woman of the past and not for the present and future.