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German Journalist Wades Into Online War Over Refugees

AUG. 7, 2015

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    German TV Anchor Denounces Online Hate

    In a commentary broadcast on public television in Germany, Anja Reschke, a journalist, blamed a recent spate of “hateful Internet tirades” for inciting real-world violence against foreigners.

    By ARD on Publish Date August 7, 2015. Watch in Times Video »


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    Given two minutes to air her views on Germany’s response to the refugee crisis in Europe during a newscast on Wednesday night, Anja Reschke, a respected broadcaster, blamed a recent spate of what she called “hateful Internet tirades” for inciting real-world violence against foreigners, and she called on the public to speak up in favor of “decency.”

    “If I now publicly say, ‘I think Germany should take in economic refugees,’ what do you think would happen?” Ms. Reschke asked at the start of her commentary. “It is just an opinion that can be expressed and it would be good if there would be a factual discussion of the issue. But that would not happen. I would receive a flood of hateful comments: ‘Shoot them.’ ‘How many more will we welcome?’ ‘They should get lost.’ ‘They should be burned’ and the like.”

    “Until recently,” she continued, such commentators on social media platforms like Facebook “hid behind pseudonyms, but now these comments are increasingly being published under their writers’ real names.”

    “Apparently it’s no longer embarrassing — on the contrary, phrases like ‘filthy vermin should drown in the sea,’ garner praise and lot of likes,” she said. “If until then you had been just an insignificant racist, you suddenly feel great.”

    Ms. Reschke added that “these are not just words — arson attacks on refugee centers are a reality.”

    She went on to suggest that the prosecution of “Facebook rabble-rousers,” while a step in the right direction, was not enough. “These haters have to understand that society will not tolerate this,” she said. “So, if you are not of the opinion that all refugees are freeloaders who should be hunted down, burned or gassed, then you should make it very clearly known. Speak up against it.”

    Ms. Reschke ended by calling for a public demonstration in favor of “decency,” and told viewers that she was looking forward to “your comments on this commentary.”

    She was not disappointed, as more than five million people watched a video of her remarks posted on Facebook in the first 48 hours after the broadcast, generating thousands of comments, both for and against, and more than 130,000 likes.

    On Twitter, as The Guardian’s Berlin correspondent, Kate Connolly, reported, the replies to Ms. Reschke included outrage from a German-speaker who claimed to be living in England and wrote that it was “Better to be a Nazi in the street than a foreign social parasite.”

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    @tagesthemen Lieber ein Nazi in der Strasse als ein Ausländischen Sozialschmarotzer.

    — DER GERMANE ☛ #DR ☚ (@Der_GERMANE) Aug. 5, 2015

    The same blogger later complained that Germany granted freedom of speech only to those who agreed with the mainstream consensus, branding dissidents as Nazis.

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    Meinungsfreiheit für alle, solange man mit den Strom schwimmt. Ansonsten ist man ein Nazi!

    — DER GERMANE ☛ #DR ☚ (@Der_GERMANE) Aug. 6, 2015

    That criticism, however, seemed vastly outweighed by an outpouring of support for Ms. Reschke on the social network.

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    #Migration: Excellent, I subscribe. If #Germany only had a government saying such things. Thank you @AnjaReschke1. http://t.co/xxuFqE7M0Z.

    — christoph vogel (@ethuin) Aug. 6, 2015
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    Danke @AnjaReschke1! https://t.co/kSlg238x1Z

    — Martin Schäfer (@mackflei) Aug. 5, 2015

    “@the_anke: Really proud of the way @AnjaReschke1 has become a global media hero http://t.co/sbJCjEyMSL”<< me too!

    — anke domscheit-berg (@anked) Aug. 7, 2015


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