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The Cologne Attacks

Questions: What to make of the appalling events on New Year’s Eve in Cologne? How to report it? How to write about it?OpinionSmall

Answers: They were shocking, and if action is not taken to prevent it in the future then the state is not doing its primary duty of protecting its citizens. Report it factually. Write about it with clarity, with sensitivity, but without fear.

The key phrase in the story of up to 1,000 drunk and aggressive men in Cologne city centre, a large number of whom were sexually attacking dozens of women in a co-ordinated manner, is that according to the police chief “the crimes were committed by a group of people who from appearance were largely from the North African or Arab world.”

And there we hit a problem. Is where the criminals come from an issue in the crime? I would argue in this case it is. This is not because of race, but because of the possibility that the background culture is germane to the discussion.

As in most countries, the vast majority of sex crimes in Germany are committed by men who know their victims. The perpetrators come from all backgrounds. However, the events of New Year’s Eve are different. Large gangs of men surrounded women in a modern European city centre, tore at their clothes, grabbed their breasts, put their hands inside the women’s clothing. And worse.

To notice that, according to the police, the vast majority of perpetrators were from one culture, and the victims from another, and then not to discuss this would be a guaranteed way of ensuring it happens again. And again. The overly politically correct who prefer not to mention this blindingly obvious factor believe they are on the side of the angels whereas in fact they are the ones who in the long run let everyone down. Their timidity, or perhaps hypocrisy and betrayal of their liberal values, gets more women attacked.

Just as many people in the West do not understand Arabic culture in all its richness, so many in the Middle East do not understand the West’s sexual freedoms and the social mores which go with them. There’s a tendency among some, especially the less educated, to believe that Western women are loose, or worse, behaving like whores in their lifestyle choices. Think of the misogynist older Western males who still argue that women are ‘asking for it’ if they wear ‘provocative’ clothing and then magnify that level of prejudice.

Add to this ignorance a degree of sexual tension and frustration due to housing shortages, religion, and family structure, and you have a bitter cocktail which when unleashed can result in scenes such as those in Cologne. It is still unknown if any of the suspects were among the waves of refugees and migrants who arrived in Germany last year. Either way it is not the entire issue. The issue is that as well as the usual individuals we have always had committing sexual offences, Germany now appears to have a minority, within a minority, whose prejudices are so common that they can band together and commit the offences en masse. This is what the German minister meant when he described the events as a “completely new dimension of crime”.

The brave young Egyptian women of Tahrir Sq in Cairo experienced such horrors and worse during the misnamed ‘Arab Spring’ when hundreds were sexually assaulted during the demonstrations. After the first few hundred attacks the few that still dared to protest for their political rights had to have their sexual rights defended by groups of decent young men who stood guard around them.

This was all dutifully reported without much soul searching by Western media outlets. So why have they found it difficult, when a similar situation has arisen in a European city, to discuss why it has happened?  Why did the news of that night take four to five days to emerge? It is safe to say that alleged make-up of the attackers is why.

An Indian women on Reddit put it succinctly in a forum discussion – “As an Indian woman who now lives in this region, I finally feel home. Police incompetence ✓ Sexual harassment ✓ Victim shaming ✓ News suppression ✓ Hollow political responses ✓”.

I have traveled widely in the Arab world and admire it. I like its food, language, people, I like how the wider family unit is still the societal model and that the elderly are cared for. But there are many aspects of it I dislike including, on interpretive religious grounds, the covering up of women so they cannot be seen. I admire things about my own culture. I like our freedoms, and yes, our flawed reach for equality, but I don’t like the widespread propensity towards violence and drunken behavior in public places in our towns and cities up and down the country each weekend.

To criticize aspects of another culture is not necessarily to be racist. I am not fond of the parts of the culture from which springs the Klu Klax Klan. I’ve never found the culture of Nazi dominated Germany an attractive period of history.

I am on safe ground here, the Klan are white, I am white, they are right-wing, I am not – I can criticize them without much comeback. As soon as we introduce the idea that a person from one culture is criticizing one from another, and specifically a white person criticizing the culture of a person of colour, it seems to get more difficult. It should not.

