Satire: verboten.
April 8, 2016 12:56 PM   Subscribe

You may know him for his racy "V for Varoufakis" (previously). Or else, more recently, for his anti-counter-jingoistic "Be Deutsch!", or just as the laid-back "Laugengebäck" guy. But Jan Böhmermann's new brand of TV-satire is about to shake more than just Germany's belly.

For his complex trolling, collateral to last year's "Varoufakis' flipping off Germany" video leak, in which he claimed to have faked the original, throwing German TV reporting for a loop, he was recently announced among this year's winners of the coveted Grimme Preis, the German Emmy.

But when, in response to Turkey taking offence at another channel's satirical music video lampooning their prime minister, Böhmermann dedicated a rhyming smear-poem "Schmähkritik" to Erdogan, purposely to test the limits of German free-speech laws, he saw Angela Merkel publicly distance herself from his work, and his channel pull the video from its mediaserver; now, facing incrimination, and stonewalled by the head of the Federal Chancellery, to whom he had appealed to see the freedoms of speech and satire in Germany upheld, he has declined to appear at the awards ceremony, too "shaken in everything that I ever believed in" to attend.

(Making Karl Kraus proud?)
posted by progosk (90 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
What's a little hard to convey is that he's somewhere between a media-critic-John-Stewart and generally-good/great-comic like, take your pick. He's a bit the satirist of the day in Germany.
A couple weeks ago I was forwarded this a very funny proposal for how to de-gentrify what was once a drug-addled and generally messy part of Bremen. I can only hope the CC works.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:51 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Of course, Jon Stewart is unlikely to face prison time for what he says. Nor anyone on the right, for that matter.

Which is kind of the point. It's okay for Böhmermann to mock conservative Germans, but others, hm, not so much.

The authorities seem to miss the irony.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:26 PM on April 8, 2016

I had to laugh at the Be Deutsch lyrics:

We are no longer murderous vandals!
We will come for you in socks and sandals,
reserving your sun loungers with our towels
vegan sausage in our bowels.

and thanks to this weird line:

DEUTSCH - Fanta.

I learned the Fanta was Coca-Cola's nazi pop.
posted by srboisvert at 3:30 PM on April 8, 2016

For those curious, wondering what the "Erdo-where, Erdo-how" thing is about, I think it's a play on "Irgendwo, Irgendwie" meaning, "Somewhere, somehow." In this way, "Erdogan" ends up being like "Irgendwann," or "sometime."
posted by Navelgazer at 5:25 PM on April 8, 2016

(It's Nena's "Irgendwie, Irgendwo, Irgendwann".)
posted by progosk at 11:27 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Of course, Jon Stewart is unlikely to face prison time for what he says. Nor anyone on the right, for that matter.

On the other hand Jon Stewart has never called a foreign head of state a "goat fucker" on TV, at least not that I can recall. (That's the "facing incrimination" link from the OP; don't worry it's SFW).

Just out of curiosity: Would calling a foreign head of state a "goat fucker" on TV be covered by the 1st amendment in the US?
posted by sour cream at 12:25 AM on April 9, 2016

It probably depends on whether you were literally saying they fuck goats or using a figure of profane speech.
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:37 AM on April 9, 2016

I learned the Fanta was Coca-Cola's nazi pop.

That's right! Little known fact: Right after the war and up to the 70's it was apparently mostly made from potato peels and old newspapers.
posted by sour cream at 1:19 AM on April 9, 2016

It probably depends on whether you were literally saying they fuck goats or using a figure of profane speech.

Oh, the text of the smear poem is extremely offensive (albeit interestingly so):

Sackdoof, feige und verklemmt / ist Erdogan, der Präsident.
Sein Gelöt stinkt schlimm nach Döner / selbst ein Schweinefurz riecht schöner.

Brainless, coward and inhibited / that's Erdogan, the President.
His gullet reeks of doner kebab / the farts of pigs would smell less bad.

Er ist der Mann, der Mädchen schlägt / und dabei Gummimasken trägt.
Am liebsten mag er Ziegen ficken / und Minderheiten unterdrücken,
Kurden treten, Christen hauen / und dabei Kinderpornos schauen.
Und selbst abends heißt’s statt schlafen / Fellatio mit hundert Schafen.

He's the man who hits young girls / masked in rubber riot gear.
His favourite pastimes are: fucking goats, / repressing minorities,
Kicking Kurds and beating Christians, / while watching childporn videos.
And in the evening, instead of sleep / he's into fellatio with a hundred sheep.

Ja Erdogan ist voll und ganz / ein Präsident mit kleinem Schwanz.
Jeden Türken hört flöten / die dumme Sau hat Schrumpelklöten.
Von Ankara bis Istanbul: / weiß jeder, dieser Mann ist schwul,
Pervers, verlaust und zoophil: / Recep Fritzl Priklopil.

Yes, Erdogan is full and truly / a president with a tiny willy.
And every Turk has heard the tune / about this pighead's shrivelled nuts
From Ankara to Istanbul: / the man's a reknown homosexual,
A perverted, fleabag zoophile: / he's Recep Fritzl Priklopil.

Sein Kopf so leer wie seine Eier / der Star auf jeder Gangbang-Feier.
Bis der Schwanz beim Pinkeln brennt / das ist Recep Erdogan, der türkische Präsident.

His head's as empty as his balls - / he's the perfect gang-bang centerpiece,
Taking dicks til they're unfit to pee, / that's Turkish President, Erdogan Recep.

