The Philosophers of Germany’s Anti-Islam Political Movement


“Alternative for Germany” (AfD) is a German political party, gaining in popularity, which supports “the idea of banning mosques” and has an official who has declared that “it may be necessary to shoot at migrants trying to enter the country illegally.” AfD has supported, and been supported by, a political movement known as “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West” (Pegida), whose members hold weekly demonstrations opposing Islam and the immigration of Muslims. The growth of these groups, say Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton) in The New York Review of Books, “indicates a potentially profound shift in German political culture: it is now possible to be an outspoken nationalist without being associated with—or, for that matter, without having to say anything about—the Nazi past.” There is a “fear among voters that the new arrivals pose a deep threat to German culture,” and this fear, argues Müller, is being stoked by some German philosophers and other intellectuals. He writes:

Journalists and academics have had a hard time understanding why the Pegida movement emerged when it did and why it has attracted so many people in Germany; there are branches of the Pegida movement in other parts of Europe, but they have gathered only marginal support thus far. Those who suggest it is driven by “anger” and “resentment” are being descriptive at best. What is remarkable, though, is that “rage” as a political stance has received the philosophical blessing of the leading AfD intellectual, Marc Jongen, who is a former assistant of the well-known philosopher Peter Sloterdijk.

Jongen has not only warned about the danger of Germany’s “cultural self-annihilation”; he has also argued that, because of the cold war and the security umbrella provided by the US, Germans have been forgetful about the importance of the military, the police, warrior virtues—and, more generally, what the ancient Greeks called thymos (variously translated as spiritedness, pride, righteous indignation, a sense of what is one’s own, or rage), in contrast to eros and logos, love and reason. Germany, Jongen says, is currently “undersupplied” with thymos. Only the Japanese have even less of it—presumably because they also lived through postwar pacifism. According to Jongen, Japan can afford such a shortage, because its inhabitants are not confronted with the “strong natures” of immigrants. It follows that the angry demonstrators are doing a damn good thing by helping to fire up thymos in German society.

Jongen, who is now deputy leader of the AfD in Baden-Württemberg, was virtually unknown until this spring. Not so Sloterdijk, one of Germany’s most prominent philosophers (and undoubtedly the most prolific) whose work has also become well-known in the US. Sloterdijk regularly takes on controversial subjects such as genetic engineering and delights in provoking what he sees as an intellectual left lacking in humor and esprit. His books, which sell extremely well, are not so much driven by clear-cut arguments as suggestively offering philosophical, and often poetic, re-descriptions of recent history, or even the history of the West as a whole. Like in Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality—a continuous inspiration for Sloterdijk—these re-descriptions are supposed to jolt readers out of conventional understandings of the present. However, not much of his work lives up to Nietzsche’s image of the philosopher as a “doctor of culture” who might end up giving the patient an unpleasant or outright shocking diagnosis: Sloterdijk often simply reads back to the German mainstream what it is already thinking, just sounding much deeper because of the ingenuous metaphors and analogies, cute anachronisms, and cascading neologisms that are typical of his highly mannered style…

In his 2006 volume Rage and Time, in which he also takes his cues from Nietzsche, Sloterdijk argued that in the West thymos had been largely forgotten because of the dominance of eros in consumer capitalism, with the result that envy and resentment dominate the inner lives of citizens. He echoed Francis Fukuyama’s argument in his The End of History and the Last Man that pacified liberal democracies generally fail to find a proper place for “thymotic energies,” and Sloterdijk has said explicitly that, in confrontations with Islam, the West needs to rediscover the role of thymos… 

Sloterdijk has also invoked the concept of “the state of exception” developed by the right-wing jurist Carl Schmitt in the Twenties. As Schmitt saw it, the sovereign could, in order to save the polity in a situation of crisis, suspend the constitution by declaring a state of exception. He added that whoever decides whether there really is an existential threat to a state is revealed as the supreme power. Today, Sloterdijk holds, it is not the state, the nominal sovereign, but the refugee who decides on the state of exception. As a result of Merkel’s policy to allow the unrestricted entry of Syrians, Sloterdijk charges, Germany has waived its own sovereignty, and this “abdication” supposedly “continues day and night.”

The whole essay is here. Thanks to André Grahle for bringing it to my attention.

Comments welcome, especially from readers in Germany or those particularly knowledgeable about its current politics.

Pegida Rally (photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Pegida Rally (photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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Komal
Komal
5 years ago

I really dislike it when evil ideas have the appearance of intelligence.Report

p
p
5 years ago

I think it is actually a real question as to how one is to think of what has and is happening in Germany.

