The Futility of an Open Letter and the Quest for Social Media Justice

Social Media Logos

Again. I didn’t want to write about this blasted case any more. But I have issues, especially in the PR and media department. So, let’s get into that.

We are talking about Experts Support Amber Heard, an open letter signed by a whole lot of organizations that support women who suffer violence in their intimate relationships and even more „experts“ on the topic from the fields of law, psycology, personal experience, even finance. They mix up two aspects: Ms Heard’s personal experience, being a person of a certain amount of fame, with comments in social media on her allegations and her behaviour before, during and after trial on one hand. On the other, with the ability of all women to report intimate partner and sexual violence without having to fear harassment and intimidation. And believe me when I say that these are two completely different issues.

Follow the link, read the letter – in my opinion it is short, but revealing. There are plenty of people who got into the contents of this letter, so I won’t touch that in length. There is nothing new to talk about anyway, just what has been repeated over and over ever since Ms Heard’s statements in her op-ed went to trial: Ms Heard was harrassed by cohorts of Johnny Depp’s fans, there was „disinformation, misogyny, biphobia and a monetized social media environment where a woman’s allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault were mocked for entertainment.“ So much on this.

What I find astonishing – and really troublesome – is the mixing of general observations (women should be able to report violent behaviour of their spouses against themselves without fearing being threatend or mocked) with specifics of a libel lawsuit (a jury found that Amber Heard – not every women reporting the above mentioned – lied about what she implicated in her op-ed). No one in their right mind will contest the general statement. A lot of people will contest the statement about the specific outcome of the specific lawsuit. We know that, we went over that more than once.

So, what interest should these organizations have to just hammer on exactly this case? Why on earth should they stubbornly make Amber Heard out as a victim of a shameful injustice, not only in the famous court of public opinion, but also in reference to the outcome of the trial? What is the benefit, especially for organizations claiming they help women in the dire situation of breaking free from an abusive, violent intimate relationship? Well, that is a public relations topic that is not that easy to digest, I’m afraid.

Most of those organizations are bankrolled by donations (and perhaps by government funds dedicated to NGOs in that field). They have a vital interest in justifying their work – and, make no mistake, I think this work is more than necessary, because women in these situations often need support, they need people that believe them unconditionally and don’t brush their allegations aside. Amber Heard, through this op-ed was made out as a figurehead for women fighting for their right to speak up; she cooperated with the ACLU to pen this op-ed, so that she could become the organization’s spokesperson on the topic. For the ACLU, it was vital that she was a victim that heroically spoke up and went through the repercussions that came along with that. This is at the root of this letter and this is why Amber Heard must remain a victim, unfairly tried, unfairly judged by jury, court and social media.

For a certain kind of organization, women who suffer domestic violence and/or sexual assault need to be kept in fear, have to feel unsafe and must not trust the legal system so that the cause can be taken further. But if organizations need to keep the status quo to justify their existence and secure their finances, what good are they for those who they intend to help? That sounds harsh. And, honestly, I don’t think that things are that black and white. There may be fear of losing credibility if they admit that they just were led up the garden path. That is a problem our society has in general: mistakes. If you watched that trial – and it was broadcast in its entirety over the internet, with and without comments – and came out on the other end without at least strongly doubting Ms Heard’s allegations, I really doubt that you paid attention. It was bad, not for women who report domestic violence, but for  organizations that support them and these organisations‘ credibility, because they supported a person that is so obviously lying.

The best course of action would be to say „sorry, we believed the wrong person“. To just admit fallability and admit that there are, indeed, women who lie for their own gain and fame. To reassure that that does not affect the credibility of victims in general or women especially. That this was a special case. But no. All those warriors for the female cause are incapable of doing that (and, in doing so, they are stubbornly adopting a behaviour attributed mainly to men). That is not feminsm, ladies. That is just downright dumb, I am so sorry to say.

We all know that there are men who deliberately destroy the women they claim to love. The fact that there are quite a lot of them is well documented. We all know that the most dangerous time in the life of a woman is when she decides to leave the man she is living with in a toxic relationship. We know that women are demeaned, beaten, raped and murdered in intimate relationships with men and we know about the danger the children are in if their parents‘ relationship takes a violent turn. All of this is a fact, we can read about this daily. Murder of women by their male partners has become such a common event that there is a name for that: Femicide. I think we need to keep that in mind to understand the state of mind of the representatives of organizations dedicated to the protection of women from their violent male partners when I talk about an equally egregious type of human being: Women who use these facts for their own gain.

