It is forbidden to talk about violence at the Chaos Computer Club.

I have deliberately chosen a provocative title here to draw attention to an unfortunate dynamic that comes with dealing with the topic of interpersonal violence. I want to stimulate reflection and invite people to talk, even if and precisely because the topic is so uncomfortable.

Since 2018, I have been working more intensively and more explicitly on the emergence and persistence of violence in society. How victims become perpetrators, of themselves and others, how experiences of violence are passed down through generations and contribute to mental disorders and other illnesses. The deeper I delve, the more I realize how important it is for society in general and peace and human rights movements in particular to deal with this topic openly and broadly. I see this as a logical continuation and ongoing development of my political engagement.

“Only by including mental health in peace work can spirals of violence be broken in the long term and stability promoted.” (Handbook of Peace Psychology)

The original post was written in German. This is mostly a machine translation. Don't hold it against me. Improvements welcome!

“The story of observing instead of acting is repeated over and over again. In this way, toxic individuals are always able to go about their business for far too long before they are stopped by the corrective. This is not only damaging for the economy, politics and society, it also claims countless unnecessary victims who suffer in silence far away from the public eye and receive no protection. […] Every one of us who observes humiliation and psychological abuse among colleagues and friends and does not act as a mediator for the weakest in our society out of self-protection is legitimizing this increasing form of psychological violence and paving the way for imitators. […] The existential fears and feelings of powerlessness of individuals and the collective often lead to them preferring to remain innocuous in the event of abuse of power, humiliation and psychological violence rather than providing support to those affected. This behaviour encourages a normalization effect, which ultimately leads to the legitimization, acceptance, blunting and even glorification and imitation of this immoral, unrepentant behaviour.” (Dr. Anja Oswald, Dr. Pablo Hagemeyer und Dr. Jan Gysi: Toxic Leaders; DeepL translation)

What has happened so far. A brief summary. #

On 18.8.22, I register for the xHain Hackerspace’s “Gespräch auf der Lichtung”, a “mini talk festival”, “open to all”, with the proposal to talk about narcissism. In response, they try to ban me from the space and all their events for “unexcellent behavior”. When I point out that for a ban to be effective, concrete accusations have to be made and a hearing must be granted, I receive no further reply. I therefore assume that the ban is not upheld. Unfortunately, I still don’t know what behavior was interpreted as “unexcellent” at the time. This was especially painful, since at the time I thought the owners of xHain were my friends. I am still hoping for a clearing conversation.

In October, I contacted CCC Awareness seeking advice regarding the ongoing and persistent character assassination campaign against me. My e-mail remains unanswered to this day. Many months later, on Mastodon, I was told that, contrary to the information on their website, they are only available during events. At 37c3, I renewed my request for conversation, and that I would also travel to meet with someone from their team.

In the meantime, I’ve been hearing more and more similar stories. On a mailing list of the CCC I send out an invitation on 27.12.22 to get in touch with other interested and similarly affected people. This invitation is later considered a “disturbance” by the CCC arbitration board. Some members of it have known me personally for many years and I had considered them friends also.

For the Chaos Communication Camp 2023 I am submitting a presentation. It is rejected with generic reasoning (see link). I hear through the grapevine that the lecture and especially me as a person are not welcome.

For 37c3 I then held a meeting on 23.11.23 registered as a “self-organized session” (with a very positive response by its participants). It was deleted from the community schedule at around 8.12. without explanation. I have not been able to find out who is responsible for this deletion. I asked about the reasons by phone and accepted the ones given, even though I still don’t understand them. There was no objection to an external implementation, to the contrary: I was advised to advertise with printed notices, and, without me asking, was assured by the person I spoke with that they would “personally protest” if notices were removed. (Which is exactly what happened.) As a farewell, I was invited to sit down for a friendly Mate at the c3.

I asked some old-timers (like me?), and they said it’s the first time they’ve heard of any self-organized session ever getting removed (apart from obvious spam).

For the upcoming Easterhegg conference, in an attempt to avoid conflict and make arrangements in advance, I have now instead reaped a complete event ban, regardless of whether the meeting takes place or not, which hits me very hard; Easterhegg has always been my favorite event, and I like Regensburg very much.

I invite you to read the email exchange between the Easterhegg team and myself and form your own opinion (German). What do you see?

I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I submit a workshop, people who want to participate do so, and that’s it. Those who don’t want to simply don’t. Just like with any other topic. I am peaceful and not at all interested in any kind of petty wars. I’m interested in constructive cooperation. But I’m not going to be fobbed off just like that either. When more and more people are advising me to consult a lawyer to defend my rights, it makes me sad. I don’t want to take legal action against my own communities. I want to work together constructively, not against each other.

