Pioneer Briefing US Edition

The Fairy Tale of the Polarized Society


Good Morning,

The media insists we live in a polarized society, but most Germans still agree on the fundamental democratic principles of coexistence.

Here's my take: Polarization is both lamented and exacerbated by various groups, with the media frequently playing a dual role in this narrative.

The focus has shifted across numerous publications and TV channels from delivering straightforward information to stoking outrage. The aim was to inform and enlighten; now, it's to incite and provoke. Sociologist Steffen Mau calls this "manufacturing conflict," where headlines are crafted not to inform but to trigger emotional responses. This shift has undeniably raised the temperature in Western democracies, leading to a surge in angry citizens and a constant stream of societal criticism in the public sphere.

The result: the reader is not informed, but provoked. Psychologists call the new business modell "catastrophizing."

Media criticism © dpa

Reality is treated harshly, compressed, dramatized and fictionalized into sensational stories. Minor problems become major crises, while dystopian stories dominate the narrative, with genocide and global conflict replacing tired triggers like species extinction and climate catastrophe.

Media scientist Bernhard Pörksen © imago

Media scientist Bernhard Pörksen speaks of "practicing the cynical view." This approach has proven effective in contributing to the rise of populist figures like Trump and Alice Weidel, who capitalize on sensationalism to further their agendas.

Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk condemns journalists for 'injecting mental stimulants' into society, transforming media outlets into 'agents of arousal' and their journalists into distorters. He regards media companies as 'investors in excitement' and the journalists working in these companies as professional 'distorters':

The fact that distorters usually state 'journalist' as their profession should not be allowed to distract from who they really are.

Peter Sloterdijk © Anne Hufnagl

The widespread polarization in society isn't just a byproduct of modernity; it's a crafted result of media sensationalism.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: Germany: Media Abstinence on the Rise

Percentage of respondents who have used the respective news source recently, in percent

However, amidst this chaos, there's a silver lining: the resilience of ordinary people. Despite the onslaught of media-induced frenzy, the majority of Germans can still agree on crucial aspects of political coexistence:

  • Despite criticism of the Scholz government, trust in German democracy remains intact, with 57% of Germans believing in its functionality.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: Majority Satisfied With Democracy

Satisfaction with the functioning of democracy in Germany, in percent

  • Regarding international affairs, the majority supports Ukraine's fight for freedom but remains cautious about overextending military involvement.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: Majority in Favor of Support for Ukraine

Survey on German Ukraine policy in January 2024, in percent

  • Germany, as an export-oriented nation, maintains its openness to skilled workers from around the world but is firm on deterring illegal immigration.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: Majority Think Refugee Policy is Bad

Survey on the topic: "How do you rate the German government's refugee policy?", in percent

  • Contrary to perceptions of a rightward shift, the majority rejects right-wing populism. They come together to protest against it. In reality, the populace is less polarized than portrayed.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: Majority in Favor of Demonstrations Against Right-Wing Extremism

Statements on demonstrations against right-wing extremism, in percent

Conclusion: As the authors of "Trigger Points" assert, the image of a deeply divided society is exaggerated, offering a more optimistic view: Germany is far from a nation on the brink of collapse. Steffen Mau, Thomas Luxx and Linus Westheuser write:

We were able to reject the image of a split as greatly exaggerated.

Or to put it more cheerfully: Berlin is not a suburb of Weimar.

  • In the Pioneer Podcast, Bodo Hombach - Minister of the Chancellery under Gerhard Schröder - discusses the poisoned relationship between the former Federal Chancellor and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

  • According to the Federal Government's accountability report for 2022, the AfD benefited the most from state funding.

  • Ministry thriller: Wolfgang Ainetter, the former spokesman for CSU (Christian Social Union) politician Andreas Scheuer, published a book at the beginning of March.

Bodo Hombach © KNSY Photographie

On Sunday, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder celebrated his 80th birthday. However, his birthday wishes from SPD chancellor Olaf Scholz, the party president and the party leadership were not very genuine. They don't actually want to celebrate Gerhard Schröder; they want to get rid of him.

The party doesn't want his advice; it wants peace and quiet.

His chancellorship, his membership in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and his reputation are being questioned.

But Bodo Hombach isn't fazed by this. The 71-year-old Social Democrat was appointed Minister of the Chancellery by Gerhard Schröder after his election victory in October 1998. Before that, he was his loyal campaign advisor and strategist: the "New Middle" was his creation. Schröder built his chancellorship on the intellectual foundation that the SPD should not be the repair shop of capitalism but a party of upward mobility.

In the Pioneer Podcast, I spoke with Hombach about Schröder. He says the current SPD leadership is distancing itself from its former Chancellor as part of a political game:

The hand that fed you and put you in office is being bitten with relish by those in the SPD who had no chance of being elected directly. It's disgusting but nothing new. For me, such bite marks are badges of honor, and Schröder is covered in them.

Click here to listen to today’s episode of the Pioneer Podcast in German.

Hombach says no one should question Schröder's loyalty to the Social Democrats:

For me, it's clear: he's a Social Democrat through and through. Period.

Of course, we also talked about Gerhard Schröder's friendship with Russian President and warlord Putin. Bodo Hombach says:

You are allowed to be wrong outside the service. We're a free country. Of course, from my point of view, Gerhard Schröder is mistaken if he doesn't consider the weight of his words and actions that come as a result of his relationship with Putin. I've said that to him in clear words.


To reinterpret Schröder's friendship as complicity is undeserved for the great Chancellor of our Republic. But it has taken him off the stage, this has pulled him out of focus, which is unfortunate.

Schröder defends friendship with Putin.  © dpa

Hombach agrees with his former boss that talks with Putin are necessary to end the war in Ukraine. He says:

The only constant truth is the error of those who proclaim it.

