Germany’s First Lady calls for more politeness online

Germany’s First Lady Elke Buedenbender has expressed concern about the increase of hate and malice in debates, especially on the internet.

“Inhibitions are getting more and more lost out there,” the wife of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a dpa interview.

She said that there were “the most evil insults” which were often directed against women in particular. “This has consequences,” she said, “it makes women mute. And verbal violence can be the first step to physical violence.”

Buedenbender rejected the idea that the freedom to express opinions was being eroded in Germany. “Everything that is not punishable under the penal code can be voiced in our country,” she said. “But we all have to live with the fact that others may have a different opinion.”

She said that freedom of speech, and healthy debate over differing opinions were good for society. “They are what makes up a democracy. And they are guaranteed here.”

Buedenbender is also concerned about the close connection between the social background of children and their educational outcomes. “We must succeed in decoupling this connection,” she said. “My goal is that we take all children with us.”

The First Lady also showed sympathy for the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg: “She is an impressive young woman. She has a big influence  because she stands out in front as a symbolic figure.”

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