For clarity: Dozens of German women were sexually assaulted. The attackers are said to be from North Africa and Arab countries. In whose interest is it to pretend that this is not a specific problem which requires discussing? It is not in the interest of community cohesion, nor of promoting the value of our freedoms, and it is not in the interests of women.


21 Comments on "The Cologne Attacks"

  1. Sheenu Ruth Das | 7th January 2016 at 10:14 am | Reply

    I completely agree with your article. It is horrifying to know that this actually happened in the heart of Europe and the audacity of it all! It’s about time these issues were discussed and not brushed under the carpet!

  2. Scary to think that most of the migrants being pumped into Germany are young, single males from the same culture. What a mistake.

  3. Great piece Tim. No one in power is going to allow a proper discussion on this, after all it isn’t their daughters or wives being sexually assaulted. Mass immigration still provides the easiest way to increase those GDP figures and has the handy side effect of suppressing wages into the bargain, unsurprisingly anything which may suggest a pause for thought on this is going to face serious tailwinds, in this case a false police report of the nights events and a state broadcaster first ignoring and then delaying reporting the situation. Without social media this story would have been successfully suppressed.

  4. Brilliant piece of analysis, Tim. I’ve been trying to write about something like this for a week and struggling. Bill Maher in America keeps saying the problem is a liberal problem and he’s right. We seem to have a problem saying that freedom is better than totalitarianism and that some things are worth fighting for. The problem is made even more worrying because, despite the assumption that the right hate immigration, as Rob points out, the right secretly love the economic benefits that immigration brings, especially the suppression of wages. If the left really cares about the dignity of people, they should reassess their attitude to a situation that, on all fronts, see people degraded and debased. Is suspect this story is one of those slow burners that will become big in the coming weeks once people understand the significance of what happened.

  5. The events in Cologne are a puzzle for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly, even on New Years Eve, it would be difficult to ignore large gangs of men roaming the streets, they tend to stand out.

    Secondly, New Years Eve in German city centers is normally one massive party and I find it impossible to believe that nobody saw what was going on and moved to render assistance. The Germans are a very law abiding people and more than once I have heard the phrase “please Sir, not here, this is Germany”.

    There is something we are not being told.

    • I used to live in Germany. Germany has changed.

    • There’s plenty of footage of it. And people did attempt to stop them, we are talking an organized group of more than a thousand men that would light fireworks to cause confusion and then attack.

      Not very easy to stop without just clearing the entire area.

    • Peter, Germans are very much like the English when it comes to social mores, as the late great Douglas Adams put it, it’s an SEP. Somebody Else’s Problem.

  6. David, “..freedom is better than totalitarianism..” I’m struggling with this although I think I know what you mean…if you know what I mean? 😉 To have freedom implies that you have a choice. How much choice do we really have in western democracies? We virtually worship ‘democracy’ as if it was a god but I’d wager that no two individuals would agree on the meaning of ‘democracy’. A plebiscite, maybe? Even if we could govern by a true plebiscite how would the questions be asked, and by whom? Like Switzerland? A system far from perfect — I went to school in Switzerland in the late 60s early 70s and have watched and experienced their system first-hand and still have many friends living there. I doubt most Brits would change to the Swiss system, given a choice.

    I argue that if we are in fear of being caught or publicly exposed for our actions or beliefs then we are denied genuine choice. With today’s ubiquitous image recording, payment/receipt recording and surveillance of all our emails plus who knows how many phone conversations, we should assume that our actions can be detected — if ‘they’ wanted to. We are governed by a system that gives us, as individuals, very little genuine choice. I’m not by any means arguing that we necessarily should be given that choice but for the time being we don’t have it and while we had a fair amount of privacy and choice in the fifties to the nineties, that is diminishing at an alarming rate under the guise of ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation which includes ’emergency powers’ which have in many cases stayed in place unaltered since 911.

    A true ’emergency’ needs an urgency as a pre-requisite and this legislation was hastily cobbled together trampling over centuries of civil rights won through sweat, tears and even blood. I doubt we’ll ever get those protections and civil rights back again – it tends to be a one-way street.

    We have neither freedom of choice nor ‘democracy’ in the way many folk would define it. Do we have ‘totalitarianism’? Maybe, it depends how you define it.

