Academic freedom: Terrorized sociologists in Germany

Andrej Holm and Matthias B. have publicized a lot about gentrification. Unfortunately for them the same concept is also used by left-wing radicalists in their so-called anti-capitalist struggle. Moreover, in their research activities they, of course, come into contact with these groups.

This, and more, has led to charges against them and their subsequent arrest. According to the arrest warrant against Andrej Holm, the charge made against the above mentioned four individuals is presently justified on the following grounds, in the order that the federal prosecutor has listed them:

  • Dr. Matthias B. is alleged to have used, in his academic publications, “phrases and key words” which are also used by the ‘militante gruppe’;
  • As political scientist holding a PhD, Matthias B. is seen to be intellectually capable to “author the sophisticated texts of the ‘militante gruppe’ (mg)”. Additionally, “as employee in a research institute he has access to libraries which he can use inconspicuously in order to do the research necessary to the drafting of texts of the ‘militante gruppe’”;
  • Another accused individual is said to have met with suspects in a conspiratorial manner: “meetings were regularly arranged without, however, mentioning place, time and content of the meetings”; furthermore, he is said to have been active in the “extreme left-wing scene”;
  • In the case of a third accused individual, an address book was found which included the names and addresses of the other three accused;
  • Dr. Andrej H., who works as urban sociologist, is claimed to have close contacts with all three individuals who have been charged but still remain free;
  • Dr. Andrej H. is alleged to have been active in the “resistance mounted by the extreme left-wing scene against the World Economic Summit of 2007 in Heiligendamm”;
  • The fact that he – allegedly intentionally — did not take his mobile phone with him to a meeting is considered as “conspiratorial behavior”.

B. is not accused of writing texts that are usefull for radical groups (he hasn’t) but of having the intellectual capability to do it for example by having access to libraries with texts that might be usefull. This has led to considerable debate in German newspapers and among the academic community. Website Einstelling supports them with an Open Letter among other things. People such as Mikkelsen point to the ‘guilt by association‘ premises that lies beneath the accusations against them.

Richard Sennet and Saskia Sassen point to the following:

The liberal state is changing. In the 60s, Germany had the most enlightened rules for refugees and asylum seekers in Europe; the US passed the most sensible laws on immigration in its history; France granted automatic citizenship to all those born on its territory, including all Muslims. Today all these countries have, in the name of the war on terror, revised their rules – the state of emergency prevails. The laws meant for real threats are invoked to counter shapeless fear; in place of real police work, the authorities want to put a name – any name – to what they should dread. States of emergency are dangerous to the legitimacy of states. In cases conducted like this one, a government stands to lose its authority and so its ability to root out actual terrorists.

If our colleagues are indeed dangerous sociologists, they should be prosecuted rationally. But, as in Guantánamo, persecution seems to have taken the place of prosecution.

Critical scientific research and/or political engagement seem to be dangerous for the people involved these days.

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