Even just coming up with the idea of banning someone from an event because they dare to organize a parallel meeting, whether agreed upon or not, shows that people here are far from living and representing the values that I associate with the CCC. Not to mention the responsibility to adhere to the applicable legal framework. Even more serious is the categorical refusal to talk, which unfortunately seems to have become a new norm in our circles. This is socially highly dangerous behavior.

I have been accused of three things here. Two of them are simply not true, and the third is at best a misunderstanding that could have been smoothed out easily.

Yes, I assumed - wrongly, as it turned out, after I was banned - that this would be seen and treated in the same way as at c3. You may read a “clear rejection” from their team and find the style of clarification okay. I see it differently. My question as to which statements from the EH Content Team should have made it clear that, in contrast to c3, they were also against any external implementation remains unanswered to this day. I simply still cannot understand it. It doesn’t become any clearer by repeatedly emphasizing that it was “clear”. No, it wasn’t. In hindsight, I now realize that I should have clarified my plan even more explicitly than I did. I tried. At the same time, accusations remain standing that do not correspond to facts, and clarification and correction is refused. For example, one could have admitted that they had obviously misinterpreted what happened around c3, and that they know too little about the alleged publication to be able to judge it. That can happen. But then one takes it back and doesn’t insist on it. And when I make my opinion known and explain myself, it is seen as a further affront. I therefore ask explicitly, once again: how can I clarify this? If all avenues are closed to me. It is not without reason that I have been asking for professional mediation. That seems to me to be the only remaining way of resolving this.

And when they say that they agree with the arbitration board “to the full extent”, and I point out that this would also mean to agree with their ruling, they claim that I have said that they would be forced to agree with it. This is a distortion of my words, another misunderstanding that is being interpreted negatively. I mean what I write, no more, no less. These constant insinuations are irritating.

In order to be able to respond to concerns, I need to be able to understand them in the first place. If my clarification questions are not answered, it makes it impossible for me. I can only make assumptions and refer to them carefully and cautiously in the hope of gradually learning more. I assume that I have not yet understood many things properly, and I think it is wrong if I am resented for merely asking questions that are aimed at improving my understanding.

I am expected to behave perfectly here, but they seem to apply different standards to themselves. Of course, you can be unfriendly and uncomprehending towards “someone like that”! Someone who dares to criticize specific things and wants to improve them is an enemy, from one moment to the next. The slightest slip is used as an argument to refuse to engage with me, forever. That’s my experience. In two years, there hasn’t been the slightest attempt to listen to or actually converse with me. And now I’m being unilaterally blamed for the “escalation”. Instead of seeing it as a joint task to resolve conflicts. No wonder everything is always “drama”, with this kind of behavior. You’re blocking yourselves and therefore also my own club out, and that makes me sad. It would be helpful if both sides could “show understanding” and approach each other. Telling me to “keep quiet” and “stop misbehaving” is not a option. In view of the abuses and procedural errors, I certainly won’t accept this. There are always reasons when someone is “acting out”. You should zoom in on the reasons, not blame me.

If something is not received the way I meant it, then I regret it, because clarity of speech is important to me. If I have not understood something as it was meant, I also regret it, because mutual understanding is important to me. In both cases, I would expect that the other person is given the opportunity to clear up the misunderstanding. That’s how I see it. One can handle this process completely blame- and guilt-free.

It’s good that there will be a CCC mediation get-together. I’m looking positively to the future and see it as a sign of change back to the kind of togetherness and understanding that used to exist in the club. And I don’t just mean that in relation to myself. I can cite dozens of examples by now from which no lessons have been learned yet. Don’t you wonder why there is always so much “drama” in the CCC? Why is there a tribunal that passes verdicts, in secret, but no reconciliation board? I don’t “expect” anything here; on the contrary, I have been involved in volunteer structures myself for almost 30 years. Why reject the idea and the offer to help fix issues? I have a lot to say about myself and other people affected. Why not learn from it, and let people implement improvements who have an active interest to do so? It makes far less work for everyone in the long run. Not more.

So, despite many efforts, I have not yet succeeded in entering into anything even remotely resembling a dialog. My offers have been rejected or not responded to at all, my comprehension questions have not been answered. The fact that I am now making this public is the consequence of this failure. I hereby renew my wish for communication (it is called Chaos Communication Congress after all), and also the offer to finance professional mediators if it allegedly is so difficult to talk to me (not that anyone even tried).

The Chaos Computer Club serves as an illustrative example here, simply because it is the world of experience in which I have been moving for almost 30 years. I consider much of this to be transferable to other groups and communities; I don’t regard the CCC and the observable dynamics in this context as anything special to the CCC.