    Maybe the best test of this particular issue is by using a ‘direct-o-meter’ which measures the net population movement into and out of the country. On the whole, are people trying to locate into your country or are they trying to get out of it? When it comes to Mohammedanism the answer to that is pretty clear!! Large numbers of people living in Islamic countries are trying to make their way to Britain. The number of British residents trying to go to an Islamic country are so low, it seems that all such cases make the headlines in both the broadsheets and the tabloids. Even the red-tops.

    • Thanks David. I think I did know what I mean but I also know what you mean. I don’t believe we do have ‘freedom’ and I’ve never really stated it as boldly as that. In fact, if there’s a thread to the things I write, it’s probably about confronting the kind of thinking that would deny us our rights. I think it’s important to fight for the ideal and that we don’t feel any fear in saying things like ‘terrorism is bad’. When I said I’d been struggling to write this for the past week, I really do mean that. I’m intrigued by the way we seem incapable of saying things because we’re always, in a sense, looking over our shoulder. I’ve really found it hard to try to rationalise it.

      The example is Donald Trump’s Muslim speech. I think it’s a dumb idea but I think he has a right to suggest it. It was ‘thinking out of the box’ or perhaps just saying what the guy in the pub is saying but the accusations of racism, fascism, and the rest are just shameful. I don’t hold that race and religion are the same and it worries me that too often they’re conflated. I don’t believe there’s any difference between arguing against the Catholic Church’s stance on birth control or Islam’s treatment of women except the latter is too often seen as veiled (no pun intended) racism.

      When you suggest that we might have totalitarianism, I understand why you say that but I think that’s the kind of ‘clever’ thinking to which we’re in danger of succumbing. We are so enlightened in our thinking, capable of looking at our own system and realizing that it might not be as perfect as we thought, we are also in danger of making an equivalence with systems that are demonstrably worse. Put it another away: there are very few Islamic democracies in the world. We could argue that it proves that Islam has a problem with civil liberties or we could have the post-colonial so-called ‘enlightened’ position that argues that perhaps democracy isn’t right for all people and who are we to impose it on other people. I would tend to argue the former but know the merry hell I’d receive from people who believe the latter unless I phrase it more carefully than I’ve done here.

  7. I noticed this morning right on cue the BBC put out a piece on the Syrian refugee families on the Macedonian-Serbian border, lots of shots of children and their mothers, not sure pathos is going to work as well on people now as it did in summer.

  8. Horrifying but not surprising. Why would men who have no respect for women in their own country behave any differently in Europe? Just because they are migrants does not mean they are suddenly going to adopt our values. I hope these particular men are deported forthwith. As I have suggested earlier we need to adopt ID cards with iris recognition. This will stop undesirables of any kind entering any of our countries in Europe.

  9. mahatmacoatmabag | 8th January 2016 at 9:29 pm | Reply

    Thomas Cook has just issued a new travel offer: You can now risk your life on holiday in Egypt or risk an attack on your wife in Europe.

  10. Thanks, David, an interesting and thought-provoking point of view. I’m sure we’re on the same wavelength or on the same band at the very least, but, as you allude to, we are in the grasp of political correctness these days that makes us feel uncomfortable about coming straight out and saying something. Staying with the Trump case as the example, my instinctive reaction was the same as yours – i.e. I don’t agree with Trump but I thought he ought to be allowed to state his opinion. Now, after considerable reflection, I have changed my mind.

    Should Trump be ‘allowed’ (for want of a better, appropriate word) to say such things in public during a public election campaign with the benefit of the several billions of USD (of his own and his backers’ money)?

    In England and Wales we have the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 which creates an offence of inciting hatred against a person on the grounds of their religion. Over here, Mr Trump would possibly have been committing a criminal offence. Our law singles-out religion and race as two (maybe the only two?) examples where we explicitly don’t have freedom of speech. Something worse than bad laws is bad laws that are badly-enforced but in either case the right thing is to change the laws, not ignore them or decide to whom and when they are applied!

    One way or another we have a remarkably intolerant society but we’ve grown up with it and we no longer notice it. When I say ‘remarkably’ I mean remarkably given our emphasis on the ‘freedom’=’democracy’=’good thing’ that we tell ourselves is the foundation of our secular rules. The United States is even worse than the UK; crossing a road at an undesignated point is not permitted. Americans are so used to the rule they don’t bat an eyelid. The words have become meaningless because of over-use and mis-application.