Not every woman who claims she is being abused by her male partner is what she appears to be. And it seems as if it is not too uncommon that women who have to lose a lot (material goods, their children, social status, for example) resort to lies and accusations to get out of the separation or divorce from their male partners with what they think they are entitled to and would not get in another way.

There are even women who are violent themselves, treating their male partners in demeaning and violent ways. We all know the jokes about men who after a boys‘ night out are recieved by their wives or girlfriends with a frying pan or a rolling pin in their hands, ready to beat the crap out of the guy and the jokes about men being henpecked and afraid of their wives. Fact is: Those men exist as much as the abused and mistreated women exist. They usually do not come forward, because while battered and mistreated women can count on compassion and commiseration, men see themselves being exposed to mockery and derision – at least in their minds.

Greg Ellis, an English actor underwent quite an ordeal and put his experiences into a book, ‚The Respondent‘. And that brings us to a systematic approach mostly women take to get rid of their male partners: Destroying their reputation and their ability to work and thus earn a living.

Toxic relationships usually start out quite romantically, we should not forget that. They are either based on real romantic feelings or on a certain pretension by one or both partners in order to get something out of the relationship other than romance. That might be prestige, perhaps security, support, access to professional or personal opportunities one would otherwise not have – that kind of thing. If both partners know about that and consent to it, that might work. If not, there might come a day when disappointment and frustration come around. Perhaps, one partner would have the power of getting the other a job opportunity but does not help. Or one partner regards the other as their property which leads to attempts to gain a freedom the ‚owner‘ would not allow, such as meeting with friends, going out, talking to people of the ‚weaker‘ partner’s choice. Whatever that may be, and whatever the reason of disequilibrium of power in a relationship is, the ’stronger‘ partner will try to maintain their ‚power‘ over the other, the ‚weaker‘ partner will try to make things work until they cannot and do not want to do that anymore. In a whole lot of cases, that ‚weaker‘ partner is the woman, the ’stronger‘ is the man. But there are dynamics when this is not the case.

The resort to violence is not a privilege of men, nor is psycological abuse. Women, for usually being physically weaker than men, tend to resort to a certain kind of psychological warfare, demeaning their partners. They accuse their partners of not providing for the partnership or familiy in a sufficient way, of not helping, of being unfaithful, of not being able to be unfaithful for a lack of attractiveness, they demean achievements and exaggerate failures, that kind of thing. There are examples galore, in fiction as well as in actual cases. But women do not restrain themselves to that, there are those who resort to violence.

There is even an instruction manual to ‚Destroy A Man Now‘, that is mentioned in Greg Ellis‘ book. DAMN, a method to get back at the man. It talks about the use of allegations, media and authorities to ruin a man’s reputation and thus his life. Basically it goes like this: First, you allege inacceptable behaviour, then you get the media to report that and once the reporting gains traction, you accuse authorities of not doing enough to remedy the situation. The book can be obtained online, go and google it, I will not promote it here.

Going back to Amber Heard, I am afraid that she followed the instructions almost to the letter. I have been following the case ever since there was a short mention of Johnny Depp being accused of mistreating his wife on German TV – that must have been some time by the end of 2019 or early 2020. I just went and googled and found people who got themselves not only the reports out of the yellow press but also the court documents and the audio files. I read, I listened and I paid attention to the contextualization by lawyers. And I honestly searched for sources supporting Ms Heard’s claims with facts. For example, when you have two black eyes and a broken nose, there must be a medical record. And the day after someone broke your nose and hit you on both eyes so that you have two black eyes, there is swelling in your face. There is no way of cooling these injuries in a way that they won’t show under the heat of spotlights in a TV studio. None at all. So, there would have needed to be a medical record buried somewhere in the court documents, it had to be mentioned – it wasn’t. That was the starting point of my personal disbelief. I simply was unable to dig up hard proof of physical violence. The psychological abuse was mainly debunked by the audio files, so in the end, I was empty-handed on my quest for evidence in favour of Ms Heard. So, I just followed the case to see what developments there might be, what facts might come to light. And I’m sad to say, there were none.

