AntiNote: Cops lie all the time. They make shit up to cover their asses after egregious error and to justify all manner of aggressive, violent, and harassing behavior against civilians, especially darker-skinned ones. They lie so much and so often that they don’t even know that they’re lying anymore—and apparently neither does the media, and neither do we.
That it is controversial or confrontational to point this out—despite the frankly embarrassing number of cases of coordinated official misstatements that in a right-side-up world would constitute prosecutable perjury and conspiracy—is the fruit of a compliant and credulous media, and a compliant and credulous public. He had a gun, he looked like a demon, they were throwing bottles and rocks, she was resisting, he fit the description, they are armed with pipe bombs, they are all delinquents, I thought my life was in danger. Really?
This is as much an issue in Germany as it is in the United States. The following article examines when the pathological lies of the police extend to protect not only themselves but rampaging neo-Nazis as well, and the lengths that police and media will go to in order to preserve a patently absurd narrative about who the good guys and bad guys are, as if such a thing as either even exists.
Lower Class Magazine‘s Fatty McDirty, an Antidote favorite, regards the police claims in the case of Bautzen as so preposterous on their face that he does not even bother to refute them. For our international readers less familiar with dynamics in this region of Germany—Saxony—allow us to fill in a couple of blanks. The regional capital, Dresden, should ring a bell for most in relation to the large PEGIDA demonstrations held there in late 2014 and early 2015; Bautzen more specifically, and the public square in particular where the incident in question took place, has been the site of regular (read: more than weekly) neo-Nazi demonstrations and provocations for over a year. Despite some fairly robust antifa/pro-democracy resistance, Nazis basically rule the roost on the Kornmarkt.
The Bautzen pogrom: when the parroting of police reports counts as “journalism,” something is terribly wrong.
The state of critical journalism in Germany is pretty poor: freelancers are paid stingily; in newsrooms the rewriting of wire service reports functions as a cheaper alternative to building a network of correspondents; little by little one could begin to get the impression, reading various press sources on one topic, that one diligent super-journalist must be writing several hundred articles every morning.
The combination of budget cuts and a permanent pressure to conform have allowed an altogether uncritical—to put it mildly—mentality to develop in the German media landscape. This revealed itself in all its depravity over the last two weeks in Bautzen: there, where in late February gleeful residents impeded firefighters from putting out a burning refugee center, German neo-Nazis, with a large entourage of wannabes, went a’refugee-huntin’ on Wednesday night [14 September 2016].
The headlines afterwards went something like this: “Violence erupts between refugees and rightwingers” (Spiegel); “Street battle between neo-Nazis and refugees” (Bild); “Dozens of rightwingers and refugees have at each other” (Die Welt); or even better: “Violence between refugees and locals” (Deutschlandfunk). Nearly every such “article” includes the same syndicated photograph: around ten refugees, two shirtless, at the scene of the incident [a central city square, the Kornmarkt]. This seems to suggest, at best, that the whole thing was basically some kind of gladiator rumble between two equally-matched groups of hooligans. Our dear paper-scratchers could have ascertained from the very police reports they copy down that this was not the case: twenty refugees encountered eighty “locals.”
Many well-circulated publications go even further. Die Zeit trumpeted in a headline, without so much as a direct or indirect citation, simply this: “Bautzen: violence started with intoxicated asylum-seekers.” Consistent to the hilt, in the online version of this article they linked to a racist YouTube channel for evidence to this claim.
The misery does not end with the headlines. In the Bild article in question, voices from the scene are presented: one resident is permitted to rant about the drunk and aggressive asylum-seekers; another emphasizes poor treatment of women among the refugees. A local triathlete rounds out the picture with the regret that “it had to come to an incident like this” for something to be done. That’s it. No word from refugees or antifascists in the area.
Instead, one man in particular is cited exhaustively, a man who, considering both his office and his actions, should certainly no longer qualify as an unbiased source: Police Chief Uwe Kilz. His performance would be great satire, if the situation weren’t so sad. He calls the young refugees “UMAs” (an acronym for unaccompanied minor asylum-seekers) and speaks of them as if they were UFOs. He says that rocks and beer bottles were thrown “by a group of UMAs at a group of around eighty persons who were, ah, of German origin.” He describes the “locals” as “younger people, men and women, people in the city for an event.” After the rocks were thrown, the “UMAs” were then “verbally attacked by the other side, of course.” Unfortunately, nobody asked him whether, in his way of speaking, the word “event” is a synonym for “attempted pogrom.”
It is an open secret that German police forces—including, if not especially, in Saxony—often not only share the anti-refugee attitudes of the right, but also nurture direct contact with the neo-Nazi scene. Incidents of racist insults and racist acts by police officers in Germany are not infrequent. These are generally hidden by the blue wall of silence, however, and even the incidents that become public are only halfheartedly investigated.
Nonetheless, many journalists regard the reports of police spokespeople—and not only in the case of Bautzen—as a priori accurate and true descriptions of factual reality not to be questioned, or if at all, only once it becomes impossible to pretend. But when will that be?
Translated by Antidote
Featured image source: the lately and dearly departed Lauter Bautz’ner, a left-liberal blog concerned with local Saxon politics that hung up its cleats in bitter resignation after the events described in this article.