German president warns against polarisation, hate speech

The country must not be allowed to drift apart, Steinmeier says in his annual Christmas speech

Photo: Bundespraesident German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

The President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier has raised concerns about growing political and social polarisation, urging people both in Germany and beyond to get out of their "self-made bubbles where everyone always agrees one hundred percent" and address tensions by engaging with each other. Even if others espouse different views and it leads to arguments since that's an essential part of democracy.

"Political and societal dissent in Germany have grown louder and more intense in 2018. There is much talk of social division, of alienation between politicians and ordinary people. Many express anger, especially on so-called "social" media, where there's often no real interest in debate or a genuine exchange of views," Steinmeier said in his pre-recorded Christmas address, cautioning against the exclusion and hate speech that social media fuels.

"Wherever you look - especially on social media - we see hate; there is shouting and daily outrage," the German head of state cautioned, adding that "Germans are spending less and less time talking to each other. And even less time listening to each other."

While calling for more dialogue within Germany, Steinmeier also discussed conflict and polarisation beyond Germany's borders, unlike last year when he did not mentioned other countries. He referred to "burning barricades in Paris, deep political rifts in the United States and anxiety in the United Kingdom ahead of Brexit" and noted that "Europe is being put to the test in Hungary, Italy and other places."

"Germans, "in the heart of Europe, are of course not immune to these developments," he stressed in regard. He also noted that currently country's democracy is strong, but linked this affirmation to a reminder that "Our democracy is as strong as we make it," making his call for dialogue, for argument, for sticking together, all the more urgent.

"Reaching compromise does not signal weakness, but rather is a sign of strength. The ability to compromise is the backbone of democracy," the head of state concluded.

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