That makes Amber Heard someone who did damage to women and, insofar the authors of that open letter are right, the verdict of this trial, damaging to women. But it is not because no one believed Amber Heard. It is because Amber Heard displayed how a woman is capable of destroying a man’s life with lies. How she used the media to do her bidding. How media use the words ‚alleged‘ and ‚allegation‘ to serve a very juicy story that people will eat up and respond emotionally to – so that ad sales keep the dollars rolling in. This is a very unhealty symbiosis between accuser and media and, in my opinion, media should really review their role in occurrences like this, asking themselves if it is really necessary to blurt each and every unfounded allegation into the world instead of doing their due diligence in research. But that is a side topic that needs to be discussed further in the future.

The emotional response of users on both sides was to be expected and it is part of the methodical package. We can see that not only in the case of a favourite celebrity being accused or accusing of horrendous deeds, but also in political discussions. Look at what lead to the events on January 6, 2021, look at the ‚discussions‘ around the midterm elections in the USA. Look at BREXIT. Look at everything COVID. Look at the energy crisis we are in the middle of at the moment. Good news is no news and mere facts are boring. So, add a bit of spice and let the mob loose. I would like to appeal to everybody reading this rather long text to keep control of their emotions and check facts. You need at least three sources, and you should get them from as broad a spectrum as possible. The louder the headline, the less trustworthy the source. Be careful, do not let media use you. Think critically. Please!

What I have to add, just to make that crystal clear, is the fact that the mocking and demeaning of Amber Heard might be deserved, but I find it disgusting nonetheless. There is a difference between commenting on legal proceedings and personal attacks. I can understand that it is difficult to stay with the matter when talking about this trial instead of giving in to emotion and going against the person. The blatant lying is infuriating, yes. But going against the person instead of going with the facts, giving in to the heat of the emotion instead of staying with the cool argument will put you in a position where you are simply wrong, even if you are right. So don’t do that, please.

So, to the organizations who support women: Do keep up the good and valuable work. But look at what you do and if you choose someone to speak for you, a bit of scrutiny can’t do harm. And if you are mistaken, just say sorry, admit your mistake and go on. Don’t go on just because you fear for your credibility when you are simply off the mark. Please.

To those who support people on social media: Please keep your eye on the matter, not the person. You don’t even know Amber Heard, you have no idea who she really is. What she is not: A replacement target for people you have a problem with, a punching bag for you to hit when you haven’t got one at hand, a joke for you to laugh about. I personally think that she has more problems than those that might be solved legally and I urge you to give her the space to find her balance.

In the end, we are talking about people, real living, breathing people. We might regard some as nicer and others as simply unbearable. But we should stay civilized, especially because everything you write into this internet will stay here forever.

On YouTube, I found a contribution to the broader scope of the issue of social media outrage that forms the basis to fan behaviour like the one we could observe in this case: „Cancelling“: A Culture of Retribution. I recommend watching it, especially if you seem to get caught up in a fight that is not yours.

Misogyny, Harassment and the Internet

Faust, die durch eine Glasscheibe schlägt

If you are reading this, I assume you participate in social media – otherwise, there are rarely people who stumble upon my blog. I don’t resent that, as there are readers here and there and in rare cases, a discussion comes up. Anyhow, as I caught a cold, I had the oportunity of watching Richard Hoeg’s Hang-outs & Headlines on YouTube today and I have a bit of time on my hands to write down what I think. My opinion, so to speak. Subject of today’s edition was a Washington Post article titled YouTube remains rife with misogyny and harassment, creators say.

So, here we go again, on the never stopping merry-go-round that is behavioural criticism on the internet. The article in question refers only to YouTube, but, honestly, it is the same just everywhere. When I joined the exclusive circle of what today is called content creators, there was no such thing as social media in the way we know it today. Back then, we had nothing, least of all bandwith. But we had newsgroups on the Usenet and, later on, forums and message boards. Text only, low bandwith, no memes – spaces where you had to put your thoughts in actual words and you needed to explain yourself. There was a guideline as to how to behave, so that discussions could be had within reasonable boundaries: The Netiquette.

