January 12, 2009

Easy, Cheap, Effective and Absolutely Nonhazardous Redux

We reported that the police chief of the Bavarian town of Passau, Alois Mannichl, had become the victim of a stabbing on December 13. Mannichl was released from hospital before Christmas. He said he had been stabbed at his front door by a man who vaguely fit the description of a neo-nazi. A neighbourhood witness had stated she’d seen a man with a snake tattooed behind his ear. His attacker, Mannichl claimed, had said something along the lines of "Greetings from the national resistance" and "You leftist pig cop, you won't trample on the graves of our comrades anymore".
The entire German media have their collective knickers in one big knot because the police chief of the Bavarian town of Passau became the victim of a stabbing on Saturday night. Local right-wing extremists are suspected because the police chief was known for taking a hard line in tackling them, as one does in Germany.
Mannichl, 52, ... was stabbed after opening his front door to a bald man who launched into a torrent of abuse, calling him a "left-wing police pig" and declaring "greetings from the national resistance movement" before ramming an 11-centimeter (4.3 inch) blade into his stomach.
Everybody is outraged. Outraged! With all the cheap and foreseeable standard reactions, from a rally of more than 300 people "against far-right violence" on Monday afternoon via the predictable calls "for a crackdown on neo-Nazis and tougher sentences for far-right offenders" to the Bavarian interior minister's original statement that "the assault showed that far-right violence had reached a new dimension".

Two men from the right-wing scene were quickly arrested but had to be released soon. No other suspects have been found yet.

The Neo-Nazi party NPD, who was able to clock up a whopping 1.2% at the elections for the Bavarian state parliament last September, issued a statement on its website condemning what they called the "insidious attack on the father of two children" and "Whoever pulled the knife on the Passau police chief has done a major disservice not just to the NPD, but to the entire national resistance movement", which is true.
Now it expired that it was probably not quite so. In cases like this, it is common (and good) police practice to work from the inside out and family members are usually the first to be investigated. However, the Passau police, we can safely assume overawed by their chief's involvement, did nothing of that sort. Instead, they began immediately looking for "right-wing extremist suspects". Arrests that were, as usual in such cases, quickly made, led to nothing. In the meantime, external investigators found discrepancies in Mannichl’s claim and are thinking now in the direction of a relationship-related crime.
First, the police chief – the only witness to the crime – was able to provide only a vague description of his attacker who he said was about 6 feet tall with a round face with a shaved head, the paper said. A neighbourhood witness said she’d seen a man with a snake tattooed behind his ear and possibly a cross on his face. But investigators told the paper they can't find men to fit either description and that the witness' information may be unreliable.

"When someone with a tattoo like that commits a crime, it’s as if a bank robber put an identification card on his chest and marches into a bank," one said. "You recognise people like this."

Meanwhile, police in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic have combed through their records of documented neo-Nazis to no avail.

Another questionable element to Mannichl’s account of the crime is that the knife came from his own home and had been used to cut cake at a neighbour’s party a few days before. But investigators have not yet found traces of cake, foreign DNA or evidence that the stabber was wearing gloves, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
Whatever may be behind the case of Alois Mannichl, it is eerily reminiscent of only too many cases which have one thing in common: the cheap and easy scapegoating of "right wing extremists". Here are a couple which I remember and which I am quoting from memory and in no specific order:

In June 1997 in the little town of Sebnitz in Saxony, "racist" youths with contacts to the right-wing extremist scene were charged with the drowning of a six-year-old boy in a public swimming pool. The mother had bought witnesses and sold her story to the tabloid shitrag Bild, which painted an amazing picture of 50 sadists torturing the little boy publicly to death. Public "outrage", "dismay" and "shock" was at an formerly unknown high, supported by the fact that the child's father was Iraqi, which added "racism" to general nastiness. It expired in the end that the the little guy had suffered from a heart disease, that the mother had let him go swimming nevertheless, attended only by his older sister, and that he had died from heart failure.

A "migration" background generally helps to reach victim status. In December 2002, the 14-year-old daughter of a Cuban immigrant turned up in at a police station in Guben in Brandenburg because "neo-nazis" had cut a swastika to her cheek and called her "nigger". At first, are we amazed, she was believed. Than it turned out that she had mutilated herself. Neo-nazis had, indeed, in Guben hunted and killed an African immigrant, so that the probability that the claim would receive attention was very high.

1994, in Halle a.d. Saale, a wheelchair-bound (a physical handicap generally helps to reach victim status as well) girl had made a similar claim, just without the "nigger" bit. Thousands rallied against "right-wing violence". This, too, had turned out to be a lie.

In Mittweida in Saxony, a girl had claimed in 2007 that skinheads had cut a swastika to her hip (!). The 17-year old stated that was because she had tried to protect a little Russian girl they were attacking. Collective outrage and dismay ran rampant, the obligatory candlelight vigils and rallies were duly performed. Then is expired that the girl had made it all up and that the injury was self-inflicted. A "civil courage" award from the "Bündnis für Demokratie und Toleranz" she got in 2008 nevertheless.

We have reported at length about the case of the black immigrant from Africa who had been severely injured in a drunken brawl in Potsdam near Berlin on Easter 2007, a case that had blasted even the scope of former "outrage"- and "dismay"-orgies. The alleged perpetrators, who had been blindfolded, shakled, handcuffed and helicoptered contra legem to the federal persecutor in Karlsruhe although the case was outside his competence, had to be released after a lengthy trial because they had nothing to do with the victim's fate. They weren't even neo-nazis. They just had the bad luck to LOOK like "neo-nazis".

Some of the incidents are still sold as cases of "right-wing extremist violence" in the Internet. People need legends, specifically legends of their own goodness. However, the attitude "they may not have done this, but they deserve what they are getting anyway because they are nazis" is not quite as highly ethical as the proponents would like to see it, and that all this is sold as "civil courage" (which implies by definition that it is dangerous) is sickening beyond belief in its hypocrisy. Those incidents are, pre-debunking, often quoted as "touch-stones for our democracy", which only proves what our democracy is worth.