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January 7, 2003 12:50 PM   Subscribe

German in court over 'ironic' message board comment. I think we should talk about this. Very... carefully...
posted by Pretty_Generic (61 comments total)

 
I wonder how Christo gets around this.
posted by four panels at 12:56 PM on January 7, 2003


This is a typically German knee-jerk reaction. Freedom of speech comes second to the national fear of extremism.

Surely he can't be jailed?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:57 PM on January 7, 2003


Wait, I don't understand why no one is prosecuting Engine_of_Aggression? Voss's remarks can easily be seen as ironic, whether intentional or not, but the worse offender was surely Engine? What a name, by the way.
posted by widdershins at 1:01 PM on January 7, 2003


isn't there a law against the glorification of german legal stupidity?
posted by quonsar at 1:03 PM on January 7, 2003


widdershins - It seems to me that Engine's statement was vague whereas the defendent specifically mentioned 11th September.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:03 PM on January 7, 2003


I, for one, welcome our new speech-restricting Teutonic overlords.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:04 PM on January 7, 2003


Yes, Congratulations to the murderers of 11.09.02.... Good, that on 11.09 a couple of real men (!) found the courage to show the evil ones, the USA how it really is!"

Um, since when did the terrorist attacks happen in 2002? I might have been sleeping, but I could have sworn that the attacks happened in 2001.

Someone needs to fire their proofreader.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:05 PM on January 7, 2003


Sweet Jesus.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:08 PM on January 7, 2003


Um, since when did the terrorist attacks happen in 2002?

I think you've found his defense.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:09 PM on January 7, 2003


Here's some more information for those of you who can read German. It includes links to the thread that contains the posting.
posted by Slothrup at 1:10 PM on January 7, 2003


Yeah, it's a BBC proofing mistake.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:14 PM on January 7, 2003


i mean. honestly.
posted by oog at 1:20 PM on January 7, 2003


What happened on November 9, anyway?
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:25 PM on January 7, 2003


In a further posting, the "perpetrator" says that

1) The authorities agree that he may have intended sarcasm, but for it to be a crime, it's sufficient that "a casual observer understands the remarks as belittling" the events of 9/11.
2) He was discovered despite some attempt to stay "anonymous". Heise (the website) provided their logs
to the authorities and he was traced through his IP address.
3) Engine_of_Aggression would have been charged with the same thing, but he's done a much better job of staying anonymous.
4) He believes that Engine_of_Aggression was responsible for drawing the attention of the authorities to the posting.
posted by Slothrup at 1:28 PM on January 7, 2003


The fact is, he posted this while in Germany a country that forbids talk like this. This would be a big deal if this was posted from a country that claimed to believe in free speech.
posted by Raichle at 1:30 PM on January 7, 2003


Absolutely ridiculous. What kind of twat would even consider a court case over such a comment. What's next? Handcuffing children for telling sick 9/11 jokes?
posted by Resonance at 1:30 PM on January 7, 2003


MrMoonPie: This... for example.
posted by Witty at 1:30 PM on January 7, 2003


Germans.

We Don't Do Irony.

We Do Beer.

[/Beck's]
posted by jonmc at 1:34 PM on January 7, 2003


Raichle - actually, article 10 of the European Human Rights Convention does make that claim.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:36 PM on January 7, 2003


Holger Voss stands accused of "glorification of a criminal act"

Meanwhile 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City' is raking in millions, and setting records in video game sales. And Leo is generating many more millions with his latest pair of movies about lovable scoff-laws: 'Gangs of New York' and 'Catch Me if You Can'. Perhaps, like drug laws, the amount of offenders of this law has reached such an undeniable critical mass that its enforcement is no longer plausible, logical, or ethically justifiable.
posted by dgaicun at 1:51 PM on January 7, 2003


The fact is, he posted this while in Germany a country that forbids talk like this. This would be a big deal if this was posted from a country that claimed to believe in free speech.

