Six years

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Usually this is not a place where I write about the funky stuff that comes out of the heads of our politicians, but after almost six months without a new article here, I am going to use today’s date as a pretense to make a little exception.

What is happening now in Germany (and—to a greater or lesser extent—also in many other countries that don’t get tired of emphasizing the benefits of freedom and democracy, while constantly undermining them with more and more surveillance and citizenship restrictions) does bear some resemblence to what happened during the 1930s—Viktor Engelmann has compiled a table with many analogies (only in German)—, yet I am still quite sure that this is a case for Hanlon’s razor (“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”) Here is a translated transcript from a recent TV interview with some of Germany’s prominent politicians, conducted by a children reporter team (“ARD-Morgenmagazin-Kinderreporter”):

Question: Have you got a computer?

Hans-Christian Ströbele: Yes, unfortunately, but sometimes it doesn’t fully agree with me and we have very different opinions, and then it doesn’t work like it should.

Guido Westerwelle: Well, for me a computer is rather a very simple tool, like a hammer or a nail.

Question: Do you also use the Internet?

Peter Struck: Yeah, I also use that.

Ströbele: I think I’ve been in the Internet once or twice yet.

Brigitte Zypries: I am not someone who plays around in the Internet. When I use it, it’s rather for precise questions and then I always look where I can find the answer.

Michael Glos: I only go in there when I’m looking for a particular thing, like old press clippings or something like that.

Question: Have you chosen your own home page?

Ströbele: No. I don’t even know what that means.

Question: Please name a few different browsers.

Zypries: Browsers? What was that again?

Struck: I don’t know.

Ströbele: I only know that there are people who have developed some program that you can feed with particular keywords to find something. But I never use that.

(Comment from one of the interviewers: Well, if they barely even use their computers, I think we can just forget about our other questions.)

Question: Well … have you got your own web site?

Ströbele: Yeah! I have got an own web site, but I don’t know how to operate it at all. I don’t update it myself, but I have employees who are way younger than me.

Struck: Have you also got your own web site?

Interviewer: Well, I have made one myself some time ago. I’ve participated in a course where I’ve learned how to do it.

Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble (the two main leaders of the pro-surveillance movement in Germany) were not among the interviewees, but I am quite sure that they would hardly have made a better impression otherwise. Sadly, many of these people seem to be unable to recognize their incompetence about new technologies and/or to take the consequences of this perception (namely either strive for appropriate knowledge or just stay out of these matters).

But let’s forget about that for now—it is 9/11 today after all, so it’s high time for some new inconsiderate anti-terrorism activity. Wolfgang Schäuble has set a good example this morning: He asks the grand coalition to finally stop the discussion and just implement his surveillance plans. Franco Frattini from Italy has another great idea: simply make dangerous key words illegal.