Discussions were direct, matter-of-factly, sometimes heated, and there were the occasions when users crossed lines they better wouldn’t. And even then, without those beautiful technologies we have today, there was harassment, there was anger, there were threats, there was doxxing. It was a little more difficult to do, but if you knew how, there was not that much of a problem. So, what’s the huge difference between then and today?

1. Who threw the first toy?

There are those occasions when you look at your news stream (be it Twitter, facebook, YouTube, whatever) and you feel as if you were at a playground with four year olds who are throwing sand toys at each other. Yes, there were occasions on the Usenet when you could feel that, too – but those were far rarer. Perhaps, because it was less people and far more focused on topics. When people started to clown about or got off topic, their messages were just pushed into another group, along with a followup link.

Today, before getting into factual discussions, we need to discuss how to discuss – and the loudest user(s) get to make the rules, in general. Not those with the facts, no. Those who can make the most noise. And it is them who define which behaviour is named how, thus not only ruling over the discussion, but also how the content is to be understood – and judged. Someone says ‚I like bacon‘ and when the time and place is right, a mob of users will attack the disgusting animal abuser. That person, in return will opine on people’s comments in – ahem – quite a harsh way and within under a minute you can watch the sandbox wars unfold in all their glory. Darth Bacon and Princess Sunflower will fight until there are no winners.

This is, of course, completely inane, but, alas, I know no one (not even myself!) who is immune to pitching in. It’s a free world allowing free speech, isn’t it? No one said that this speech needs to be sensible. And, if we’re honest, it is not about bacon or tofu. It’s about unloading, even dumping the day’s stress. Boss was mean? Well, Princess Sunflower is a very good avatar, may she sit at home and cry her eyes out! And that’s the problem: In this case, she is an avatar, nothing else. That leads us to things that have existed from the beginning of time up until today, because we are humans and humans are not at all perfect.

2. Misogyny

So let’s talk about how those sandbox wars are fought. How do you get to rule over a discussion? Well, the first step is to shape facts to your needs. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines misogyny as hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women. Nota bene: women, plural. So, if you want to own a discussion where a woman (singular) is affected, you just define your needed term anew, even if this is linguistically just wrong.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

The sentence ‚Elena Example is dumb.‘ is unflattering, but not at all misogynistic. If you say ‚Elena Example is a woman, that’s why she is dumb.‘, it is definitely misogynistic. The trick to be the ruler of the discussion is to expand the meaning of the latter to the meaning of the former. This can be done with each and every buzzword that is currently in use (e. g. sexism, racism). As soon as you have established your definition of those words, you can accuse anyone of anything and, as a consequence, make social media providers change their regulations according to your needs. Quite neat, huh?

3. Harassment

Harassment is a different and far more difficult matter as it has so many facets. Let me just say this: If you call somebody out for lies they tell and you do so repeatedly, it can feel to them like harassment, but it needn’t be that. If you go after people with lies you tell about them and you do so continually, it is harassment and might even be punishable by law (at least in Germany, but I don’t think that it is very different elsewhere). As a matter of fact, this is a very common method of people too dumb to make a point (mostly because of not having one) to shut others up. Doesn’t work, but is widely used, unfortunately.

4. News

Now, here is a sensitive topic. Let’s start with commercial outlets, the so-called mainstream media. Once upon a time, when I was young, a newspaper (as well as a radio or TV programme) was there to report news and sold advertisements to support this goal. In the meantime, the market changed a lot. Not only are there more newspapers etc., but we have the internet. To maintain the earnings from advertising, you need to be faster than all the others; an internet platform will earn next to nothing from the news themselves (in form of subscriptions), so you need to be aggressive about advertising. That’s where the much critizised clickbait comes from. In a nutshell: today, the sale of advertisements is supported by news. That has quite some effect on the quality of the news we are presented with, especially in the entertainment sector.

It is of absolutely no interest if a bit of news is true, half true or just a rumour that later turns out to have no truth to it at all – if it is there and it is in the slightest way justifiable to put it out there, it will be put out there. The more scandalous, the better. The more lurid, the more valuable. That is where the money lies. Celebrities are the ones who suffer the most from this behaviour. Be it a youthful prince in a scandalous situation, be it a movie star accusing her boyfriend of violence against her. Drunk driving, consuming drugs, partying too hard, kissing someone other than the spouse, being naked on a private beach while on holiday, no matter what, it is news, especially if there are photos. Careful, accurate reporting is not at all a thing. There is no time nor money for investigation. And this is the gateway for ‚journalists‘ who want to shape the world to their ideas of right or wrong. This kind of journalist need not investigate; they regard their view as the gold standard and they use publications – and reputable ones – for their own ends. And they are not alone; there is always a political agenda behind that: being socially influencial, having the upper hand in social discourses.