While I see this whole thing as ridiculous as most of you here, I can also clearly see where "free speech" is just turning into a phrase, when telling other people to murder, to promote murder or racism or anti-semitism - i.e. when in the consequence of these "free speeches" other people's freedom will probably suffer significantly.
posted by zerofoks at 1:52 PM on January 7, 2003


Article 5 of the German constitution guarantees the right to express one's opinion.

To add to Slothrup's list:

5) Voss is facing fines of to the tune of 1,500 Euros.

6) His internet provider, T-online, turned info over to the authorities, despite its privacy policy.

7) At the end of the post in question, Voss wrote: "If you find sarcasm in this message, keep using it." (Doesn't translate well, but you get the idea.)
posted by Ljubljana at 1:54 PM on January 7, 2003


I hope they put that Nazi to death.
posted by uftheory at 1:57 PM on January 7, 2003


zerofoks: as consequence of these "free speeches" other people's freedom will probably suffer significantly.

Words don't kill, people kill*. A government can't possibly decide what people can and can't say in a 'fair' manner. Criminal law should deal with actions not words.

* I'm not Charlton Heston - although it may be people doing the shooting, they can't do it without access to guns. The difference is they can certainly do it without access to message boards.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:08 PM on January 7, 2003


Horst: [threatingly] We Germans aren't all smiles und sunshine.
Burns: [recoils in mock horror]
Oooh, the Germans are mad at me. I'm so scared! Oooh, the Germans!
[hiding behind Smithers] Uh oh, the Germans are going to get me!
Horst: Stop it!
Man 2: Stop, sir.
Burns: Don't let the Germans come after me.
Oh no, the Germans are coming after me.
Man 2: Please stop the `pretending you are scared' game, please.
Horst: Stop it! Stop it!
Burns: [brief pause, then resumes] No! They're so big and strong!
Man 2: Stop it.
Horst: Stop it, Mr. Burns.
Man 2: Please stop pretending you are scared of us, please, now.
Burns: Oh, protect me from the Germans! The Germans...
Horst: Burns, STOP IT!
posted by blue_beetle at 2:11 PM on January 7, 2003


Why do we tolerate these things called governments? They're nothing more than well organized gangs of thugs!
posted by LowDog at 2:33 PM on January 7, 2003


If I've told Helger once I've told him a thousand times, use a smiley when you're congratulating mass murderers, so people will know you're being ironic.

Crikey, if they had laws like this here in the States, every kid over the age of 13 would be in jail by now.
posted by vraxoin at 2:48 PM on January 7, 2003


"Too bad irony's dead."
posted by o2b at 2:48 PM on January 7, 2003


This reminds of the One Eye character in Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days, who is literally blinded by irony. He's at a party, and stands up just as a guy next to him is hooking his fingers "quote-unquote" style, and bam.
posted by risenc at 2:54 PM on January 7, 2003


So I guess this jokester must be in the German pokey already, right?
posted by hama7 at 3:15 PM on January 7, 2003


If I ever go to Germany, I'm going to kill someone. There is no irony in that statement whatsoever, I'm just going to kill someone if they try to arrest me for making a sarcastic comment, or evenly honestly say something positive about 9/11.

If someone in the U.S. tries to arrest me, for "threatening to kill Germans," I'm going to kill them. A person like that deserves to die, not because "stupid people deserve to die," but because tyrants deserve to die. Concepts have meaning. There is not only a difference between words and action, but there is a difference between different ways of saying words or performing actions.

The harsh reality of this situation is that a lot of people are really fricking stupid. Sub-par intelligence is rampant. Seriously, think about this...most people have "average" intelligence. When's the last time you spoke with someone who has average intelligence? You remember all those idiots from high school? They're still just as stupid, only they haven't even been forced to read anything in ten years at this point. And there are hundreds of thousands more who have below average intelligence. And some of them have guns. It is a scary world.

I can completely see the point of the behaviorists, or people who just blithely say, "Everyone has the same potential" even... Whether through nature or nurture, their own fault or the fault of the educational system, economics, what have you... There are a lot of really fricking stupid people out there... There are so many stupid people, that a lot of them rise to positions of power.
posted by son_of_minya at 3:40 PM on January 7, 2003


Ljubljana:

An anonymous complaint to the police led to the prosecution under a German law which forbids the glorification of a criminal act.