The premise he makes, is that he just wants to provide Erdogan and his lawyers with an example of what's definitely not allowed on German TV - so the whole thing is meta, the point being to highlight what's more generally at stake.

(Oh, and: the segment was aired April 1st - so... joke's on whom?)
posted by progosk at 3:10 AM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just out of curiosity: Would calling a foreign head of state a "goat fucker" on TV be covered by the 1st amendment in the US?

Undoubtedly yes. Now, the FCC could and would still fine you if you do so on their airwaves, for use of the word "fucker," but that's kind of a different issue. There could never stand any law in the U.S. criminalizing the insulting of, well, anyone.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:23 AM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just out of curiosity: Would calling a foreign head of state a "goat fucker" on TV be covered by the 1st amendment in the US?

Absolutely. Navelgazer is right that the profanity would probably elicit a fine on regular broadcast TV. But if you said "goat lover", you'd be just fine. On Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, or similar outlets, you'd be fine with the profanity. The First Amendment is a powerful shield against any form of retribution for this kind of insult. On the other hand, if you publish specific lies about a person, you could be sued for libel/defamation.

(Disclaimer: IANACL)
posted by theorique at 7:41 AM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yet, one could always say David Cameron fucked a pig even with the U.K.'s insane libel laws (previously).
posted by jeffburdges at 11:12 AM on April 9, 2016

Here's a fine discussion, in English, produced yesterday by Deutsche Welle.
posted by progosk at 4:01 PM on April 9, 2016

Böhmermann's channel's chief is on his side, and even his previously most famous target is siding with him: Yanis Varoufakis tweeted the segment's transcript, commenting:

"Europe first lost its soul (agreement with Turkey on refugees), now it is losing its humour. Hands off @janboehm!"

Further expert opinion: it's tasteless, and it's satire.
posted by progosk at 9:03 AM on April 11, 2016

Two hashtags:

- #freeboehmi: a petition currently at 64.000 signatures on

- #jesuisböhmermann: surreptitious solidarity, planted by Spiegel TV in a segment on social housing broadcast on RTL.
posted by progosk at 9:18 AM on April 11, 2016

Minderheiten unterdrücken, Kurden treten, Christen hauen

Elsewhere in Europe, the vice president of the Turkish National Association in Sweden, an organization with close ties to the sitting Turkish government, held a speech in Stockholm the other day which included niceties like "The Turkish are waking up! Death to the Armenian dogs! Death! Death!" and "My dear race comrades, let us show Sweden, Scandinavia and Europe what the Turkish stand for. We do not like blood, but we can let the blood flow when needed!"

Let's just say Böhmermann is a lot funnier than Erdoğan's fans.
posted by effbot at 1:59 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

And it’s on, Turkey has confirmed making the formal request to Germany to prosecute – DW - Guardian - BBC.
I bet Merkel must be really hating Böhmermann by now.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:42 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Little-known fact: Erdogan was also once sentenced to jail for reciting a poem. (And it seems the most inflammatory bit wasn't even part of the original...)

I bet Merkel must be really hating Böhmermann by now.

Interestingly, it's actually the pre-emptive call to her Turkish counterpart, and especially her characterisation of JB's skit as "deliberately offensive" that's going to cause her the headaches. Now it's actually up to the government, not the judiciary, to decide whether to act on the obscure article of German law that prohibits offending foreign heads of state. Truly a lose-lose situation...
posted by progosk at 3:29 PM on April 11, 2016

(Here's a working link to the segment including the poem, the one up top's gone defunct.)
posted by progosk at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2016

Truly a lose-lose situation...
Seriously that’s scary...

Here’s a question that bothers me a bit about this whole affair: if Böhmermann did that sketch on purpose to prove a meta-point about the limits of what was permissible by German law... it means he knew full well about that law, so he must have been aware it could lead to this political mess for the government, on top of landing him in court, right?

I’m not saying that as my opinion or judgement, just wondering. I’ve read commentaries about this all over the place and there were indeed some accusing him of a sort of disingenuity in saying he is shaken when he must have known full well what he was doing because it’s the meta-nature of what he did. And personally I’m really, really not sure how fair it is to basically say "ah well you wanted to test the limits, you got what you wanted, tough shit now" (cf. Charlie Hebdo) - but I am genuinely curious, because this is turning out to be a political nightmare for the German government, on top of a potential judicial nightmare for him, so I do wonder, did he not see *that* part coming? Or... did he see it and gleefully went for it precisely for that reason? Because that would bring his action beyond the realm of satire, and into the realm of evil genius political strategy - well, more like evil genius anarchic-apocalyptic-strategy if there can be such a thing. It’d make it more sadist than masochist, too.
posted by bitteschoen at 4:46 PM on April 11, 2016

Interestingly, it's actually the pre-emptive call to her Turkish counterpart, and especially her characterisation of JB's skit as "deliberately offensive" that's going to cause her the headaches. Now it's actually up to the government, not the judiciary, to decide whether to act on the obscure article of German law that prohibits offending foreign heads of state. Truly a lose-lose situation...

I don't think that's true at all.
First of all, even if Merkel allows the prosecution of this case, it's not her who will utlimately decide this case. It's just a formal act that will allow the case to go to court. And ultimately it will be up to the judges to decide whether there was a crime or not. And since the judiciary in Germany is independent from the executive branch of government, she will have no influence on the outcome, different to countries such as, say, Turkey.

