Sunday, December 25, 2016

How the Berlin Christmas Market Attack Changed Germany

At Der Spiegel, "Terror in Berlin: How the Attack Has Changed the Country":
In the hours of uncertainty following the attack on the Christmas market at Berlin's Breitscheidplatz square on the evening of Dec. 19, two methods of viewing the incident quickly became apparent. There was the reflexive, impetuous reaction and the reflective, circumspect approach.

The impetuous took to their computers almost before the truck driver had finished cutting his deadly swath through the Christmas market stalls. Regardless of what was really going on in Berlin, those occupying a certain niche on the web were certain: "Islam-terror" had reached Berlin and a "Merkel Mohammedan" had killed innocent people. Muslims, it was claimed, were dancing for joy in the streets of immigrant neighborhoods like Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg and Berlin-Neukölln. Dec. 19, 2016 was the "beginning of the end" of the Christian West, they said, symbolized by the Christmas tree that had been run over in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

In those minutes -- during which the impetuous transformed hunch into certainty and certainty into rage -- the circumspect were just beginning to comprehend what had just happened on Breitscheidplatz. They saw the dead and injured next to a truck, which had been turned into a murder weapon. They knew absolutely nothing for sure. They knew it would take several days for even the most urgent questions to be answered with certainty -- and weeks, if not months, to clear up the underlying questions. And there was time needed to mourn the dead.

"Pray?! Do Something!!" the impetuous tweeted. They aren't interested in facts. Emotions are enough.

Even before the attack, bridging the gap between the circumspect and the impetuous had become difficult. The sexual assaults committed by immigrants on New Year's Eve in Cologne, the attacks in Ansbach and Würzburg, the Islamist bomb-maker arrested in Chemnitz, and the rape-murder apparently committed by a refugee in Freiburg: These were the milestones of the divide. Now, everyone is certain who is to blame: the establishment political parties, the populists, the lying press, the scaremongers, the do-gooders and the right-wingers. The two sides of the divide no longer have much to say to each other.

The Berlin attack has now demonstrated just how little overlap there is between these two parallel worlds. When it became known, in the late evening of Dec. 19, that the police had arrested a suspect from Pakistan, the parallel worlds seemed to be reconciled for a moment. The impetuous had already known that only a Muslim refugee could be the killer. And now the circumspect had actually caught one. Finally, they expressed what had long been obvious to the other side: that we are in a "state of war" and that it is naïve to "always see only the good in people."

But then, during the course of the day on Tuesday, the authorities began to have doubts about their suspect, and in the afternoon they announced: "We have the wrong man." The impetuous were able to explain this away in seconds. The political-journalistic PC-cartel, they believed, simply wasn't willing to accept the truth.

According to one version that was bouncing around one corner of the Internet, some scapegoat would undoubtedly be found. A user on a right-wing website wrote: "There must be a radical right-winger somewhere that this can be pinned on." The fact that investigators quickly identified a man from Tunisia as the alleged attacker did not change the truth as perceived by the impetuous.

Such is reality in this not-particularly-festive Christmas season. In the conspiracy-theory-filled world occupied by one side of the gap, mistakes aren't mistakes but cynically calculated moves. Whereas attacks at other times and in other places -- New York, Paris, London -- brought people together, many people this time chose to view the Berlin attack from their own ideological trench...
Well, to reach for initial conclusions usually results in being upbraided by hoity-toity leftists mewling, "That's not who we are."

And then, it's always the "impetuous" ones who're proven correct.

No wonder the radical left is in retreat worldwide. Hopefully it's just the beginning of a decadal rout that marginalizes leftists for generations.

But keep reading.

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