TransAct 37

TransAct statement

In spring 1998 the FPÖ began a big poster campaign in most parts of Austria with the slogan, "No mercy for child abusers!" People were encouraged to sign a petition against too mild treatment of child abuse. As part of this campaign the FPÖ in Carinthia used a large-format colour poster of an eleven or twelve year-old girl who the viewer sees attractively dressed, made-up, with long black curls and a tear on her cheek. Beneath this is the appeal to sign the petition against child abuse. At the same time the FPÖ demanded "absolute obligation to report a crime" for social workers and other helpers. At the end of September 1998, a group of Carinthian psychotherapists and psychologists who worked in hospitals, counselling centres and at the University of Klagenfurt saw the necessity of delivering the following statement, "against the abuse of abuse".

"As psychotherapists and psychologists who work with the victims of sexual abuse we protest at the way this abuse is currently being made an issue by the FPÖ. Incest with children and sexual abuse are under any circumstances a serious attack on the fundamental conditions for development and the integrity of a person and everything must be done to prevent such attacks quickly and efficiently. However, in our view, the FPÖ has, in an arbitrary and unfair way, connected sexual abuse with the hounding of an artist and political opponent they do not like. In doing so, they do not shrink from using a sexually arousing collage in the promotion of their petition. In a poster campaign against abuse which was coupled with a petition, a photograph of a girl was used who had been fitted out to look like a seductive Lolita. In this way, male viewers would be subliminally stimulated so that when signing the petition they could once again feel moral and pure.

What will the girl in the picture say about this poster campaign in a few years time? This form of dealing with abuse encourages hypocrisy. The style of the FPÖ's anti-abuse campaign is unhelpful for those with the practical job of protecting children. The demand for "absolute obligation to report" (in addition to currently existing regulations) is a counterproductive and empty formula. It spreads additional stress and fear where a responsible diagnosis and the evaluation of the correct time for legal measures, social work and therapy are required. Measures which are too hasty can endanger children. A political persecution campaign will torpedo professional judgement and prevent the correct decisions being made in the psychological and social institutes of the province. For the above-mentioned reasons we ask the FPÖ to discontinue their abuse campaign in this form immediately."

This statement was signed by over twenty experienced psychotherapists and psychologists. The Carinthian "Kleine Zeitung" reported the statement. Of course, nobody in the FPÖ was impressed. Haider and his helpers were the new child protection experts. Some psychotherapists who were at first keen to sign the statement made the mistake of letting their employers, who were close to the FPÖ, know of their intentions. They were put under such great pressure that they withdrew their signatures.

Parallel to the anti-abuse slogans Haider has been showing himself to his voters more and more as a friend to children. On one large poster, he is holding two happy children in his arms and below can be read the exclamation of one of the children, "My brother, Jörg and I!" Where there are so many ready to seduce and play down abuse there must also be at least one good uncle. One of Haider's many contributions towards dividing the world into the only-good and the only-evil. Other posters showed Haider like the head of the family with a woman and child with the slogan, "Someone who protects our children". However, the girl in the mother's arms looks rather worried.

After the elections in Carinthia in which the FPÖ gained votes, among other reasons, because of the promise of money for families with children, the party advertised with a picture of naked toddlers photographed from behind and the caption, "Thank you, Jörg!" Only then was there a political discussion about the misuse of children for party advertising. Social Democratic Party politicians expressed criticism. In my opinion, only a few extremely perverse Carinthians could have felt stimulated by these toddlers' bottoms (the Lolita poster from summer 1998 was much worse). However, in view of the idea which the FPÖ itself spread, that child abusers and "baby fuckers" were lurking everywhere, the poster should have been seen as negligent. It disappeared from billboards overnight. 

For the Carinthian provincial government elections in spring 1999 and the general election at the beginning of October, Haider was once again built up to be, "Someone who protects our children". A corner was left ready for the enemies of children and child abuse sympathisers. Once again from the Vienna election campaign: "We from the FPÖ do not and will not let down the Viennese and their children (.). In Austria it is possible that a simple theft is punished more severely than the sexual abuse of our children. The SPÖ (Social Democratic Party) and ÖVP (Austrian People's Party – Conservative Party) are responsible for this. The FPÖ protects our children. Whoever abuses them can reckon with life in prison."

"Child abuse is a serious crime. There should be no excuse for it." In the "Child Protection Package" from the FPÖ in autumn 1999 was written: "Almost every day there are shocking new crimes and terrible violence and still the government plays them down and takes no effective measures for the protection of our children." Haider has to a certain extent set up a huge ink well with the label "child abusers" or "child-abuse apologists" in which he threatens to dip artists, politicians and critics he does not like. The consequences can be ruinous. In February 2000 it reached the Belgian government, which had spoken of Haider's right-wing extremism. Unfortunately, there was one flaw – that Haider was not informed that in Brussels the government which had possibly been involved in the child murder and porn scandal centred around the Dutroux couple had long lost the elections and been replaced by a new one. The persecution impulses which are mobilised sometimes threaten to put one's own checking of reality out of action.