Of course, one could argue that Merkel could decide the outcome of the case by deciding not to give this case to the judiciary, but I think she should not stand in the way of prosecution of this case, precisely because it's not her job to decide over these matters.
posted by sour cream at 1:54 AM on April 12, 2016

Turkey is officially upping the ante to "serious crime against humanity".

And NYT is not getting its facts straight. Which is a shame, because as already happened with Charlie Hebdo, islamophobes (such as Axel-Springer-head Döpfner, quoted in the article) are going to go to town agreeing with the poem literally - so willfully missing/distorting its point.
posted by progosk at 1:54 AM on April 12, 2016

(Actually, I should qualify that: I have no actual proof about Döpfner's mindset - but plenty of other deliberate misreadings abound.)
posted by progosk at 2:14 AM on April 12, 2016

sour cream: but whether it should or shouldn’t be her job to decide over these matters is irrelevant here. In this case, because of that specific German law, it actually is her job - so what progosk said is true, it is a summary of the situation.
"The law in question prohibits insulting foreign heads of state. One of its particularities is that the German government, and not the state prosecutor, has to decide whether to take up criminal proceedings."

The government’s decision to initiate the proceedings is not just a formal act, it is a crucial political decision at this stage, there is no way around it, if Merkel accepts Turkey’s request to start proceedings and passes on the hot potato to the judiciary, that IS a cop-out. If the government rejects the request, that’s not an interference in the judiciary at all, it’s the government’s legal right in this specific situation - and, some arguing, its duty.
posted by bitteschoen at 4:21 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, talk about getting your facts straight - I only later noticed the Guardian piece on this describes the poem only in these terms:

… a poem that accuses the Turkish president of, among other things, “repressing minorities, kicking Kurds and slapping Christians while watching child porn”.

Now I imagine they may not want to refer to the more outrageous parts, but really? "among other things"? That’s how they solve the issue of not wanting to refer to the more explicit intentional insults in that poem?

Why, when it’s not even the point, the offensiveness was intentionally declared so there’s no reason to avoid describing it for what it is. The NYT’s "a poem laced with profanity" may be painfully short as a description but at least it is more accurate.
posted by bitteschoen at 4:42 AM on April 12, 2016

The government’s decision to initiate the proceedings is not just a formal act, it is a crucial political decision at this stage, there is no way around it, if Merkel accepts Turkey’s request to start proceedings and passes on the hot potato to the judiciary, that IS a cop-out.

On the contrary.
I think that Merkel should not make a decision on these matters, i.e. it should note be a decision and least of all a political one.
The only way to accomplish this is if there is a default, i.e. it is (a) the chancellor passes the matter on to the judiciary EVERY TIME there is a request from a foreign state of head or (b) the chancellor NEVER passes the matter on.

That way, there is an automatism that absolves the chancellor from having to make a decision, which isn't her job anyway in this case.
But if the default is to never pass such cases on to the judiciary, then the entire statute doesn't have any point and should be done away with. In other words, in what case would the statute be applied (i.e. the case passed on to the judiciary) if not in this one? I'm having trouble thinking of any worse insults...

Which is not so say that it is a good statute, and maybe it should be done away with after all.
So I think the best case scenario would be this: Merkel passes the case on to the judiciary and at the same time, an amendment is brought underway to abolish the statute, which then happens before the case comes to a close and Bohmermann goes free.
posted by sour cream at 5:58 AM on April 12, 2016

For a fuller reading, reddit has a translated transcript of the entire segment (with the context that's missing from the NYT, among others.)
posted by progosk at 7:29 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

It get worse, this just in in:
On Tuesday, German police confirmed that the Cologne-based satirist had been placed under police protection.
"A patrol car is posted in front of (his) door," a police spokesman said.
According to German "Focus" magazine, investigators believe that Böhmermann and his family could be threatened by Erdogan's supporters in Germany.
The authorities conducted a threat assessment and acted because it could not "eliminate any possibility," the spokesman said on Tuesday.
The Cologne police is coordinating with other law-enforcement and security agencies, he added.
mkg/es (Reuters, AFP, dpa, EPD, AP)
posted by bitteschoen at 12:05 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

This went viral today - open letter to Erdogan from Boris Palmer, Green party MP and mayor of Tübingen.

(quick google-aided translation)
Böhmermann does not speak for Germany
Dear Mr Erdogan,
As a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany I would like to apologize for the "severe crimes against humanity" that Mr Böhmermann perpetrated against you.
I think it is totally unacceptable that a satirist, under the guise of freedom of speech, would offend your honor as head of state and therefore I support wholeheartedly your desire to punish him appropriately. Even more so because you lead the fight against freedom of expression in your own country with great conviction and so credibly. More than 2000 criminal convictions for insulting the president speak for themselves. A conviction of Mr Böhmermann in Germany will make the opposition in Turkey realize that they cannot rely on Western values.
For the purpose of achieving a significant penalty, however, it seems to me that German criminal law is too weak. I encourage you, therefore, to submit a request for extradition to pursue indictment of this outrageous man.
Given your great contribution during the refugee crisis, you can expect preferential treatment from Germany. The EU has already proven that it prefers outsourcing morally dubious work to Turkey than effectively protecting its own borders. It is to be expected, therefore, that appropriate harsh punishment is only possible if it takes place in Turkey.
Cut Mr Böhmermann’s balls off, so he can never make fun of Presidents with small dicks.
Boris Palmer
posted by bitteschoen at 1:53 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

#Erdofake! Böhmi pulls another one: it was him & Erdo together all along! (Hilariously bad GoogleTranslation.)
posted by progosk at 2:55 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

On the advice of his lawyer, Böhmermann has given BILD an exclusive, spirited, in-depth interview. (Passable GoogleTranslation.)
posted by progosk at 1:43 AM on April 13, 2016

The Intercept has an excellent round-up:

"Americans wondering what life might be like in the near future — after a President Donald Trump acts on his promise to “open up our libels laws,” so that politicians with easily bruised egos can sue reporters or commentators for hurting their feelings — should pay attention to what is happening this week in Germany."

posted by progosk at 3:53 AM on April 13, 2016

On the advice of his lawyer, Böhmermann has given BILD an exclusive, spirited, in-depth interview.