This is the beginning of a “living document”, with the aim of entering into an interaction. The desire of those affected to discuss these issues is countered by the concerns of the community. I will collect and try to illuminate the respective arguments, concerns and needs of the various sides here, as I have encountered them so far, and as I interpret them at the present time. It is a further attempt at a rapprochement. A mediation between what I perceive as hardened fronts.

I look forward to every contribution from you as a reader. How do you experience this? Have you had similar or different experiences, in the context of the CCC or elsewhere? How do you interpret the reactions? What approaches do you see? What concerns do you share, what others do you have? Can you provide me with explanations so that I can better understand the criticism?

The stated aim is to take concerns seriously and address them in order to pave the way for a joint approach to what I see as the central social issue of interpersonal violence. So this post is also intended to serve as a reference whenever I encounter recurring concerns, and for others who face the same issues in their communities. My hope is also to win over “untainted” people to act as mediators here in order to soften the “fronts” that I and others have experienced and who wish to contribute to understanding on “both” sides. What does it take to get into an actual dialog?

It may also inspire someone to offer such meetings instead of me. They are obviously needed.

I am not attacking anyone personally. I am aware that some people may become even angrier as a result of this publication. I am grateful for suggestions on alternative ways of dealing with the situation, as long as, unfortunately, any direct communication is rejected, no matter how hard I try to de-escalate. This alone shows how much room there is to expand our mediation tools to resolve conflicts instead of escalating them.

Motivation - Why all this? #

First of all, there are obviously victims who want to talk about their experiences of violence. And they want to do this in the context of the CCC. They don’t just want to: they are already doing it!

I think it is strictly better to provide a clear framework and an opportunity for exchange for these discussions, which take place anyway, instead of promoting the formation of fronts and rumor mills as has been the case up to now. All victims I have had contact with so far are asking for such meetups. For themselves and others.

It’s also interesting that no one has ever asked me why this desire exists. Unfortunately, I have not yet experienced any interest in that regard within the CCC, apart from other victims. We should discuss the extent to which alternatives could be created that meet the needs of those affected, and satisfy the respective concerns.

What are these needs, what goals are “we” pursuing? I can think of the following: solidarity with each other; sharing experiences about coping strategies and what we have experienced and continue to experience as helpful for us individually; discussing existing support services and those that may need to be created specifically by and for nerds and hackers; collecting suggestions for improving existing structures and then reporting these back to the relevant bodies; offering support to like-minded people; asking for support, including in very practical matters. Networking. At 37c3, for example, a “narcissism chatbot” was presented that analyzes sentences for “speech patterns typical of narcissism”. We do not necessarily need to dive deep into our personal painful experiences to have a productive exchange.

Demonstrating, and above all experiencing that you are not alone with your experience, is a very central point. It is also necessary to do this within the respective community, and not in isolation as an individual somewhere else. Many of those affected (still) find it difficult to approach “strangers” with their experiences, and wish to remain among like-minded people to whom they feel they belong. Can patterns be recognized? How can future victims be reached and warned within our communities? All of this is specific to each community. We are here to grow and develop together.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” (C.S. Lewis)

An attempt to sketch the dynamics #

Coming into contact with the subject of violence can (may? should?) trigger strong feelings. A typical and tragic reaction to avoid these feelings is to avert one’s gaze, to refuse to engage in a discussion, even to become angry at the person who dares to bring up such topics wanting to talk about them. I can understand that this is (too) unpleasant for some, and that the mixture of anger and fear one feels can lead to a rejection of a topic as a whole and of everyone who speaks up about it.

This is tragic especially because this repression reinforces a dynamic in which violence is looked away from, people withdraw, and both victims and perpetrators are left alone with their experience of violence within the community. At a community level, this means that perpetrators do not experience any corrective consequences for their actions and are thus reinforced in their strategies, while victims also do not receive any necessary support (secondary victimization). As a result of this dynamic, those affected not only often experience silence and disorientation, but unfortunately also (unconscious and unintentional) protection of perpetrators by the community.

In discussions with those affected in the CCC environment, I hear of many such tragic interactions, often accompanied by the resulting conviction that the CCC is “in the firm hands of narcissists who know how to prevent any discussion of the topic, and do so consciously and deliberately”. In my view, we should take countermeasures here and engage in clarifying and understanding communication so that this view does not become even more entrenched. Many victims no longer have any trust in the “awareness” and orga structures, which could actually be there to positively absorb something like this and make an effort to be seen as helpful in such moments. I also hear this negative sentiment from people who were or wanted to be involved in “awareness” in the past, but then gave up in frustration or (from their point of view) were forced out. I wanted to talk to members of the awareness team about this and tell them about all the negative sentiment I’ve encountered, but so far they haven’t responded to my requests and offers.

