Phil Graham on Wed, 1 Mar 2000 05:50:35 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> "I will determine who is pure, respectable and upstanding" - Haider

To be published on Tuesday, 02.15.2000, Multimedia, Vienna (newspaper of
the Austrian bishops' conference)

By Ruth Wodak

"I will determine who is pure, respectable and upstanding!"  How Jörg
Haider and the FPÖ see Austria's past, present and future.

Ruth Wodak
"Focus of research: discourse, politics and identity" at the Austrian
Academy of Science

In Austria, the tradition of exclusion goes back as far as Karl Lueger, who
set the standards for who was to be considered a Jew and who wasn't.
Today, it is Jörg Haider's role to decide who qualifies as a "pure,
respectable and upstanding" Austrian.  To legitimize such a classification,
he uses descriptive attributes that usually refer to socially accepted
actions, subjects and objects, based on "objective" criteria.  (It is
interesting to note that the term "objective" is probably the most
frequently used expression in the new ÖVP/ FPÖ platform - given this logic,
it would follow that Haider's statements would also be "objective").   Jörg
Haider uses terms like "pure, respectable" and "upstanding" especially in
contexts that are ideologically useful for him.  Such political rhetoric is
supposed to distinguish between the "acceptables" and the "undesirables"
(literally between the "good" and the  "bad" guys, A.) in our society.
Black-and-white strategies and the use of "pure" and "respectable" words
are part of its repertoire.  These strategies allow Haider to mediate
complex facts in an easily digestible message.  Through his talk, he
creates  "positive" In-groups and "negative" Out-groups, and lets everyone
know who  "we" are, and who the "others" are.  In a time of globalization,
great insecurity and uncertainty about the future, this strategy is
certainly effective and a familiar method of classical rhetoric.

So who are they - those "pure Austrians" (one cannot help noticing that the
word Österreicher (Austrian) refers only to male Austrians - does that mean
that there aren't any pure Austrian women?)  An election poster emblazoned
with Two Pure Austrians -- Jörg Haider and Thomas Prinzhorn -- gives us the
long awaited answer.  Pure Austrians are real men who speak the German
mother tongue, not some dark-skinned foreign guys.  And especially not
"bushmen" (literally bushniggers,  A.) as Haider likes to call them: "Where
will we be when any bushmen will have a chance to provide medical treatment
to our fellow Austrians?" (Haider speaking about a new medical law, Der
Standard, October 13, 1998).  Despite the fact that Haider attended summer
school at Harvard during in the last couple of years, he doesn't seem to
get that such enunciations violate human rights codes. Helen Partil-Pable
agrees with him: "Black Africans not only look different, (. . .) they are
different, as they are especially aggressive" (Tiroler Tageszeitung, May
20, 1999).  This is a classic example of prejudism that is based on
generalizations and unfounded allegations.
Here we get a clear definition of the first Out-group.  In addition, the
so-called Black Africans are accused of being drug dealers running around
in "designer suits and with mobile phones" (from one of the FPÖ's election
ads, Vienna, September 1999).   It is ironic that the party representatives
do not get the obvious contradiction when they speak of "bushmen" on the
one hand and "yuppies" on the other.   It seems that anything and
everything goes, as long as it brings in voters, who were characterized by
historian Lothar Höbelt in a panel discussion on January 23, 2000 as "gray
mice, without any sense of responsibility," that would show up as soon as
one whistles regardless of the time.  It also seems that the Austrian
passport is not sufficient enough for being a "pure" Austrian:  "The
expansion of the East and the fact that anyone can be naturalized after 6
years create the threat of a foreign infiltration.   I suggest that the
federal government wants to create a new voting population, because they
can no longer rely on the old one." (Haider in Die Presse, October 7,
1998).  Once a foreigner - always a foreigner . . . what a biologistic and
racist argument!  The terms "change of national allegiance" (Umvolkung) and
"foreign infiltration"(¥berfremdung) for example, which have been used by
NRABg Franz Lafer as early as 1998 (Neue Vorarlberger Tageszeitung July 10,
1998), were already used by Goebbels in 1933 and during the Nazi era.  In
September 1999, the slogan "Stop Foreign Infiltration," i.e. by "impure"
Austrians and "foreigners", was widely circulated by the FPÖ everywhere in
Vienna.  Here is an example from the FPÖ's election campaign in 1999: "We
have to defend ourselves against a too rapid Eastern expansion, because the
possible amount of immigrants would multiply and result in further foreign
infiltration."  Since 1989, aggression and fear of further immigration by
former Eastern block countries are inflamed by referencing this phenomenon
to natural disasters.   The xenophobic fear that foreigners would
proliferate faster than "pure" Austrians, was also enforced by the FPÖ's
top candidate at the National Assembly's election: "Foreigners and asylum
seekers have many advantages.  For example, in order to increase their
fertility they receive free medicine for hormone treatments from the Social
Welfare Office.  That is a privilege that is rarely granted to natives."
This is Prinzhorn's reason for his decision to grant the so-called
"pay-check for children" only to natives (interestingly enough, this
paycheck is no longer an issue in the government's program) [APA 0517 5 II
0259 AI].   Jörg Haider has since denied this statement on the German
television broadcast Talk in Berlin on February 5, 2000.  However, the ORF,
ZIB 2, was able to come up with the original statement on a video recording
on February 6, 2000.  Thus, the credibility of Haider seems once again to
be severely damaged.  However, this does not touch Haider.  After all, on
January 23, 2000, FPÖ member Lothar Höbelt claimed that politics doesn't
need ethics or morals!