Which, as one should point out, is fake.
posted by erdferkel at 6:32 AM on April 13, 2016

Which, as one should point out, is fake.

Heh - this is tunrning into a right house of mirrors... So it turns out that this is Diekmann faking the interview, published on his actual Facebook page, but not on the BILD website; he outed it a couple of hours later, on Twitter, quoting the words of his fictitious Böhmermann: "All of life is satire. If you have the eye for it."
posted by progosk at 7:24 AM on April 13, 2016

Diversity in disunity in the Middle East
The practice of assigning a faith to every citizen promotes division and sectarianism.

It's about the Ottoman empire but maybe a negative indicator for Germany's religious tax policies.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:29 AM on April 13, 2016

Interesting link, jb.

Surely not coincidentally, today the head of Germany's conservative CSU party called for an explicit "Islam Law", to governing specific aspects of Muslim life in Germany...
posted by progosk at 7:50 AM on April 13, 2016

Böhmermann has refused to provide a cease and desist statement requested by the lawyer acting for Erdogan, so the scene is set for charges to be pressed; no word from Merkel yet on the applicability of paragraph 103.
posted by progosk at 2:15 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

"If she stops the proceedings, she gives Turkey a reason to cancel the refugee swap deal with the EU, which has recently eased political pressure on the German chancellor."

Isn’t it great and terryfing at the same time when the situation has reached a point when media don’t even have to tiptoe around the key issue at stake and can spell it out in the open like that?

And yet, with refugees being treated as pawns twice over and Turkey adding blackmail to blackmail, everyone else is standing back and waiting and watching as if this was only a spat between Turkey and Germany about the limits of satire.

So much for the deal being "with the EU", right?

I can’t even believe how awful all this is and how indifferent everyone in the rest of the world seems about it.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:49 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can’t even believe how awful all this is and how indifferent everyone in the rest of the world seems about it.

What do you expect the rest of the world to do?
posted by sour cream at 4:24 AM on April 14, 2016

(To ward off the accusation that Böhmermann's piece was in any case abetting racism - as happened so quickly last year with Charlie Hebdo - here's another piece of his, analysing the racism latent/rife in the media's portrayal of refugee issues.)
posted by progosk at 5:00 AM on April 14, 2016

I'll laugh if Böhmermann gets credited for saving thousands of Syrian refugees by obstructing the swap deal that would deport them back into Asad or ISIS's hands.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:05 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

sour cream: ach gott I don’t know, nothing in particular at this stage, just feeling sad about the sorry state of things I guess?

A couple UN spokespeople had spoken out about the deal saying it’s "probably" illegal but doesn’t look like the UN can do much more, the rest of the EU cannot agree on any coherent policy anyway, and it if it all goes belly up because of the Böhmermann affair, well maybe it’s for the best, because it is an awful deal. But it went through all the same and now it’s accepted as status quo that there’s this "deal" and that it’s being put at stake here, matter of fact. That alone is so so depressing.

On top of that, doesn’t look like many spokespeople of anything or political leaders in other European countries or elsewhere are exactly queueing up to speak out about the Böhmermann affair specifically in support of media freedom and satire and the man himself, nevermind about the bigger picture of all that being used for a double triple blackmail that also justifies repression of the media in Turkey...

It’s such a massive convergence of awfulness and it’s being met with such a massive amount of political cowardice, it’s depressing. And I only see the realisation of the magnitude of this in German media, not (yet) elsewhere.
posted by bitteschoen at 5:27 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

What do you expect the rest of the world to do?

For the rest of the world, this is just one more episode in Turkey's march towards the bottom of all freedom indexes.

Legally, the worst thing that can happen to Böhmermann is a small fine and the honour of being the last person sentenced under a stupid old law; people who are actually inside Turkey have a much tougher situation.

(For Böhmermann, I'm more worried about what Turkish nationalists in Germany might end up doing; shitty people just love it when shitty leaders attack someone or something (cf US racists), and there's a huge supply of extremely nationalist/turkish superiority folks who loves their strong man (cf the "let the blood flow" speech I mention earlier)).
posted by effbot at 5:41 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

The ZDF's editorial committee has called on the channel heads to reinstate the video to the online archive, arguing that is should be "brought back to the media library from the poison cabinet, in order to document contemporary history."
posted by progosk at 7:37 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

In another bizarre twist, Rheinische Post has published a detailled description of the latest episode of Böhmermann's show... without specifying that it's fictitious (instead of a new episode, the channel aired a best-of compilation).
posted by progosk at 1:34 AM on April 15, 2016

Yanis Varoufakis on Jan Böhmermann - full statement. Transcription:
- He [Jan Böhmermann] did me a lot of harm, as minister of finance. But I have to say that I appreciated the quality of his satire, I thought that it was done in very good taste, despite the cost it had on me, and I will be damned if I see anyone like him being persecuted by people who oppose basic democratic liberties.

