Strategic failure” is a concept of these weeks. The NATO states have agreed that Vladimir Putin must not win, but must not be humiliated either. That is why Russia’s “strategic failure” is now the West’s goal.
What is this war doing to our thinking, what is it doing to political language? Let’s ask someone who might know, since Kevin Kühnert is a natural at political communication, often boldly articulate, but slowed down for months; he talks softer and tweets less than before the war.
Or does both have to do with the office? He is now general secretary and no longer chairman of the Young Socialists, and a general secretary has to explain Olaf Scholz about whom a Juso chairman makes jokes. “We have achieved an improvement,” says Kühnert, meaning the traffic light after the grand coalition, “and now I also want to fight to ensure that it is successful. My audience is now broader, no longer just a part of the audience, but the whole. Everything that is demanding and driving in my political style is currently shifting to the non-public space.”
And what does the war do with political communication?
Kühnert says: “Words have a completely different weight and are illuminated differently. They materialize in political consequences; and this in a setting where it’s a matter of life and death, we don’t have it smaller on offer at the moment. That’s why I communicate differently in terms of style and instruments. I have had a great reluctance to comment on current political issues via Twitter for months. I actually appreciate this direct medium, but at the moment it needs more room for deliberation and sorting.”
Two things are happening at the same time. This war is also being fought via TikTok and Twitter, glaring and loud, and sound, light and aggravation are becoming significant as there is death in eastern Ukraine. But because there have long been mistakes, because places from which Ukrainian politicians had posted pictures and texts, supposedly not identifiable, are bombed a little later in the age of Google Street View, the war also leads to caution.
Kevin Kühnert is sitting in his office in the Bundestag and has muted the budget debate. He observes others and himself in a rhetorical turning point. “We are in completely new, different language and image worlds, I’m suddenly juggling with terms that I’m not at home with,” says Kühnert, “and what’s happening now hasn’t already been politically drilled five times.”
Actually, Kühnert loves the speech “free snout” following the example of Gregor Gysi or Regine Hildebrandt, and he therefore only carries a keyword to the lectern, a scaffolding, but no fully formulated sentences. Rarely, he says, does he have to talk about something he’s never thought about before, which is why he sees his own brain as a collection of drawers that Kühnert pulls open depending on the place, occasion and length of the speech and whose content he always puts together anew. Something that is “catchy”, has a local connection and triggers emotions must always be there.
The fear of suddenly not knowing what to do at the lectern went away over the years. “Making too many mistakes would be a weakness, but admitting and explaining a mistake is not.” A policy that would no longer be willing and able to react spontaneously “would be a little scary for me,” he finally says: “The mixture Finding a balance between being relaxed and avoiding serious factual mistakes is what many of us are striving for at the moment.”