Act 1, scene 1.
"The stage directions read, “Vienna. The Ringstrasse promenade at Sirk Corner. Flags wave from the buildings. Soldiers marching by are cheered by the onlookers. General excitement. The crowd breaks up into small groups.” The newsboys with their “Extra Extra,” announcing the outbreak of war, are interrupted by a drunk demonstrator who shouts “Down with Serbia! Hurrah for the Hapsburgs! Hurrah! For S-e-r-bia!” and is immediately kicked in the pants for his mistake (LTM, p. 69). A crook and a prostitute exchange insults, even as two army contractors, talking of possible bribes the rich will use to avoid the draft, cite Bismarck’s words, in Neue Freie Presse (Vienna’s major newspaper at the time of the assassination of the archduke in Serbia), to the effect that the Austrians deserve kissing. One officer tells another that war is “unanwendbar” (of no use) when he really means, as his friend points out, “unabwendbar” (unavoidable) (LTM, pp. 70–71). A patriotic citizen praises the coming conflict as a holy war of defense against “encirclement” by hostile forces, and the crowd responds by making up rhymes (in Viennese dialect) denigrating the enemy (LTM, p. 72)."
When, for example, CNN’s Anderson Cooper was covering the Egyptian revolution in January 2011, he couldn’t say enough about the marvels of the Arab Spring with its “Facebook Revolution” and ostensible thirst for democracy. Two years later, with Egypt in chaos, the economy in shambles, and the elected president, Mohamed Morsi, placed under house arrest, Cooper’s evening dispatches either ignore the situation (there’s always Syria!) or report on specific incidents, as if the CNN anchor had always known the revolution couldn’t work. How information is disseminated in a world where truth is subject to the daily news cycle is a tremendous social problem—a problem Kraus tackled with uncanny prescience.
Discussions of the early twentieth-century avant-garde rarely refer to the writings of Kraus or Wittgenstein, of Joseph Roth and Elias Canetti, and, in the next generation, of Paul Celan or Ingeborg Bachmann. In part, this neglect has to do with the subordinate status of post-World War I Austria, whose literature has been treated, at least in the English-speaking world, as if it were merely part of the larger body of “German” writing. In this context, the emphasis on the Marxist literature of the Weimar Republic, from Bertolt Brecht to the great critical theorists Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno, has eclipsed its very different Austrian counterpart.