I consider this “evil narcissist” perspective to be highly dangerous for our community and for society, and would rather interpret negative reactions as ignorance, overwhelm, and sometimes possibly also as a defensive reaction due to own unresolved unfortunate experiences. My own negative experiences and the impressions I have gathered from my exchanges with other victims have led and continue to lead me to want to discuss in particular how we as communities can better support and help victims in the future. As soon as we no longer see ourselves and our own humanity in the other person, we lose the ability to support them.

The greater the rejection and lack of understanding, the more I think it is necessary to provide better information and to improve structures.

“Seeing the beauty in a person is most necessary when they communicate in a way that makes it most difficult”. (Marshall B. Rosenberg)

Concerns #

It triggers me, or it could trigger others, and therefore it must not take place #

I call this the “451 argument”, after Fahrenheit 451, where all “controversial” publications are banned step by step because they could hurt someone else’s feelings.

This is a socially highly dangerous and damaging argument, which is why I am putting it first. I have already addressed some aspects of this above. You simply cannot make a problem disappear by not talking about it. You are making it worse.

One should take responsibility for one’s own feelings that are merely triggered by the other person. Triggers are a signal that there is still something old that needs to be processed. Only the person who has been triggered can do this, and, yes, it can be very painful to deal with the hurts of the past and finally acknowledge them.

Blaming the other person for triggering you and blocking anyone who triggers feelings in you or shows feelings destroys relationships, both on a personal and on a societal level, and stirs up conflict instead of pacifying it. If I allow another person to influence my feelings, I give up control over myself and my own experience, and become the plaything of the other person, who can and will - consciously or unconsciously - “take advantage” of this.

“If you expose a problem, you pose a problem; if you pose a problem; you become the problem. The management of a problem becomes the management of a person. In other words, one way of dealing with a problem is to stop people from talking about it or to make the people who talk about it go away. If people stop talking about the problem, or the people who talk about it go away, it can then be assumed that the problem has gone away. I hear an instruction here. We are being told to stop talking about problems or go away.” (Sara Ahmed in “The Feminist Killjoy Handbook”)

“The details that emerge during the course of a crime are mostly repetitions of the perpetrator’s behavior (actions, gestures, verbal expressions) that were experienced during their own traumatic experiences. In addition, profile similarities also include structurally similar locations of the events and the use of comparable weapons (or things with which violence was inflicted). […] Here, almost identical repetitions of the previous perpetrators’ actions can be found within a highly comparable setting.” (from: G. Fischer et al: Vom Opfer zum Täter; translation: DeepL)

“Strife arises from the attachment function, not, as members tend to believe, from the sensitivity or difficulty of the issues that face them. It is the fusion that makes the subjects or conflict unmanageable, not the other way around.” (Fusion in Relationships)

Exciting topic, hope to see more talks and lectures on it!

Relationship violence is a private issue #

I quote here, an an example: “The club is not the place to work through unhappy relationship experiences.” – Firstly, that’s not what the meetings are about, and secondly, these are more than just isolated “unhappy relationship experiences”. Even with the most benevolent interpretation, I can only take this formulation to mean that more information is urgently needed here so that victims can receive adequate support and not be met with a lack of understanding. So this is definitely an incentive, not an argument against it.

At the meeting at 37c3, for example, a “narcissism chatbot” was presented, as already mentioned, which analyzes sentences for “language patterns typical of narcissism”. We can and want to talk about many things here, and this does not have to directly relate to experiences that may not yet have been processed.

More importantly, a toxic relationship doesn’t just affect the (usually) two people involved, it affects the entire social fabric. How does a hackerspace deal with this, how does a larger community, like the CCC? There are enough topics and ideas that can and want to be discussed. In the long run, making trivial improvements here will cause less stress for everyone than is currently the case. Nobody is expected to do more work here. On the contrary.

Toxic relationships can also exist between colleagues, or in hackerspaces. There is no need for a “love couple”. I know of several cases of such toxic relationships in various hackerspaces. They almost destroyed the respective spaces.