Schröder always fulfilled the oath of office as chancellor, which is "to devote one's strength to the welfare of the German people, to increase their benefit and to avert harm from them," Hombach says. That cannot be said of the current government staff:

I'm looking and waiting for someone whom you believe when they say, 'first the country, then the party.'

Listen to the full interview in German on today’s episode of the Pioneer Podcast.

Alice Weidel, leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) © dpa

Financial boost: According to the government's accountability report for 2022, the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) benefited the most from state subsidies in proportion to all other parties in the Bundestag.

State funding accounted for about 45 percent of the AfD's total budget. For comparison: For the SPD, the share was 29.8 percent; for the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), 32.6 percent; for the FDP, 36.9 percent; and for the Greens, 35.4 percent.

For context: The AfD received the lowest amount of state funding in absolute terms, at around ten million euros. However, the high relative share is due to the low income generated from membership fees. In 2022, the party received only €3.8 million from its memberships - around seven million less than the FDP, the Left Party and the CSU, and more than 50 million euros less than the Chancellor's party (SPD).

We are learning that the AfD wants to change the state, preferably with its money.

Alice Weidel and AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla © dpa

Israeli soldiers driving a tank on the border to the Gaza Strip. © dpa

Israel is withdrawing troops from Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip, with only one brigade remaining. According to the army, the 98th Commando Brigade left Gaza "to recuperate and prepare for future operations." The Israeli media itself interpreted the withdrawal as the end of the primary ground offensive.

Benjamin Netanyahu's demand: The Israeli prime minister is making the planned cease-fire conditional to the release of hostages by the Hamas terrorist group, who attacked Israel six months ago. To this day they are still holding around 130 hostages.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock responded on Sunday:

Hamas has brought endless suffering to Israelis and Palestinians with its campaign of terror. It must end this suffering, release the hostages immediately and lay down its arms.

Balcony power plant © dpa

Independence: Generating your own energy with solar panels is nothing new. But what do you do if you do not own a property or have a roof on which to install solar panels?

Power plants on balconies: According to the German Solar Industry Association, more and more people in Germany are installing solar panels on their balconies, allowing tenants to participate in the energy transition.

Business is booming: More than 400,000 of these mini solar systems are now in operation, with some 50,000 installed in the first quarter of this year alone. The actual number is likely even higher, as there are unregistered systems and installations that may be reported later.

These miniature solar panels for balconies, patios, gardens, or even facades are called plug-in solar devices. The electricity produced is converted by an inverter and fed directly into the household grid via a socket.

Photovoltaics: Solar panels for generating clean energy on the roof of a residential building © imago

Of course, these small balcony power plants cannot compete with their larger counterparts' performance. They cannot generate excess electricity or accelerate the energy transition, but they can meet the needs of household appliances.


  • After a two-week Easter break, the Bundestag is back in business.

  • Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits Rhineland-Palatinate for the groundbreaking ceremony of the US company Eli Lilly and Company in Alzey. A new high-tech production facility is being built.

  • Visit by the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Amir Ohana, to the German Bundestag and Bundesrat.

The Speaker of the Israeli Parliament Amir Ohana © imago


  • Press conference on Police Crime Statistics 2023 with Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD)


  • The European Parliament meets.

  • Quarterly earnings reports from Delta Air Lines Inc., Seven & i Holdings Co. Ltd. and Tesco PLC will be published.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg © imago


  • The European Central Bank (ECB) Governing Council will announce an interest-rate decision. Experts expect rates to remain unchanged.

  • The appeal proceedings regarding the classification of the AfD by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution will continue. The AfD is suing the Federal Republic of Germany. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has placed its officials under observation and has classified the AfD as a ‘suspect party’ due to ‘unconstitutional aspirations.’


  • EU finance ministers meet in Luxembourg.

  • Chancellor Olaf Scholz receives Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze with military honors.

  • Quarterly earnings reports from BlackRock Inc, Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co. will be published.

Andreas Scheuer © imago

Resignation: On April 1, former Transportation Minister Andreas Scheuer voluntarily, prematurely and very surprisingly resigned from his seat in the Bundestag. The reasons for his sudden departure are unclear. However, a thriller novel may provide some clues.

Wolfgang Ainetter © Instagram/wolfgangainetter

Wolfgang Ainetter, the former spokesman for CSU politician Andreas Scheuer, published a book in March entitled "Secrets, Lies and Other Currencies - A Ministry Thriller."

The book is about kidnapping, abuse, sexism and other unsavory things in the government district of political Berlin - all fictional, of course. But the parallels to the Ministry of Transport and the Minister are unmistakable.

The Invalidenstraße street in Berlin Mitte is called "Versehrtenstraße" (The street of defeat). There, where the Ministry of Transportation is located, a minister named "Dr. Felix Rohr" wreaks havoc. He is known by the opposition as the "Federal Minister of Fiasco." Ainetter writes:

The weak minister, Dr. Rohr has always caused jams in the political machinery with his impulsive actions.

And further:

They blamed him for wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money with his decisions.

It is a thriller set in the Department of Transportation. The inspiration probably came from Scheuer himself. The author recounts how the spokesman for the fictitious Minister Rohr is shouted at in the official car:

I'm fed up with your poor communication!

Against the backdrop of Scheuer's sudden departure, this work of literature reads like the story of his downfall.

Wishing you a wonderful start to your week. Stay informed. Stay with me.

Best wishes,

Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer
  1. , Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer

Editorial Team

Eleanor Cwik, Alexia Ramos Gonsen, Nico Giese, Lukas Hermann & Paulina Metzler

With contributions from Luisa Nuhr & Tatiana Laudien

Translation Team

Eleanor Cwik & Alexia Ramos Gonsen

Graphics Team

Lynn Janzen (Cover Art)


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