For content creators who do that on their own dime and in their spare time, the rules are different. They do not depend that much upon the sales of advertisements. Sure, they, too, need money to keep the channel (blog, account) going. There are some who live off their content, of course. But they are not under that much strain, so they say what they want to say how they want to say it; there’s no need to be fast. They can take their time to get information. And they can afford to choose their topic and stay on it. Compared to journalists with deadlines and assignments, this is a very luxurious position. I don’t say that their content is more accurate – but often it is. I don’t say that they are right – but they can voice their opinion and leave it to the consumer to fill the gaps with further information. All in all, they need not do the following (although some surely do):

5. Divide and Conquer

To be of relevance, you need the above mentioned upper hand. You could, of course, investigate and report facts. But that doesn’t stir emotions. Reporting without emotions feels cold. That won’t earn rapport from users and this is what you need. So, what do you do? You divide people in groups. Pro-this, against-that. The more controversial, the better. That way, a lot of people will not only read your articles, listen to your podcasts, watch your videos, no, they will comment and they will do that very emotionally. The best thing that can happen are threats, having people going after each other. You get loads of page impressions and even more comments – which sell, you guessed it, advertisements. Win-win. Except for society. We lose our ability of compassion and of tolerance. Everyone is a possible enemy and what was an emotional outlet on a bad day suddenly becomes an all-consuming war, where we fight for our lives, perhaps our livelihood.

I can’t see how laws and regulations will do anything to contain this kind of behaviour. They never have, not even for the pub talk before the internet. What we need is to learn how to cool down, to refrain from reacting to provocations. Be levelheaded. That’s not easy and it doesn’t work every time. We are humans, not saints. But before you let other people manage and use your emotions, try and take a step back. If someone calls you transphobic, look at what they refer to. Think about how important it is to correct the wrong statement of another person. Is your reputation really at stake? Are you letting a complete stranger hurt your feelings? If so, why? Try and separate other people’s problems from yours. You’ll see that most problems are not even yours. Most aggressions are not even really directed at you. Keep talking to people who know how to behave. Accept other people’s opinions, even if you do not agree. Agree to disagree. And don’t let others drive you into radical behaviour that at the end of the day robs you of your social abilities like friendliness, understanding and compassion.

As always: These are my views. It is not a report of facts, but of what I see unfold in those parts of the internet I spend my time in.

Ermittler, Richter – und dann auch noch Henker?


Das Phänomen der Cancel Culture ist nicht wirklich neu. In Newsgroups, Foren und auf Message Boards kam es schon in den Anfangszeiten des Internet immer wieder einmal vor, dass Menschen für ihre Äußerungen öffentlich beschämt wurden. Der erste Fall, der mir in Erinnerung ist, war Justine Sacco, die auf ihrem Flug von New York nach Cape Town einen Tweet geschrieben hat, der innerhalb kürzester Zeit Wut und Empörung auf Twitter auslöste. Die Konsequenz war, dass sie, als sie in Cape Town aus dem Flugzeug stieg, keinen Arbeitsplatz mehr hatte, weil die empörten Twitter-User ihren Arbeitgeber informiert und auf ihre fristlose Kündigung gedrängt hatten. Dieser Erfolg hat die Gemeinschaft derer, die sich berufen fühlen, in sozialen Netzwerken für vermeintliche Gerechtigkeit anzutreten, derart beflügelt, dass sich daraus eine richtiggehende Kultur – eben die Cancel Culture – entwickelt hat.

Die freie Äußerung einer Meinung ist in Deutschland vom Grundgesetz garantiert. Sagen darf man hierzulande fast alles, man darf nachweisbare wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse in Zweifel ziehen, man darf Rassist sein oder Misogynist. Alles das darf man – auch wenn es natürlich Konsequenzen nach sich zieht. Üblicherweise endet man, wenn man sich rassistisch, frauenverachtend, wissenschaftsfeindlich oder auf andere Weise gesellschaftlich nicht anerkannt äußert, in einer gewissen Isolation, die einem nur noch den Weg in Gruppen, die diese nicht anerkannten Meinungen teilen, übrig lassen. Nichtsdestoweniger ist die freie Meinungsäußerung so gestaltet, dass wirklich nur dann eingegriffen werden kann, wenn der, der sich äußert, sich dabei auch strafbar macht. Als krassestes Beispiel nenne ich die Leugnung des Holocaust.

