Spots #2

Posted by John Rosenthal

A Roundup of Notable Quotes and Curious Sightings from (roughly) the last week in Europe.


The Return of “German Science”?


The Süddeutsche Zeitung of August 22 reports on an appeal by 40 German researchers and scientists to (as the Süddeutsche puts it) “resist the dominance of English”: 

In a collective statement, some 40 German researchers have warned against the predominance of the English language in science.  According to the paper, which was also sent to the cultural ministries of the individual Bundesländer, scientific productivity will suffer in the long run “if we continue to efface our native tongue, and thereby the specific structures of our thought and perception, from the process of cognition.”

“The specific structures of our thought and perception”.  One of the most characteristic expressions of the “völkisch” or “ethnic-national” ideology during the period of the Third Reich was the widespread claim that there is a specifically “German science” distinct from science as such and, most notably, from “Jewish science”.   This distinction was supposed even to extend to physics.  Thus David Cassidy, in his article “Heisenberg, German Science, and the Third Reich” (Social Research, Fall 1992), notes that  

In February 1936,… the Völkische Beobachter [the official Nazi Party newspaper - JR] published an article titled “German Physics and Jewish Physics”.  The article called for the elimination of the obscure “Jewish” theoretical physics and the revival of “German physics” in German universities.

Cassidy also notes that according to the German physicists Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark – “both Nobel Prize winners” – “German physics” was supposed to be “practical”, “experimental, and “not speculative”, whereas they assigned the “theoretical” and “abstract” modern branches of relativity and quantum theory to “Jewish physics”.  


The signatories of the latest appeal for the safeguard of "German science" from “foreign influences" include Hans-Olaf Henkel, the President of the Leibniz Society, Gesine Schwan, President of the Viadrina European University in Frankfurt Oder, and the historian Christian Meier of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich.  The initiator of the petition, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, is the Munich-based immunologist Ralph Mockitat.

(Note: I have retranslated the Cassidy quotes from a German version of his article that is available here.)


RFI : A Radio of Peace ?


The Le Figaro of August 22 reports that in the Côte d’Ivoire Mathias Doué, a former general of the Ivorian army who was relieved of his duties some eight months ago, is threatening to overturn the government of President Laurent Gbagbo by force.  “If the international community does not intervene to make Gbagbo go peacefully, I’ll do it by whatever means necessary”, Le Figaro quotes Doué as saying.  Why is a threatened coup d’état in Africa included here in a round-up of European matters?  Because Doué made his threat on the airwaves of the publicly-funded French international radio service RFI [Radio France Internationale].


Last November in the Ivorian capitol of Abidjan, French troops opened fire on demonstrators protesting the French military presence in the Côte d’Ivoire.  Anywhere from “around 20” (the eventual French estimate) to 57 (the Ivorian figure) civilians were killed.  At the time, French authorities accused local Ivorian media of inciting “anti-French hatred”.  In an official statement, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan came to the defense of the French, denouncing what he described as Ivorian “hate media”.  He managed to make no specific mention of the civilian dead of Abidjan, much less of the circumstances of their deaths.


If the local Ivorian media were under the circumstances “hate media”, what then is RFI when it opens its airwaves to a former general threatening to mount a coup d’état against a democratically elected government?  Peace media?


EADS and the American Military


Several French media took note last week of the announcement by the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) that it would bid for a US Defense Department contract for 322 helicopters.  The Le Figaro of August 24 introduced a word of caution, however, pointing to an American congressional report recommending that foreign companies that have received contested public subsidies from a state-member of the WTO should not be permitted to bid for Pentagon contracts.  The description notably fits EADS, which received massive public subsidies in developing its new Airbus380 super jumbo jet. Might it not, however, also be relevant that 15% of EADS stock is controlled by the French state?  Do American military planners really want to make the operational capacity of the American military in any way and in any measure dependent upon a foreign state whose representatives have done little of late to suggest that it is a reliable ally?  Be prepared for French and European authorities to complain of unfair restrictions on competition should anyone suggest: maybe not.


Parsing the “Peace Chancellor”


It was, of course, to be expected that the man who assembled the so-called “axis of peace” to try to prevent the American-led intervention in Iraq – no, contrary to a popular misconception, it was not Jacques Chirac – would make something he and his party call “peace” an issue in his current campaign for re-election.  

The following is from a campaign advertisement of Gerhard Schröder’s SPD enumerating what the party is supposed to “stand for”:

For Peace. 

We will continue in the future to secure peace, without blindly following others.  So that Germany remains a strong peace power in the world.


The “without blindly following others” alludes, of course, to the German refusal to “follow” the US in the matter of Iraq.   The original German – “ohne in blinde Gefolgschaft zu verfallen” – is far more aggressive, since it converts “blindly following others” into a pattern of behavior into which the SPD pledges  not to "fall".  It has become a classic of the SPD repertoire.  But what exactly is the connection of the phrase to the principal phrase it follows and which it appears thereby to qualify?  The idea seems to be that Germany under the SPD will continue to “secure peace”, which might however require going to war – hence the need to be “strong” – only Germany will not follow others (read: the USA) in doing so. 


 It should be recalled that Gerhard Schröder and the SPD were enthusiastic advocates of the military intervention in Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisis and Germany, of course, very actively and willingly participated in the operation.  The German government was indeed advocating a military intervention in Yugoslavia long before the then American administration of Bill Clinton came around to the German position, and Schröder himself went so far as to go on record at the time saying that such an intervention could be undertaken without UN Security Council authorization (which he knew, in light of the opposition of Russia and China, would not be forthcoming).  In the matter of bombing Yugoslavia, Germany indeed led, it did not “follow”.  Later, Schröder would proudly declare the Kosovo War the “founding act” of a politically unified Europe.  As the Iraq War would show, this announcement was somewhat hasty, but the Chancellor’s intentions, in any case, were clear.


So, in short, the global meaning of the SPD phrase seems to be roughly as follows:

Germany will go to war.  However: when Germany goes to war we will call it “securing peace”, and when others (notably, the USA) go to war and the war in question does not serve what we perceive to be German interests, we will call it “war” (and oppose it).


The general motto with which the SPD ad leads is: “Renewing Germany, to Make it Strong”.


(Note: Medienkritik has much more on the SPD’s mobilization of the “peace” issue here.)

Are European Jews Not "Europeans"?

In my 2003 essay "Anti-Semitism and Ethnicity in Europe", I argued that the contemporary European mania for "ethnicity" and ethnically-construed "cultural diversity" was fueling the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe – or at least securing one of its essential pre-conditions.  This is so, namely, inasmuch as such ethno-mania, in effect, transforms European Jews into a "non-indigenous", "alien population" on the European continent.  

This week’s Radio-Television Guide of the French newspaper Le Monde provides a perfect illustration.  It includes the fourth and final part of a series on "community" radios on the French FM dial, with "community" clearly referring to ethnic "communities".   As you can see in the below image of the front page of the guide, the general thematic heading for the series is "community radios/diversity radios" [radios des communautés/radio de la diversité] or, more literally, "radios of the communities/radios of diversity".


Moreover, Le Monde has helpfully arrayed the "communities/radios" in question into four broad groups: "The North African – The Jewish – The African – The European". 


This is to say that according to the editors of Le Monde, European Jews – that is, persons whose Jewish ancestors in most cases immigrated to the European continent in a past so remote that the time-span must be measured in centuries, if not indeed millenia – apparently are not Europeans.

Progress Report:

We hope to be able to launch the Quarterly sometime next week.  Please check back here one week from today, on September 6, for more.

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