Thursday, March 26, 2009

THEM OR US - the next scandal

At the end of last month I wrote a post about the problems Karl Nagel was facing with the first issue of his new comic magazine DIE ODER WIR because a lot of newsstands refused to put it on display. The main reason was the cover that showed a student pointing a gun at a teacher.

At that time I wrote : Okay, not the most tame cover image but I have seen worse on some comics or magazines. It is a current topic and where will this all end when we can´t even treat these subjects ? Ignoring it won´t help to solve the problem. Maybe Germany only wants comics that are afraid to stick the finger where it hurts.

Well, at that time I didn´t know how important this topic would become. For all those who don´t know on March the 11th 17 year old Tim K. went to his former school the Albertville - Realschule in Winnenden wearing black combat gear and carrying his father´s beretta and 200 bullets of ammunition. Three hours later he shot himself after killing 15 people.

So of course the media was all over this turning it into the usual media circus. Newspapers seemed to have a competition going on about who could come up with the bloddthirstiest headline, there were constant updates on the tv news with specials and all kind of discussions. The paparazzis were out of control and in one case even tried to get pictures of the bodies right at the funeral home. Naturally everybody was using this for his own agenda and politicians were no exception.

This is not the first time something like this has happened in Germany and like usual nobody is really interested in finding the real reasons behind it. All politicians want is a scapegoat to pin this on, some new laws and good publicity to get re - elected. The first thing they always go for are the internet, killer games on the consoles and of course violent movies.

The fact that we have increasing cases of students going on a killing spree the more censorship we put on comics, games and movies is of course ignored by everybody. Germany is one of the countries with the most censorship and still they want more. But like I said nobody wants to really solve the problems. Just find something you can pin it on, make a name for yourself and then forget about it.

And one of the targets of these new witchhunts is sadly DIE ODER WIR. Even before this happened there was an open investigation against the magazine but now it could land on the index for youth endangering reading material. Doesn´t sound so bad. The youth should be protected. The only problem is that in this case youth means from the age of zero to 100 and beyond. Because once a magazine or comic is on the index the restrictions also apply to adults.

Because in Germany the law acts from the principle that it also has to be forbidden for adults because youths could get it from them - don´t ask me how. So the index for youth endangering reading material is in reality the index of stuff the german government doesn´t want its citizens to read. But by saying it´s endangering to youths it sounds like they are providing a service for the society instead of taking away the civil rights of their citizens.

And in this light the first issue of DIE ODER WIR is in the news again because the german magazine DER SPIEGEL ( the mirror ) published an online article that glorified the illegal refusal of the distributors to distribute and to display the magazine as an act of heroism. There´s an old saying that any publicity is good publicity but I´m not so sure if that´s true in this case. For all my readers who have problems reading german here´s a translation of the article from SPIEGEL online :

Killing Spree comic leads to controversy

by Christian Fuchs

Because of the catastrophe of Winnenden a media dispute has become up to date : the press distributors refuse to distribute a violence - comic. Is the sanction justified or a case of censorship ? After all it´s a teacher and not a student who goes on a rampage in the comic.

Do bloody video games or splatter - comics influence young people´s readiness for violence ? After the killing spree of Winnenden there are new discussions about this. If the answer is yes then a sanction of the magazine distributores seems almost prophetic.

At the end of February the magazine distributors enacted a boycott of the comic magazine DIE ODER WIR refusing to display the comic. An internal investigation through an attorney´s office from Munich had the result that the magazine was classified as " not apt for free delivery ". Lawyer Karl Ulrich Witte deemed the " excessive depiction of violence " in one of the stories in the comic as " strongly endangering to youths ".

In the comic " Enough for Today " a teacher is going on a killing spree for twelve pages in the Berthold - Brecht - University because of the constant mobbing by his colleagues. The story reminds us of the school massaker of Erfurt that took place seven years ago - and now again of Winnenden.

The magazine distributor´s boycott was almost a nationwide sales stop because all 58 magazine wholesale companies in Germany followed the advice to not deliver the comic to newsstands and supermarkets.

Plagued by controversy

The distribution - stop was risky because the magazine had not been officially indexed ( sorry, there´s no better word in the english language - I wonder why ) by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons in Bonn. Until Friday of last week there has been no request for indexing. The German Journalist Organisation ( Deutscher Journalisten Verband DJV ) critizised the distributors for their conduct. Economic associations are not allowed to make decisions about the content. Hendrik Zörner from the DJV called this " a form of censorship ".

Part of the print run had to be destroyed. Meanwhile the publisher from Hamburg Karl Nagel offers the comic as a download via his website for 99 cents and renounces accusations that his comic is a blueprint for violence : " Then you could take The Sorrows of young Werther ( famous book by german author Goethe about a young man´s suicide ) as an incitement to suicide. " says Nagel.

The authors were not interested in the killing spree but rather in the intellectual exercise : what would happen if there was a teacher under the mask instead of a student ? " Because of that our story is not suitable as an example for students because here it´s the teacher who goes on a rampage. " Since last week the disrtict attorney´s office of Bremen investigates because of suspicion of glorification of violence against Nagel.

The magazine distributors were already critiqued in 2004 for distributing the art magazine " Steinstrasse 11 " with a restricted sale recommendation because of pornographic parodies of Donald Duck.

  • the original german version of the article

  • And that´s all for today. I could go on and on but I´m not so sure if a discussion about the real problems young students face today is really that interesting for my readers. Next on this blog : another round of my popular solicitation monologues. I want to increase the post frequency although I was pretty good the last few days. I mean I didn´t post on Tuesday and Wednesday but I did two posts on Monday and one of them was really long. So an average of 4 posts in 5 days is not so bad.

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