    Looking at your other example “terrorism is bad”. Firstly I think we have to lay down all the possible conditions that exist between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and what ‘terrorism’ means. I shudder when I see on the telly the great and the good shake hands with IRA leaders. Present or past membership of the IRA is the same thing in my personal opinion unless they were to renounce their complicity in murder, but they don’t. Ever. To test the statement “terrorism is bad” consider the case of Mohammed Emwazi or ‘Jihadi John’ as he is known in the British media. Emwazi was never formally identified as one who was involved in the filmed execution of civilians but he was deliberately targeted and killed by a US drone. Surely the killing of someone who has never been tried let alone convicted was killed by tactics that must be called ‘terrorist’? What kind of definition of the word ‘terrorist’ would you need in order to make Emwazi’s killing not a ‘terrorist act’? In that one deed we have a massive conflict between the meanings of ‘good/bad’, ‘right/wrong’, ‘terrorist killing/legal execution’ and ‘essential/desirable’. Indeed, by killing Emwazi in the way we did we left the realm of international law and rode into cowboy territory. That doesn’t of itself make it ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ – the late John Wayne was nearly always a (fictional) hero, a force for good. So was Jimmy Stewart, and he was a real-life war-hero as well. So can we say “all terrorism is bad”? Or can we say “some terrorism is good”? Yes, sometimes perhaps we can answer no/yes to those two questions.

    Maybe this is just “clever thinking”? No, I don’t believe so. If we don’t insist upon a rigorous definition of the words and phrases then nations will go to war with nations that are essentially in complete agreement with them. All for the want of rigid definitions and carefully structured arguments; the diplomat’s essential toolkit. Indeed, while Latin and, later, French, were good as a diplomatic lingua franca, the ubiquitous use of English as the lingua franca is causing a great deal of harm because words and phrases have such widely varying meanings in different countries – and while we’re about it let’s not ignore the abuse of English as a language in film and other media; everyone watches the movies from monarchs to navvies. The French have a term for words that mislead you due to similar-sounded words or phrases with an entirely different meaning. ‘Faux amis’. I believe that these ‘faux amis’ are responsible for much trouble and diplomatic failure in the world today. We must be rigorous and pedantic – even if it does bore the pants off of folk!

    • Thanks David. You’ll have to excuse me this Saturday if my brain isn’t at 100% (late night) but I’ll have a crack at answering your response.

      There was nothing in what Trump said that, in my interpretation at least, incited hated or was intended to stir up hatred. He merely offended people and that right is written into our law. I wrote about it in my second piece about Trump and Fury. I think you’re misreading the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 part of which I’ll repeat here:

      Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.

      Notice how broad this is? It does not prohibit or restrict ‘ridicule, insult or abuse’. Trump might have insulted Muslims but he did it in a context where I don’t believe he intended to stir up hatred. Frankly, I’m more offended by the unthinking nature of the internet mob than I am about Trump and his stupid plans. Trump can be argued down with logic. You can’t argue with a mob who simply wants blood and won’t listen to reason.

      Secondly, it worries me that people seem incapable of distinguishing between a religion and a race. I know some people argue that ‘Islamaphobia’ is a race crime but I don’t believe it exists. If we are being strict about language (and I agree we should), Islam is a religion. I could become a Muslim today. I could not become an Eskimo. It seems quite reasonable to question a religion and I would even go so far as to say it’s our obligation when those religions profoundly affect our lives.

      Third, I don’t see what his money of backers money has to do with anything. Freedom of speech/thought should be the same for all of us. I do think people attack Trump for other reasons (his lack of style, elocution, his vulgarity, wealth, etc.) but I try to stay rational about this and think about it with a cool head. Incidentally, I believe that Saudi Arabia (and other nations) has been banning entry to anybody with an Israeli passport for some years yet we still lower the flag over Downing Street when the Saudi king died. Don’t hear much of an outcry about that.

