Why this story matters:
At the "Violence and Racism" event in the Austrian Parliament, Michael Köhlmeier did not spare the feelings of the two ruling parties in attendance. He was especially critical of the right-wing Freedom Party.
His first words on stage were: "do not expect me to play dumb."
"What can one say to those people who are sitting here and are members of a party which again and again, nearly at weekly intervals, make statements trivializing nazism, or antisemitic or racist statements, either openly or clandestinely, hidden in forums and on social media -- what can one say to them?"
The speech obviously ruffled feathers in the Freedom Party, who accused him of abusing the event to further his political agenda. Meanwhile, the opposition lauded his honesty.
In a follow-up interview, Köhlmeier called on the head of the Freedom Party, Hans-Christian Strache, to reinvent his party and rid it of antisemitism once and for all. Time will tell if his appeal will make an impact.
Quotes from Köhlmeier's speech
- "Should we act as if we didn’t know about any of this? As if we didn't know what they mean when they exchange their codes, speaking about "certain circles on the East coast", toying with the number "88", or -- like happened recently -- using the name of George Soros to refer to conspiracy theories in the disastrous tradition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?"
- "Are you also one of those people [...] who have allowed themselves to become jaded, who are no longer alarmed by the frightening "isolated cases" that occur from time to time, but who-- on the contrary -- shrug off the frequency of these "cases" as a symptom of modern life, of normality, of the "we knew that already, there's nothing new there"?
- "People never arrive to great evil in one single step, but in many small ones, each of which seems too small for a great outcry. First there is talk, then there is action. Do you intend to just let it go, I ask, without any contradiction and for the sake of peace and quiet, when a minister of the interior talks about keeping people "concentrated" in places?