The FPÖ's campaign could perhaps be tolerated if it was simply remote from reality. However, it threatens individuals and furthermore damages the practise of effective child protection. If one really wanted to help children the very first thing to do would be to improve the working conditions of social workers who embody the most important early warning system for cases of abuse. However, they have far too many clients and for months are not replaced when they are pregnant so that one social worker must often do the work of two. These social workers are at least well trained and motivated (they would really deserve the title "Those who protect our children"). Haider could also have brought financial security to the only Carinthian child protection centre, which is extremely understaffed, immediately upon taking office as provincial governor. Instead of this, child protection under the chairmanship of Haider and his youth councillor Reichhold was invented for a second time. It was claimed in public declarations that according to criminal law reform plans of the SPÖ/ÖVP government, in cases of "out of court settlements" in future the perpetrators would simply be able to "buy themselves free". It was also claimed that the existing child protection organisations in Carinthia had not communicated with each other and would now require the strong hand of the provincial governor and his "child protection summit".

The press officer for the responsible "Probation Office Association" reacted to this: "In cases of out of court settlements, especially in the immediate social field, the protection of the interests of the victim is the prime concern. (.) On our part, and on the part of the public prosecutor, an out of court settlement is unimaginable in cases of child abuse." (Kleine Zeitung, 15-12-1999) The Carinthian child and juvenile lawyer answered the accusation of a lack of coordination of child protection as follows: "There certainly is a well organised network for the protection of children, and it can basically be supposed that these institutions know of each others' existence." (Ibid) The 24 hour child protection hotline introduced by Haider as a great innovation, which according to the "FPÖ Child Protection Package" finally promised "round the clock psychological counselling for victims and their relatives", consisted in February 2000 of one obviously over-stressed psychologist who gave callers the telephone numbers and addresses of the around thirty previously existing relevant organisations. And if you had bad luck this psychologist was just in the car and did not have the important telephone numbers to hand. 

More details were given about the "absolute obligation to report" in the FPÖ's "Child Protection Package" for Carinthia. It was "a written demand to all local council heads to make sure that in all offices under their responsibility information about child abuse and cruelty to children should be thoroughly checked and prosecuted": This is a doubling of current laws except that these sensibly provide that there is no obligation to report "if the charge would adversely influence official action, the effect of which requires a relationship of personal trust." Without the currently still legally secured opportunity for helpers to preserve a relationship of trust with the victims and, taking advice from colleagues and superiors, themselves to decide upon the correct time for legal proceedings, an "absolute obligation to report" would be as necessary and useful as an "absolute obligation to operate" for surgeons. In a nervous mood and with the fear of the law at their backs the operation would not be safer.

The current article cannot go into the special problems of caring for the victims of violence. However, there remains the political-psychological question why the negligent treatment of the subject of child abuse or "child abusers" is so interesting for Haider's FPÖ. I think that on a general level it is also related to the fact that in our society many people, including adults, feel themselves to be abused and exploited by the authorities in their desire for love and their trusting natures. This applies to many employment relationships in which the bosses, on top of everything else, also have the "eroticism of power" available. And this applies still more to the permanent sexual seductions and promises coming from the culture industry, satellite TV programmes, more or less pornographic advertising messages and so on. In the end, we come away with empty hands and pay for it too. Many people feel like stupid seduced children who suffer under an authority which they cannot bring down. In child abuse the evil and seductive part of authority is completely obvious and at least in the excitement about it we can participate in the desired punishment of the "secret seducers" (Vance Packard) and the representatives of fraudulent authority. Unfortunately, there is the added fact that in the detailed reporting of abuse, barely veiled by punishment fantasies, the voyeurism of the public is also satisfied. The taboo against incest is also correctly defended as a last bastion of morality in a commercialised and sexualised culture in which all sense of shame has been broken.

In the special case of FPÖ supporters, the general seduced feeling of exploited consumers is accompanied by another feeling – for his fans their leader has created and used a mixture of erotic interest and a childlike desire for dependence. It is not sexual abuse but it is emotional abuse of the desire for bonding and love. The abused children are the extremely exaggerated shadow figures of the politically seduced who should relieve their own increasing disgust about their own seduction in a continual frenzy about child abusers. The fans are like the children in the fairy tale "The Pied Piper of Hamlin" where the rat-catcher punishes the corrupt city fathers by making the children follow him with the magic music of his flute and leading them into an uncertain future. For a rat-catcher coming under criticism, it is very practical to be able to point to "child abusers" lurking everywhere. The seduction which he himself has practised seems harmless in comparison or is not even noticed.

Klaus Ottomeyer

Die Haider-Show – (The Haider Show. Zur Psychopolitik der FPÖ – On the psycho-politics of the FPÖ, Klagenfurt 2000 Drava-Verlag – Klagenfurt 2000, Drava Publishing House).

Extract from Chapter 7, pp 100–108 "The Kolig Affair and the Child Abuse Campaign – The Abuse of Abuse".