Amstetten Means Nothing

Can I just declare that the case of Josef F. from Amstetten, like almost all spectacular crime stories, has no broader implications?  It tells us nothing in particular about Austrian society, or about the town of Amstetten.  In industrialized Western societies, private property and legal protections for privacy are well-established, and lots of people can buy homesteads and keep them under their own private control, without intrusion from the state.  This is all, generally, a good thing. 

A handful of people will choose to do awful things inside those homesteads.  If they’re discreet, it won’t be discovered for years.  This can and does happen anywhere, not just in Austria.  The next case might be happening right now, just around the corner from you, in Ghent, Stockholm, or Waxahachie.  As long as we respect our fellow citizens’ privacy, we’ll never be able to prevent all such cases.  Get the victims help, find out if any policy tweaks would help detect future cases earlier, and move on. 

What I’m trying to say is that there’s no profit to be gained by focusing on Josef F.  No need for long, hand-wringing editorials, or depressing plays, or book-length explorations of his psyche.  But I know they’re coming anyway…

12 thoughts on “Amstetten Means Nothing

  1. Means nothing? I thought that at first, even theough there was the earlier case of an Austrian who kidnapped a 10 year old girl and kept her in the basement for 8 years.

    But last week there was another story which made Josef F look downright restrained by comparison. An Austrian chappie went bankrupt owning large debts to his relatives so he murders hsi wife and daughter then pays visits to hsi own parents and his in-laws & serves them the same way. With an axe I believe, going Lizzie Borden one better. What is it with these Austrians?

    Lizze Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks.
    When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41!

  2. Thanks, Andrew, for stating that so clearly…
    I absolutely agree with that and it is what I always think when another of these private scandals comes to light. And I am sure there is no need in explaining to you, that all this media fuzz about it has nothing to do with “the right of the public to be informed” or “the need for soul searching” in our societies… It just sells.
    And that brings me back to my point from a while ago, that I think it is a pity, that even so called “serious” media outlets (as ZEIT and Sueddeutsche) feel the strong need to join the chorus started by “Bild” and alikes. And yes I know that we could call ourselves lucky in Germany, since the papers in some other countries are even worse. Still it hurts to realize how, for instance, just the appearance of “Focus” has driven down the quality of the “Spiegel” – so that nowaydays the latter is approximately at the low point where Focus had started…
    I can well recall my dismay with some fellow East Germans circa 18 years ago, who seriously explained to me that they preferred junk press papers like “Bild” since they had a “more humane” approach to the world than those “leftist” and intellectual papers, because the former focussed more on the fate of simple people than the latter.

    Anyway: this time there is no hint of criticism in my comment – just pure praise! 🙂 (as mostly when I don’t feel the urge to post a comment)

    And to Don: just read, what Andrew has written. There is nothing particular about “the Austrians” in this, I think, too…
    And to doppelfish: you got it right! 🙂

  3. that is neither the point nor the reason for the kind of coverage cases like this inevitably draw, to make a general point of any sort at all.
    this is pornography* pure and simple, and that is a pretty universal graving.

    amsdetten has it all the sex, the crime and the thrill of the broken taboo.

  4. @Don:

    But last week there was another story which made Josef F look downright restrained by comparison. An Austrian chappie went bankrupt owning large debts to his relatives so he murders hsi wife and daughter then pays visits to hsi own parents and his in-laws & serves them the same way.

    So he killed six people? It’s distressing that a single person killed six people over a short time, but I’m probably not shocking you too much by telling you that several hundred people get murdered in Germany every year.

    What is it with these Austrians?

    What it is with these Austrians is that they have a relatively low crime rate by European standards, and compared to Germany.

    There are some people in our media who take a crime like that of Amstetten, which is exceptional in so many ways, literally mention how exceptional it is, and then go on to tell us how the circumstances of that crime typify the state of Austrian/German/overall society/family/community/etc. I don’t know what’s going on in the heads of these people, but it cannot be process commonly known as thinking.

  5. Stephan, Sebastian,

    I was just having a bit of fun, reflecting a little of the same attitudes I see Europeans express toward my native land. After viewing a fair and unbiased film like ‘Sicko’ or ‘Bowling for Columbine’ they walk out of the theatre and ask ‘What is it with these Americans?’. Or after they read the similarly unbiased ‘journalism’ commonly to be found on German telvision or portrayed in Speigel or other publications of undoubted highest quality.

