The World From Berlin Who's to Blame for School Shootings?

Monday's school shooting in Germany has led to calls for a crackdown on violent computer games of the sort 18-year-old Sebastian B. played. But it's too easy to blame games, the Internet or the media, say German newspaper commentators. Society as a whole is at fault.

A day after 18-year-old Sebastian B. wounded 37 and killed himself in his former school in the northwestern town of Elmsdetten, the left-wing daily Die Tageszeitung writes: "The complaints about computer games and violent media that always come up after such shootings are mainly aimed at self-reassurance. They make it possible to grasp what is hard to fathom and barely explicable. They help pinpoint a culprit and slot the deed into a sequence of cause and effect. But they hardly explain what happened. Shooting rampages happened before computer games were invented -- and there's no evidence of a link between rampages and use of media.

"Bastian B.'s farewell note is disturbing: it demonstrates not only the frustration of the loser but also a cold nihilistic rage at normal society, at us. It's ending is almost ironic. Bastian B. is certain that 'the media' are to blame for the poor state of the world."

The mass-circulation Bild suggests that all of society is at fault. "When do we lose our children?" asks columnist Franz Josef Wagner. "Or don't we look after them properly anymore?"

Bild prints an editorial written by the head of the German Federation of Teachers, Josef Kraus, who says: "Was there a warning signal? In the life, in the family of the shooter there must have been. But there are plenty of warning signals flashing in our society: drugs, consumption and fun are the only values conveyed by pop and television stars. Brutal computer games and video films tell young people that you win quickly if you're strong. They don't offer solutions for losers.

"There are more divorces -- and children of divorced parents -- than ever before. More and more young people can't find apprenticeship positions and have no prospect of leading a regular working life.

"That is precisely why we adults have to show our children: work, achievement, loyalty, dependability, family life -- those are firm values worth living for despite all problems and obstacles. A society that loses these values will itself run amok one day."

Foiled terror plot

Monday's announcement that German police may have foiled an attack on an aircraft at Frankfurt airport by striking early and temporarily detaining a number of suspects highlights the dillemma faced by authorities in the fight against terrorism, commentators say. Make early arrests when attackers are still in the planning stage, and you're unlikely to secure a conviction because you'll lack the necessary hard evidence. Wait too long and you may be unable to avert the attack.

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: "Luck and hard work have so far spared the Germans disastrous attacks of the kind that struck London or Madrid. "Hard work is something they can control but whether their luck will hold -- that's out of their hands."

"The police were close by and acted at a very early stage. Reassuring though this news about a possible attack at Frankfurt airport may be for the population, the justice system will have a difficult time dealing with this action. The fight against terror creates a constant dilemma. The earlier the authorities pounce, the less evidence there is available in a trial. It's always easiest for courts if they have a smoking gun."

"What are the authorities supposed to do when they bug the phones of suspects and hear how negotiations take place about explosives, how someone is being sought to carry out an attack? Should they wait calmly until even the last doubt has been removed? Hardly."

The conservative paper Die Welt seems to recycle an opinion piece it has run a number of times before, the main point being, "Germany too is a target for terrorists." That Germany hasn't yet been hit by a major terror attack, the paper points out, isn't because there aren't those who would like to attack the country. The apparent foiling of a plot to blow up a plane departing from Frankfurt, which was announced on Monday, provides yet more proof, as if proof were needed. Two recent plots -- the attempt on the life of then Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi in 2004 in Berlin and the suitcase bombs in German trains in July this year -- were also narrowly avoided. "Since Germany has become politically and militarily involved in the international fight against terrorism," the paper writes, "our country is also in the bulls eye of militant, Islamist fundamentalists.

Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is more concerned about the lack of information about the alleged airline plot. Authorities arrested six plotters, but have released them; they are being investigated for membership in a terrorist organization. "As such, the incident doesn't only leave behind a feeling of security." Rather, there are a number of questions that need to be answered. Like where do the alleged attackers come from? Who supports them? And are there security loopholes at German airports? In short, the paper argues, German authorities are going to have to provide a bit more information in the face of such a potential threat.

David Crossland and Charles Hawley, Tuesday 3 p.m. CET


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