Global Independent Analytics
Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan

Location: Ireland

Specialization: US foreign policy, US-Russia relations and media bias

Cologne Attacks: Europe’s Political Correctness Sickness Has Gone Too Far

Under which circumstances could it be considered acceptable to cover up or downplay an incident of public and coordinated mass sexual assaults?

The correct answer would, of course, be none. That is, unless you are a European nation gripped by fear and paralyzing political correctness.

By now, most will have heard the horrific reports of mass sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, carried out by up to 1,000 men roving the streets in gangs. Reports suggest that more than 120 women have filed criminal complaints over sexual assault, robbery and at least two cases of rape. Victims have identified the perpetrators as being of North African and Middle Eastern descent, and similar reports have now come from Hamburg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, albeit on a smaller scale.

Cover up

It took five days for the news to trickle out into the mainstream media. In a normally functioning European city, one case of sexual assault or rape during New Year’s celebrations in a public square would be enough to make the news. But Europe is no longer normally functioning.

An official press release from the Cologne police force on New Year’s Day described the celebrations as “relaxed” and mostly “peaceful” — but a leaked police report published by Bild and Der Spiegel told another story. The unconfirmed report states that one of the men involved tore up his residence permit and said: “You can’t do anything to me, I can get a new one tomorrow”, while another told officers: “I am Syrian. You have to treat me kindly. Mrs. Merkel invited me”.

The Express newspaper quoted anonymous sources in the police department confirming that some of the men had only been in Germany a matter of weeks and many had permits for the asylum procedure.

A barrage of social media comments have accused the media of attempting to downplay and even cover up the attacks. Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF was forced to apologize for its decision to not report the attacks until Tuesday. One German politician blasted the media for attempting to “pussy-foot around with the truth” rather than reporting “reality”.

Self-censorship: The new normal

If you were waiting for confirmation that this kind of fear-induced self-censorship has become the norm in Europe, you need wait no more. Just look at the comments from some German officials in the aftermath of these disgusting attacks.

It is absolutely clear that the men involved were Arab and North African. Germany admitted 1.1 million asylum seekers last year. Mass, coordinated sex attacks in public squares have not exactly been the norm in Cologne. But dare to link the two and see where it gets you.

Why are we in Europe so terrified to state the obvious? Many of these men are arriving to Europe from countries where this kind of mob assault is not uncommon. For a parallel, recall the attack on CNN reporter Lara Logan who suffered a brutal assault while covering demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011.

In Norway, lessons have been established to teach migrants and asylum seekers how to treat women. Similar programmes have been suggested for Denmark — and Sweden, with its exceptionally liberal immigration policy, has seen its rape rate soar in recent years. With legal definitions and police procedures differing widely between countries, statistics on sexual violence can be hard to usefully quantify.

But does it really matter? In today’s Europe, cultural sensitivity rules over all. As we’ve just seen in Cologne, the fear of offending may now be more important than the police’s duty to protect citizens and the media’s duty to inform the public.

Mayor’s reaction

Nothing summed up the insanity of the reaction to these attacks quite like Mayor Henriette Reker’s response. Promising “preventative measures” before Germany’s upcoming carnival celebrations, Reker said that authorities would warn women about possible risks, and “give a better explanation to people from other cultures about the meaning of carnival”.

One wonders, did the previous explanation fail to include a bit about the “meaning of carnival” not involving rape and sexual assault? It is truly horrifying that European cities are now in such a position. But it gets worse.

Reker went on to say that it was important to “prevent confusion” about “what constitutes happy behaviour”. And if this wasn’t depressing enough, she then suggested a “code of conduct” for women to protect themselves, including the absolutely nonsensical suggestion to stay “an arm’s length” away from men in public spaces. Any further closeness, she suggested, could be “misunderstood”. Why not go a step further and tell women not to risk leaving the house at all?

You’ll notice that this is mostly about what women can do to prevent sexual assault, not what men can do. Women should do this, women should do that. Meanwhile, Reker infantilizes grown men by acting like they just don’t ‘understand’ what is or is not acceptable.

The sad thing is, although her comments seem totally ridiculous at first, maybe Reker is being more reasonable and realistic than anyone. After all, we need to deal with the Europe we have, not the one we’d like to have.

‘Open doors’ doesn’t work

Merkel’s open doors immigration policy is dangerous. To suggest otherwise is pure lunacy — and for the media to engage in self-censorship over fears of further raising tensions is a total abdication of their duty and demonstrates just how deeply this sickness of paralyzing political correctness runs.

Merkel herself has called the attacks “intolerable” — but when the police force are overpowered and forced to stand by and watch as women are assaulted on the streets, and when the media reaction inadvertently assists not the victims, but the perpetrators, that looks rather like there is certainly more tolerance for this than Merkel would like to admit. The safety of women, the ability to walk freely in European cities — are these things now less important than the idea that God forbid, someone might be offended if we call a spade a spade?

Tarring all with one brush

Genuine refugees, those who have suffered deeply and have fled their homes with their families in search of safety, usually do not roam the city streets raping and assaulting people. This only serves to further highlight the dangers of the ‘welcome one and all’ policy. If we make no real attempt to vet those entering Europe, we are not only doing a disservice to ourselves, but to those who are genuinely in need.

While we can’t ignore the link between the influx of Arab and North African men and these kinds of incidents, it would be utterly wrong to use the Cologne attacks as an excuse to generalize and denounce all refugees. There has to be a way to strike a balance.

We also must not forget that our Western governments are in huge part responsible for the destruction of the lands and cities from which some of these people have fled. In that sense, dealing with the result has become our common responsibility.

But our obsession with political correctness is dangerous when we'd rather attempt to downplay mass assault and label people who question the logic of the open doors policy as “racists” and "Nazis" than actually have an honest discussion about it.

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