One of the most critical problems of modern politics is the ultimate burial of the idea of rational politics and its replacement with an emotional and ideological policy that has turned out to be a trap. The ongoing refugee crisis is a clear illustration of this process.
No legal basis
The reliable analysis of facts, the implementation of far-reaching goals and a non-emotional picture of circumstances have long ceased to be a value for politicians. It has long been known that a politician has to emotionally impact the citizens in order to win.
Something has changed in front of our eyes, however.
In the classic scheme – the decision was made first, weighing the arguments, and then it was decided how to best pass it on to the public so that they would embrace it. In September 2015, Angela Merkel did the opposite – first she made an emotional decision to open the borders, and later she tried to find real arguments for it. In this case, even the appearance of the constitutional legality was not considered.
Disregarding the facts and the sentimental attitude have become the cause of the current crisis of the entire EU.
First, the journalists of “Der Spiegel” learned that in the archives of the Chancellor’s office there are no documents regarding decisions to open the borders in September 2015, and later the analysis office of the German parliament admitted that the decision of the German chancellor was unlawful. In the parliamentary democracy, the order to open borders should find its legitimacy in the Bundestag. According to the asylum regulations, only those who come directly from a country that can not be considered safe are entitled to stay in Germany. Angela Merkel was apparently aware of this because when she was asked about the decision at the time, she admitted that closing the borders and protecting them would undermine the prestige of Germany.
In a word, instead of being guided by the law, the chancellor decided that it was better to follow the voice of emotion and not give a pretext to left-wing media for accusations of a neo-colonial lack of heart.
Instead of arguments – intrusive propaganda
In July 2017, a report titled “Refugee crisis in the media”, developed by a media scholar Michael Haller from the University of Leipzig echoed across Germany. The research included mainly press articles, which had appeared in the pages of the four largest German newspapers – “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ), “Die Welt” and “Bild”. The most significant findings in the report are as follows:
- the media accused anyone who opposed the government’s immigration policy of xenophobia;
- only 6 per cent of the articles examined the problem of immigration more thoroughly;
- less than 4 per cent of the texts presented the experiences of people working directly with asylum seekers and immigrants;
- experts dealing with the cultural background of newcomers expressed their opinions in one out of one hundred texts;
- 43 per cent of the politicians quoted in the media represented government circles;
- the politicians of the Green party expressed their opinions about the immigration crisis twice as often as the other representatives on the left;
- the views of AfD representatives did not appear almost at all in the press.
The author of the study found that in the face of the crisis the German media behaved like a moralizer and educator. “Sentimental idealism” towered over facts. The media became the propaganda tube of the government, disregarding the obligation to report events in a distanced manner. A lack of criticism, a moralistic tone and an imposition of a “hospitality culture” (Willkomenskultur) on the public, largely dominated the German media discourse up until mid-2017.
Today the matter is a bit more complicated: the German public, confronted with reality, perceives the “facts” presented by media differently. The pressure seems so high that the prestige of Chancellor Merkel is the song of the past, and the government in Berlin is experiencing its greatest crisis. Recent opinion polls show that 57 per cent of Germans are opposed to the government’s immigration policy, while 86 per cent are demanding the expulsion of the immigrants who were refused refugee status.
The sentimental policy based on building a “proper” image was meant to strengthen the prestige of Germany, and in practice led to a deep division not only on the national political scene but also in the European Union. Disregarding the facts and the sentimental attitude have become the cause of the current crisis of the entire EU.
If you take a closer look at the actions of politicians, the media that were promoting the open door policy, as well as at the actions of the immigrants themselves, we find many mechanisms characteristic of emotional blackmail. Psychological literature distinguishes four types of emotional blackmail:
The “Prosecutor” – clearly sets the requirements and threatens with punishment, many EU politicians proceed with this method. The “prosecutor,” says: ‘if you do not accept immigrants, we will cut off your funds’. Everything, of course, in the name of enigmatic “solidarity.”
Another model of emotional blackmail is known as the “flagellater”, who presents himself as a victim of a combination of unfavourable circumstances and threatens to punish himself. This model contains the statements of those who perceive the immigration wave as a historical necessity, which is unavoidable and sees the refusal to accept immigrants by other European countries as the reason for the forthcoming disintegration of the European community. We can also categorise the “flagellater” as those immigrants who threatened to throw their children into the sea if Italy would not allow them into their territory.
The most widespread type of an emotional blackmailer is the “sufferer” who doesn’t threaten, does not pose any ultimatum, however, accuses others of his misery. This manipulation on a large scale was used by those who published the famous photo of a boy whose body was upon the shores of the sea. Later it turned out that the boy’s father organised the journey himself and he turned the boat on which his family was sailing; besides, he did not flee directly before the war, but he risked the family’s life to improve his material situation in Europe. The manipulation of the “sufferer” is primarily applied by those immigrants who cynically exploit the drama of Syrians and juvenile refugees. Many immigrants pretend to be either a minor or a victim of war. Meanwhile, it has been known since 2015 that only every fifth immigrant is a Syrian fleeing from the war.
The last type of emotional blackmailer is the “tempter”. In return for fulfilling expectations, he promises rewards. Chancellor Merkel took on this role, promising, on the one hand, economic benefits to her own society, and on the other, absolution from the trauma of Nazism. The Germans, using the slogan “We can do it” (“Wir schaffen das!“) can now show everyone their moral superiority.
The Polish original: Polityka kanclerz Niemiec: emocje ponad racjami