Frank W. Haubold

Frank W. Haubold, born 1955 in East Germany, has a PhD in computer science and is an author.

Source: (CC BY 4.0) Doesn't say 'cheese': Siemes CEO Joe Kaeser

Siemens CEO Kaeser on AfD leader Alice Weidel:A Hero called Joe

A corporate leader goes astray

First, an admission: In reality, the name of our hero, the CEO of Siemens AG, is not ‘Joe’ at all, but ‘Josef,’ and also not ‘Kaeser’ with ‘ae,’ but ‘Käser,’ similar to the German word for cheese. But doesn't ‘Josef’ sound like eternal, provincial confinement, dusty pews and sandwiches in aluminum containers? Admittedly, the current connotations around the Biblical Joseph are still largely positive, but our Mr. Joe would not be where he is now if he did not keep up with the times. And a Christian first name like ‘Josef’ would certainly be a terrible imposition for his highly sensitive business partners in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Egypt...

‘Joe’ is quite different. With the sound of this name, you can literally smell the scent of the big wide world, feel the vibrations of the Harley on Route 66 and have Jimi Hendrix' ‘Hey Joe’ in your ear. Longing for cosmopolitanism, Marlboro panoramas and global significance, your name is Joe. And then a fancy ‘ae’ put an end to the annoying word ‘cheese’ ...

Mr. Joe stands for global presence and of course – as befits a former CFO – for healthy corporate profits and dividends for shareholders. The fact that a few crumbs will find their way into his own portfolio – according to ‘Der Tagesspiegel’ newspaper, in 2016 it was a paltry seven million euros – should be taken for granted and is something that only small-minded, envious people would begrudge him. Incidentally, it was also such small minds that showed so little understanding when the corporation, with a net profit of six billion, announced in 2017 that it would cut a modest 6,900 jobs in order to secure its future. According to ‘Der Tagesspiegel,’ the brave corporation leader was simply heeding his mother's advice: “Don't spend more money than you earn, otherwise you’ll end up impoverished.” (!) It should really be clear to everyone that Mr Joe wants to avoid ruin knocking with a hard bone on the door of his humble home...

After all, Mr. Joe is doing a lot to ensure that the company, which has close ties to the German government, does not run out of major contracts. Thus he traveled with Angela Merkel to the highly esteemed business partners, the (of course) completely democratic sheikhs in Riyadh, who, if at all, have a few domestic troublemakers beheaded only on Fridays, and there signed contracts worth billions, which undoubtedly caused a moralist like him sleepless nights. As did too the exclusive meeting with Egypt's coup plotter General Abd al-Fattah as-Sisi, which ultimately resulted in contracts for the company worth eight billion euros.

Commenting unfairly on the humanitarian achievements of his Egyptian contract partner, Wikipedia says: “Since August 2013, hundreds of demonstrators have been shot, for example during the massacres in Cairo and Giza in 2013, over 500 government opponents have mostly been sentenced to death in summary trials and thousands of supporters of both the Muslim Brotherhood and democratic activists and politicians such as Ahmed Maher have been imprisoned. Other politicians like Mohammed el-Baradei went abroad. Democratic organisations and parties were considered ‘terrorist groups’ and broken up. Under as-Sisi's leadership and later presidency, the media have been brought into line and other fundamental rights have been suspended.” But money does not stink, as you know, and even in military dictatorships like Egypt’s it is only indirectly soaked in blood, and Mr Joe of course knows a lot about money.

Sometimes a little too much, malicious tongues such as former Siemens managers Kutschenreuter and Siekaczek claim. But since their statements to the public prosecutor's office, that Kaeser knew about slush funds during his time at Siemens' mobile telecommunications networks division, are disputed by the company, Mr. Joe is still considered innocent

But how did it come about that the CEO, who had been harshly criticized for the planned job cuts and various contacts with Russia, suddenly became the hero of the political and media establishment?