      Your fifth paragraph I would consider ‘clever thinking’ and I’m prone to thinking about things like that myself. However, I do think we run a risk of confusing our moral compasses. Part of me shares your concern about the killing of Jihadi John but, really, I think this is our weakness. It is not so much worrying about the meaning of words that troubles me but our lack of indignity when we see things that we know are wrong but somehow think ourselves into cowardly acceptance. That, I’m pretty sure, is what happened in Cologne. The most dangerous phrase at the moment is probably ‘I’m not suppose to say/think that’. That is what concerns me about the Trump story. It’s another example of limiting thought and expression. If Trump is wrong (and he is) then he can be argued down. We should not be looking at the world afraid that what we think or say will upset the mob. The terrorists don’t suffer moral relativism but they delighted that we do.

      I know I can probably put all of that better once I’ve had a coffee. Believe me, I’ve been trying to think/write about this for about two weeks and have been utterly stuck, possibly on a hook of my own ‘clever thinking’. This might have helped clear away the cobwebs.

  11. I am bemused by the angst and moral dilemma-wrestling that runs through the article. The events, not only in Cologne but throughout many German cities, are the logical outcome to the importation of large numbers of young, single men that occurred last summer. The pretence by Sky News & the BBC and many other MSM outlets that these men were “families” fleeing persecution has now been exposed for the blatant falsehood it always was.

    Let’s us just imagine for a moment that the cultural identities of the aggressors and their victims had been transposed and that large numbers of Muslim women had been subject to sexual assault by large numbers of Western men especially in their own countries. Does anyone think the Western media would have had the slightest problem not only in reporting it but also denouncing it in the fiercest terms? Remember Abu Ghraib?

    The Muslim men that have been allowed to enter Western Europe in such numbers come from a culture that instills the idea that Western women are loose and immoral and the proof lies in their manner of dress, independence and image as portrayed in Western advertising and films. I remember going on a British Council induction course for prospective English teachers in the Sudan in 1982 and it being carefully explained the perils that might await female members of the course when they ventured out in public (all schools being strictly single-sex of course). They were warned against wearing trousers, shorts and bicycling (an especial erotic fantasy among Muslim boys apparently – large numbers of whom would follow any female using this mode of transport).

    Arriving in Europe must have seemed like a sexual Disneyland where all the delights they had been told, or warned, of were freely available. The fact remains that all cultures are not alike. There are divisions and misapprehensions and to pretend that these will be resolved or disappear by mass immigration in some cultural melting pot is folly of the highest order.

  12. “The attackers are said to be from North Africa and Arab countries”

    Did they come from there or not? It seems relevant. Why don’t we know? The police are reported as saying so. Is it hard to put names and therefore credibility to these statements? Is there no video evidence? Victims statements? If it turns out not to be the case are there still questions/discussions to be had, on a hypothetical basis?

  13. The fact is that the ciivilized European world take the uncivilized, suppressed & intolerant middle east as equals failing to recognize that the males here are like starving cattle in an unfenced pasture, having nothing to lose.
    Hospitality being trampled

  14. Progressives have become so enmeshed in “colonialization theory” — the idea that white people oppress dark people — that they have become helpless when non-whites commit atrocities. Progressives’ collective guilt is making them complicit.

  15. This is a fascinating discussion, leading to the next obvious step of requiring all immigrants men being trained in the cross cultural issues of Western dress and behavior allowed for women and how to distinguish between ordinary women and those selling sexual services. Most important is to convey why Westerners see men who believe that they have the right to grope women as uncivilized animals.

  16. Really fascinating discussion and I like the phrase from David Waywell “We seem to have a problem saying that freedom is better than totalitarianism and that some things are worth fighting for “This is a debate I have seen on Facebook and it obviously worries many people. People see these incidents and they are not limited to Germany across Europe .The General fear is openly stated that by allowing unrestricted immigration and millions of refugees into Europe we are importing cultures, values and social norms that are in part alien to our western Democracies. Not only this but a fear that Terrorists will use it as a base to infiltrate and launch an attack on European Soil .We saw this the other day with the Suicide bombing in Istanbul. I believe how ever painful, it is a discussion as Tim says. that we need to have openly and honestly. I guess Merkel is already doubting her open door policy and do not get me wrong there are refugees here fleeing certain death. Children whose lives are under threat by staying put. I get that but how do we then accommodate some who either have totally different values that conflict with our own or maybe violently opposed to them ? How do we protect that which we hold dear?

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