The best known example of a shitstorm of recent origin is, of course, the “case Sarrazin”. In his book “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (Germany is about to abolish itself), 95% of his evidence had been drawn from relevant scientific publications, while the last 5% (particularly his comments on the relative importance of the environment versus genetic predisposition) were a matter of legitimate scientific controversy. The professional publications he used had, however, only reached the tiny audience of researchers with similar interests, that is why they had practically escaped all public attention.
Sarrazin’s theses became offensive only because of their broad impact; it became immediately evident how much they violated prevailing political correctness. To be more precise, they were very well received by a majority of the population, who felt more and more insecure by the emergence of parallel societies within big German cities. But they were perceived as dangerously politically incorrect by Germany’s ruling elite which was bent on achieving a goal that was both desirable and downright necessary, namely the integration of foreigners.
With her usual intuition for the core of a controversy that at the time so much infuriated Germans and very much poisoned public life and discussion, Chancellor Angela Merkel described Sarrazin’s book as “rather unhelpful”. This was, of course, perfectly true if one was serious about the obligation to transform people of foreign origin into German citizens with equal rights. Any statement that so strongly underlined the obstacles on the way to this goal as did Sarrazin’s book could only render the process of integration even more difficult. If, on the other hand, the book was seen as a warning against thoughtless and careless immigration, then it did serve an important purpose indeed. Most Germans now seem to share this view, but to my knowledge no one has as yet apologized for the shitstorm.
And what is perhaps even more disconcerting: At the time nobody seemed to notice that, ultimately, something even more important is at stake: the freedom of scientific truth which, obviously, may not always be helpful.
This is an excerpt from my as yet unpublished book: „Auf der Suche nach Sinn und Ziel der Geschichte – Leben in der Ära der Streitenden Reiche“. English version currently still available on the net ( “In Search of Meaning and Purpose in History„)