It’s got nothing to do with him and Mr Erdogan, it’s got to do with European democracy. The moment the Federal Republic of Germany allows such interference in the practice of satire, which is after all the salt of the earth, it is what gives our societies the capacity to look at themselves differently, and to poke fun at themselves and therefore to remain open to ideas that are useful in our development as nations, as communities, as Europeans – the moment we allow this process to be infected by a President of a country that is clamping down on basic fundamental freedoms including journalism, we are allowing for our own societies to be infected by a terrible virus.

Satirists, comedians, musicians and artists must be left utterly and completely alone from political interference and from coercive moves by dictatorial forces from outside and from within.

And we must all band together, as democrats, as Europeans, whether we’re Germans, French, Portuguese, Greeks, in order to preserve what makes us truly Europeans, that is, an open-mindedness and the capacity to laugh at each other, and to understand that having somebody like Böhmermann at the moment look at the various dimensions of our existence through a highly critical and satirical point of view is absolutely essential to remaining on the side of good and not fall foul of the particular evil forces that are effectively threatening the very fabric of our societies.

- So you understand that people show solidarity with Jan Böhmermann in this case?
- I do.
- And so do you?
- Yes, I show all the degrees of solidarity I can muster.
posted by bitteschoen at 4:47 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

An interesting analysis on the danger to media freedom of similar laws in other countries too, from the blog of the International Press Institute - Böhmermann case shows it’s never too early to repeal bad laws.
posted by bitteschoen at 4:52 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Great links, thanks!
posted by From Bklyn at 5:44 AM on April 15, 2016

The German parts of my Facebook feed just exploded -- Merkel is handing it over to the courts (but promises to get rid of the law): Bundesregierung lässt Strafverfahren gegen Böhmermann zu. "In the law it is not for the government, but by prosecutors and courts to balance the right to privacy of the person concerned and other concerns against the press and freedom of art," said Merkel. In Germany should not the government but the judiciary have "the last word".
posted by effbot at 5:45 AM on April 15, 2016

Ever the tightrope artist, she also considered "the paragraph of the German legal code that had allowed the Turkish president to request the prosecution to be unnecessary, and said that legal steps would be taken towards scrapping it" and " expressed “grave concerns” about the prosecution of individual journalists in Turkey, as well as growing limitations to the right to protest" (Guardian).
posted by progosk at 6:18 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some of the reactions on social media in Germany, translated by The Local:
The government's decision to allow for a prosecution, which is a prerequisite of paragraph 103, was met with an immediate avalanche of criticism on social media.

The head of the opposition in the German parliament, Sahra Wagenknecht of the Left Party, described it as "an unbearable kowtow. Merkel is knuckling under to Turkish despot Erdogan and sacrificing press freedom in Germany".

Elke Grohs, head of the influential private broadcaster n-tv, described it as an "act of submission to Erdogan".

"I think this is a wrong decision by the Chancellor," SPD national board member and Hamburg-based MP Niels Annen wrote.

"I think this decision is wrong. Prosecuting satire because of lèse-majesté does not belong in a modern democracy," SPD leader in the Bundestag (German parliament) Thomas Oppermann agreed.

Tobias Huch, a politician with the Free Democrats, went as far as to call for Merkel to leave her job, writing “Angela Merkel is no longer bearable as Chancellor”.

But others backed Merkel's arguments.

"The Böhmermann case is now where it belongs: with the justice system. And politics is out. That's how a state with the rule of law works," wrote journalist Udo Stiehl.

"I would rather have freedom of satire confirmed by the courts than confirmed by the mercy of the government," author Philip Meinhold agreed.
posted by bitteschoen at 6:39 AM on April 15, 2016

Interesting: the International Press Institute's German and Turkish Committees weigh in with their respective opinions.
posted by progosk at 6:56 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

More newspapers are joining in the satirical fray: Die Welt "Böhmermann has fled to Russia."(in German)
posted by progosk at 7:55 AM on April 15, 2016

And satirical magazines are faking themselves news-outlets: Titanic "Super-exclusive Interview with Kai Diekmann" (the chief editor of BILD, riffing on his fake interview with Böhmermann).
posted by progosk at 8:03 AM on April 15, 2016

Sherman Alexie has written a poem for The Stranger about the case - Hey, Look, The Abyss!
posted by Gin and Broadband at 11:14 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another key detail, mentioned incidentally in several reports like here from the WP/AP:
In addition to the request to have Boehmermann prosecuted for insulting a foreign head of state, Erdogan also has filed a criminal complaint against Boehmermann under a separate law, alleging slander.

Prosecutors in Mainz, where ZDF is based, are already examining the complaint.

Boehmermann’s lawyer, Christian Schertz, said that complaint made Friday’s decision to allow the comedian’s possible prosecution under the other legislation unnecessary.
There is an editorial on the front page of today’s Welt based on that premise - edited google-translation:
This miserable Friday, Angela Merkel could have actually spared us this kowtowing to Turkey. The Turkish President himself built the Chancellor a golden bridge that made the kowtow superfluous.

After Jan Böhmermann's so-called libelous poem from 31 March, Erdogan not only pressed the federal government to authorize an investigation against the satirist for insulting a foreign head of state under Section 103 of the Criminal Code. On April 11 he also filed a personal complaint for libel and slander with the Mainzer prosecutor. As a result, the German government was legally and politically out of the woods.

