Leading German politician Volker Kauder (photo) of the CDU party aims “to ban lies from the Internet” thus suggesting the establishment of a Ministry of Truth. Image cropped from volker-kauder.de/index.html, CDU.
With the stunning anti-establishment results coming from Brexit and the US presidential election, and the surging populist right wing parties across Europe, it is not an overstatement to say that the old continent’s established political class is in a state of sheer panic. And they are now reacting with disturbing proposals: policing the Internet for lies.
“Climate deniers” on trial?
Broder is now asking at Die Welt: “Are we getting a Ministry of Truth? Will ‘climate deniers’ be soon put on trial?”
The basis for the proposed Internet intervention is, of course, the claim that Internet users are too stupid to recognize “true” information and thus they unwittingly accept Russian “propaganda”, for example, as facts. Responsible for the distribution of false information are especially the large social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter – and so a clamp-down is necessary and overdue.
Leading politician Volker Kauder of Angela Merkel’s CDU party recently wrote in an opinion piece in Welt am Sonntag: “If the Internet continues to lie, then it’s over with freedom.”
Readers are free to interpret that sentence as they wish. I certainly would not take it lightly, however.
Government as keepers of the truth? “Wishful thinking”
First Broder calls Kauder’s belief that traditional news sources such as “governments, parties and associations” are neutral and doing a good job of informing the public as “wishful thinking” and he reminds readers that these elements too are also driven by their own self interests and commit the sins of “defaming critics, spreading untruths and distorting reality”.
A major target of Internet control are “climate deniers“. Broder writes:
The use of the term “climate denier’ is a nice example for this type of demagogic self-appraisal. It sounds similar to ‘Holocaust denier’ and suggests the affirmation of a crime against humanity; when in fact no one denies there is climate and that it changes – as it has for millions of years.
The question that remains is what is man’s share and whether the travelling Climate Conference circus can agree on an end to climate change. Just asking that question today is heresy.”
Broder then criticizes Kauder’s statement that “criticism is a part of democracy, even when it’s harsh and caustic, but that it must not be ‘vulgar’“, and asks who shall judge what is what?
I have a suspicion. Could it be that the vulgarity of the citizens results from the feeling that they are being screwed and deceived by politicians, if I may express this in vulgar terms? Is it possible that this feeling may not be without justification?”
Flipside of the contempt shown by the elites
German politicians such as Kauder also are lashing out at the brutalization witnessed in the public discourse, especially in the Internet. However Broder argues that it is simply the flipside of the contempt shown by politicians, citing German Green party honcho Claudia Roth who insulted protesters directly to their face at a rally in Dresden earlier this year. Broder writes that Roth ought not be surprised when protesters angrily shouted “piss off” in response.
Now Kauder is calling for a body of laws for regulating the Internet, claiming that that the discussion has gone on long enough. He openly proposes fines for site operators who spread “lies”.
Banning lies would mean banning the occupation of politician
In summary Broder thinks it all smacks of “megalomania” and that what Kauder proposes sounds like “more surveillance, more state, more protection for politicians and fewer rights for citizens“.
Broder warns of the dangers of arbitrarily determining what is a lie, and what isn’t. Will claims that the refugee and euro policies are a failure and that the German Energiewende will crash and burn qualify as lies too and thus be subject to punishment?
Broder then brings up the subject of politicians and their habit of constantly telling lies:
And if the government plans to ban all lies, then won’t it mean a de facto ban for the occupation of politician?”
Clearly politicians such as Kauder have not thought this out at all. We suspect what is driving the latest political initiative is not the lies that are circulating in the Internet, but rather the inconvenient truths they don’t want us to see. Ultimately George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth was in fact “The Ministry of Public Deception.”
History shows it’s a bad idea
Too often societies have been burned in history by those who claimed to be the keepers of the truth. Yet everyone knows that anyone making that dubious claim is very likely an outright liar, and is in fact just the desparate loser in the forum of open public debate.
Germany’s mainstream politics are looking more and more dangerous by the day (if I may be so vulgar). Little wonder that neglected and insulted voters are finding “alternatives” increasingly attractive.