Darüber hinaus findet die Meinungsäußerung ihre Grenzen in den Straftatbeständen der Beleidigung, der üblen Nachrede und der Verleumdung (der Gesamtkomplex dieser Straftaten findet sich in den §§185 – 200 des Strafgesetzbuchs). Diese Delikte werden nicht von Amts wegen verfolgt, hier muss derjenige, der glaubt, beleidigt oder verleumdet worden zu sein, Anzeige erstatten; man nennt das Antragsdelikt. Insgesamt ist dieser strafrechtliche Komplex etwas kniffelig, weil hier jeweils eine sorgfältige Würdigung stattfinden muss, die sicher auch den Zusammenhang, in dem die jeweilige Äußerung getätigt wurde, mit beleuchten soll.

Ein Kurznachrichtendienst hat das nicht nötig. Als Justine Sacco ihren Tweet absetzte, hatte man 140 Zeichen zur Verfügung, um seine Gedankenfetzen ins Internet zu blasen. In den seltensten Fällen schrieb jemand einen Thread (also mehrere Tweets, die zusammenhängend sozusagen an einem Faden [Thread] zusammenhängen), so dass praktisch jeder Tweet für sich allein stand und jeweils vom Leser so interpretiert werden konnte, wie der die Nachricht eben sah. Hat jemand nachgefragt, um die Äußerung einzuordnen? Natürlich nicht. Justine war im Flugzeug und hatte ihr Handy ausgeschaltet. Und selbst wenn sie sofort hätte gegensteuern können, hätten die aufgebrachten Twitter-User ihr vermutlich nicht geglaubt.

Diese Unart, Menschen in sozialen Medien für jede auch noch so dumme, unbedachte Äußerung zur Rechenschaft zu ziehen (neudeutsch: „call out“), bringt denen, die sich im Kreise der „Gerechten“ wähnen, ungefähr dieselbe Befriedigung wie weiland der Dorftratsche, die die ungeliebte Nachbarin der Hexerei bezichtigte – und wenn es möglich wäre, das Internet zu nutzen, um Menschen zu lynchen oder auf den Scheiterhaufen zu stellen, wäre das inzwischen gang und gäbe. Die gerechten Teilnehmer der sozialen Gerechtigkeitsliga ermitteln die Missetäter, sie legen die Strafe fest und hängen sie virtuell – indem sie dafür sorgen, dass diese Unmenschen ihren Arbeitsplatz verlieren, von ihrem sozialen Umfeld geächtet werden und letztlich isoliert dastehen.

Dass dieses Verhalten mittelalterlich ist, ist den meisten nicht bewußt. Sie hassen die Polizei, die „nichts tut“, sie misstrauen den Gerichten und sie machen die Social-Media-Gesetze, nach denen geurteilt wird. Sie prügeln Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetze durch, die ohne sie gar nicht notwendig wären, weil unsere Gesetze gut genug sind, wenn sie denn vernünftig angewendet würden. Und sie schämen sich auch nicht, wenn sich herausstellt, dass sie jemanden zu Unrecht den Arbeitsplatz gekostet haben, wenn sie den falschen Mann die Familie gekostet haben, denn sie sind die Gerechten und die eine oder andere falsche Hexe, die verbrannt wird, muss man halt in Kauf nehmen, wenn man alle Hexen erwischen möchte, nicht wahr?

Dieses Verhalten hat bedauerlicherweise vor allem auf die Regenbogenpresse abgefärbt. In der Hoffnung, als Erster zu berichten, den ersten Artikel vertwittern zu können, damit man die Aufmerksamkeit der Teilnehmer in den sozialen Medien und damit Klicks bekommt, wird oft auf ernsthafte Recherche verzichtet. Umgekehrt, wenn in Social-Media-Nachrichten Gerüchte in die Welt gesetzt werden, kann es gut und gern passieren, dass jemand sich plötzlich einem wirklich abscheulichen Vorwurf ausgesetzt sieht, ohne auch nur die geringste Ahnung zu haben, was hier eigentlich los ist.