The answer lies in a Twitter statement made by Mr Joe in response to an alleged xenophobic statement by AfD co-group leader in the Bundestag, Alice Weidel. It was clear to anyone who was able and willing to think that the term “good-for-nothing” chosen by Weidel referred to “welfare-supported knifemen” and not to “burkas” (which would be completely meaningless) or “headscarf girls”, who are themselves victims of an archaic anti-women ideology. But text passages are obviously harder to interpret than numbers, which is why Mr. Joe felt obliged to tweet the following words in response: "Rather a ‘headscarf girl’ than ‘Bund Deutscher Mädel’ (Hitler’s League of German Girls). Mrs Weidel's nationalism is damaging the image of our country in the world. Which is where the main source of German prosperity lies.”

Now the news summary service Twitter is more suitable for pithy statements than for differentiated thoughts with serious content, but you should expect a little more substance from the CEO of a large corporation. If Kaeser were capable of critical self-reflection, he should have noticed how absurd and historically distant it is to associate a former investment banker, living in a lesbian relationship, with the family image that the Nazi regime and its sub-organisations promoted. The postscript proves to be no less absurd, since German goods are bought because of their quality and price-performance ratio and not because of a hypothetical “image” of Germany in the world. Otherwise, hardly any German product could have been exported, especially in the post-war decades. It is therefore both demagogic and inaccurate to claim that German “prosperity” could suffer relevant damage from the internal political statements of an opposition party – quite apart from the fact that “prosperity” is in any case a propagandistic fiction if one considers, for example, the median family wealth.

But since factual considerations have for years now no longer played a role in the ubiquitous ‘fight against the right,’ from one day to the next Mr. Joe became the favorite of the mainstream media, a fact which not only flattered his ego, but apparently also generated the irresistible urge in him to intensify his commitment against the revenants of evil called AfD.

But his DAX CEO colleagues, whom he tried to persuade to take part in a joint initiative, were unenthusiastic, as he himself put on record in ‘Die Welt’ newspaper. “Regarding the AfD election results, the head of a car company, for example, pointed out that ‘perhaps 19 percent will no longer buy my cars.’” This quite realistic view would also be advisable for Mr. Joe, but it seems that the busy corporate leader has already left the level of rationality. Instead of thinking about why more and more people turn to the AfD, he uses the Nazi cudgel in a perfidious manner and doesn’t even shy away from exploiting the victims of the Nazi regime for his campaign. “He drew a direct comparison with Hitler's time. In those days, too many had remained silent in the early days. His mother's brother was murdered in Dachau concentration camp because he refused to join the Hitler Youth. The young people had been forced into the Federation of German Girls or the Hitler Youth, ‘because someone had remained silent too often.’ Kaeser said literally: ‘Maybe we need to nip things in the bud again.’”

Apart from the fact that mastery of the German language doesn’t seem to be one of the strengths of this Anglophile gentleman (who is this “someone” who had “remained silent too often”?), I wonder what the crimes of the Nazi dictatorship have to do with the AfD and the current debate on immigration. Does he seriously want to insinuate that the AfD and its voters are striving for a fascist dictatorship? Or which other “things” would Kaeser like “to nip in the bud”? And what about the ban on party-political activity for employers, which according to the Federal Labour Court also includes advocacy for or against any political leaning? Does this not apply above a certain hierarchy level? After all, Kaeser is not speaking as a private individual, which he would be at liberty to do, but explicitly with reference to the Siemens company, i.e. as an employer.

In any case, to sum up, it may be said that Mr Joe has no problem with courting bloodstained dictators like as-Sisi or the clerical-fascist regimes in Riyadh or Tehran, but immediately loses his composure if someone here in Germany dares to address the dark side of mass immigration into the social systems, and places himself not just in argumentative terms beyond the pale. Joe Kaeser without ‘ä’ may think his bold commitment is moral, and the applause of those who believe the media is undoubtedly assured, however, whether he is doing his company and especially this country a favour, I think is more than doubtful.

Translated from eigentümlich frei, where the original article was published on 19th July 2018.

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