Monday, June 5, 2017

Facebook, 1932, and Reality

There are three elements to my essay today, and I will weave them together as best as I can.

This past week, a story came out via the Berliner Morganpost. The basic story is that a German woman was a Facebook member.  Early 60s.  At some point, she came across a image with a caption and posted it.....thinking it amusing.  From her list of FB friends, someone felt that she'd crossed the line and did the 'good-German' thing of reporting to the police (I'll get to this later).  The 'friend' made a statement, the cops investigated, and the prosecutor gave them a search warrant.  A case developed, and the chief charge was "an utterance capable of inciting hatred and denigration of the human dignity of others”.  The woman probably a lawyer who'd never seen anything like this, and by the end....the judge went to the guilty situation....fine of roughly a thousand Euro.  Oh, and along the way, our kind folks at FB decided that she'd violated their standards and dumped her account.

The image that got her into trouble?  Basically described as a question of safety and a background with some migrants.

I should note that left-wing comments were put onto her page prior to the shut-down....death-threats, etc.

Since the spring of 2016, there's been a couple of legal changes accomplished which make legal efforts by the German court a wide-open thing, with interpretations a hit-and-miss episode.

For this reason, I think Facebook is probably compromised now and probably the only thing you'd want to use it for in to post silly pictures of cats, cheese cake recipes, and recommendations for pizzerias.  So I made the decision to drop putting up news bits or connected stories from SR.  In fact, I will make the following three recommendations:

1.  If you are a non-German living in the country and have regularly used FB over the past year or might want to go back and review every single item you might have posted and if anything (I mean literally anything) could be interpreted as a 'hate-crime' by a German associate, friend, or neighbor.  Erase it, sanitize it,

2.  Go down your list of friends listed on FB, and eyeball the group carefully.  Is there anyone who might be a person drawn to be a 'good-German'?  Beyond their typical it possible their political liability make them less a a 'friend'?  If so....unhook them (unfriend).  If they notice this and ask....just say you had too many people listed and just cleaned up the account.

3.  Sit down and draw up a list of topics which you can be fairly sure of being 'verboten' (German for forbidden) not only for social media comments or images, but for general conversation (even this can be drawn into court now for hate-crimes).  Once you have the list of things....draw a red circle around it and simply refuse in social meetings, conversations, or social media occasions to use any of those comments with Germans.  Even if you think you know these people.....any of them could turn at the right moment and be a 'good-German' to report you to the police, and then you get a home-searched for evidence to present against you in court.  Just avoid these type of conversations....stick with sports, beer, Grand Prix, or vacation topics.  If drawn to the red-line topics....just decline and say you don't know anything.

So I come to topic two of this essay.....the feeling of 1932.  It would take roughly five years for the 1932 government to put up a handful of laws....establish some clout with prosecutors throughout Germany....make some public cases, and then Germans shifted into a fairly different culture with two varieties.  Version one was the Kristallnacht player and version two was the quiet German who learned to just avoid public topics and let version one people do their thing.

The 'good-German' crowd are humble people who believe in the law, and reporting people who have violated the law.  In their mind, they are doing a humble thing and performing a public service.  After 9 November 1938, it was pretty easy to fall into that way of thinking and just 'play along'.  I hate using the phrase but we all do it so often these days, so it fits.

The odd thing is that this period of 1930 through the end of the 1930s was all positive in nature.  The economy was in a rebuilding stage after the Wall Street fall of 1929.  German politics ushered in a good-feeling situation with new faces and new political trends.  Infrastructure was developing.  Jobs were always possible.  It was probably the positive point that most Germans over forty years old had seen since the summer of 1914.  Toss in the Olympics and you had a solid period of feeling good.

Now, topic three.  What if you had version two of Hitler and the Nationalist Socialists today....what would it really appear like?  I was driving for two hours yesterday and pondered upon this topic.

The truth is that the Nationalist Socialists of a modern era wouldn't really need or want Hitler....he would simply turn them into a one-trick pony.  So you'd discard him right off the bat.

Brown-shirts?  You wouldn't need them.  You'd resort to peer pressure, use of special words to condemn people in public, and public debates structured for one single outcome.

The portrait of the modern era Nationalist Socialists (in my humble opinion) would cleverly portray themselves as smart, intellectual, artsy, into opera and classic music, enjoy the construction of new opera houses, libraries, museums, and public structures.  They would paint themselves as the in-crowd....the people you'd see entertainers, intellectuals and journalists hanging out with on a regular basis.

The modern era Nationalist Socialists would not have to force journalists to be hyped up tell their story....journalists would feel a longing to tell a fairly good story over the good-socialism, which protects or helps the children, takes care of pensioners, improves infrastructure weekly, and does so much good in the world.

But then you'd come to this limiting factor.  The modern era of Nationalist Socialists would have control over their journalists and their public media.  There would be this little silly thing out there with social media, Facebook, Twitter, and the internet....which would be a threat.  So they'd have to find ways of cornering social media.  Perhaps finding ways of forcing people away from using it.  Maybe even convincing social media to cancel accounts and make it difficult or impossible to use.

In some ways, this modern era of Nationalist Socialists would have cleaned up their act, gotten smart over public trends, and reinvented itself into more of a PR organization than a political agenda. Their discussions, public forums, and trends....would all lead to one single focused agenda item.

So, that's a dose of reality in 2017.  If you had suggested we'd go in this direction a decade ago....I would have laughed and been amused.  Today, a modern-day George Orwell would have tons of material to write a woeful satire book.....but he wouldn't be writing it from within Germany (he'd just be picked up for hate-talk crimes).

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