Skeptical jumble of negative thoughts:

First, it is not simply a refugee crisis, though a refugee crisis is a big part of it. Syrian refugees, from what I read, constitute somewhere between 30-40% of migrants, migrants from the Balkans seem to come in about the same numbers, and I see between 15-20% of migrants come from unknown/undetermined places. Although there is a lot of families coming in, there are great numbers of unaccompanied children (who often tend to disappear) and young single man (some reports had them at 70% – http://www.huffingtonpost.de/2015/09/27/fluchtlingsunterkuenfte-gewalt-asylheim_n_8203110.html). This is often conveniently overlooked (just like the fact that though say canada opened its doors, it opened it only to Syrians families, women and gay people – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34917532). So it is not correct to say it as just people escaping war in Germany, though escaping war is a big part of it. Moreover, as it has been reported, people who are denied asylim nevertheless stay in Germany (

Second, Chancellor Merkel offered people more than just a refuge…refugees are, I think, ordinarily, be temporary and expected to return home, at least in substantial numbers. She offered them immediate path to staying permanently. It might be best to put it in perspective – it’ s like US receiving 4.5 million people a year who are promised to stay. That is about 4 times the current level in US – and it’s already a heated issue. Imagine if they were mostly people from Islamic countries how much more heated the issue would become.

Third, Europe, unlike US, has been largely unsuccessful in integrating large immigrant communities from outside Europe. There is little to believe this will be different. UK might be the only country where things are working better.

Fourth, it is not a silly question as to whether any government has the right to open borders to indiscriminate immigration without referendum or some sort of mandate to do so. For one might think that protection of the state community, its borders and its inhabitants welfare is a prerequisite. If this was simply a refugee crisis – that is, if Germany bordered Syria and gave refugee to victims (like Turkey does), it can be argued on humanitarian grounds. But that is not what happened. Chancellor Merkel offered invitation in view of which masses of people moved – without providing them means to get there (7000 thousands people dies in the Aegen sea so far) and without asking either Germany’s citizens or the countries on the route for permission. People were migrating to Sweden and German (and to some extent UK) selectively – often with unrealistic expectations and dreams.

Fifth, it is not clear if the immigrants will be economically a plus or a burden. Given the high level of illiteracy and lack of education, it seems it might be more of a burden. The estimates are now around 50 billions euro (http://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article151700627/Fluechtlinge-kosten-Staat-50-Milliarden-Euro.html) and there is the thought that most of them will end up as unemployed. This ia serious issue – in US, many immigrants come to work – and the large immigration to Germany in the past was alwats tied to workplaces. Not this time. So there is fearl, again, of lack of integration due to disappointments and persistent unemployability.

Sixth, the rise of populist parties – as a cosnequence of all this, is very worrying. It’s very obviously not the immigrants who are at fault at all, but perhaps it is not entirely not part of human nature not to react this way. AfD and Pegida are not very different from Trump voters. But because we do not like them and their views, are we to disregard their views?

Lastly,the events in Cologne and elsewhere highlighted a very basic issue in Germany (now also in other ways part of the Bohnermann affair with Erdogan) – which is the progress Germany has made in women’s and LGBT rights, free speech and so on. Whether or not this concern is fully justified, it’s certainly there.

I have many friends who dedicate their time and efforts to help refugees from Syria. In principle, I am for helping them and for doing all we can and I donated money to help. But I do not think it is right, in view of the things above, to see this event in simplistic terms of right and wrong, or to disregard the voice of people, like German citizens, who do not want their ways of life to fundamentally change (as they were told it would).Report

US Ex-Pat "German" Wannabe?
US Ex-Pat "German" Wannabe?
5 years ago

While it is true that the issues here are complex, I cannot help but strongly disagree with some of the implications of “p”‘s claims. Just because it is “not entirely not part of human nature not to react” in a certain way (a claim, which might be empirically dubious to begin with), does not mean that intentionally vague and potentially morally pernicious ideas should be regarded with the same respect and intellectual seriousness given to other views. These groups have a right to express their views (so long as those views do not cross over into hate speech), but to promote them by fueling worries about “cultural annihilation” (combined with the usual ungrounded fears of immigrants “stealing jobs” or “exploiting the welfare system”) only further pushes a certain kind of agenda – one which Germany to my mind needs to move away from. Yes, many Germans are worried, but taking people seriously – or not disregarding them – doesn’t necessarily mean accepting their ideas as legitimate. It may also involve showing them why their worries are unfounded or campaigning actively against AfD and Pegida.

There is a significant ideological tension here between an almost paranoid cultural aversion to nationalism and “German pride” (for obvious reasons) and the idea that ‘integration’ means something like ‘assimilation’. So, on the one hand, most Germans are very hesitant about being proud of “being German”, but, on the other, there is a prevailing idea of what it means to “be German” that does not include refugees and other minority groups, and such groups are often viewed as a threat to this very “Germanness”. For example, using the term “Migrationshintergrund” to refer to second or even third-generation German citizens – often with either a Muslim or a poor economic background or both – who grow up in Germany AS Germans, betrays this idea. These people aren’t viewed as “true Germans” despite speaking the language perfectly and being productive parts of society. (Of course, it is very unlikely that anyone will refer to my own children as being of a “Migrationshintergrund” because their mother comes from an affluent country in the West and is white. So the term is used to pick out *certain* groups of people and is often implicitly pejorative, even when used in political discourse.)