I'm simply saying that you have to take where you live into account before you make statements that could be misconstrued as illegal rantings.

posted by Raichle at 3:40 PM on January 7, 2003


why don't ya'll argue about the fact that Germany has laws like this instead of attacking them for enforcing them.
posted by Raichle at 3:41 PM on January 7, 2003


son_of_minya: If I ever go to Germany, I'm going to kill someone.

Frankly, that's a frickin stupid thing to say.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:51 PM on January 7, 2003


Well ironic statements may be against the law in Germany, but cannibalism isn't , thank God.
posted by troutfishing at 9:25 PM on January 7, 2003


Words don't kill, people kill*. A government can't possibly decide what people can and can't say in a 'fair' manner. Criminal law should deal with actions not words.

There have been numerous times when words DID kill people, i.e. when the press (like BILD, germany's (and europe's) biggest popular daily newspaper) made terrorists out of every student in the 68s, a student-leader (Rudi Dutschke) was murdered by a right-wing lunatic.

Other times BILD preapplauded rather harsh police tactics, leaving some officers to feel rather okay when THIS happened:



Few americans understand when I am talking about that the media has a huge influence on the way people think, feel and reactions, and yes - this does include murder, hell it even includes war.

Of course it isn't fair if the law which is meant to prohibit statements which are only intentioned to spawn hate and violence is now used against a private person in the context of a user-forum and a posting which was even LABELLED with sarcasm (something german satire fortunately doesn't have to do these days normally).

But I still think the principle is just: When I promote the death of all MeFi-users and there is a realistic chance for people listening to me, then I should be held responsible even BEFORE anything is going to happen.
posted by zerofoks at 9:42 PM on January 7, 2003


Pretty_Generic: Frankly, that's a frickin stupid thing to say.

I think son_of_minya comments were meant in a twisted, nihilistic, and above all doubly ironic sort of way. But maybe that's just me :)
posted by ( .)(. ) at 9:46 PM on January 7, 2003


I want to add that I know the difference between words and actions, the problem is to rightfully determine this difference rather than ignore it. Sometimes it's irony, sometimes it is the concrete recommendation of murder.
posted by zerofoks at 9:47 PM on January 7, 2003


This story is so extreme... It's like hearing that people eat babies in Germany now. I almost wish the Nazis were in power, so we could liberate the German people. Insanity like this...there are too many people who don't see how wrong it is.

This story has me completely outraged. It goes way beyond "inciting murder" or "hate speech"...as the charge was "glorification of a criminal act." The man said something some high horse-riding jerk didn't like, so the cops were called, and they're actually charging him.

I happen to love crime. As long as nobody gets hurt, any crime is a good thing in my book. I'm not going to actually go out and commit crimes. The fact that I love crime, though, according to the Germans' line of thinking... That means I should be imprisoned? Anyone who feels the same way about violence that I do about crime, should also be in prison. And racists should be imprisoned. And Holocaust deniers. I think I'm missing at least a dozen other groups that need to be imprisoned.

This line of thinking, IMHO... The whole "thought crime" modus operandi in action in Germany (and elsewhere)... Seems an awful lot to me like somebody saying, "Send them all back to Africa." Or even, "All of them should be put on an island to die." It's just as extreme. The "good" people want to get rid of the "bad" people. Problem is, good people don't get rid of people.

"When they came for the pedophiles, I said nothing. Then they came for the white supremacists, and I said nothing." Seriously, think about that. This is why the ACLU defends abominable people. A kid who plays GTA 3, or laughs about the WTC blowing up, being much, much less extreme than anything a reasonable person may imagine... There should be people protesting in the streets for this kid.
posted by son_of_minya at 12:29 AM on January 8, 2003


I hereby suggest the adding of the <sarcasm> and <irony> tags to the formal HTML specifications. ;)
posted by twine42 at 1:02 AM on January 8, 2003


I think Minya is trying to break foldy's MeFi "Rush Limbaugh" record - that is, saying completely outlandish things for the purpose of drawing attention.

