- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

German politics

“Here I see a monumental paradox: the Baader-Meinhof Gang managed to perturb West German political institutions because the state was not what the [Red Army Faction] claimed it to be. One of the RAF’s ploys was to provoke the state ‘into showing its cunningly hidden and well-camouflaged “true fascist face.”’

“Once the members of the Gang had been incarcerated, the German state seemed at first to oblige: it unnecessarily subjected them to harsh penal conditions — isolation, sound deprivation, white furniture, perpetually lit rooms. Still, these tactics, for all the physical and mental distress they may have caused, represent not unabashed use of force but muted alternatives, weaker substitutes.

“West Germany was, as [author Stefan] Aust says, ‘a reasonably well-functioning constitutional state.’ If the state had had a ‘true fascist face’ to reveal, matters would have been very different. We might not even know about the RAF, since freedom of the press would have been curtailed and secret executions would have replaced trials. By contrast, thanks to intense media coverage, the Gang’s terror effect was multiplied and broadcast far and wide.”

Diego Gambetta, writing on “Heroic Impatience” in the March 22 edition of the Nation

German philosophy

“Despite its provocative subtitle, [author Emmanuel] Faye’s work [‘Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy’] was probably destined to be one of those books filed on the second shelf up from the floor in the basement room stack. But now along comes this excellent translation to support a professor who wants to dispute the philosophical merit of [philosopher Martin] Heidegger’s oeuvre, and instead trace it back, phrase by phrase, idea by idea, to tawdry Nazi party politics: racial purity, lebensraum, the special role of the Fuhrer, the virtuous necessity of war — the lot!

“For Faye is a man with a mission. Not here will we find a search for two sides to every question. He intends to throw light on unpublished Heidegger texts that are ‘every bit as racist and virulently National Socialist as those of the official “philosophers” of Nazism.’ Faye believes that ‘the diffusion of Heidegger’s works after the war slowly descends like ashes after the explosion — a grey cloud slowly suffocating and extinguishing minds,’ and that the vast literature on Heidegger continues to spread ‘the fundamental tenets of Nazism on a worldwide scale.’

“And so he offers extensive quotation from unpublished material in the spirit of ‘what legal scholars have called our right to history,’ to show that the philosophical task to which Heidegger dedicated himself was the introduction of the ideas of the Fuhrer into philosophy.”

Martin Cohen, writing on “Book of the week,” in the 18 Feb. issue of Times Higher Education

German music

“The No Applause Rule … holds that one must refrain from clapping until all movements of a work have sounded. No aspect of our modern concert ritual causes more bewilderment. …

“The classical concert of the 18th century was radically different from the rather staid and timid affair of today. Famous evidence comes from a letter that Mozart wrote to his father after the premiere of his ‘Paris’ Symphony: ‘Right in the middle of the First Allegro came a Passage that I knew would please, and the entire audience was sent into raptures … and as I knew, when I wrote the passage, what good effect it would make, I brought it once more at the end of the movement — and sure enough there they were: the shouts of “da capo”.’ …

“Wagner played a pivotal, if inadvertent, role in the transformation of audience behaviour. At the premiere of ‘Parsifal’ in 1882, he requested that there be no curtain calls after act two, so as not to ‘impinge on the impression.’ But the audience misunderstood these remarks to mean that they shouldn’t applaud at all, and total silence greeted the final curtain. ‘Did the audience like it or not?’ Wagner asked. Two weeks later, he slipped into his box to watch the flower maidens scene. When it was over, he called out ‘Bravo!’ — and was hissed. Alarmingly, Wagnerians were taking Wagner more seriously than he took himself.”

— Alex Ross, writing on “Time to show our appreciation for classical music,” on March 8 in the Guardian

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