Angela Merkel could have declared the question of whether the federal cabinet would permit prosecution under Section 103 closed, because Merkel's reasons for the political decision to allow prosecuting Böhmermann would have been unreservedly valid also for Erdogan's personal complaint: in a state founded on the rule of law, independent courts and not the politicians decide if anyone is offended by satire and what is allowed as satire.

The effect of such a judgment would not have been any less significant than that of a trial due to lese majeste. The Chancellor could have separated foreign policy from satire and simply awaited the judgment, that would have been a matter between Böhmermann and Erdogan, with possible effects on the German satirical landscape.

Now Merkel can no longer wait in peace. The judgment now bears her political handwriting.
Jan Böhmermann's poem acts on one level as such an incredible insult, on the other as a such a grotesquely exaggerated mocking of sensitivities to abuse that it was comical again. Merkel herself has been insulted and slandered countless times by foreign media, in a targeted and deliberate way and without any satirical humor, sometimes as a nazi concentration camp sentinel, sometimes as political dominatrix. She rightly never paid attention to it. In her speeches, especially abroad, Merkel has always invoked freedom as the highest value - with an intensity that only an earlier GDR citizen can have.

On Friday another Chancellor has emerged. It was a public statement she did not enjoy, that was more than clear to see, but it has now taken place and it does have consequences. If Böhmermann is acquitted, the Chancellor has a new Erdogan problem – because despite Merkel's allowing prosecution, the court would then confirm that a satirist is allowed to accuse the great Ottoman of outrageous things. Someone like the Turkish President will not allow the German constitutional state to teach him a lesson at his own expense and at the expense of his honour.

If however Böhmermann is sentenced, it will go down as Merkel-Erdogan's ruling in the annals. Germany will be perceived not only by Erdogan, but by all partners as susceptible to blackmail - because it decided at the highest political level to allow a trial for lese majeste that it did not have to allow at all at such level.
posted by bitteschoen at 1:53 AM on April 16, 2016

To back-track a little bit, I thought that Merkel's face-saving explanation for allowing the prosecution to go forward is so that the law can be reexamined (and likely repealed) at the judicial level.

Also, screw Erdogan.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:08 AM on April 16, 2016

Though I do see the logic in the let-due-process-demonstrate-the-power-of-a-true-democracy camp, Böhmermann's lawyer (the eponysterical Christian Schertz) put two fine points on the supposed mere technicality of Merkel's decision to pass the Turkish request to the courts: 1. given that Erdogan had already launched his defamation suit against Böhmermann personally, and was thereby already guaranteed an answer in court, there was no actual necessity for a further government response on the applicability of Paragraph 103 (so why the zeal?); and 2. her personal opinion that the sketch in question was "deliberately offensive", offered in conversation to the Turkish prime minister, not only set the current Turkish pretences in motion, but also explicitly belies her neutrality on the merit of the lèse-majesté/defamation case that Böhmermann will now face. So, far from not passing judgement with this latest decision, she has already stated hers - thereby actually prejudicing the whole matter.

[On preview, what bitteschoen just said.]

In other opinions:
- Human Rights Watch: "Prosecuting Satirist Mocks Freedom of Speech - Repeal Law Privileging Foreign Leaders"

- Index on Censorship: “No one – and especially heads of state – has a right not to be offended(also related: "Comedy and self-censorship: Shazia Mirza interviews Sakdiyah Ma’ruf")

- Open Democracy: "In the Erdogan vs. Böhmermann crisis, the real comedians are the politicians themselves"

Elsewhere, the European Parliament is attempting to regain some moral high-ground vis-à-vis Turkey: EU report ruffles Turkey's feathers.

On a lighter note, extra3 takes us behind the scenes with Erdogan's personal dramatist/art director Erkann Alles.
posted by progosk at 2:14 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

To back-track a little bit, I thought that Merkel's face-saving explanation for allowing the prosecution to go forward is so that the law can be reexamined (and likely repealed) at the judicial level

She does say that at the end but no her argument is entirely based on the separation of powers and the rule of law - here’s the full text of her statement in German and google-translated. It is really worth reading in full. It’s attracted some praise too, FAZ itself has a short editorial calling it "impressive" and "a rhetorical masterstroke" (and it is, whatever one thinks of the decision), because after mentioning the friendly relations and parnternship with Turkey she did publicly call the Turkish government on the repression of media and journalists, press freedom, independence of the judiciary, separation of powers, etc., expressing concern for all that. The editorial also argues the decision is a stronger affirmation of sovereignity and trust in the rule of law, than rejecting the request to prosecute.

The title of that editorial is telling, though: "Alternativlose Entscheidung" - a decision without alternatives.

To be fair, I see valid points for both criticism and praise of Merkel’s decision (controversial within her coalition too), but in the end, it does sound like yet another impossible "damned if you do damned if you don’t" situation she found herself in and had to put a brave face to, just like with the refugee wave last year, and then with the refugee deal with Turkey last month. I may not like what it entailed and I do find it all a big political cop-out, but I also find it wrong to place the blame entirely on her government, as if she pulled all those decisions out of her own hat, there are so many more factors and much bigger forces at play here, in a way it’s so unfair to blame Germany for finding itself at the center of a mess that has been created over the years by a much wider context of political cowardice and indifference and conflicts of interests.

So many other European countries just washed their hands of finding a common solution to the refugee problem and equally sidestepped any issues with Turkey until now, and the US have always pushed for Turkey’s entry into the EU and then with recent developments relying even more on Turkey as a strategic ally in Syria and against Putin, and all that has contributed to Turkey getting away with lots of things that have come to a head now and have exploded in this particular case, with all the awful political ramifications it will have.

