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German journalist Matthias Matussek speaks to Dieter Stein at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Screenshot from YouTube

The Frankfurt Book Fair has become a one-sided affair

The management of the Frankfurt Book Fair, with its 7 000 exhibitors, is currently focusing its energy on fighting dissident voices - those voices they happen to disagree with politically.

Published: October 17, 2019, 8:37 am


    Last year, Juergen Boos, director of the German fair, defended the idea that a ghetto-like impasse was being built for conservative publishers in order to isolate it demonstratively in the far corner of a hall “for security reasons”.

    The exclusion was quite critical. Patrick Bahners called the alley a “walk-in poison cabinet” in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, whose “discriminating intent” was obvious. Focus editor Helmut Markwort called the procedure “strikingly unfair and an affront to freedom of expression”.

    Berlin publisher Junge Freiheit registered for the fair under protest and with the condition that this impasse would not be repeated. Until recently, the exhibition management had kept silent – but now Boos is boasting in an embarrassing statement that “the usual suspects”, four “rightwing” publishers, will again be housed in a dead end to isolate them.

    This measure was “primarily due to safety”. But the threat to security does not emanate from the “rightwing” publishers, but from violent leftwing activists. This fact is however is concealed.

    The biggest book fair in the world has embarrassed itself once again and with their arrogance the management has passed on a great opportunity to break up an increasingly hardened discourse, especially in the light of the notion of a “divided society”.

    Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communist totalitarianism, the question of freedom of expression and democracy is clearer than ever. It is therefore not surprising that the irritation over obvious interference in freedom of expression and unfair treatment of opposition groups or parties in the former GDR and in Central and Eastern Europe is especially great.

    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) called for a wider debate on the occasion of the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair. It was high time “that we discuss, contradict, think out of the box and even argue. That we come out of our consensus comfort zone. Because it is nothing else than a bubble, ” said Maas. The book fair is a good place to talk about it, he said.

    Maas ended his speech with a passionate plea for a free debate: “Get out of the bubble! Let’s fight about the right way – with each other, not against each other! If we accept contradiction – no, we have the courage to even promote it! To contradict has nothing reprehensible! By the way, not finding any compromises. That may be exhausting, uncomfortable and annoying. But this is the only way to create the necessary meeting space.”

    Previously, the board of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Heinrich Riethmüller, emphasized that the book fair was “a place of freedom of expression and freedom of the press”.

    But their lofty claims are contradicted by the actual treatment that several rightwing publishers received, including Manuscriptum Verlag and Antaois Verlag from Schnellroda.

    Not only at the Book Fair, but also at the University of Hamburg conservative voices were being silenced. Violent protests against the former AfD spokesman Bernd Lucke forced him to cancel his inaugural lecture. Shortly after starting his speech, he was harassed and even physically attacked by numerous disturbers, German daily Die Welt reported.

    At the beginning of the lecture, protesting students chanted “Nazi swines out of the university”. Members of the left-wing extremists Antifa and the initiative “Grannies against Right” occupied the podium and prevented an orderly event. Lucke then left the stage and took a seat in the audience. There he was pelted with rubbish.

    He left the campus under police protection after the ongoing protests.

    The chairman of the AfD parliamentary group in Hamburg’s city council, Dirk Nockemann, told Junge Freiheit: “This incident is unworthy of Hamburg as a location for science. That this is possible in our supposedly tolerant and cosmopolitan Hanseatic city, is very shameful and makes one angry.”

    Nockemann, who is also spokesman for science policy of the AfD, called on the Senate and the university management to ensure Lucke’s safety.

    Lucke, as co-founder of the AfD, was accused of sharing responsibility for today’s social upheavals in the country by the leftists. Lucke was a lecturer at the university before he joined the European Parliament in 2014. He was one of the co-founders of the AfD in 2013. In 2015 he left the party because of policy disputes.

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