In any case, zerofoks, I think that's a major difference between our thinking stateside and German thinking. Ideas like individualism and free speech are highly ingrained in our society - the idea that words can incite someone to crime seems somewhat proposterous. It seems, in our thinking, to take the blame off the criminal. Of course it's happened - witness China's cultural revolution - but there were usually other cultural elements in place during such times that led to such easy corruptibility among the populace.
posted by Kevs at 1:02 AM on January 8, 2003


If you think about it, German-style though police in the U.S.A. would see countless Americans in the clink: Chomsky, Sontag, Fonda, Mailer, Streisand, and many more! Maybe even Sean Penn!

Americans still have it pretty good!
posted by hama7 at 1:53 AM on January 8, 2003


In any case, zerofoks, I think that's a major difference between our thinking stateside and German thinking. Ideas like individualism and free speech are highly ingrained in our society

All countries are prone to lapses (McCarthyism?). Governments tend to be controlling by their very nature. You have to fight very hard to keep your freedoms.
posted by Summer at 2:52 AM on January 8, 2003


All countries are prone to lapses (McCarthyism?).

Well, as Mr. Reagan once put it; "How can you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell and anti-communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin." (thanks S_@_L)

Elimination of a thoroughly discredited, amoral, bloodthirsty, socialist phenomenon, the implementation of which caused the deaths of untold millions, and the subservience of countless more, is not just paranoid era in the 1950s, but an ongoing moral responsibility.

Further, communism not only does not treasure achievement and excellence, but lowers the standard by forced underachievement.
posted by hama7 at 3:48 AM on January 8, 2003


Thanks for the lovely Kraut bashing folks. Here's the latest news: "Acquietal for forum participant Holger Voss". Babelfish translation here. FYI, having had "Der Stürmer" and the "Völkische Beobachter" spread hatred systematically does make one aware of the limits and potential dangers of free speech. If you guys went through the same history as germans have, I bet a lot of you would see things differently. There's more than just one way to implement democracy.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 4:50 AM on January 8, 2003


They changed the date back at the BBC. WOO YAY! Ahem.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:31 AM on January 8, 2003


There's more than just one way to implement democracy.

Did you lift that out of 1984? I'm sorry you think it was the "Volkische Beobachter" that somehow magically forced the German's to murder millions. Mein Kampf is online right now for everybody to freely read and laugh at, and, seeing as how we all aren't in a perpetual state of genocide, it doesn't seem to wield all these strange powers you seem to feel ideas must hold by way of their very existence. True 'Kraut bashing'*, IMO, is the feeling that German's are so hateful and unthinking that they must be shielded from every bad idea. I guess if an idea involves hatred or murder, a German just can't resist it.


*a mean-spirited, and fucking baseless charge, btw.
posted by dgaicun at 6:56 AM on January 8, 2003


hamas7, using your pronouncements and reagan's definition of a communist, i might conclude that you are a communinst, if you read marx and lenin.
if you don't read marx and lenin, then i might conclude that you are being willfuly ignorant.
as an exercise, take your outburst, and replace the word socialist with capitalist, and communism with capitalism. or catholic and catholicism, or muslim and islam, or whatever. add a year of your choice.
one size fits all rhetorical babble.
posted by asok at 7:12 AM on January 8, 2003


dgaicun: look at how the Nazi came to power and tell me with a straight face that those two papers had nothing to do with it. The constitution of 1949 has been drafted so as to avoid the 1933 situation where Hitler was able to grab power in an almost perfectly legal and constitutional way. BTW, the 1949 constitution was drafted with allied help and was sanctioned by the allied military governors before being submitted to vote. If you don't like its content you ought to blame them too in all fairness.

"There's more than just one way to implement democracy." The 1949 constitution includes several mechanisms intented to protect democracy from extremists, such as the possibility to ban political parties under certain circumstances. It is easy to dismiss them as being insane, stupid or ridiculous and view them as undemocratic. I don't believe they are, they are rather the direct result of the historical experience of the Weimar republic folding without a fight. There sure is a tradeoff involved, but this isn't a perfect universe.