So, even when I agree with the criticism, I don’t even want to hear it coming from outside of German media and German political debate, because really no one outside of Germany can point a finger with a clean conscience. (Where "no one" means politicians, media people, opinionists, public voices - not personal opinions like here, of course).
posted by bitteschoen at 3:32 AM on April 16, 2016

(and of course, specific criticism from human rights organisations and press freedom advocates in or outside Germany is another matter entirely, and entirely necessary and vital. I was talking of the general political criticism directed at Merkel’s government for capitulating to Turkey - when it comes from outside Germany, especially from UK/US media, it has a bad ring to it, because really where is that media when it comes to examining the long-standing capitulation to Turkey by their own governments?)
posted by bitteschoen at 3:42 AM on April 16, 2016

Böhmermann just announced in a Facebook post he’s taking a "short break":
in the past three years, my team and I have taken on the task of satirically reviewing the hot topics in politics, arts and gossip. In the last two weeks we managed to go through each of these levels of the press all at once ourselves.
Therefore I have decided to take a short break from tv, so that the local public and the internet can focus again on the important things like the refugee crisis, cat videos or the love life of Sophia Thomalla [German actress]. Because there may be more significant topics than the discussion over a poem presented in a satirical tv show. In addition, the editorial team is convinced that another song by Dieter "Didi" Hallervorden [old German comedian] on the topic must be prevented. That, everyone here agrees, MUST have top priority!
From Saarland to Sachsen I feel a solidarity for the tv show from the overwhelming majority of those who are not President Erdogan, and for that I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude. But it also puts me in a difficult position: when even Beatrix von Storch [duchess and member of European Parliament for right-wing AfD] is suddenly fighting on the side of satire with a raised mouse pointer, who should I still be making fun of? I don’t even want to imagine Til Schweiger [German actor] coming forward from the Mallorcan spring between two bottles of Emma Cuvé to express support for me or Campino [singer and frontman of popular German rock band] and Bob Geldof suddenly showing up with a charity song.
So first I am leaving the country, going on a Twerk&Travel trip through North Korea to get a clearer explanation of the issue of freedom of the press and arts, before I set out for a couple of days with my Segway on a pilgrimage on the Way of St. James to find myself.
Your Jan
posted by bitteschoen at 6:49 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Aaand: Kazim "Is mir egal" Akboga calls on Böhmi and Erdo to kiss and make up already:

hallo jan böhmermann,
was machst du mit erdogan
der hat doch nichts gemacht
nur ein bisschen größenwahn
hallo herr erdogan,
was machst du mit böhmermann
der hat doch nichts gemacht
er ist doch ein komiker

das geht raus an böhmermann
und an herrn erdogan
bitte kein krieg entfachen
lieber liebe machen
was sich liebt das neckt sich
bitte versteckt euch nicht
eins is doch sonnenklar
ihr seid ein homopaar

ihr habt beide große eier
komm wir machen einen dreier
ihr seid beide supersüss
gibt euch jetzt ein zungenküss!
posted by progosk at 12:32 AM on April 17, 2016

Titanic chief editor Tim Wolff weighs in with his own expertise in scandalous satire (link in German).
posted by progosk at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2016

Telegraph: "EU refuses to defend German comic who mocked Turkish president".

And - John Oliver's take on Erdogan from yesterday's show.
posted by progosk at 9:39 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Euinside opinion piece (with more European context on the status of freedom of speech/opinion, just one year after Charlie Hebdo): "Kill a Cartoon, Save a Dictator!"
posted by progosk at 9:45 AM on April 18, 2016

(Here's that useful interactive press-freedom photo-guide the Guardian made, from the heads-of-state solidarity show in Paris back in January 2015...)
posted by progosk at 9:54 AM on April 18, 2016

The Dutch are getting rid of their own version of Paragraph 103.

And - The Spectator is calling for an offensive poetry contest, in honor of Erdogan.
posted by progosk at 3:36 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Really low hanging fruit, but... World stunned by revelation that Germany has a comedian.
posted by effbot at 5:32 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Updated roundup (including Erdogan-Gollum) from The Interrobang: "How a German Comedian Has Europe in an Uproar"

Further opinion pieces, one East Coast, one Turkish:

WSJ: "Merkel’s Road to Moral Surrender"

Hürriyet: "Böhmermann case likely to backfire on Erdoğan"

Meantime, FAZ goes deep on the finer points of slander (in German): "Sie sind ein Arschloch!"
posted by progosk at 11:56 PM on April 18, 2016

Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen brings his own (highly offensive) case with Erdogan to lightwith English subtitles.
posted by progosk at 8:06 AM on April 19, 2016

Turkey is still fuming, while Germany is treading an ever finer line...
posted by progosk at 11:40 AM on April 19, 2016

Fascinatingly: ten years ago a similar incident happened between Germany and Turkey - only with the roles reversed!
posted by progosk at 10:48 AM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

The National (published in the UAE): "How a German comedian saved the Turkish president"
posted by progosk at 9:59 AM on April 21, 2016

Merkel now admits it was a mistake to pre-emptively share her opinion of the sketch.
posted by progosk at 4:57 AM on April 23, 2016

And more craziness: earlier today, German police broke up a Pirate Party demonstration and arrested the speaker after he had quoted the bits about "repressing minorities, kicking Kurds and beating Christians" (and probably a bit more, I guess).
posted by effbot at 11:49 AM on April 23, 2016

