Corona citizen talk triggers Shitstorm

How streamlined and uniform the vast majority of broadcasts in the public-law are on the big “corona theme”, one notices especially when there is an outlier. There was one on Monday last week in an ARD-extra, which unfortunately remained with the other ARD formats without consequences. Another outlier was the WDR, which let the audience speak in the format “Your Opinion” last Thursday and that was not at all on the official line in the majority. It came as it had to come. The shitstorm of the “Lockdown faction” was not long in coming. One is in favour of freedom of expression, but only for the “right” opinions. And what is “right” seems to determine the federal government and the media. How sad.

Polls suggest a strong popular support for the Corona measures. However, this “simulated match” should be treated with caution. Subjectively, there are at least doubts. Even if it is repeatedly claimed that an overwhelming majority is behind the measures, the conversations in the circle of friends and acquaintances give me a much differentiated picture. Although there is indeed little “fundamental criticism” there, individual measures such as the compulsory mask swearing in schools or the often rationally incomprehensible requirements for culture and gastronomy have little support even among the few CDU voters in my area. There seems to be a clear disagreement between public and published opinion.

The WDR broadcast “Your Opinion” with Bettina Böttinger showed how big this dissent could be in this and other points. In this format, the audience has their say and the audience present at the live broadcast in the municipality of Lindlar was by the majority not at all in line with the “Lockdown Faction”. This is an opinion that should surprise, above all, those who feel that they belong to this group. The majority of the audience’s comments were quite differentiated in his criticism. All in all, such a perhaps surprising opinion came, which does not correspond at all with the “O-tones” that otherwise go filtered over the aether. But if you haven’t already done so, watch the show yourself. It’s worth it.

It was to be expected that such unfiltered “people’s opinions” would naturally cause severe cognitive dissonance on the part of those who cannot be hard enough to take the measures. So it didn’t take long for a young television journalist from the public broadcaster to express his angry and indiscriminate opinion on the show on the media blog “Übermedien”. According to Peter Handke, this was a special kind of insult to the public. “Pippi Longstocking and the Mask Opponents” had hijacked the “WDR-Bürgertalk”. For what must not be cannot be either – trapped in their own filter bubble, anyone who criticises the actions of governments becomes a “trivial” and if you are too fine for harder expressions as a media professional, you simply bind the pre-programmed shitstorm on Twitter and let it speak for itself.

And of course the Shitstorm didn’t wait long, because even the echo chamber on Twitter with statements that run counter to one’s own opinion, nothing can do at all. Thus, the guests of the Bürgertalk immediately became “Aluhüte”, “Irre”, “Confused”, “Corona-Deniers” or – at least gender-appropriately formulated – “conspiracy oaths”.

And these statements are not hand-picked exceptions, but reflect exactly the opinion of the “community”, which fortunately is also anything but representative. However, those who find themselves within this “community” and form their opinion via this “social network” – including, incidentally, an astonishing number of journalists – not only run the risk of confusing the majority opinion of a small group with the majority opinion of society, but often tend to allow only those who fit the group opinion and to classify opposing arguments as “wrong”. The WDR broadcast was thus the ultimate test for this scene, where it failed as expected.

This case study shows once again the polarization, which has long been criticized by the post-thinkers, and the increasing divergence of the factions on the “corona issue”. For all the optimism, it cannot be assumed that the audience of the WDR Citizens' Talk and the upset Twitter crowd can ever sit down at the table and debate constructively. This division is a consequence of the uniform political discourse, which allows hardly any arguments beyond the line of government, and even more so of the uniform reporting of the media, which likes to dismiss any criticism with the very terms that are now being packed into a shitstorm on Twitter. Whether this polarization can be recaptured is questionable.