At the same time, I myself was informed that I had to take an “integration course” before being granted a permanent residency permit in the EU. (I have since contested this by appealing to the “Aufenthaltsgesetz” and was successful. I wonder if some of my Muslim counterparts would be as lucky.) I also have no right to unemployment funds, even though I pay into them every month. Up until last year, I had to pay 80 EUR every time my contract changed, in order to update my residency permit. (It used to be 20-40 EUR, but now we get electronic cards instead of paper permits, so it seems immigrants are shouldering the costs of “going electronic”.) I am fluent in the language and have worked here for 6 years. I can easily inform myself about my rights, and I have advocates at the university who help me in administrative and residency matters. And STILL it’s extremely difficult for me – someone who is NOT discriminated against on a daily basis because of my cultural background, skin color, or religion – to navigate the intricacies of the German immigration and residency offices. How much more difficult must it be for refugees who are looking for asylum – but who don’t know the language or the culture. Integration thus also means *accommodation*. If the worry really IS about “integration”, then such integration needs to be made possible in the first place.

My own view on this issue is that not only do Germans need to help immigrants and refugees “integrate” into German culture; they themselves need to change and adapt – and to start to see that “being German” can (and should – and already does!) mean more than they think it does (which is usually some vague concept of identity – one that very few people actually correspond to). Is cultural change the same as cultural annihilation? If so, then I’m all for it. But there seems to be a relevant distinction between the two, one that’s worth thinking about.

In this vein (whatever you think of the “Schmähkritik” scandal – which rests heavily on the use-mention distinction, btw), Jan Böhmermann’s *NSFW* song, “Be Deutsch!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMQkV5cTuoY), plays very cleverly on stereotypes of modern German culture to show that this very “culture” is one that is not exclusive but rather inclusive. (And besides the awesome Rammstein parody and Trump references, there’s a pretty raunchy Kant reference in there as well.)Report

PeterJ
PeterJ
5 years ago

I feel that Sloterdijk is about right. To me it would not be about Islam especially but simply large scale immigration and its impact on culture and society. This is made more significant when immigrants bring with them a strong culture of their own. No big deal and certainly not racist or even anti-Islam. All things are best in moderation, including immigration. It’s great to see the discussion happening openly in Germany and with some thoughtfulness. In the UK we tend to forget how quickly a society can fall apart since it’s been a while,Report

MAL
MAL
5 years ago

As an activist in refugee contexts (and philosophy lecturer at a German University), I’d like to point out that P’s way of representing the situation is partly distorted. Especially, there are many factual errors that I’d like to point out here (I follow the points in the same order):

First, P says that “it has been reported, people who are denied asylum nevertheless stay in Germany”. Apart from the harm that deportations often constitute to people, particularly to those who have already established a life in Germany, it is not true that their wish to stay is respected by the German state. This is a populist view, which is, sadly, widespread in today’s media, because it sells good given the increase of xenophobic and racist sentiments. The truth is, Germany is very strict on executing deportations. Even before the “refugee crisis”, the German state has removed from its territory approximately 50.000 each year (compare France with 26.000 or Canada 12.000). http://migration.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/03/08/migration.mnu072.abstract I think these practises (and the law that’s backing it, if it does) are in need of extensive moral critique.

Second, P’s claims that “[Merkel] offered [refugees] immediate path to staying permanently“ is simply false. I have no idea, where it’s coming from, but even Syrians get only permission to stay for a few years (I think, it is two at the moment), before they have to apply for an extension. Perhaps, P conflates things with a certain practice, according to which Syrians have been given refugee status without individual proof, just on the basis of their nationality, to speed up processes last year (and given our knowledge of the situation in Syria that pretty much gives every Syrian a legitimate reason to flee). However, this practice wasn’t about permanent stay, and it is a practice that has recently been abolished again. Further restrictions apply to “Familiennachzug” – the right to bring your family in, when they are still in Syria. It’s been abolished as well, even for unaccompanied minors.

Third, there have, in fact, been huge successes in terms of integrating large numbers of Turks into Germany society. And this can be said despite the many political attempts to hinder Turks from becoming a part of German society (starting with the infamous as programmatic practice of calling them “Gastarbeiter” – guest workers, who are supposed to leave, after haven done their work for us). So, we should be more optimistic about integration. In practice that means, we should make politics better, rather than “naturalize” the problem, by claiming that integration (or generally, attempts to realise acceptable ways of living together) must necessarily fail.

