FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Cologne Sexual Assaults: Debate and Meta-Debate

shutterstock_145891352

News of the Cologne sexual assaults was delayed by the fact that the police and certain news agencies were hesitant to report these events for fear that they might aid right-wing political groups.  Something similar happened in Sweden.  At the We Are Stockholm music festival in August sexual assaults occurred that were similar to those that occurred in Cologne, and, like the assaults in Cologne, they were perpetrated by young men of Middle Eastern extraction.

News of these assaults was also suppressed by the police and/or press (depending on who you believe) and hence only came to light this week.  Are cover-ups of this sort wrong?  Intuitively, I think most people would answer ‘yes’ and I think that answer is right.  Why are they wrong?  I want to offer one (admittedly partial) answer and in order to do so I want to draw a distinction between two levels of debate that the sexual assaults have engendered.

The first level of debate deals with the question of how the assaults themselves ought to be understood.  According to one view, these assaults are expressions of regressive attitudes about women that originate in the perpetrators’ distinctive cultural background.  On the alternative view, the perpetrators’ cultural background is more-or-less irrelevant and that these assaults are no different in kind than the kinds of sexual harassment and assaults that women are subjected to by Western men.

Notice that even if one holds the latter view, it is still consistent to also hold a positive attitude towards the fact that these issues are being discussed.  In order for a democracy to work the public must be able to discuss and deliberate about the various challenges that it faces.  When people debate how these sexual assaults are to be understood, that is precisely what they are doing.

This brings me to the second level of debate.  If one thinks that it is a good thing that the public is aware of and discussing these assaults, one holds a view that belongs to what we might call the meta-debate: debate about the first level of debate.  Why might one hold an opposing view in the meta-debate?  Well, one might think that the public is not able to deliberate well about events like these because the public is too prone to racism, xenophobia or other forms of bias.

I think that some such view underlies the cover-up attempts that I alluded to.  I also think that this explains (in part) why the cover-ups are objectionable.  They reflect an paternalistic, anti-democratic contempt for the public: the public cannot be trusted to be informed of events of this sort because that will lead them irrationally to draw the wrong conclusions.

Regardless of what one thinks about the meaning of the events themselves, I think that all of us, to the extent that we care about democracy, ought to reject this sentiment and demand of our public officials and news outlets that they do the same.

More articles by:

Daniel Wolt is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Princeton, working in ethics and social/political philosophy and ancient Greek philosophy.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 09, 2020
John Davis
Freedom Virus
Vincent Emanuele
The New Normal: Cascading and Multilayered Crises
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie’s Last Tape
John O'Kane
Remove the Boomer Virus and What Virus Remains?
Kevin Bixby – Daryl T. Smith
The Border Wall Risks Us All
Nick Pemberton
Could COVID-19 Count Fox News Among Its Victims?
Howard Lisnoff
American Exceptionalism in the Face of Covid-19
Charles Pierson
We Are Living (And Dying) in Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”
Sam Husseini
Sanders Suspends: What Happened? What Now?
Binoy Kampmark
Banal Terrors: Pandemics and the Ordinary Business of War
Ted Rall
Why We Need a New Progressive Party and How We Can Create It
Walden Bello
Martin Khor: the Making of a Global Activist
Ariel Dorfman
COVID-19 and the Lessons of Life in Exile
Merriam Ansara
John Lennon in Quarantine: a Letter From Havana
George Wuerthner
Politics and Corruption at Grand Canyon
Eugene Schulman
Lost in the Pandemic: the Forever Wars
Dean Baker
Basic Economics for Economic Columnists: a Depression is a Process, Not an Event
George Ochenski
The Dishonest Mr. Daines
Mike Ferner
Love in a Dangerous Time
Brian Horejsi
Beware Government Secrecy in Times of Pandemic
Sam Pizzigati
No Fennel in the Sausage, No $600 for the Jobless
Jason Christensen – John Carter
Conservation Groups Oppose the Nature Conservancy’s Cattle Grazing Development Project on the Border of Canyonlands National Park
April 08, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic
Eve Ottenberg
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic
Bill Quigley
Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana
Joyce Nelson
BlackRock Takes Command
Geoff Dutton
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
Richard Moser
From Strike Wave to General Strike
Gary Leupp
Could COVID-19 Kill Capitalism?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Corona, Capital and Class in Germany
Tom Crofton
Aspirational vs Pragmatic: Why My Radicalness is Getting More Radical
Steve Kelly
Montana Ballot Access Decision Suppresses Green Party Voters
Jacob Hornberger
Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against the Pentagon
Phil Mattera
The Rap Sheets of the Big Ventilator Producers
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
Rick Baum
When “Moderate” Democrats Lead the Ticket and Win, Down-Ballot Candidates Soon Suffer Losses
Jake Johnston
Tens of Millions Will Be Pushed into Poverty Amid COVID-Induced Recession
Kim C. Domenico
Healthy and Unhealthy Fear in the Age of Coronavirus
John W. Whitehead
Draconian Lockdown Powers and Civil Liberties
Binoy Kampmark
University Bailouts, Funding and Coronavirus
Luke Ruediger
BLM Timber Sale Increases Fire Risk, Reduces Climate Resilience and Harms Recreation
John Kendall Hawkins
Slavoj Žižek’s Virulent Polemic Against Covid-19, and Stuff!
Nyla Ali Khan
Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail