Commentary seehofer and chemnitz: suddenly so silent

Horst Seehofer likes to call a spade a spade. In the case of the neo-Nazi protests in Chemnitz, however, he remains tight-lipped – what’s up with that?

Seehofer’s very first sentence makes it clear how little he wants to talk about this topic Photo: ap

On Tuesday afternoon, Horst Seehofer finally had a message sent out. For Bayerischer Rundfunk, that was enough to conclude that Seehofer had "sharply criticized" the violent excesses in Chemnitz. But he hadn’t. He had merely published nine sentences in which not once did terms like "right-wing violence," "neo-Nazis" or "racist" appear.

They are a few ridiculous lines from a federal interior minister, the supreme guardian of order in this country. A few ridiculous lines about the most serious riots, about neo-Nazis who hunted down people, about a pogrom, about a violent mob that was able to claim the streets of Chemnitz for itself two evenings in a row, about a state that at least temporarily allowed itself to be deprived of its monopoly on the use of force.

Seehofer’s statement already starts with a sentence that makes it clear how little desire he has to address this issue: "Government spokesman Steffen Seibert already commented on the incidents in Chemnitz yesterday." What an entree! It translates as: What do you want from me now?!

Well, for example, a crisp statement like usual. Seehofer doesn’t usually have any problems with that. On the contrary. In 2016, for example, he called the opening of the border a "reign of injustice. Without evidence. Until then, no court had found that Angela Merkel or the German government had broken the law in the fall of 2015. There was no committee of inquiry. Nothing. But if you have the chance as a CSU boss and Bavarian Minister President to just knock one out, then you don’t let some factual nonsense take it away from you! Here I, the strong Law & Order Horst – there she, the weak Angela. Message arrived?

It is a non-statement

This summer, Andreas Vobkuhle, the president of the Federal Constitutional Court, denounced Seehofer’s statement as "unacceptable rhetoric." "She wants to evoke associations with the Nazi unjust state, which are completely absurd." Seehofer, of course, did not let that stand. He hit back: Vobkuhle should "not be the language police." Here I, the I-break-the-heart-of-the-proudest-taboos-Horst, there he, the judge-stay-before-your-hammer-Andreas. Everything clear?

Seehofer likes to cast himself as the man who won’t let anyone tell him to shut up – even if it doesn’t suit political correctness Germany. Just because the AfD has taken up an issue doesn’t mean that the CSU can’t go one better. Putting the government at risk because of a few border controls on the Bavarian-Austrian border? No problem for Seehofer. A little cuddling with Viktor Orban? Always. The message: I’m the maverick of the established party system. I say what moves people. Clear words. Clear messages.

Horst Seehofer, Federal Minister of the Interior.

"I deeply regret this death. The consternation of the population about this is understandable."

And now this. Seehofer’s statement recalls Donald Trump’s remarks after the far-right protests in Charlottesville just over a year ago, which culminated in the killing of a counter-demonstrator. Trump said at the time that he had seen "decent people on both sides." He was relativizing more than condemning.

Seehofer actually went out of his way to accommodate the rabble-rousing, inflammatory people, conceded that their dismay was understandable, and then followed it up with the platitude that, of course, that doesn’t justify violence.

It is a non-statement. Because what justifies violence or even violent riots? Exactly.

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