Fourth, there is democracy and then there are rights, such as those outlined in the Refugee Convention, which, in turn, has become a part of European law as well. When you enter another country’s territory and lodge a claim for asylum, the relevant state must prove your case and cannot send you back before it has done so (“principle of non-refoulement”). There’s no role for the demos to play here. That’s where we are now, at least before the infamous EU-Turkey-Deal that, as many experts argue, violates this right, as it includes illegal mass pushbacks. However, even if one doesn’t want to think in terms of asylum rights here, the claim that there is a right of nations to unilaterally control their borders is deeply controversial http://www.cridaq.uqam.ca/IMG/pdf/Abizadeh_-_Democratic_theory.pdf

Fifth, economic predictions are never “clear”, but P should have said that already the situation turns out to be economically beneficial to Germany and that *most* economists, including the authors of a recent IMF-survey (http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.aspx?sk=43609) are optimistic in terms of long time prospects. However, in the end, the right to asylum is not about economic growth at all. Even if it has undesirable economic effects, we cannot abolish it.

Sixth, we shouldn’t ignore right-wing (xenophobic, racist) views, we must *counter* them, by way of establishing anti-racist and -fascist movements. We do not counter them, if we fulfil their dreams, by closing our borders and pushing for more deportations. Also, let’s not forget that most people who now say “this is what a democratic society has to endure” are racialized as white, thus have the privilege to respect AfD and PEGIDA, as they aren’t assaulted on a daily basis by their followers and as they do not have to suffer from racist politics and racist structural circumstances in Germany in general.

Seventh, a group of feminists have said many constructive things after the Cologne events. http://ausnahmslos.org/english Sadly, not much has been done in terms of supporting and realising their proposals. That’s where we should start. Reactions after Cologne have been often implicitly racist and almost always hypocritical. As to the last point, we should take women of colour as serious as white woman, thus care for the safety of female refugees as well. However, the opposite is being done, female refugees are being put in camps without privacy and protection. It is important to see that anti-racism and anti-sexism must go hand in hand here. Here’s the statement of “Women in Exile” (scroll down for English): http://oplatz.net/hort-auf-eure-rassistischen-gesetzesverscharfungen-und-abschiebungen-im-namen-von-frauenrechten-zu-legitimieren/#more-9403Report

AW (German philosopher)
AW (German philosopher)
5 years ago

Some of p’s claims are pretty misleading – while I am writing I see that MAL has pointed out some of these things better then I could have done.
Let me add a few points to this:
– While quite some of the recent refugees are not from Syria, many of them are from Iraq and Afghanistan – they flee civil wars like the Syrians.
– It is true that many refugees are unaccompanied men, and quite some of them are underage – that is because many families decided to send only one male, young and healthy family member on the hazardous route who then tried to get visa and resident permits for his family members. For kids under 18 it used to be easier to get resident permits for their families, so some families sent their children. As MAL has pointed out, this has changed.
– Finally, it is not true that “Merkel offered invitation in view of which masses of people moved […] without asking either Germany’s citizens or the countries on the route for permission.” Merkel decided to grant Syrian refugees asylum in Germany while a lot of them were already arriving in Germany or on their way. She decide not to send them back to the country where they entered the Schengen territory (usually Greece), because the countries in the Mediterranean were not able to provide food and shelter for the numer of refugees arriving. Merkel did the right thing in summer 2015, but she did not do it freely out of humanitarian concerns, she did it because any other decision would have had seriously endangered Europe’s stability.

I’d also like to second US Ex Pat’s description of the German debate about “integration of people with a migration background”. But at least we are discussing question like who counts as German these days. That is a development of the 21st century. When I was a kid in the 90s, people taught me to tolerate foreigners (there was a wave of anti-immigration hatred back then, too), but nobody raised the idea that a person with grandparents from Turkey could be a German. This has changed in many regions and cultural milieus in Germany but not everywhere.

Yet the dangerous development about Pegida and the AfD is that it is a dynamic movement ranging from Neo-Nazis over the populist right to conservative circles and people who feel somehow forgotten by the political establishment. It is a movement where you will be applauded for saying the most incoherent things, as long as they are racist, against Muslims and/or anti-establishment. Neo-Nazis use and shape this movement in order to become a normal voice in the political arena, and someone with whom others might from alliances.Report

Brett
Brett
5 years ago

Meh. People are clueless if they believe culture to be static. Germans would still be eating boiled weeds, let alone not have so much Neanderthal DNA in themselves.Report

Stevie
Stevie
5 years ago

If I was German I would take place in these rallies. There are definitely terrorists flocking into Germany, referred to as Syrian refugees, and Germans have a right to oppose this for their own safety.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Stevie
5 years ago

Justin, I don’t know whether Stevie’s comment simply slipped through the cracks or if it was deemed by you to be just on the right side of appropriate, but it seems to me to be clearly unacceptable. Whatever modicum of truth there may be to the claim that some terrorists are taking advantage of Germany’s refugee policies in order to enter into the country for nefarious purposes, it is certainly false that all of those referred to as ‘Syrian refugees’ are “terrorist flocking into Germany.” In fact, the vast majority of these individuals are victims of the chaos caused by very the terrorist groups that Stevie and others accuse them of being members of, and seek only to flee the awful conditions created by these groups. Although others in the comments have drawn attention to the ways in which p has also misrepresented the situation in Germany, p’s comment nonetheless lacks the inflammatory quality of Stevie’s insofar as it does not involve the blatant use of the rhetoric of terrorism to justify prejudicial attitudes. Such talk and the attitudes it promotes are significant factors behind the spread of reactionary ultra-nationalist movements and policies aimed at impeding and undermining humanitarian responses to the plight of afflicted innocents, which redoubles their suffering. Whatever the value and limits of the freedom of expression may be, it does not entail an obligation on the part of the Daily Nous as such to provide a forum for inflammatory speech, even if it does restrict the state from prohibiting the airing of such views. Of course, making such claims public can be of journalistic value under certain conditions and perhaps this occasion merits that, but an editorial comment on the claim’s veracity would seem to be in order in that case. I have great respect for your efforts in producing the Daily Nous, which is truly a service to the profession, and for your judgement as its proprietor, so please don’t take this to be an accusation or a ‘call-out’; my intention is only to draw Stevie’s comment and what I take to be its problematic aspects to your attention. In that spirit, I openly acknowledge that the issue of whether this comment is indeed problematic, and (if so) how it should be handled, falls squarely within your discretion and that your judgement on the matter, whatever it may be, should be respected as decisive.Report

Sad Eyed Philosopher of the Lowlands
Sad Eyed Philosopher of the Lowlands
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

I’m not sure what the justification was, but my thought was that Stevie’s comment was an intentional troll. This is still not a justification for its appearing on a blog like this, but I also thought it best to ignore it.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
5 years ago

Thanks for clarifying your moderation procedure and your general position on objectionable speech, Justin. I understand where your coming from and it strikes me as a very reasonable stance, even if I’m still not sure I agree about this particular case.

Sad Eyed, it did occur to me that Stevie may well be a troll, but it also seems to me that the negative effects of inflammatory speech is largely independent of the degree of sincerity with which it is expressed. For instance, while much of Trump’s remarks may well be insincere, cynical populist plays, they are still worrisome. Jennifer Saul does a great job drawing that out here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-saul/habituation-and-hate_b_9449748.html . I think much the same applies to reactionary, ultranationalist rhetoric in the conversation around responses to the refugee crisis.Report

Charles
Charles
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

JT, I don’t see which part of Stevie’s post did enrage you so much that you called for censorship. Being against uncontrolled immigration is something else than being against immigration in general. To bring up an illustration: How would you feel if, from one day to another, suddenly all airports would close down their security and immigration facilities for those flights arriving in your country? – And why should that be different from other methods of crossing borders?Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Charles
5 years ago

Charles, yikes. First, unless Justin has extraordinary powers I’m not aware of, calling on him to strike a comment for being inflammatory from *his* news-blog doesn’t come anywhere close to amounting to a call for censorship, even if we assume that the comment was not in fact inflammatory. If it did, then any form of comment moderation on the basis of content would be censorship. This would be so even in the absence of state intervention, and even if there were many other forums in which expressions of the view in question are welcomed and encouraged. Whatever it means to have a right to free speech, the idea that it surely does not absurdly entitle everyone to say anything at anywhere and anytime, come what may.

Second, while Stevie’s comment may be consistent with being against uncontrolled immigration in general, it is much more specific than that and doesn’t even entail it. In fact, it isn’t really about immigration as such. Stevie’s claim, “There are definitely terrorists flocking into Germany, referred to as Syrian refugees, and Germans have a right to oppose this for their own safety,” is about a specific set of migrants and the putative threat they pose to the German people. On Justin’s reading of the claim, we should understand the claim to mean that “*some* people coming to Germany to commit terrorist acts are doing so as, or pretending to be, Syrian refugees.” While I respectfully disagree with his reading, Justin is right to point out that “this particularly worry is exaggerated, fueled by xenophobia and common but unjustifiable factual and normative views about the preservation of culture.” Given that flooding the conversation about the refugee crisis with such claims is a common way in which ultra-national groups stoke the fires of hatred in favour of their cause, it is not unreasonable to think that such claims in the present context are inflammatory. But I took Stevie to be making the stronger and worse claim that *all* Syrian refugees are terrorists flocking to Germany (‘There are definitely terrorists flocking to Germany.’ OK, who? ‘Those referred to as Syrian refugees.’ Really? *All* of them?!). A middle ground between Justin’s and my initial reading is to take Stevie to mean, as the use of ‘flocking’ suggests, that there are *many* terrorists among the Syrian refugees currently in or entering into Germany. But since it is still stronger than Justin’s weaker reading, it nonetheless expresses a worry that is at least just as problematic.

Third, the use rhetoric of terrorism by Stevie is independent problematic. See Tomis Kapitan’s discussion here for an overview of the general issues with such rhetoric: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/the-reign-of-terror/ . The use of the rhetoric of terrorism in this particular context seems to take on a more sinister quality than it usually does. In this case, not only does it further add insult to injury by erasing the difference between refugees and those who have forced them from their homes, but it also renders Syrian refugees as undeserving of basic humanitarian aid that they are morally and legally entitled to as a matter of fundamental human rights (see Article 14 of the UDHR) by stigmatising them as potential terrorists.Report

Charles
Charles
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

“Hatred”, “xenophobia”, “preservation of culture” – none of these things were present in Stevie’s post. I do agree that the current debate is fueled by ugliness, but you’re projecting larger parts of the debate into one simple statement. Your post consists of strawmen, nothing else.

It’s a fact that there *are* terrorists among the refugees. It’s a fact that government doesn’t know who enters the country, not even how many people enter the country. Immigrants have disappeared, for reasons unknown, and nobody knows what to make of it. I assume that you read the news and are well aware of these problems. So if you accuse someone who points out the loss of immigration control and the many security failures of being “hateful” and “xenophobic”, you’re not engaging in a meaningful and justified dialogue, but attempting to shut it down by shaming someone and shifting the debate from security issues towards racism.

That being said, I notice that you did not engage in my example given above, but from your posts I can gather the following: You wouldn’t mind if airports from all over the world would shut down the passport and security controls for flights entering your country and you’d accuse anyone pointing out such a security failure of being “hateful” and “xenophobic.” You’ll probably not agree with this assessment, but it seems to follow from what you write.Report

Charles
Charles
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

One more thing comes to mind. Of course, the vast majority of immigrants and refugees are peaceful people. But, unfortunately, from a lawmaking or security point of view, this is rather irrelevant. To put it bluntly: Laws are not made for people who use human reason or are decent people. The vast majority of gun owners are reasonable people too who would never hurt anyone – does this mean we don’t need gun control? The vast majority of drivers are careful, reasonable and sober – does this mean we don’t need speed limits or laws against drunk driving? The vast majority of people pay their taxes – does this mean that tax evasion is not a problem at all?Report

SL (German)
SL (German)
5 years ago

This might be a minor thing, but I just wanted to point out that Sloterdijk indeed is well-known in Germany – however, he is not well-respected in the philosophy community. It’s my impression at least that pretty much everybody working in a philosophy department in Germany sees him as a feuilletonist-philosopher with an intriguing but totally opaque style who is not really contributing anything substantial to philosophy.
Be that as it may, if his ‘school of thought’ really does have this kind of political influence philosophers in Germany probably should take this more seriously.Report

MAL
MAL
5 years ago

I’d like to second what SL says: “if [Sloterdijk’s] ‘school of thought’ really does have this kind of political influence philosophers in Germany probably should take this more seriously”. Despite exceptions and recent signs to the contrary, there is a form of irresponsible elitism at work in German academic philosophy. I’m not so much thinking of old-fashioned mannerism, but rather the idea that political engagement is unscientific or vulgar, and shouldn’t be part of any serious philosophical activity. Thus, there weren’t many (if any) philosophers responding to Sloterdijk so far. Other type of intellectuals had to do the job, which I find embarrassing. And to be honest, it is not just about “not wanting to the job”, it is also about ability. Most analytic philosophers have no visible political or public identity beyond the university. Almost everyone working today at German philosophy departments has never received any training in terms of how to write texts for political purposes. I suspect that today, it is not much different in other countries of the west, despite the fact that history of philosophy (including early analytic philosophy, most notably the Vienna Circle) is full of admirable examples to the contrary. This is something we really have to change, if we want to avoid people like Sloterdijk or Jongen to take up so much space in the future.Report

anothersomeone
anothersomeone
5 years ago

As a woman, a feminist, a survivor of sexual assault, and a resident of Europe, I cannot repudiate strongly enough the claim that protecting feminist values requires that we repel war refugees. If a man assaults a woman, *that man* should be punished for it, not the entire national group/refugee group he comes from. To treat all refugees as stand-ins for each other is dehumanizing.

And given how desperately these refugees need assistance, to deny them entry is not just a moral shortcoming, it is reprehensible. What part of “never again” can Germany & Europe (and the world) not understand? If we judge the U.S. and other countries harshly now for failing to take in Jewish refugees during WWII, how can we fail to judge with equal harshness those same countries who fail to help refugees now? Angela Merkel, to her credit, understands the moral imperative and has taken it on, and to the detriment of her own career. (Oh, and as to the bizarre suggestion that Europe should let refugees in but slowly, “in moderation,” well, if only they could just sit in their boats for a few more years while you adjust to the reality of their desperate plights. That’s the thing about being a refugee, kind of requires immediate attention).