Let's move to Austria's coming to terms with its NS-past, and Jörg Haider's
so-called "slips," which nicely portray his attitude and opinions
especially in emotionally loaded situations.  That is to say that other
than "pure" Austrians, there is a second rhetorically created In-group: the
"respectable" Austrian.  Like the former SS-Obersturmbahnführer Walter
Reder, who was sentenced to life in prison for the massacre of more than
1000 in Marzabotto.  In 1985, Reder was released early from prison.
Haider's commentary: "Because Walter was a soldier like any other.  He
carried out his duty, as he was obliged to by oath" (Kärntner Nachrichten,
February 14, 1985).  This logic puts Reder on one level with many soldiers
of the Wehrmacht that were not responsible for such crimes.  These are
typical strategies of belittlement and denial that have often been used for
the justification of national socialists' crimes.  Haider knows other
"respectable" men: "This is why I believe that it is necessary to establish
a counter balance.  Otherwise we would end up in a world reigned by chaos.
You have fought and risked your lives so that the next generation of our
children will have a future within a community, in which order, fairness
and respectability are still sound principles. (. . .) Because the only
valid argument (in opposition to a meeting of Waffen-SS veterans, Author)
is that one is upset about the fact that there are still people with
character in this world, who stand up to their convictions even in the
toughest storm, and who have remained true to their beliefs to this day."
(Address in Krumpendorf/ Kärnten 1995, FPÖ's quick-info, series 30/96,
p.10ff).  For him, the future belongs to those "respectable" men - again a
statement that is full of rhetorical catchwords.   So this is a model
Haider imagines for the youth!

Haider's implicit conception of history has been scrutinized in Profil,
August 21, 1995:
Haider:  "I have said that the Wehrmacht's soldiers have made democracy in
its existing form in Europe possible.  If they would have resisted, if they
wouldn't have been in the East, if they would have not conducted military
campaigns, we would have . . ."
Profil: "What does that mean 'resisted' . . . after all, it was a war of
conquest of the German Wehrmacht."
Haider: "Well, then we have to ask what really happened."

And what did "really" happen? More defensive strategies are added to those
already mentioned above: distortion, re-definition, the offsetting of old
myths and the creation of new ones.  The result is that an ultimate history
is proposed and rewritten as being the authentic one, the one that many
veterans agree with. This Haider version of history is also welcomed by
some of the so-called "future generations" (as Haider often likes to call
himself).  This version of history allows the maintenance of the victim
myth, which has shaped Austria for such a long time.   This perception of
history includes the practice of equating.  When asked, who the biggest
criminals (thus "unrespectable" people) of the 20th century were, Haider
equates Hitler and Stalin with Churchill.  He didn't he take into account
who represented what ideology in which system of government, what the
consequences and results were, nor who the aggressors and the defendants
were.    The victims, too, were equated:

Profil:  "Do you consider the Nazi dictatorship a dictatorship like any
Haider:  "I believe that one should not make gradual distinctions when
talking about totalitarian systems.  One should reject them altogether….
There was an era of military conflicts in which our fathers were involved.
At the same time, there were operations occurring within the framework of
the Nazi regime that cannot be accepted.  But no family members of mine
were involved in the latter."

