The Pillory and the Changing Times

We are deep in the throes of cognitive warfare. All means are good, even atavisms such as the pillory stocks are experiencing a renaissance. After all, people who endanger the mental peace of our small republic by thinking for themselves or even conducting research must be made known to the public. This is apparently considered democratic these days—in a country where—thank God!—every murderer enjoys the right not to be unabashedly paraded before the public.

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) has also afforded itself such a noble pillory stock. And lo and behold, we do know the first head put in it—it’s Patrik Baab. He can be seen in an illustrious group; he is presented as one of 44 “biased observers.” The accusation: “Baab claims that he was in the occupied territories to do research as a journalist.” So he only claims that? So Baab is being accused of lying?

The List of Enemies

Other heads are also listed, especially many of those from the AfD who have been denounced. The most prominent protagonists on this list are: Sergey Filbert, Gunnar Linnemann, Alina Lipp, Andreas Maurer, Thomas Röper and Alexander von Bismarck. What they all have in common is that they do not agree with the German government’s view of helping Ukraine to victory by any means necessary and thus suspending diplomacy.

They are therefore lined up here as “enemies” because they think differently, politically, and take a different geopolitical perspective. In Patrik Baab’s case, his journalistic reputation is also being denied and his research trip for his book, On Both Sides of the Front, is being classified as a pretext for reporting in a Russia-friendly manner—the court ruling by the Administrative Court of Schleswig-Holstein, which classified Kiel University’s withdrawal from the contractually agreed teaching assignment as null and void, explicitly expresses the freedom of the press component of Baab’s trip.

In addition to the violation of the right to one’s own image and possible copyright infringements, we are dealing with a much more serious accusation here: The EPDE has posted a list of enemies on the internet at its website. Since 2021, there has been criminal law protection against such listings. § Section 126a of the German Criminal Code (StGB), Dangerous dissemination of personal data, explains:

Anyone who publicly, in a meeting or by disseminating content (Section 11 (3)) disseminates personal data of another person in a manner that is suitable and, according to the circumstances, intended to put that person or a person close to them at risk of

  • a crime against them or
  • other unlawful act directed against them against sexual self-determination, physical integrity, personal freedom or against property of significant value

is punishable by a custodial sentence not exceeding two years or a monetary penalty.

The case of Walter Lübcke was the impetus for the punishment of such lists. The district president of Kassel was on such an enemy list.

EPDE—Non-Profit and Democratic?

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is based in Berlin. It is made up of various European election observation platforms. It was founded in Warsaw in 2012. The “EPDE encourages, trains and supports experts and citizens who are committed to transparent and equal electoral rights”—the current chairwoman is Stefanie Schiffer. The EPDE defines itself as a non-profit organization.

Supporters of the EPDE are: The Federal Foreign Office, ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission, The Greens / EFA, Transparency International Armenia, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Marion Dönhoff Foundation, the Open Russia Foundation and the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation.

The list of supporters gives a deep insight into the political positioning of the EPDE. However, this poses a problem: Political activity and non-profit status do not go hand in hand. In 2020, the Federal Fiscal Court revoked the non-profit status of attac, an organization critical of capitalism, and thus removed the associated tax privileges – attac had initiated many campaigns for possible reforms, but the declared aim of attac’s statutes was “political educational work”. The Federal Fiscal Court ruled that the campaigns exceeded the declared objective – therefore it could no longer be assumed that attac was a non-profit organization.

We will leave open at this point whether this judicial decision was politically motivated or not—however, the EU Commission recommends that the German government should not offset charitable and political activities against each other. Of course, it is reluctant to do so, as this practice simply opens up too many possibilities. According to this legal situation, however, it looks as if the EPDE has long since left the realm of non-profit status with this list of enemies.

When asked about the EPDE’s non-profit status and the fact that it presents “fake observers,” Stefanie Schiffer wrote: “Politically motivated election observation distorts the public perception of the quality of electoral processes and thus undermines the work of professional and independent election observation missions such as those of the OSCE/ODIHR or the members of the EPDE, which adhere to international quality standards. It is in the public interest to receive information about systematic attempts to imitate election observation and whitewash fraudulent elections.”

Turning Point and Rupture of Civilization

In 2018, the EPDE protested against being classified as an “undesirable organization” in Russia. You may think what you like about the law on so-called “undesirable organizations” introduced in Russia in 2015, but there could be good reasons why an organization that is supported by a ministry in another country is not welcome there. Even before the war in Ukraine, the EPDE was considered a political instrument of the West in Russia. Without having to take the Russian perspective, there seems to be no question that the EPDE is politically involved.

Chairwoman Stefanie Schiffer rarely speaks out in public. In August 2021, she wrote an article for Die Welt, together with Slavic studies professor Gerhard Simon entitled, “Warum Berlin der Ukraine helfen muss” (“Why Berlin must help Ukraine”). Six months before the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, she encouraged German foreign policy to ignite this powder keg in Eastern Europe and anchor Ukraine in the West. In the article, she is just presented as the “founder of the German-Ukrainian platform Kyiv Talks.” Nevertheless, this indicates where the EPDE is positioned.

With the best will in the world, however, the presentation of a list of enemies cannot be reconciled with the self-declared aim of promoting “democratic electoral processes throughout Europe.” Yes, according to general democratic ideas—and in accordance with Section 126a of the German Criminal Code (StGB)—this is actually an attack on democratic practice. This is because people with divergent political ideas are being paraded and in some cases criminalized. This practice can put them at a disadvantage in social life—and yes, let’s tell it like it is: they made into targets, without explicitly saying so.

The pillory was used in the Middle Ages and later, during the fascist break with civilization; dissenters were paraded in a very similar way. When an organization that puts democracy on its agenda takes this up, it has lost its compass—if it ever had one. We are encountering the turning point everywhere these days. And it consists of more than just billions in injections for armaments—it is a concept of refeudalization and de-democratization on many levels. The EPDE should be an “undesirable organization” for anyone who still wants to take democratic standards seriously.

Roberto J. De Lapuente is a journalist who writes from Germany. He is the author of Rechts gewinnt, weil Links versagt [The Right Wins because the Left Fails]. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Overton Magazin.