And the suggestion that there are “terrorists” among the Syrian refugees.. the refugees are *fleeing* ISIS; they are not a part of ISIS. In addition to which, not a single one of the attackers in Paris or Brussels were refugees. So this claim is, as another commenter has pointed out, no doubt a highly malicious attempt to incite hatred for refugees by spreading false information, and I can’t believe Justin allowed it.

Really, how many drowned children need to wash up on beaches before we recover our most basic capacity for empathy and do the right thing? I’m at my wit’s end on this one.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  anothersomeone
5 years ago

There are several important differences between the situation now and the situation during WW2. For one, the refugee/migration crisis now is much bigger than it was during WW2. It is simply not possible to take in all the people who want to or have grounds to go to Europe. And the problem is only going to get worse as Africa’s population explodes exponentially. Taking in everyone is not a sustainable solution.

Furthermore, the refugees/migrants today come from extremely different cultural backgrounds compared to the European Jews during WW2. Europeans are understandably concerned about this, especially since (as p said earlier) there are already huge immigrant groups in Europe that haven’t really assimilated very well. And unassimilated immigrant groups are extremely costly economically (which is important morally, because this is money that could have been spent otherwise).

Also, it may be true that no current refugees were a part of the recent European attacks, but every last one of them was a descendant of former migrants. Europeans are understandably worried about Europe 20-30 years from now. There is a precautionary principle here, much like there is one in the debate concerning what to do about climate change.

Empathy is important, but it cannot be the whole basis for what to do with the refugee/migrant crisis. It must be balanced against other things (e.g. the aforementioned considerations + the desires of the European people + preventing the EU from buckling under all the pressure and internal disagreement).Report

Anothersomeone
Anothersomeone
Reply to  Ben
5 years ago

All reasons to integrate incoming refugees and to afford them the same opportunities as current Europeans. Right now, many of them are sitting behind wire fences like animals. I wonder if that will breed resentment among their children and grandchildren?

And the claim that we can’t help them all.. We can help many, many more than we currently are. So lets start with that, shall we? The current situation is a true crisis, so lets handle it before we start thinking about how to help stabilize the situation in Syria and elsewhere to avert future crises. To invoke a slippery slope argument here is really sidestepping the current, urgent situation.

As to your thinly veiled xenophobia, if you think that it is justified in a way that the virulent antisemitism that kept Jews from safety wasn’t, the only person you’re fooling is yourself.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Anothersomeone
5 years ago

Unjustified and unnecessary accusations of xenophobia won’t help anything, so please refrain from doing that. I was simply bringing up other important considerations that need to be taken into account.Report

AnotherSomeone
AnotherSomeone
Reply to  Ben
5 years ago

I will call out xenophobia (and Islamophobia and racism) whenever I see it, especially when it lurks just below the surface of what is said, masquerading as pleas for cultural harmony.

You said, “Furthermore, the refugees/migrants today come from extremely different cultural backgrounds compared to the European Jews during WW2. Europeans are understandably concerned about this, especially since (as p said earlier) there are already huge immigrant groups in Europe that haven’t really assimilated very well.”

The claim that immigrant groups “haven’t really assimilated very well” is where more than a whiff of xenophobia comes to the fore. The presumption is that immigrant groups should conform to European culture, not that European identity might expand its self-conception to include (say) devoutly religious Muslim people of color who speak Arabic in their homes and wear head scarves. It is hard to make sense of this claim unless we view the “non-European” culture with at least disdain, if not fear. (So there I might actually have over-reached, it might merely be a dislike for foreign culture that is suggested by your claim and not fear of foreign culture per se. Either way, I’m not impressed).Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  AnotherSomeone
5 years ago

No, you completely misunderstand what I meant.

Here is (in part) what I meant: in several countries in Europe there are large communities of immigrants and children of immigrants where the unemployment rate is sky high, crime is high, and where young people are being radicalized to go fight for ISIS. These problems are real and they are severe, and this is what I had in mind when I said that there are “huge immigrant groups in Europe that haven’t really assimilated very well.”Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Ben
5 years ago

Ben, it’s funny that you should raise the comparison to WWII, since concerns about security, assimilation, and volume were also explicitly cited by Allied and neutral nations to justify their reticence in accepting Jews and other persecuted groups fleeing the Nazis. Upon reflection on the unconscionable human cost of their xenophobic hand-wringing in the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust, it was agreed that this cannot be allowed to happen again, and so it was declared that every human being had the fundamental right to asylum in foreign countries from political persecution at home. And following the Rwandan genocide, we likewise resolved to never again use a such cold, inhumane calculus to justify inaction in the face of crimes against humanity. But here you are, less than a century after WWII and only a couple decades removed from Rwanda, adding your voice to those wondering yet again whether those fleeing similar atrocities are too threatening, too different, and too numerous for us to shelter comfortably.Report