Profil: "Do I understand you correctly? 'Operations'? What exactly do you
call 'operations'? "
Haider: "Oh well, activities and measurements against parts of the
population which were blatant human rights violations."
Profil: "Do you have any problems calling it genocide or mass murder?
Haider: "If you like, then it was mass murder."

This sequence illustrates impressively, how vague semantics and euphemisms
(concealements or exaggerations) are used to conceal the Holocaust.  It
also seems to be difficult for Haider to talk about Jews, Roma, Sinti and
other victims of persecution.  It is therefore not surprising that so far
there have not been any actions on offers of restitution for these
populations.  Even though the new government had promised such offers and
had included them into an early draft of their political program, Jewish
victims and possible reparations were not mentioned.  Those mentioned are
merely "Old Austrians" (a German nationalistic term), Sudeten Germans,
victims of forced labor, but no Jews.  Haider's equation obviously serves
as a base, as seen in an ORF interview, ZIB 2, September 09, 1998:

Haider: "Well, it simply is a problem, and I would like to say that we have
to find out whether two different measurements are being applied here.  If
Jewish emigrants are making claims, then there will be endless reparations.
 If the Sudeten Germans ask the Austrian government to demand reparations
in their name from the Czech authorities, it will be said that this part of
history needs to be considered finished. (. . .) One cannot treat equal
things unequally."
ORF: "Do you really consider this to be the same?"
Haider: "(. . . ) I don't want to be the judge on which matter was worse (.
. .)"
ORF: "Let's go back to your starting point.  You treat the fate of the
Sudeten Germans the same as the injustice that was done to the Jews?"
 Haider: "Of course, because I refuse to accept that human rights
violations are being quantified."

It must be truly difficult to quantify 6 Million people. . .!   Besides
this equation and distortion the question remains why the Austrian
government should represent the Sudeten Germans at all?  If this were the
case, what government would represent the Jews?  It is individuals,
sometimes represented by their attorneys,  which make the claims!  In the
Freiheitlicher Gemeindekurier series 565/1998, Haider was also of the
opinion that the established historians' commission had not been assembled
correctly.  Maybe some "unrespectable" people are among them?

"After 53 years, there are still applications for reparations.  Mr. Simon
Wiesenthal reserves the right for himself to nominate a foreigner for a
commission, and the president of that commission himself, Clemens Jabloner,
said in Profil Nr. 41 that he is from a Jewish family and member of the
Israeli religious community.   This is where I question the credibility of
this "independent" commission, because, as a matter of fact, Austria's
Jewish population is exceptionally represented in high governmental and
private positions, and in banks.  But as soon as one talks like that one is
considered a 'racist' and intimidating."

So according to the FPÖ, 53 years is too long after the fact to ask for
reparations.  However, only in the case of the Jews.  Haider's address of
Simon Wiesenthal as "Mr." is a purposely chosen linguistic degradation.
Foreigners should have nothing to say, even if they are prominent and
well-known experts, who could guarantee their independence better than
anyone else!  And finally, Dr. Jabloner, a lawyer,  is accused of not being
able to judge objectively, which implies the call for "pure" Austrians as
they have been described above.  In addition, Haider employs the myth of
the "rich" and "powerful" Jew (which hints at the world - conspiracy
topos).  He forgets or keeps it a secret that a population of 10.000 Jews
in Austria is still a minority.  Anti-Semitic utterances are made
explicitly to devaluate the work of the historians' commission.
For Haider, some are allowed to speak their mind, some aren't: "The
Holocaust serves as a "cash cow", a method of manipulating interests with
high moral standards." (Neue Freie Zeitung, Nr. 36, September 2,1998).
Here, underworld terms from gangsters and criminals are rhetorically used
to describe rightful claims of dispelled and persecuted people.

A short note on "respectable" people and objects.  Because pure and
respectable Austrians do respectable things: "In the Third Reich, they had
good politics to keep people occupied, not even the government in Vienna
can do that." (Kärntner Landestag, June 13, 1991).  This respectable
occupation of people, which is described here in such positive terms,
served, as we all know, to prepare for a war of extermination.  After
having said that, Jörg Haider had to resign as head of the Kärnten
government.  But he has returned. . .  The Austrian memory is short-lived.
And that is why Jörg Haider will once more be able to decide who the "pure,
respectable and respectable" Austrians are!

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: