Friday, April 09, 2010

The Baader Meinhof Complex

I watched the movie the Baader-Meinhof Complex, about the German left-wing terrorist organization the Red Army Faction, on Netflix Instant Play.

It's a good movie. Of particular interest to readers of this blog will be the portrayal of the sexual dynamics of the terrorist cells, which follow a familiar pattern. We see how terrorist psychology in general will favor the most violent and antisocial of a group rising to leadership, and how the presence of females among them hastens this process.

My question is: how does Western society produce people like these? The movie plays up an opinion poll taken in which one quarter of German 20-somethings (I think) voiced their support of the RAF. That's a lot. How can the young people of a country become so indoctrinated with a nihlistic ideology without the cooperation of the state itself?

Especially well done was the character of Horst Herold, the head of the counterterrorism task force chasing the group. Sadly, there is no Wikipedia page in English describing this guy's real life, but actor Bruno Ganz plays him as a La Carre'-esque figure who understands the key to counterterrorism is good intelligence gathering and sythesis.

I also liked the portrayal of the RAF members' stint in what I took to be a PLO training camp in Jordan. As I understand it, the Fatah organization was never especially religious, but neither were they particularly irreligious. The, um, "liberated" practices of the RAF, and their pampered lives in general, annoyed their Palestinian hosts, who . . . well, actually, the PLO were terrorist scumbags too, but they saw themselves as real soldiers preparing for a real war against a real nation-state, and their training program reflected that.

The terrorists' sense of entitlement was amazing. After murdering dozens of people, they cried and protested at their own arrest, like it was somehow cruel and unfair that the government should prevent them from continuing their life of crime.

One has to admire the steely resolve of the German government, and the German people, for not putting an expeditious end to these murdering thugs, but there is really no way for them to win from the terrorists' point of view. If the government reacts with restraint, then it is weak, proving the terrorists' point. If the government does not react with restraint, it is brutal and fascist, proving the terrorists' point. The ideology is hermetic and un-falsifiable.

The film demonstrates the importance of well designed security procedures, and how far we've come in the last 40 years. These procedures were sadly lacking in the late sixties and seventies, and the RAF found it easy to invade buildings and plant bombs back then. When you think about it, it should give you some perspective on the complaints civil libertarians make, even when the complaints are in good faith. Sure, I don't like the constant surveillance, the omnipresent law enforcement, or the overhead either, but this is what can happen when we don't have these things.

German trials are utter circuses. I noticed this in the film The Reader. Defendants that can marshall supporters are evidently free to turn the proceedings into opportunities for grandstanding.

The movie has a hero: Stevan Aust, a left-wing journalist who accompanies the RAF to Jordan, eventually rescued Meinhof's daughters from Sicily before they could be indoctrinated in Communist ideology, and returned them to their father, Klaus Rainer Röhl, who had outgrown his wife's leftism and eventually become a conservative mainstream liberal (or a German version thereof). [Thanks to Frank for the correction.]


Anonymous said...

As a social conservative, isn't it your position that this is how people naturally are and that it takes a good culture to prevent these types of attitudes from forming? If not, that's certainly the position of a couple of my conservative college professors. Looked at in that light, society's role is simply failing to correct our human instincts.

Dr. Φ said...

Interesting . . . I guess if we were to regard the politics as merely a fig leaf to justify a life of criminal violence, then yes, we could argue that they were a product of permissive parenting or whatnot. Which may have been part of the problem, there and elsewhere. I would be surprised, though, if hatred of your own country is somehow the default mode of original sin.

Unknown said...

The strong support of the RAF can mostly be explained due to the raise of marxist ideas, the perception that most mighty people had to have some power in the nazi regime and the utter mismanagement of the german police.

The tipping point, which started the radicalisation of the movement, was the demonstration against a visit of the shah of Persia. Benno Ohnesorg, a german student, was shot by the police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras and the german police refused to protect the peaceful demonstrating inhabitants of germany against the hired goons of the shah.

Consider a government of a democracy that denys it's citizens protection against hired goons of a foreign nation for the sake of business opportunities and even uses it's police force to supress the demonstration of dissent, that's a perfect base for propaganda to legitimize civil disorder.

Interestingly, it recently was dicovered, that Karl-Heinz Kurras was an agent of the stasi, the secret police force of East-Germany.

Also Stefan Aust is not a german conservative. He was the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, which is as left as it can get for a weekly magazin, constantly spreading misinformation about the gender wage gap, the economy and the need for more welfare.

And he wrote the book "Der Baader-Meinhof-Komplex" so it's no wonder he is the hero in the film.

For the younger generation, this whole era is mostly a factory for producing the worst german politicians, ever.

Dr. Φ said...

Frank: thanks for the insight. Yes, the movie highlights the Shah visit as a potential source of radicalization.

I had missed that Aust wrote the book on which the movie was based, but I didn't say that Aust became a conservative. I said that Röhl became a conservative, although this, too, was an exaggeration. I have corrected the error.