#182: AfD, AI paperwork app, Erdogan fans
Down by the River Festival returns!
Dear 20 Percent,
That grabbag of odious right-wing characters known as the AfD is experiencing a worrying bounce in the surveys. According to pollsters Insa, 18% of Germans say they would vote for them, just 2 percentage points below Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats. The AfD have blown past the Greens, who come in at 13% and have suffered partly thanks to Green Economy Minister Robert Habeck’s overly complicated and expensive plan to replace everyone’s oil and gas heating systems with heat pumps.
More worrying is another poll suggesting that just 54%, a slim majority, say they would never vote for the extreme right party. Back in 2020, 75% shared that conviction. It appears that the AfD has quickly gained acceptance amongst large swathes of the German citizenry.
Part of this can be explained by the fact that the AfD has become the party of protest in the Federal Republic of Germany, a role once reserved for the Greens and lefty Die Linke, a party whose support has withered to around 4%.
None of this bodes well for Germany. A rise to power by the AfD could lead to increased hostility towards immigrants and minorities. And would make the country even less attractive for the well-educated foreigners German industry wants and needs to attract as the workforce gradually shrinks thanks to demographic change. Then there's the AfD's parroting of Kremlin talking points about the war in Ukraine.
A lot hinges on the conservative CDU/CSU (polling at 28%) and whether or not they cave into pressure and some day begin to enter into coalitions with the AfD on local, state and, eventually, federal level. It would be a dark day for Germany if a party that counts actual fascists like Björn Höcke in its senior ranks assumes leadership. We’re not there yet, but the wind is not blowing in the right direction.
More news below.
Berlin choses Erdogan
Berlin is home to 101,000 Turkish passport holders - and 51% of those who voted in this weekend’s second-round presidential election cast their ballot for Erdogan. Germany-wide, that number was 67%. Erdogan supporters celebrated with a motorcade of 200-plus vehicles on Ku'damm and Tauentzienstraße in Charlottenburg.
Early Sunday passengers spotted the dead body of a 19-year-old man on the roof of an S-Bahn train in Zehlendorf. The cops believe he had been “surfing” on the train and was hit in the head by an object above the track. In a separate incident late Sunday night, a train on the U8 U-Bahn line broke down between Moritzplatz and Kottbusser Tor. Several passengers opened the door and walked down the tunnel. According to tabloid BZ, a 25-year-old man was electrocuted and subsequently brought to hospital after he accidentally touched the third rail.
AI vs. Berlin bureaucrats
Ukrainian entrepreneur Dmitry Zvyagilsky is about to launch an app based on OpenAI’s GPT technology to help refugees and expats to cope with German paperwork. Zvyagilsky told Tagesspiegel he collected 12kg of paper documents when he moved to Germany 9 years ago so it’s no surprise that he called his start-up Ridocu (short for “Rid of Documents”). The app will work in English, German, Ukrainian and Russian. According to Ridocu’s LinkedIn page, the software will “facilitate communication and correspondence management for expats and refugees who have frequent communication with officials or other authorities.” Sounds promising. We’ll keep you posted.
Roger in hot water
Berlin police is investigating Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame for a costume he wore on stage at concerts in the Mercedes-Benz-Arena May 17 and 18. At some point in the show he put on a fascist-looking trench coat embossed with two crossed hammers. Wearing stuff that resemble Nazi symbols is, of course, illegal in Germany — except in an artistic context. Pink Floyd has been using the double hammer symbol since The Wall — and Waters says he’s anti-authorianism. Whatever you think about Waters’ vocal opining about Israel and Palestine, or his pro-Putin outbursts, this investigation is just dumb, IMHO. Meanwhile, on Sunday, a protester waving an Israeli flag stormed onto the stage at Waters’ Frankfurt concert.
Down by the River Festival
Now, some music from this century! On Saturday, About Blank hosts the 12th edition of this charming little one-day open-air, two-stage fest — after a five-year break. Very indie. Lots of local talent. Like the crowd-pleasing Brass Riot, for example. Looks fun. Line-up and ticket info on this dodgy-looking Wix site: https://sgmbs1.wixsite.com/dbtrfestival
Together, Berlin and the suburban-rural donut enveloping it known as Brandenburg are home to 3,000 lakes. As we ease into summer swimming season, I offer to you Visit Berlin’s handy guide to the “Top 11 lakes” in the city and beyond.
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