I don’t really want to talk about politics anymore, but unfortunately it’s still important to blog about the criticism of Joachim Gauck, because the mainstream media is totally failing in even addressing the criticism at all. So there’s more presidential politics behind the cut:
First of all, there now is a Gauck challenger, namely the 73-year-old journalist and anti-Nazi activist Beate Klarsfeld who was nominated by the Left Party. I would have preferred a younger candidate, but otherwise Beate Klarsfeld is a good choice and her activist past is genuine, unlike Gauck’s. And I cannot find fault with a woman who went up to a chancellor with a Nazi past (Kurt Georg Kiesinger, chancellor in the 1960s) and slapped him.
What most annoys me is that any Gauck criticism is immediately dismissed by the mainstream media. There was a real awful “All of those Gauck bashers are lying and defaming the people’s candidate” article in my local paper today, but it’s not online. This article from the Tagesspiegel is another good example of how the mainstream media bashes and attacks Gauck critics.
Since Gauck is also supported by four of five parties in the German parliament, politicians aren’t particularly happy that many people don’t want their candidate, who was supposed to be the candidate of hearts. Case in point: Jürgen Trittin, current head of the Green Party, who calls Gauck critics “swine”.
The anti-Gauck blog Och nein danke has a clip from a political talk show where Jürgen Trittin, head of the Green Party, accuses the editor-in-chief of the leftist newspaper taz of practicing “swine journalism” and demands an apology from her. Ranting at journalists for supposedly unfair reporting and demanding retractions was one of the main reasons that cost Christian Wulff his job, only that Wulff did not rant at the editor-in-chief of the leftwing taz but at the editor-in-chief of the conservative tabloid Bild. So apparently ranting at journalists is only an issue, as long as those journalists are far enough to the right.
The political blog Publikative also takes on Trittin’s unbelievable “swine journalism” remarks and also quotes an editorial from the far right (not just conservative but borderline racist) newspaper Junge Freiheit which approves of Gauck’s nomination and hopes that he will restore patriotic feelings in Germany. Now Gauck is hardly responsible for what the Junge Freiheit writes, though I for one would be very worried if an ultra rightwing paper liked me and agreed with me.
To Jürgen Trittin Gauck critics are pigs, while Vera Lengsfeld, former East German civil rights activist turned conservative politician, believes that all of those nasty internet activists are engaged in a disinformation campaign and do not represent the opinion of the people. And anyway, how dare the “quality media” (a.k.a. traditional mainstream media) give attention to those internet-based disinformation activists by mentioning the fact that there are critical voices. As for the “opinion of the people”, at least that part of “the people” I talked to are closer in opinion to those nasty net activists than to Vera Lengsfeld and the mainstream press. I don’t doubt that explicit Gauck fans exist somewhere in Germany, but so far the best I’ve heard anybody say about him is that they don’t mind him.
Gauck himself is declining all interview requests at the moment, which is probably best considering that he seems to suffer from foot in mouth disease. Though the cultural program titel, thesen, temperamente interviewed him, supposedly about his new book on freedom, a day or two before his nomination was announced. A video link is here. The interview did nothing to persuade me to like Gauck any better. If anything, I find his voice incredibly grating, too. There was no real criticism of Gauck in the report either, though they did show a few soundbites from East German writer Ingo Schulze criticizing Gauck. That said, I found it annoying that Gauck has even invaded the cultural programs I watch to get away from the constant political blather, especially as the rest of the program was quite good with an interview with John Irving and another interview with one of my personal heroes, Ken Adam, set designer on the Bond films. And IMO John Irving and Ken Adam shouldn’t have to share the limelight with a former pastor and fake civil rights hero.
Gauck may not be talking to the media at the moment, but he did talk to functionaries of the parties that are nominating him. While visiting the leaders of the conservative party CDU, Gauck complained that the German people are suffering from “luxury fears” such as swine flu and e-coli infections. Because worrying about a food born disease that killed 45 people, mostly previously healthy women, in a span of two months and left many more with permanent kidney damage and dependent on dialysis is obviously such a luxury fear. For comparison, the Berlin Wall killed between 136 and 245 people in a span of 28 years.
In the meeting with the CDU leaders, Joachim Gauck also clarified his position on poverty and welfare recipients. He believes that the poor shouldn’t complain so much – after all, today’s poor still have more than a “grandmother in the 1930s”. As someone whose great-grandmother was poor in the 1930s – single mother of four working as a cleaning lady and living in a shack to avoid homelessness poor – I find this comparison deeply insulting.
Meanwhile, the city of Rostock, where Gauck was a Lutheran pastor in the 1970s and 1980s, is considering making him an honourable citizen. Alas, the majority of the population is opposed to this.
Even the political comedians are completely failing on the Gauck issue. This will probably surprise many US readers, but Germany has a great tradition of political comedy and many of those political comedians have TV shows of their own. One of them, Georg Schramm, even came close to being nominated as a counter candidate to Gauck by the Pirate Party.
Now I rarely watch political comedy, but I chanced to see the heute show, which is basically the German version of Jon Stewart’s show, on Friday and they did not address the criticism of Gauck or made even a single joke about him. The only comedy take on Gauck’s candidacy I came across was a bit of radio comedy which focused mainly on his marital status (married to one woman, but living with another for 12 years now), which doesn’t bother me a whole lot.
Of course, not mentioning Gauck at all is also a statement. Every Saturday, the German rap duo Kunstrasen presents a summary of the week’s events in rap form at the end of the regular evening news of the private TV station RTL2. And this week’s rap mentioned the events in Syria and the coalition government fighting about a new presidential candidate – but it neither mentioned nor showed Gauck himself. The official site of the TV station does not have the most recent Wochen Rap clip online, but it can be found at the Facebook page.