Der Postillon has the "only minimally altered" version of the sketch, found in ZDF's mediatheque.
posted by progosk at 12:14 AM on April 24, 2016

Dutch journalist arrested in Turkeyfor criticising Erdogan.
posted by progosk at 6:39 AM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

A subtle dissection of the affair from a German-Turkish perspective (link in German).
posted by progosk at 11:45 PM on April 24, 2016

Meanwhile, it's not only satire that's on Turkey's censorship radar: the Dresden Symphony Orchestra's planned repeat performances of their reconciliation concerts, titled "Aghet" ("aght" is Turkish for catastrophe), featuring music by Turkish, Armenian and German composers, as well as musicians from all three countries, has come under pressure by the Turkish authorities, who have requested the EU financing of the project to be rescinded, and, failing which, have caused the EU Commission to push for changes in the content and presentation of the concerts, eliminating the word "genocide", and altering other parts of the programme's text. The orchestra's director has shed light on this interference (reference to the project has been deleted from the relevant EU website) as another instance of unacceptable intercultural censorship.

The concert's next performance is scheduled this Friday in Dresden, before going on tour to Belgrade, Yerevan and... Istanbul.
posted by progosk at 3:35 AM on April 25, 2016

Similarly, Swedish channel TV4 has received an official complaint from Turkish authorities about a documentary about the Assyrian genocide that was scheduled to air yesterday. The channel rejected the request, and published the complaint (in English) on its website; the documentary was broadcast (and is available online, pay-per-view) as planned.
posted by progosk at 4:12 AM on April 25, 2016

(on preview, the previous was 2/3rds of the post I had sitting in my editor :-). here's the rest)

Meanwhile, the Swedish Green Party (part of the sitting government) is in crisis after it turned out that leading members hung out with Grey Wolves and other turkish nationalists, dropped Muslim Brotherhood hand signs, considered women unclean (male party leader: "it didn't occur to me that some women found that offensive"), and happily compared Israel to nazis, to the extent that pundits started wondering if they had been explicitly infiltrated by islamists.
posted by effbot at 4:29 AM on April 25, 2016

Further Turkish censorship efforts abroad have now targeted a photography exhibit in Switzerland (which also has a lèse-majesté law), requesting the removal of Demir Sönmez' picture because it features a banner accusing Erdogan as responsible for the police killing of teenager Berkin Elvan. The exhibit, just opposite the United Nations complex, is sponsored by the city of Geneva and by Reporters Without Borders; the city has yet to reply to the request.
posted by progosk at 11:47 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Geneva just told him to sod off (but a bit more politely phrased), also pointing out that it was extra outrageous to ask for censorship on Place de Nations of all places. Or to quote NZZ: Genf an Erdogan: «Nein.»
posted by effbot at 9:47 AM on April 26, 2016

Ricochet's editor has another hypothesis to explain Merkel's uncharacteristic handling of the whole incident - "Ach So … A Dispatch From the Brave Old World" - based on this little-noticed report from the other day: "Germany to build air base in Turkey for Isis campaign".
posted by progosk at 2:11 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Back in Turkey, two Cumhuriyet journalists have been sentenced to 2 years in prison for republishing Charlie Hebdo's post-massacre cartoon.
One of them comments: Let our two-year sentence be a gift for our liberal fascists #JeSuisCharlie
posted by progosk at 7:36 AM on April 28, 2016

Austria joins the anti-German-satire bandwagon: the heute-show's quip about their neighbor's electoral preferences replicating those for their Schnitzels ("as flat [=shallow] as possible, and nicely browned") has earned the authors similar cross-border defamation charges.
posted by progosk at 1:17 PM on April 28, 2016

Finally, the lone Euro MP from Germany's mock-party Die PARTEI does his own brief satirical sketch about Erdogan in Brussels: "Der Irre vom Bosporus..." (video in German)

Quick translation:
"The 'Bosphorus Bonehead', as we affectionately call the Bosphorus bonehead Erdogan here at the the EU Parliament, has struck again.

This time he has instructed his ambassador to the EU Commission to terminate the financial support for a concert project by the Dresdner Symphony Orchestra which deals with the Turkish genocide of Armenians. The Commission subsequently invited the orchestra to mitigate corresponding passages, and to avoid the word 'genocide'.

As a member of the Culture Committee, I would like to make a suggestion of redress: I strongly recommend that the Dresden Symphony strike the word 'genocide' - and replace it with the term 'Völkermord'
[= German for genocide].

I am German - we have some experience with genocide.

However, I note with some surprise that Turkey is giving us a run for our money. So I want to warn the Turkish government not to speed up the centenarian rhythm at which it apparently intends to commit genocide - as a current glance at the situation of the Kurds would make it seem.

Otherwise we'll have to think about someone else to outsource the dirty work with our refugees to.

No worries - I have no current vacation plans in Turkey."

posted by progosk at 3:25 PM on April 29, 2016

(A more in-depth piece on the recently ignited islamic-constitution-for-Turkey debate I mentioned above.)
posted by progosk at 3:46 AM on May 1, 2016

(Sides are hardening in Turkey: prime minister Davutoğlu - who had wrangled the refugee deal with the EU - has resigned, Erdoğan has told the EU to stuff the conditions they require before giving Turkish citizens visa-free travel. And: the Cumhuriyet journalist who was due to be sentenced to day for "revealing state documents" has just been shot at in front of the courthouse.)
posted by progosk at 10:08 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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