P.S.: one more myth to debunk: "Mein Kampf" being forbidden in Germany. What is this? Sales of uncommented editions are restricted, but not forbidden; commented editions are free for all to buy.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 8:28 AM on January 8, 2003


Right, the Germans are thick.

Did all the Americans in the audience forget about Jose Padilla? Remember, the U.S. citizen still held incommunicado without charges just because Asscroft felt like he needed a media shower?
posted by magullo at 9:10 AM on January 8, 2003


look at how the Nazi came to power and tell me with a straight face that those two papers had nothing to do with it.

Why would I say such a thing? Do you really think I don't understand the spread of ideas? You're missing the point- Any of us right now can read all the same newspapers and absorb all the same media that the Nazi era German's did, and not become Fascist Jew-killers. No matter how many times I read the "Volkische Beobachter", it's not going to Nazify me. Obviously there are more fundamental issues of the process that should be of much more concern. Suppressing speech is a part of that problem, not the answer to it. Freedom of ideas is the greatest weapon against error.

BTW, the 1949 constitution was drafted with allied help and was sanctioned by the allied military governors before being submitted to vote. If you don't like its content you ought to blame them too in all fairness.

Ok. I haven't really blamed anyone. If I have to, most of my "blame" goes to every modern German who tacitly or overtly lets this tyranny continue. But I have no real problem blaming the allies in general, or America in particular for any injustices in the world, including the ongoing ones at home.

There sure is a tradeoff involved, but this isn't a perfect universe.

Point taken. No government, no matter how well-constructed its system or liberal its constitution, can be successful without the proper human capital to operate it (As Plato acknowledged in his 'Republic'). I think we'll be frustrated to find this as we systematically fail to "nation build" in places like post-war Afghanistan and Iraq, in contrast to the relatively easy modernizations of post-war Germany and Japan. That said, I am neither nihilistic or fatalistic; fighting for the most principled system, is what transforms the people. If I were a German I wouldn't stand for a status quo that punishes free expression. But, hey, if German's are satisfied living under soft tyranny . . . It's not like I'm calling for sanctions. Let the people transform their societies at their own discretion; in the meantime I'll call it like I see it.
posted by dgaicun at 10:30 AM on January 8, 2003


So, has this guy been convicted? No. He's been charged, but that only means the state has a concern that perhaps this individual did violate the laws. Now it has to be proven in court. Let's not get our knickers in a twist over a *charge*. Sure, it sucks for him, but the law was apparently written with a good intent. It's not up to the police to interpret that intent, just to act on it when they feel the law has been broken. It's up to the courts to confirm or deny that - in other words, to set the limits, to more clearly define the issue. The courts will decide if sarcastic speech on the internet is protected. If the courts rule against this guy, *then* I'll get riled up. Until then, remember, it's innocent until proven guilty.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:07 AM on January 8, 2003


Ideas like individualism and free speech are highly ingrained in our society - the idea that words can incite someone to crime seems somewhat proposterous.

Again - the glorification of murder is in no way a mean to freedom - it's the opposite. If you don't believe that people can be manipulated to believe killing someone is okay - have it your way then, but I will never tolerate anyone who is promoting war or murder. And I don't feel the least bit undemocratic about that.

Suppressing speech is a part of that problem, not the answer to it. Freedom of ideas is the greatest weapon against error.

Proposing that murder is just isn't an idea - it's the opposite, it's the concrete expressed will to radically take somebody else's freedom away. What freedom is being talked about here? The freedom to enslave the stupid? The freedom to promote war on the innocent? The freedom to spawn hate and ignorance? What kind of freedom is that? The freedom to lie, manipulate and profit from other people's death and suffering. Not my idea of democracy, sorry.
posted by zerofoks at 1:37 PM on January 8, 2003


Proposing that murder is just isn't an idea - it's the opposite, it's the concrete expressed will to radically take somebody else's freedom away. What freedom is being talked about here? The freedom to enslave the stupid? The freedom to promote war on the innocent? The freedom to spawn hate and ignorance? What kind of freedom is that? The freedom to lie, manipulate and profit from other people's death and suffering. Not my idea of democracy, sorry.

