Photo by Christoph Müller (Wikimedia Commons)
Wolfgang Thierse is a foolish old fuddy-duddy. Everyone knows that. You can tell by his large tufty beard. This week the Bundestag vice president and SPD's anti-Nazi firebrand gave an interview in which he complained that there were too many "Swabians" in Prenzlauer Berg. He said that he hates having to order a Wecke instead of a Schrippe, and gets royally miffed whenever he's offered a Pflaumendatschi instead of a Pflaumenkuchen. I don't know what any of that means either, but it's something to do with bakeries, the conventional German site for regional bigotry.
For all the columnists scraping close to their deadline as they searched for something to write about in the news-dead, blinking-in-the-sun hangover week after NYE, this was, as you can imagine, a godsend. I'm not judging – that's every week for me, except when Kristina Schröder says or does something. "Probably with the help of just three or four measures of the hair of the dog," they were thinking blearily, "we can easily squeeze 600 to 800 words of outrage and bile out of this one."
"Swabians", by the way, nominally means people from Baden-Württemberg, but in this context means any middle class Germans living in Prenzlauer Berg and generally spoiling everything by being rich. It also means you too, if you've ever switched on a mobile internet device within walking distance of U-Bhf Eberswalder Str. That is probably what a Pflaumendatschi is – some kind of special purple German iPad.
Anyway, Thierse's interview caused this week's fake media furore, with some, such as Der Spiegel's Jan Fleischhauer earnestly pretending to themselves that Thierse's whinging was the same as racism ("What the Muslim is to the right, the Swabian is to the left"). Yeah, refusing to eat Spätzle is exactly the same as racism, except without the threat of assault from skinheads and marginalization by the authorities.
Others, like Zeit Online's Christian Bangel, managed to write themselves into a proper pious funk about how Thierse had "lowered the tone of the Berlin debate". "And even if this conflict is about Swabians – Germans – Thierse has turned it into one about ethnicity by foisting all the problems onto a group of people from a certain area," he said. I suppose that makes sense, but only if you've surgically remove your irony gland. What we need is a new media where columnists only have to write things when they really feel the need. But then that'd be the end of me.