In Germany friends and readers describe to me how they are learning anew how to read their daily newspapers. When the news says that ‘A person was killed by another person’ for instance, and no names or other identifying characteristics are given, people guess – correctly – that the culprit is probably of migrant background. For the time-being serious crimes are still reported, but the decision has been taken that the public should not really be informed about them. Of course if you were to report them, or mull on them on social media then you would now risk losing that platform. So the media isn’t much use. And social media isn’t either.
In this situation how are we to deal with issues like that of grooming gangs? The communities from which the culprits come don’t seem to want to address the issue. Mainstream society and politics has shown itself repeatedly unwilling and unable to do more than commission further, endless inquiries into these issues. And passing around what facts are known appears to have become difficult (and perhaps in the near future wholly impossible). The social media platforms will say that the facts are passed around in a hateful manner. But it is hard to see how exactly one might frame the mass gang-rape of children in an un-abashedly upbeat fashion.
As it is with rape-gangs, so it is with the nameless, perpetrator-less crimes in Germany. And so eventually it will be with the burning of a Holocaust survivor in her Paris flat. We are still allowed to notice the tragedy. We can observe the passing age. But we are losing the ability – and the right – to point to the pyre. Or to identify it. Even as it mounts.