Und so lesen wir in Internet-Erzeugnissen von „Bild“ über „Spiegel“ und „Bunte“ bis hin zur „FAZ“, dass Menschen, die mehr oder weniger bekannt sind, ihre Frauen schlagen, ihre Männer betrügen, ihre Familien verlassen und ihre Fans enttäuschen. Manchmal kann man auch irgendwelche Gerichtsurteile einflechten, die man zwar nicht gelesen hat (ja, noch nicht einmal das Verfahren selbst verstanden hat), aber das macht nichts, solange die Empöreria der Gerechten klickt und teilt, was das Zeug hält. Das bringt Werbeeinnahmen, damit wird sehr, sehr viel Geld verdient.

Ja, und so rutschen wir in eine Desinformationsgesellschaft, denn was mit der Gattin des Präsidenten oder dem Sohn des bekannten Schauspielers klappt, das geht natürlich auch mit Wissenschaftlern und deren Erkenntnissen, das funktioniert mit Politikern, Regierungen, Stadtverwaltungen, Pharmaunternehmen und, und, und. Natürlich glaubt Lenchen, die den schönen Jüngling, der den Liebhaber in ihrer Lieblingssoap spielt, für einen verachtenswerten Vergewaltiger hält, nicht daran, dass in Impfstoffen von Bill Gates hergestellte Chips enthalten sind, das ist ja Blödsinn. Und Hagen, der sich schon deshalb nicht impfen lässt, weil er befürchtet, dass seine Gene verändert werden, ist überzeugt dass oben genannter Jüngling ein überaus guter Mensch ist, der keiner Fliege etwas zuleide tun könnte. Beide eint, dass sie glauben, was geschrieben steht und ihrer persönlichen Bezugswelt entspricht, verstärkt und multipliziert durch ihre Brüder und Schwestern im Geiste.

Ich fürchte, aus diesem Text spricht eine gewisse Bitterkeit. Ich bin bitter, das ist richtig. Es geht mir unsäglich auf die Nerven, wenn von „Hassrede“ (einer unjuristischen Bezeichnung für das englische Wort „Hatespeech“) gesprochen wird, wenn Gesetze mit glühend heißer Nadel gestrickt werden, um den Mob zu beruhigen. Ja, es ist vollkommen richtig, dass online gemobbt wird, dass einem schwindlig werden kann. Aber das ist tatsächlich ein gesellschaftliches Problem und ein Problem des Umgangs mit dem Medium.

Meinem Bildschirm kann ich alles sagen. Mein Bildschirm ist kein Mensch. Dass am anderen Ende der Leitung ein Mensch sitzen könnte, der mit dem, was ich in meiner Wut in die Textbox an meinem Bildschirm schreibe, nicht zurecht kommt, weiß ich nur in der Theorie. Und so ist ein sehr explosives Gegeneinander entstanden, eine Art Schlacht, in der jeder hingemetzelt wird, der irgendwie anders ist – und das, wo andernorts Diversity sonst großgeschrieben wird. Es ist sozusagen ein Krieg entstanden, in dem um die Hoheit über Meinung und Moral gekämpft wird.

Was da natürlich auch noch wirkt, ist der Gruppenzwang. Mich erinnert das tatsächlich an die Zeiten, da die Kirchen die Deutungshoheit über Moral und Wahrheit hatten. Die Hexenverfolgung habe ich ja schon genannt, da gab es aber noch einiges mehr. Empfohlen sei in diesem Zusammenhang die Lektüre des Buches „Eunuchen für das Himmelreich“ von Uta Ranke-Heinemann. Wir sollten immer im Hinterkopf haben, dass gewisse Verhaltensweisen seit Jahrhunderten, teils seit Jahrtausenden in unser Verständnis von menschlichem Zusammenleben eingebrannt sind und dass diese Verhaltensweisen nicht unbedingt gut für eine moderne, offene Gesellschaft sind.

So etwas verändert sich nicht über Nacht, auch nicht durch äußere Einflüsse oder Formalismen wie die Anpassung der Sprache. Wir laufen also immer Gefahr, auf uns selbst hereinzufallen und die sozialen Medien, die uns zur Verfügung stehen, machen es uns hier wirklich sehr leicht. Was kann uns da also helfen?

