Daily briefing

Extremism and its discontents

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Cool it, guys. Source: DPA

Extremism is on the rise in Germany as more people appear ready to commit violence. According to the interior minister, speaking yesterday, right-wing violence is decreasing, thankfully, though is still far too high — remember all the arson attacks on refugee homes? The number of terror attacks attributed to Islamic extremism also fell. But there were more left-wing acts of violence last year, partly due to protests around the G20 summit in Hamburg. And there are more Reichsbürger, the loons who don’t recognize the Federal Republic and believe in self-government.

It’s bad news, and many pointed the finger right back at Horst Seehofer, arguing that politicians should watch their speech. There’s a worrying tendency here to talk about migration and refugees in a way that’s heartless at best and too often openly hostile. The interior minister should put his money where his mouth is and get to work confronting extremism on all sides, after losing time and credibility last month by grandstanding, challenging Angela Merkel and disrupting the governing coalition.

In this frightening spiral of extremism, anger and alienation, if you’re wondering what you can do, try talking. A colleague took the time to sit down with one of the most virulent, frequent “trolls” on Handelsblatt Global. Three hours later, they had gained a cautious respect for the other’s opposing views. “Haters gonna hate” is one way to roll, but here’s a rare yet welcome sign that even when we’re far apart, hashing out our differences is worth it. Perhaps in these troubled times, the best we can do is seek a sacred middle ground, and ignore the loons and haters, whether they’re in government, in the sticks or in a Russian basement.

Talking on the soccer pitch might help, too. As Germany is finally focusing on bigotry in the sport, there’s evidence that racism is endemic in the amateur leagues. Türkiyemspor, Berlin’s first team founded by Turkish migrants, was stuck training on lower-grade pitches. And then there were the slurs: that teams formed by migrants are aggressive or ill-disciplined, that they don’t speak proper German; while if a German amateur team folds, it’s because of budgets and not a lack of professionalism.

Brace yourself for a big fat metal car-shaped irony. The EU suspects that automakers are cheating on emissions, though now they’re suggesting their cars are dirtier in testing than is actually the case. The reason for the deception is to raise the benchmark, so that when regulators set limits on pollution, these will be ones that carmakers can more easily achieve. Now, they’ve been caught green handed. Get real, guys!

Today, it’s high noon for trade and I’m watching the Juncker-Trump showdown later today. Yesterday, while Mr. Juncker switched off his phone, Mr. Trump prepared the ground with a flurry of tweets. After threats of tariffs and counter threats, all are hoping for a sensible outcome, whether it’s a TTIP-lite, or open trade worldwide on cars with lower or no tariffs. Mr. Trump has just promised $12 billion in aid to American farmers hurting from the tariff spat with China. But it’s impossible to put a price tag on this ignorance on trade. As the trade tango rages on in DC, representatives from the BRIC states are meeting for a summit in South Africa. These seven emerging economies are already economically stronger than the G7. The West might want to think about that as they retreat into their feuding camps.

Ladies and gentlemen, keep calm, and carry on trading.

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