. . .have it your way then, but I will never tolerate anyone who is promoting war or murder


Anyone?! I guess Thomas Paine and other patriots of the Revolutionary War would have been hoisted into your blessed gulag. The problems and nuances of subjectivity seem to be completely lost on you. Have you ever heard of freedom of conscious?
I'm not sure what your ideas of 'hate' and 'ignorance' are, but your extreme take on the matter compels me to believe that they are, no doubt, radically different from my ideas of them, and that gives me pause. Your society sounds like a scary one to live in, if you haven't chosen the Holy Pacifist Way of Zerofoks.
posted by dgaicun at 2:16 PM on January 8, 2003


gurp. . .freedom of conscience, rather.
posted by dgaicun at 2:18 PM on January 8, 2003


Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

- C.S. Lewis, In Freedom
posted by Cerebus at 3:27 PM on January 8, 2003


Anyone?! I guess Thomas Paine and other patriots of the Revolutionary War would have been hoisted into your blessed gulag. The problems and nuances of subjectivity seem to be completely lost on you. Have you ever heard of freedom of conscious?

Subjectivity my ass. It's never right to kill for anything but self-defense. In the Revolutionary Wars some people fought, but defended their freedom. They got the idea by themselves and weren't indoctrinated by the media - who is making a global security issue about Iraq (which it isn't), an issue of human rights about the Kosovo (which it isn't) and a fighter for freedom out of every palestine lunatic who chose to kill innocent citizens.

You don't think you can be manipulated but at this very moment you are. You think advertising has no effect on you, but it does. If the premises are set, the whole logical construct has been set before you and you think you are free because you draw the fitting conclusions - wrong. You have been tricked into consuming, hailing, cheering, feeling pretty patriotic and pretty paranoid. And there will be war, it almost seems like there will be one with you or without you so why not hop on the bandwagon?

Those who kill (not to save their very life) are guilty.
Those who are guilty are not able to judge and do justice.
This is a rant.

:)

Your society sounds like a scary one to live in, if you haven't chosen the Holy Pacifist Way of Zerofoks.
Actually, my country Nullotopia has been awarded most compassionate country in MetaRegion yesterday! SO THERE!
posted by zerofoks at 5:06 AM on January 9, 2003


You don't think you can be manipulated but at this very moment you are.

When you make statements like this it is clear you are bordering on a disturbing Megalomania. You say that people with the 'wrong opinions' should be punished. You define the 'wrong opinions' as 'support for hate and murder'. You define 'hate and murder' as everything that (as you see it anyway) the "Mainstream Media" supports and is apparently brain-washing me with (even though I don't support any of those things, and my opinions were all informed by easily available media).

I guess in your perfect world nearly 60% of American Jews would be 'punished' for supporting the war on Iraq (in reality 'hate and murder'). That was actually pretty deceptive of me- in your perfect world most of the US, probably like 97% of it, would be punished! Because 97% of the people believe in something you consider 'hate and murder'. Or maybe you have some sort of plan on how to 're-educate' everyone into your perfect and untainted world-view. Talk about ideas with a poor reputation. Forgive me if I'm a little scared of living in "your" country.
posted by dgaicun at 8:13 AM on January 9, 2003


Megalomania

You meant to spell "paranoia" and I meant to end this debate when you threw the cliché-word "gulag" into my face.

You define 'hate and murder' as everything that (as you see it anyway) the "Mainstream Media" supports and is apparently brain-washing me with (even though I don't support any of those things, and my opinions were all informed by easily available media).

No, I don't.

End.
posted by zerofoks at 8:17 AM on January 9, 2003


btw: Strangely enough, despite being such a neofascist country, the fourth Reich has not nearly as high as a gun-murder rate than the US and even the number of intentioned wars against sovereign nations is still significantly higher (while that may change soon).
posted by zerofoks at 8:37 AM on January 9, 2003


than

"as"

:/
posted by zerofoks at 8:39 AM on January 9, 2003


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