Für Medien und Berichterstatter wäre es doch mal quasi alternativlos, auf die guten, alten Regeln für Berichterstattung zurückzugreifen: Mindestens zwei, besser drei seriöse Quellen. Twitter, Facebook oder Instagram können nur dann als Quelle gelten, wenn sichergestellt ist, dass der Accountinhaber sich zitierfähig äußert. Wenn man also so ein Gerücht findet, sollte man nachsehen, ob es irgendwo verläßliche Bestätigungen gibt. Außerdem wäre es meiner Ansicht nach gut, Bericht zu erstatten, wenn es denn etwas zu berichten gibt. Was nützt dem Leser das Wissen, dass gegen die berühmte Schauspielerin angeblich wegen Kaufhausdiebstahls ermittelt wird? Könnten wir die Ermittlungen vielleicht mal abwarten und erst berichten, wenn ein Ergebnis vorliegt? Wenn die schöne, nicht ganz so berühmte Schauspielerin gegen ihren geschiedenen Mann, ebenfalls Schauspieler, den Vorwurf erhebt, er habe sie geschlagen und regelrecht eingesperrt, dann ist das erstmal genau das: Ein Vorwurf, der nicht bestätigt ist. Wenn das aber in irgendeiner „Herzenszeitung“ berichtet wird, dann wird dieser Vorwurf zum Narrativ, zu einer Art Wahrheit und – schlimmer noch – er kann so stehenbleiben. Das liegt in der Pressefreiheit, die natürlich erlaubt, dass Schauspielerin A den Schauspieler B einer nachgerade widerlichen Straftat beschuldigt. Ob das jetzt wirklich wahr ist, ist relativ egal, sie hat das ja gesagt. Also: Vielleicht erstmal mit dem  Skandalgeschrei zurückhalten und abwarten, was bei der Story so rumkommt. Kriminell wird es, wenn dann Zivilklagen für Strafverfahren ausgegeben werden und in der Folge Menschen Straftaten nachgesagt werden, für die sie nie vor Gericht standen und schon gar nicht verurteilt wurden.

Für die aktiven Social-Media-Teilnehmer wäre es wirklich wichtig, vor dem Sprung auf die skandalöse Aussage erst einmal die Finger von der Tastatur zu nehmen und sich zu fragen, ob dieser Kommentar, dieser Retweet, diese Weiterverbreitung wirklich notwendig ist. Eine weitere gute Frage, über die man gerne vorher nachdenken darf, ist die, warum man sich über genau diese Meldung genau so aufregt. Welches Gefühl spricht dieser Tweet, dieser Post eigentlich an? Warum habe ich das Bedürfnis, jetzt sofort mit den unflätigsten Beschimpfungen zu reagieren und, wenn es mir möglich ist, der sozialen Zerstörung dessen, von dem die Rede ist? Ich weiß, die Überprüfung der eigenen Reaktionen und des eigenen Denkens ist sehr aus der Mode gekommen. Vielleicht wäre hier ja auch mal wieder eine gute Aufgabe für die Schulen, die Kinder und Jugendlichen nicht nur helfen sollten, Wissen zu erwerben, sondern auch umsichtiges Denken zu lernen.

Letzlich läuft es darauf hinaus, dass wir alle vornehmlich zwei Aufgaben haben: Tief durchatmen und ignorieren lernen. Nur weil alle irgendetwas sagen, heißt das nicht, dass das auch stimmt. Nur weil zwei Wissenschaftler völlig unterschiedliche Standpunkte haben, heißt das nicht, dass der, dessen Standpunkt mir nicht passt, auch der ist, der falsch liegt. Und dann sollten wir uns vor allem eins vor Augen halten: Nur weil etwas schriftlich niedergelegt ist, ist es nicht unbedingt wahr, auch wenn wir von Kindesbeinen an gelernt haben, dass das, was wir lesen können, richtig ist. Geduld haben, abwarten und sich für die Meinungsbildung Zeit lassen ist wichtiger als „ERSTER!“ rufen zu können.

Bleibt cool und seid im Zweifelsfall dann einfach mal Letzter.

Beitragsbild: Peter H auf Pixabay