MAL
MAL
Reply to  anothersomeone
5 years ago

Ben, you say that “huge immigrant groups in Europe […] haven’t really assimilated very well”. Sounds like you’re blaming these groups for the very injustices they are suffering from? If you took into account the relevant structural features of western societies, you’d come across various forms of unjustified exclusion, particularly injustices in terms of the distribution of opportunities that often emerged along racial lines. Think of the Paris Banlieues — *any* respectable book on the rise of Jihadism I know, acknowledges these injustices and the way they help groups like ISIS to recruit new fighters. But on your account it sounds like it’s an intrinsic property of being an immigrant to be more disposed to become a terrorist, or that it is only a matter of good will to find opportunities and become a recognized part of society. How about we change our politics, rather than punishing refugees, who are in desperate need of protection, for our very own failures?Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  MAL
5 years ago

No, I wasn’t blaming anyone; I was simply pointing out a fact.

In order for group A and group B to integrate together, it fundamentally needs to be the case that:

1. A wants to integrate with B.
2. B wants to integrate with A.

In many European countries, neither 1 nor 2 has been true. In other words, I blame both the natives and the immigrants. But, at the end of the day, who is to blame doesn’t really matter. The fact is that 1 and 2 need to be true in order for integration to happen, and neither you, nor I, nor the various governments of Europe really have any control over whether 1 and 2 become true. Real integration can only come from the bottom up.Report

HFG
HFG
Reply to  Ben
5 years ago

Well, Europeans have a history of being pretty mean to Middle Eastern immigrants.

Here’s some anecdotal evidence about my mom:

She spent some time in Paris in the 70s. For some reason, she lived in an Algerian neighborhood while she was there. I’m going to call her later and ask her about it some more. but long story short, she was pretty shocked and unprepared for how poorly the Algerians were treated in Paris.

I realize that’s not inconsistent with anything you’ve said, but I guess I think that fewer immigrant kids in Europe would be attracted to violence if their families and friends were treated just a bit better. And while it’s important to he honest about facts, it would be a shame to lose the intuition that non-refugees ought to help refugees instead of harming them further.Report

Dean Dettloff
Dean Dettloff
5 years ago

This article is actually very misleading. Sloterdijk recently did an interview that clears a lot of his statements up. It’s in German, but google translate or some such might help you through:

http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/ausland/europa/merkel-ging-einen-teufelspakt-ein/story/16212849

There, Sloterdijk explicitly criticizes nationalism, Jongen, the AfD and Pegida, and any suggestion that the current refugees are not worth helping. Instead, he says the refugee crisis should have been dealt with by Europe as a whole before it was a crisis, and that now that it *is* a crisis Germany shouldn’t be expected to take on the majority of the work in making a place for refugees. Also, his comments on borders are clarified to basically just repeat what he says about “thin-walled societies” in his book “In the World Interior of Capital.” As a bonus, he talks about being part of the Left and his relation to conservatism.

Sloterdijk has been unfairly maligned in the press in the past (cf. the Sloterdijk-Habermas affair), and while I think he is at times idiosyncratically conservative he’s also not in any way tied to the kinds of racist politics this article totally unfairly suggests. Sloterdijk is not a “philosopher of Germany’s anti-Islam political movement.” That’s very sloppy journalism.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
5 years ago

I object to the title of this article. I am both anti-Islam (and anti-Christianity, and anti-Hinduism, etc.) and in favor of Western countries taking in Muslim immigrants and especially refugees. The title suggests that if you are anti-Islam, you are against Muslim immigration.Report

newfie931
newfie931
5 years ago

MAL, in your comment at 3:26 you made a reference to respectable books on the rise of jihadism. I don’t mean to derail this thread, but could you list a couple of such books that those who want to learn more could look at? Thx.Report

MAL
MAL
Reply to  newfie931
5 years ago

I can recommend the following three on ISIS (one is written in German, but I hope it will be translated soon, as it really is an excellent source):

Christoph Reuter (2015). Die Schwarze Macht – Des “Islamische Staat” und die Strategen des Terrors. DVA.

Michael Weiss; Hassan Hassan (2015). ISIS – Inside The Army of Terror. Regan Arts.

Nicolas Hénin (2015). Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State. Bloomsbury.

Regarding recruitment and radicalization of Jihadists in Europe, and how social exclusion supports the development of Jihadists structures, there are the following two books which might be of particular interest:

Magnus Ranstorp (2010). Understanding Violent Radicalisation in Europe: Terrorist and Jihadist Movements in Europe. Routledge

Peter Neumann (2009). Joining Al Qaeda: Jihadist Recruitment in Europe’, Adelphi Paper 399. Routledge.

To express myself more carefully, there are certainly respectable books on Jihadism that focus on altogether different aspects, yet I don’t think it is very controversial that Jihadist groups, particularly ISIS, recruit fighters in western societies and that social exclusion is an important enabler for success in this regard.Report

newfie931
newfie931
5 years ago

@MAL: Thanks for the references!Report