    Both of you must be ‘White Germans’ (remember Andrew’s thread about that subject. You’re so worthy you almost reek of it.

    “but it cannot be process commonly known as thinking.”

    I might agree. Except of course in the case of stereotyping Americans. In that one case every bit of it is completely true!

  6. In the interests of accuracy I must confess there were only 5 victims, as the poor chap limited himself to killing his father-in-law (on the doorstep of his house) as well as his wife, daughter, and both parents.

    I think I would find that – disturbing were I one of the neighbors. ‘Look, daddy, there’s a body on that doorstep’ ‘Shussh son, musn’t make up stories… Er,…. yes. I see.’

    I guess the idea was to put them out of their pain, or something. An upper-class academic family or so I understand. Ah the pressures of the modern academy….

  7. To Don. You wrote: “Stephan, Sebastian, I was just having a bit of fun… Both of you must be ‘White Germans’ (remember Andrew’s thread about that subject. You’re so worthy you almost reek of it.”

    What is driving your need to insult other contributors? Did white Germans something specific to you that makes you behave like this? Do you want to show the world a stereotyped face of American ignorance (which I myself don’t share at all!)? What kind of concept is that supposed to display? I think I have made it clear that I have – not only willingly, but voluntarily and even eagerly – lived in the US for (I admit: only) one year and have a considerable number of US-American friends. There is no silly bias rooting in MichaelMoore-movies driving my judgement. So please, pull yourself together and behave like a person that is worth listening to.
    And please don’t tell me it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and lecture me about that. It wasn’t. And by the way: I don’t stink.

  8. @Don:

    I was just having a bit of fun, reflecting a little of the same attitudes I see Europeans express toward my native land.

    Just so we’re clear: I rarely see anti-Americanism or even just blatant, serious stereotying coming from the German commenters on this blog. I certainly try to avoid such attitudes myself, and where I should fail, you can point that out if you want to, but I don’t think that happens much. HOWEVER, these pages are often – for reasons beyond my ken – witness to wholesale anti-German comments from people who I shall not name, but who malign the whole German society as decaying, ignorant, simple-minded, etc. So what gives you the idea there is any need to bore us with your whining about the oh so anti-American Europeans in a context that has nothing whatsoever to do with it?

    Both of you must be ‘White Germans’ (remember Andrew’s thread about that subject. You’re so worthy you almost reek of it.

    Well, that post was an example of how to take a bit of stupid, blatant stereotyping and spice it up with some racist language that makes absolutely no sense in the German context. But apart from these flaws, did it say at any point that there’s something wrong with Germans who drink Bionade at the local feminist Lohengrin production? That somehow their concern for the environment, classical culture, etc. was dishonest or misguided? Should I feel insulted, or are you just making a completely random comment about the music and the furniture chains that I allegedly like?

  9. “What is driving your need to insult other contributors?”

    Insult, Stephan? I was having a bit of fun with you. You seem a trifle stuffy today. BTW, I did’t write that you stink – how would I know? I wrote that you reek of worthiness. But then all the best people do whether they live in Germany, the US, Spain, Italy, the UK. Particularly the UK. Not sure about France – probably there also.

    Worthiness is the best and most costly of scents and can hardly be described as a ‘stink’. 😉

  10. “Just so we’re clear: I rarely see anti-Americanism or even just blatant, serious stereotying coming from the German commenters on this blog.”

    Surely not – The Worthy don’t indulge in such behavior. Did I accuse anyone of stereotyping?

    Nor did I actually . You seem to take it as a general slur on the country but I meant it more particularly. And in any case I’ve heard Europeans ask very similar questions after the occasional schoolboy shootem-up in the US.

    “did it say at any point that there’s something wrong with Germans who drink Bionade at the local feminist Lohengrin production?”

    No it didn’t – and neither did I say there is anything wrong with it. I might be slightly amused at such things or their US or UK equivalents. The British and Scottish variants of the meritocracy are almost as hilarious as the inmates of Hollywood. A shame that the political subgenii of the species are about to become extinct over here – they had the biggest egos of all the primates.

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