FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany

In Germany, there is apparently no limit to the amount of absurd sophistry regarding how to treat people entering the country. When it comes to illegal immigration, refugees and political asylum, one general indication that we are living a potential disaster is not so much the number of migrants but the inability to recognize just how painfully hilarious the public debate about them has become. Here are just a few of the elements of what has become a public embarassment. The sequence in which they are listed here is not intended to reflect their relative importance.

One of the more insidious words used in this context is “we”. Admittedly this point is not one specific position statement, but it covers a lot of ground. For example: “Yes, we can.” Nearly everyone of any political stripe can sign up to this. That’s because it is practically meaningless. It is an empty bucket into which anyone can puke whatever they have recently slurped, chomped and incompletely digested. If you hear the pronoun “we” used in public policy statements you should be concerned. It is possibly an “I” in disguise or a group that the speaker himself cannot clearly identify. This also applies to “they”, especially where it is understood as the counterpart to “we”.

Dead language. Example: “The boat is full.” More credible, and hence more insidious: “Merkel has opened the border.” Germany is not a boat and, in fact, nobody knows what in this context the word full means. Specifically, there is far too little public discussion of substantial questions regarding population density, social cohesion, integration, etc. Moreover, the border has no door or gate that was once closed and is now open. The statement is complete nonsense. As with the first statement, its emptiness is exposed as soon as the discussion becomes concrete. It is not an exageration to claim that nearly all public discussions about the topic of migration are infected with dead language.

“The reason there are so many refugees entering the country is because of the  human smugglers.” No. This statement is false. The reason there are so many human smugglers is that there are so many refugees. The reason the latter are victimized so frequently is that their migration has been illegalized. These travel agencies operate in a market that has been made illegal. That is why they are called smugglers. No, they are not smuggling their customers through doors (closed, ajar or wide open) but rather around obstacles, man-made obstacles. Cracking down on smugglers means making a desperate situation more desperate (concretely: refugees will pay higher fees for travel services and accept more dangerous travel conditions).

None of this would be of any interest except to language analysts if it weren’t for the damaging consequences of a non-critical attitude towards the use of language. There is no truth in language, only commonly agreed deceptions. As long as language users all agree on a deception, it’s the truth. And nearly everyone loves lies. Readers and movie-goers even pay to be deceived. What people are afraid of is suffering injury or damage. But what happens when our choice of words is inadequate? And what does that mean? I suggest that most people could care less that the truths of the day are merely popularly accepted deceptions. What should be of concern, however, is that particular deceptions lead to specific damages, injuries and loss of life. Between Aleppo and Stockholm, Kundus and Hamburg, Bamako and Paris, all this is happening now.

More articles by:

William Hadfield is an American translator residing in Germany.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 24, 2019
Marc Levy
 A Discomforting Letter From a Comfortable Town
Kenneth Surin
The UK Media’s Spurious Campaign Against Labour “Antisemitism”
David Mattson
Felicia’s Fate: The Trials of a Grizzly Bear Mom
Lawrence Davidson
Democratic Party Dilemmas
Helena Norberg-Hodge
Local is Our Future
Binoy Kampmark
WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Decoding the National Security Commentariat
Michael Doliner
Russiagate: the Cherry on Top
Jonah Raskin
A Whale of a Time on the California Coast
Nozomi Hayase
In Crisis of Democracy, We Must All Become Julian Assange
J.P. Linstroth
Why Indigenous Lives Should Matter
Elliot Sperber
The Parable of the Flax Seed 
July 23, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Why Boris Johnson is Even More Dangerous Than Trump
Christopher Ketcham
The American West as Judeo-Christian Artifact
Jack Heyman
Whitewashing American History: the WPA Mural Controversy in San Francisco
David Mattson
Through the Climate Looking Glass into Grizzly Wonderland
David Macaray
Paul Krassner and Me
Thomas Knapp
Peckerwood Populism is About Political Strategy, Not Personal Belief
John Kendall Hawkins
Assange and His Wiki Wicked leaks
Howard Lisnoff
What Has Happened to the U.S. Since the Kids Left Woodstock?
Victor Grossman
“How Could They?” Why Some Americans Were Drawn to the Communist Party in the 1940s
Gary Leupp
Minnesota, White People, Lutherans and Ilhan Omar
Binoy Kampmark
Lunar Narratives: Landing on the Moon, Politics and the Cold War
Richard Ward
Free La Donalda!
July 22, 2019
Michael Hudson
U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses
Evaggelos Vallianatos
If Japan Continues Slaughtering Whales, Boycott the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Mike Garrity
Emergency Alert For the Wild Rockies
Dean Baker
The U.S.-China Trade War: Will Workers Lose?
Jonah Raskin
Paul Krassner, 1932-2019: American Satirist 
David Swanson
U.S. Troops Back in Saudi Arabia: What Could Go Wrong?
Robert Fisk
American Visitors to the Gestapo Museum Draw Their Own Conclusions
John Feffer
Trump’s Send-Them-Back Doctrine
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Landscape of Anguish and Palliatives: Predation, Addiction and LOL Emoticons in the Age of Late Stage Capitalism
Karl Grossman
A Farmworkers Bill of Rights
Gary Leupp
Omar and Trump
Robert Koehler
Fighting Climate Change Means Ending War
Susie Day
Mexicans Invade US, Trump Forced to Go Without Toothbrush
Elliot Sperber
Hey Diddle Diddle, Like Nero We Fiddle
Weekend Edition
July 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
The Blob Fought the Squad, and the Squad Won
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
It Was Never Just About the Chat: Ruminations on a Puerto Rican Revolution.
Anthony DiMaggio
System Capture 2020: The Role of the Upper-Class in Shaping Democratic Primary Politics
Andrew Levine
South Carolina Speaks for Whom?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Big Man, Pig Man
Bruce E. Levine
The Groundbreaking Public Health Study That Should Change U.S. Society—But Won’t
Evaggelos Vallianatos
How the Trump Administration is Eviscerating the Federal Government
Pete Dolack
All Seemed Possible When the Sandinistas Took Power 40 years Ago
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail