Corona and intelligence. The intellectuals’ withdrawal from the debate

By Uli Gellermann.

Recently on a working day in Berlin: A strong demonstration in the morning, a strong rally in the afternoon, both on the subject of basic rights and corona. Even for a big city like Berlin, two well-attended rallies on the same topic on one day are rather rare. The participants came from almost all social classes of the population. For weeks there have been information booths on the topic and again and again spontaneous actions. A similar picture can be seen throughout the country, the struggle against the Corona regime continues.

The critical intelligence has left the public debate

It is well known that the usual media talk downplay or keep quiet about the protests. They are integrated into the discourse of the ruling class, they resign themselves to a uniform opinion with their role as propaganda instruments: “Virus evil, government good”. There is also little to hear and read about the artists: The once critical intelligentsia has almost completely withdrawn from public debate. Where once singer-songwriters and writers took the side of the population, today silence prevails for the most part. Satirists, like the people from the ANSTALT, set the tone with their primitive bashing of the courageous and competent Dr. Wodarg. One of the few rays of hope in the gloomy unity program is Didi Hallervorden with his Corona song.

For the care of intellectuals 581.4 million from tax money

The parties maintain political foundations to foster intellectuals. They administer millions of state funds – 581.4 million from taxpayers’ money the intellectual fun cost in 2017 alone – to raise public discussion to the level of seminars, congresses and workshops. In times of general uncertainty, general medical and legal questions – because, according to published opinion, life and death have been at stake for months – the foundations would be the place to discuss the questions and perhaps find answers. Especially since the country is divided into two camps: those who believe the government course and those who believe the course is harmful to democracy and health. In the scientific dialogue organized by the foundations, the people could find their experts in the debate. If only there were a dialogue of different opinions. Using three foundations as examples, the ability of the intelligentsia gathered there to discourse will be examined.

Freedom of the press as reciprocal control mechanism

On the website of the FRIEDRICH-EBERT-FOUNDATION (SPD) the search engine on the subject of corona apparently spits out many topics, even the corona landscape in Paraguay and Great Britain is illuminated. But for the pros and cons of the German Corona measures almost nothing is found. But under the headline “Freedom of the press in times of Corona: the urge to cooperate”, one could hope for a critique of the medial uniform opinion, but reads only this sentence by Daniel Moßbrucker:


„An understanding of the freedom of the press can thus be based less on traditional boundaries, but requires an assessment, project by project, of whether the mutual degree of control promotes or weakens the social function of the media.“

The author reveals his embedding in the structures of power with “mutual control,” in other words, he grants the state a control function over the media. Where might he get this understanding of the freedom of the press? Hardly from the constitution, which is currently under heavy scrutiny. Instead, on the same website Susann Rüthrich blows the usual defamation horn under the headline: “Right-wing appropriation: How to deal with mobilization from the right during Corona”. As elsewhere, hardly anything is proven, but many claims are made. Even Rüthrich has nothing to say about the tragic absence of the SPD in the current debate on fundamental rights.

The Law on Protection against Infection is consulted for regulatory and police law

The Green BÖLL Foundation dedicates an article to the corona topic under the heading “Corona Pandemic”. It knows or does not want to know that the very term “pandemic” is controversial. At least the discussion, without touching the basic questions, oozes out to the topic “Corona thinking – society and law”. Here the Kiel philosopher and environmental ethicist Konrad Ott offers in an essay an “orientation aid in the difficult times of Corona”. At least Ott comes to this sentence:


„The Protection against Infection (IfSG), especially its § 28, is used as a basis of authorization for regulatory and police law, i.e. for measure and ordinance law.“ And also his sentence: „Freedom is and remains more than the insight into what is virologically necessary“ gives hope.

But then Ott leaves the path of philosophical virtue and issues a “Persil Ticket” without any justification: “There is no doubt that the German government is loyal to the constitution,” only to lose himself in the swamp of the subjunctive mood:


“Democratic professional politicians should, however, take the following principles to heart, since epidemic policing measures could become routine”.

The fact that the new version of the Infection Protection Act is hurriedly damaging the Basic Law, that it has actually become an enabling law, is lost in the jingling of fine words and references. Aristotle, Hegel and Hannah Arendt play a role in the essay, but they only play, they are not taken seriously.

The public life of states with limited freedom is poor


„The public life of the states with limited freedom is so meager, so poor, so schematic, so barren precisely because it closes off the living sources of all intellectual wealth and progress by excluding democracy.“

This quote from the estate of Rosa Luxemburg describes the current constitution of the Federal Republic with wise sharpness: “Public debate has been abolished in favor of a schematic uniform opinion. Art and culture have given way to the pathetic minimum distance. The intellectual wealth is suffocating in prohibitions of thought and dialogue. Now it is hoped that the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation has taken up the intellectual legacy of its name giver and on its website you will find an essay by Thomas Falkner and Horst Kahrs entitled “Corona as a directional thrust”. The virus can thus strike, has a life of its own, becomes an acting subject and as a matter of course the “pandemic” is taken for granted. Doubts, the good old instrument of intellectuals, especially those who see themselves in Rosa Luxemburg’s wake, is not used.

The distress of the executive must not be doubted, even retrospectively

Instead, the authors assert “The distress of the executive”, a distress that should not even be called into question retrospectively:


„A retrospective judgment as to whether the decisions (of the government) were correct or appropriate cannot and must not rely on information that was not available at the time of the decisions.“

The authors do not want to consider that a lot of expert information (Wodarg, Bhakdi and others) was available, but was ignored or even suppressed. On the way to the lack of alternatives, the following sentence comes over the authors’ lips: “Freedom of research (is) misunderstood as freedom of opinion”. The name of St. Dr. Drosten, who as a supposedly scientific advisor to the German government has extreme power of opinion, simply does not appear in the essay. The narrowing down to apparently imperative necessities obviously has serious consequences for intellectual analysis.

Doubt has given way to conformity

The choice of foundations studied is not accidental: They belong to parties that offer themselves in a coalition as an alternative to the ruling party network. Severe corona collateral damage can also be observed among them: Doubt, a productive element of thought, has given way to a conformity that claims to be medical and caring, but does not allow either critical medicine or the country’s constitution to have its say. The dramatic departure of intellectuals from the social debate is also and especially noticeable in the case of foundations. It is good to see that the population itself is thinking and acting. This does not happen without mistakes. Help is needed. But if you nag from the margins, you don’t help; if you stay on the margins, you end up abolishing yourself.


Thanks to the authors for the right to publish the article.


Image source: nitpicker / shutterstock


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