Against Slander and Insult – We Need Strategic Concepts to Strengthen an Open and Respectful Discussion and Conflict Culture.

(By: Heinz-Jürgen Voß, first published at: dasendedessex, translation: Antje Dieterich)

[A short background information at the bottom by: Antje Dieterich]

Some days ago, I released an appeal for solidarity for a collegue of mine, who was insulted in such a drastic manner I could not have imagined just some years ago. Now, I am getting the answer. The right-wing author Akif Pirinçci is now attacking me too, with slander and crude insults.

For some years now, I have recognized that conservative and radical right-wing writers are completely loosing their inhibitions and attacking differently minded people verbally in an extraordinarily violent manner. Starting point was the writing of Thilo Sarazin, a right-wing author and member of the Social Democratic Party in Germany. Writings by him, Pirinçci, and others had and continue to have a negative impact on the social climate, ultimately producing an air of aggression.

From a denigrating hate speech, supplemented by some willing commentators who then debate physical attacks as a strategy, to actual physical violence is just a short step – it is just a question of time.

Debate and discourse always affect the social interaction in society. Therefore, whoever cares about a democratic society that respects its basic constitutional rights must now stand up. What we face at this moment is the eroding of political conflict culture which is sabotaging the very basis of our democratic social order and – at the very end – will be its destruction.

Aside from the debates about the content – which exist between different groups in society as well as academic ‘schools’ and directions – the shared goal has to be that dispute and negotiation remain possible. This is what we have to work for in solidarity – in society as well as in academia. Slander and hate speech take away our possibility to debate, reflect, and dispute in a fruitful manner.

In a time in which conservative and right-wing populist forces gain more and more support – this is what elections and surveys show us – we have to work on concrete structures to actively oppose such tendencies. The goal has to be that no one is left alone to face any slander or the frequently consequential e-mails and blog entries containing very violent threats.

Starting Point:

Give support to those who are attacked! If there is a broad solidarity, attacking or mobbing does not work. Therefore with our solidarity we avoid an individualization in conflicts about policy directions and attacks against one differently-minded person after the other.

Create academic structures that make such a solidarity possible! The number of attacks is growing against contributions out of the fields of sociology, sexology, and the broader fields of social science. We do not have structures to reject these attacks and demand a reasonable public discussion. Therefore, we have to develop structures in social as well as academic organizations that are capable to reject attacks, insults, and slander quickly.

– Aside from solidarity beyond conflicts of content, we should work on concepts to develop an open and positive conflict culture, where academic as well as social debates function in a way that does respect the individual, fundamental rights of each participant of the debate.

For the time being I appreciate a show of solidarity. But that cannot be enough — we need to work on strategic concepts.

Background: The actual conflict this article refers to started in July 2014, when the mentioned author Akif Pirinçci, publicly insulted the professor and writer, Elisabeth Tuider, who works on questions of diversitiy and intersectionality focusing on gender. On his facebook page, Pirinçci posted a photo of Prof. Tuider insulting her personally. In the following hours the comments by his fans went quickly from an expression of disgust to demanding the professor be killed. But the described situation is just an example for a broader tendency that takes place in the discussion culture. Akif Pirinçci, Thilo Sarrazin, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter — we can see and hear a coarsening of debate-culture on the right side of the political spectrum. A debate about our reaction on this tendency starts at this point.

One thought on “Against Slander and Insult – We Need Strategic Concepts to Strengthen an Open and Respectful Discussion and Conflict Culture.

  1. Pingback: Does Mean Politicking Work? | jbromcom

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