“Every unwelcome conflict leaves wounds in the community. It’s not about resolving the conflict, but about healing the community.” (Dominic Barter)

“Trauma is the defense of the abused against the perpetrators’ will to make their crimes forgotten. […] Advances in the field occur only when they are supported by a political movement powerful enough to legitimate an alliance between investigators and patients and to counteract the ordinary social processes of silencing and denial. In the absence of strong political movements for human rights, the active process of bearing witness inevitably gives way to the active process of forgetting. Repression, dissociation, and denial are phenomena of social as well as individual consciousness.” (Judith Herman, quoted in the Handbook of Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Across the Lifespan)

“Exposure to violence in early childhood can lead to a negative cascade of poor emotional, cognitive, and behavioral regulation and continued violent attachments across the lifespan […] While not all victims become perpetrators and not all perpetrators are victims, the perpetrator-victim pattern may be the most common form of perpetration.” (Handbook of Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Across the Lifespan)

You have an attitude of entitlement that doesn’t correspond to “be excellent to each other” #

I have an opinion. I am of the opinion that one should not completely refuse communication because this only serves to escalate the conflict. I am of the opinion that no one should be banned from an event, nor can they be legally banned, just because they do not agree with the organizers. I believe that legal regulations in this case positively reflect what I think is important in a democracy: there must be factual reasons for a ban, not just imagined ones, and a hearing means interacting with each other, to listen and respond to the arguments put forward and not simply ignoring them. I am of the opinion that you are allowed to have a different opinion and you are allowed to express it, in private and publicly, and that nobody should be subjected to reprisals on the basis of a dissenting opinion. I am of the opinion that no one can or should be prohibited from organizing their own external events parallel to an event. I am of the opinion that none of this is in line with the CCC principles.

And you are free to have a different opinion on all of this.

I am amazed and irritated that we even have to discuss any of this. I thought we’d been through that socially.

The “be excellent to each other” degenerates into a weapon as a reproach towards others: “Be excellent to each other - OR ELSE…!”. What happened to “All creatures welcome”, and the focus on communication?

You are obviously emotionally unstable! I hope you find the professional help you need #

This “concern” does not come across to me as caring. So far, it has always been accompanied by a total refusal to talk further. Even my request to explain why the person has come to this conclusion, based on which statements or behavior on my part, is not followed up. Explain it to me! Let’s talk about it! I’m happy if you are concerned about the mental health of your fellow human beings. But in this form, it comes across as insulting.

“If any member acts truly differently, he or she is deemed crazy or bad, and strong united pressure is borne on him or her to change back.” (Fusion in Relationships)

The title/description is not neutral #

“Toxic relationships” and “narcissistic violence” are common and frequently used terms in this context. In my view, the most problematic thing about them is that pretty much everyone is now a “narcissist” and every negative relationship experience is “toxic”. This makes it difficult for actual victims of violence to be heard or taken seriously.

I use these terms deliberately, in order to reach people who are “stuck” in this kind of “enemy image”. They find mountains of material on the internet and are left alone with it, or, due to a lack of alternatives, may only exchange ideas with others who are also “stuck”. Meetings like the one I suggested and hosted can be helpful here to exchange different perspectives and opinions. Someone who has experienced interpersonal violence will simply not be reached by discussion groups on non-violent communication, for example. I think the term “narcissist” is actively harmful, like any other term that reduces an individual human being to a category and removes the shared humanity from the interaction. But nobody asked me about my opinion. It is simply claimed that I or the title is “not neutral” – whatever neutrality means here. What would be “neutral”? I would like to know more about how this is actually interpreted here.

“Violence” as a term may sound repulsive at first. It is neutral in the sense that it is precise. What someone understands as violence, which forms of violence they see, is obviously subject of different opinions and discussions. If one were “allowed” to have them.

I am open to discussions about a more “suitable” title or description text. Opinions? Suggestions?

There seems to be a confusion here. I do not express my attitude, my opinion, through the use of terminology, but rather who I am addressing. I have not yet been asked for my opinion. For example, my talk would have been about displaying and contrasting the different perspectives and definitions of the term “narcissism” over its existence. This does not require any personal positioning.

Why are speakers, workshop organizers and titles suddenly even required to be neutral? This is not asked for any other topic. There will always be someone with a contrary opinion. We meet to respectfully exchange different opinions.

“In conflict, both sides have an equally large desire to be taken seriously.” (Marshall B. Rosenberg)

There is already a lecture on this topic #

Several times I was “referred” to buecherwurm’s talk about abusive relationships at Camp23 in German, which I am happy to link here. There was also Ann’s talk on sexualized violence at 36c3.

I would like to quote from the description:

“By creating an atmosphere in which people can talk about their experiences of sexualized violence, we can support those affected in dealing with it and contribute to raising awareness overall. Support groups for those affected and awareness groups are one way of empowering those affected by sexualized violence and creating awareness for change. Professional organizations educate, advise and support those affected. Hacking is not only a technical action, but also a political and social action and an interactive action. Let’s hack the taboo of sexualized violence and work together to make our community a better place.”

This topic is large and complex. This topic is socially relevant. I’ve been at a lot of events for over a decade, and the argument “there’s already been a talk about this” would eliminate roughly 98% of all talks. There are many facets that I would like to see examined more closely, and I would like to be able to exchange ideas about them too. In my opinion, two presentations are far too few for the massive breadth and importance of the topic.

An exchange among those affected has a retraumatizing effect on those affected #

“The affected relatives want to decide for themselves what is good for them and what they want to do in order to continue living. It is impossible for non-affected people to assess what is good for these affected relatives. They have not experienced what the relatives have experienced.” (ANUAS Traumaportal (DE))

Suddenly everyone seems to be an expert on trauma, but when I ask for sources and evidence and, as someone interested in trauma, want to enter into a conversation and offer sources that elaborate and consider this in a differentiated way, then unfortunately nothing comes of it. I would like to discuss this point with other interested parties and exchange ideas. For example, yes, exactly, in the context of a meeting, as we would like to organize.

Compare that with any other politically controversial topic. Vegans could unsettle meat eaters! Linux User Groups could retraumatize Windows users! Cyclists endanger the mental stability of car drivers! Cannabis legalization campaigns? Not with us!

Trauma disorders were originally mostly diagnosed and investigated within the (US) military context. Affected persons were thrown together as “test subjects” with other affected personell under de facto coercive measures and forced to undergo a military debriefing. The idea was that, as a military doctor, you only had to “drill in” often enough and again and again, and what a victim had experienced should be “told off” until it no longer hurt. Drilling questions, trivialisation, questioning the accuracy of experiences. These are retraumatizing elements. See also below in the section on so-called “care”.

What has a retraumatizing effect in this context is the renewed coercive situation, the renewed loss of control. The violent situation, which has not yet been sufficiently processed, is experienced again. As a “sick person”, subjected to the imposed “therapy”. After all, you want to become “healthy”.

“the re-stimulated memory, instead of being a pure repetition of the original event can become a healing experience if the person is aware of some component in the present that is different from the original event, and is experienced as safe and supportive” (Ernest Rossi, quoted by Vivian Broughton in “Steps to understand re-traumatisation”)

It is certainly helpful to explicitly point out to the participants at the beginning that they can withdraw at any time, that they do not have to contribute or say anything, that they are welcome with all their feelings just as they are. It is helpful to have a place to retreat to.

“Re-traumatization” should be clearly distinguished here from another danger: namely that victims “get stuck” in an “enemy image” and so “don’t find their way out of their victimhood” – but instead feel powerless together. In my opinion, the danger is much greater if you leave them alone, especially in times when the internet is full of hostile image material and thousands of questionable paid support offers from “life coaches” and “narcissism experts”. This is precisely where an exchange in such rationally anchored circles as the Chaos Computer Club is helpful. At least it can’t make things worse than they already are. Incidentally, it’s an insinuation that I would let this happen as a moderator. I have prepared myself well, use appropriate moderation tools and make it clear in the intro that I will use them.

Did anything bad happen at 37c3? On the contrary. It was very nice and harmonious for everyone involved.

This leads well to the next point:

We cannot guarantee safety #

It’s great when people are concerned about their mental health and support services are created. However, it is ugly in any context when decisions are made under the guise of “care” and not even involving the recipients. This brings back unpleasant memories of coercive situations, especially for those affected by violence, and can have the opposite effect. Nobody wants anything to be decided for them, and certainly not against their own declared will. “You’re sick, you can’t decide for yourself.” – that makes you sick.

Victims experience it as an important step back towards autonomy and self-efficacy when they are “allowed” to decide for themselves what is good for them, and what they want to put themselves through. This is a fundamental element of “healing”. Nobody is forced to come to such a meeting or to stay there. It is helpful to address all these aspects clearly at the beginning in order to emphasize the options for action and offers of help – and then to place them in the hands of the person concerned. I consider anything else to be intrusive.

“In the history of professional help, a merciful or corrective, controlling attitude prevailed for centuries (cf. Müller 2013): Welfare primarily served to keep social structures stable and force misfits to conform. Those who did not conform were excluded from the community. Enabling people to lead a self-determined life was neither desired nor intended. They had little influence on decisions and were expected to be grateful for the help they received. This type of help and paternalism exacerbated the dependence of those in need of help on state support and increased the feeling of helplessness. Even today, people seeking support often encounter paternalism: “A homeless person should spend the money they beg for on food, not on beer and cigarettes! Why does a welfare recipient need internet access?”

The more modern successor to controlling care pedagogy is paternalistic expertocracy. It corresponds to the view that a professional knows better than the person concerned what is good for them due to their qualifications. For example, it seems legitimate to curtail the self-determination of recipients as long as it serves their well-being. The paternalisticx pertocratic attitude is still widespread in the practice of social professions and contradicts the participatory understanding of the profession: here, the recipients are experts in their own right who know best what is helpful for them. Their lifeworld expertise (further information on lifeworld expertise on page 25) is considered just as important as the specialist knowledge of the professionals.” (from: Straßburger, Rieger, Partizipation kompakt; translation: DeepL)

Not everyone who has experienced violence is post-traumatized. Anyone who does not feel able to take part in such a meeting will not attend.

The indication that you have thought about this and are unfortunately not in a position to provide additional support is certainly welcome. But here too, I would recommend that you first ask those affected what support they would find helpful, or make suggestions. You don’t need to know anything, because the people concerned know best what they need. Just ask them. That will be received very well.

Care and support can only be offered and developed together with the recipients, not “prescribed”. Then it is no longer support, but a patronizing order from above, from the “healthy” to the “sick”, from the “competent” to the obviously “incompetent”.

Of course, we have thought about really helpful forms of support and prepared ourselves for possible scenarios. In federal states where this exists, this can be the social psychiatric service in emergencies, for example. Lists of local on-call services and therapists are made available. If desired, a therapist could also be informed in advance and be available “on call”. Would it address this point if we did this?

The meeting at 37c3 was deliberately held at a distance from c3, with plenty of space, peace and quiet and opportunities to retreat. This will continue to be the case. We’ll take care of ourselves! We would of course be delighted to receive offers of support and interest in how you can do something good for us. Why don’t you bake us a cake?

That doesn’t belong here thematically #

This argument is surprising. The CCC traditionally covers a very wide range of topics and interests without any restrictions. Everything that is of interest to the community members is welcome. Especially in the self-organized sessions. But especially topics that have a broader relevance for communities and a political dimension for society.

I would be interested to hear the reasons why this is not considered “relevant”. On the other hand, it is simply thrown around as a fact, as if it were obvious. It is not clear to me. Please enlighten me.

You lack the necessary qualification #

1.) In over 25 years of data protection activism, I have given dozens of specialist lectures, co-chaired an academic symposium, appeared on the Tagesschau and many other formats as an ’expert’, would have supervised a doctoral student if Covid hadn’t intervened, been offered various jobs and research positions, and so on and so forth. And all this as a university drop-out. Not that anyone ever asked about it.

This statement is also surprising because the CCC is traditionally very critical of “qualifications” in the form of degrees and certifications. The CCC is a declared “amateur club”. It is about sharing and growing together, without arbitrary barriers such as “qualifications”, which tend to express which social class someone comes from, rather than knowledge, experience or simply an interest in the topic. Nowhere have I claimed to be an expert on anything. I don’t presume to be.

My “workshops” so far have been meetings for those affected by those affected. A wide variety of formats are conceivable (and I am open to suggestions), but I deliberately chose this format to support networking among those affected and to find out what people want to talk about with each other and what topics are in demand. This also corresponds to the wishes of those I have spoken to so far. We want to exchange ideas, explicitly as non-experts or as experts through being affected. The purpose of self-help groups is discussed in another section below. And not every meeting between those affected is a self-help group. And not every self-help group is a therapeutic self-help group. Not every meeting of coffee nerds is a support group for coffee addicts. Yes, it is helpful to make this explicitly clear at the beginning of the meeting, to draw a line between the two, and to moderate the whole thing carefully so that it doesn’t get out of hand. I’m allowed to get together with other alcoholics at CCC events and get drunk, but not talk about violence? Who keeps an eye on those drunks, and with what “qualifications”?

2.) Who is there from “our circles” who has the appropriate qualifications and would like to accompany something like this? When weighing up the options, it should be borne in mind that many people (still) only feel comfortable among “equals”, especially when it comes to such topics. And we also want to discuss content that is specifically related to the club. Perhaps someone can be found via this call who would like to play the front woman here instead of me, who enjoys the trust of those affected and can show “qualifications”?

3.) In response to this expressed concern, I have offered to get specialists involved. See e.g. the Easterhegg mail thread. At least this argument should have been resolved by that. This offer was not taken up, and not commented. If you encounter this argument in a similar situation, please contact me and we can talk about a possible cost absorption. This argument should not hold anyone back from organizing such meetings.

4.) What qualification would meet the requirements? I am an MHFA mental health first aider, am currently training to become an ’empathic coach’ on NVC basis, I am starting training in identity-oriented psycho-trauma therapy in March, I am doing a ‘basic qualification in psychotraumatology’ certified by the German Society for Psychotraumatology, Trauma Therapy and Violence Research (GPTG) before Easterhegg, and am doing a certification in Process and Embodiment Psychology (PEP) in summer. Or would a non-medical practitioner for psychotherapy be ‘desirable’ (Heilpraktiker)? In some communities this might be an “advantage”, but I assume that alternative practitioners are taken even less seriously in CCC circles… Or should it be a psychological psychotherapist or even just doctors/psychiatrists? What do you want? Let me know and I will do my best to recruit the right people.

You lack the competence #

First of all, it’s interesting that I’ve only come across this as a statement, and not as a question. This raises the question as to the basis on which someone thinks they can judge this. I would be really interested to know.

For many years now, hardly a week goes by in which I am not accompanied in the processing of unpleasant memories and am allowed to accompany others. I am aware of the responsibility that a confrontation with such topics means for an event organizer, the attention required to one’s own limits and the limits of the other person, the importance of being present and exclusively there for the other person, and how central the systemic therapy’s “mission/mission clarification” and the considered use of methods and tools are. See also the “Qualifications” section.

How do you know from the outset what skills I have? Aren’t the participants usually allowed to decide for themselves? What criteria are used to assess this competence in advance? Where can I take the competency test? I had offered, for example, that someone who would like to assess this could attend the meetings. The offer has not yet been taken up.

Do I not have the competence of an affected person?

Do I not have the competence of being able to read and summarize?

Do I not have the competence to hold an opinion?

Do I not have the competence of trust - In contrast to committees such as the Orga, Content Team and Awareness, I enjoy the trust of other people concerned, and can therefore contribute to an understanding between the different “camps” that do not (want to) communicate with each other.

Don’t I perhaps do have the competence to give talks, organize events and lead workshops, and perhaps even to a certain extent to responsibly accompany conflicts and psychological emergencies? Should I collect relevant testimonials or references, will that help? Do you want a CV? Testimonials from people I have accompanied in mental health emergencies, and who keep thanking me for how “competent” I was?

And again: Offers to address this issue by involving “experts” were rejected.

You don’t have the necessary emotional distance #

As a victim, you are not qualified to talk about it #

No victim is ever allowed to open their mouth again?How should someone else talk about something they have not experienced?Where do the “experts” get their “specialist knowledge” from? When am I no longer a victim? Are there even people in our societies who have not experienced violence? Do we perhaps have a different concept of violence?

For example, I was told by the Easterhegg orga that it was “obvious from your public statements that you do not have the necessary personal distance to the topic”. I can’t do anything with this feedback as long as I’m not specifically told which statements of mine are being referred to here, how they deduce that I don’t have the “necessary distance”, and why they even consider it a requirement to have a distance to be allowed to talk about it or act as a moderator. I would like to be able to understand this.

You want to use this as a stage to make an attack against your own perpetrator #

First of all, that’s an insinuation. How can I defend myself against an insinuation? How am I supposed to prove that I’m not doing something if I’m not even given the opportunity to do so?

I could also submit a tie-dye workshop and then just brazenly use it as such a “stage.” Or a lighting talk about DIY shoe polish, and instead “rag on” my ex-fiancée. But I don’t want to do that. I never have. I don’t even know where that comes from. Please provide me with a single statement I’ve made in the past or present in which I “trash-talk” my ex-fiancée. Or about anyone else. I haven’t, I don’t want to and I won’t do that.

My point is that, from my experience, the CCC community completely failed here, didn’t react adequately and didn’t support the both of us. And not just in our case, but in many before that. Every failure is also an opportunity to learn something from it, to identify the weaknesses and mistakes, and to do better in the future. That’s my point. I believe that I am not only allowed to adhere to this opinion, but also to express it publicly. You don’t have to be of my opinion or agree with it. I am happy if this results in a constructive exchange of opinions. I ask you to ask me what went wrong, and then we can discuss together what we can learn from it and what concrete conclusions can be drawn.

So far, I have only acted as a moderator at the meetings, even though I would certainly like to talk about my personal experiences. The fact that I don’t do this, and exclude it from the outset through the chosen format, is above all a concession to this concern. Because it is more important to me to offer a forum at all. My talk would be general on the different perspectives on narcissism. I didn’t intend to go into my own personal experience.

As already mentioned, the offer to have someone “monitor” this operational process was rejected or, as usual, simply not addressed.

Otherwise, that is correct. I am a living (and vivid) reminder that I and my then fiancée were victims of a so-called toxic relationship. There’s nothing I can do about that. With that argument, victims should never open their mouths again.

And when I look at the usual manners in the club, e.g. on chaos.social and in many lectures, I’m surprised that anyone still gets a stage with this argument…

You have made mistakes #

“Some other red flags we’ve noticed that are common in leftist spaces specifically: […] Appeals to opsec to shut down criticism. E.g. decrying public accounts of their abuse as “doxxing,” or claiming that screenshots of their abuse are a violation of opsec, when in reality being able to take screenshots can be necessary for victims so they can counter gaslighting in the future. Security culture is meant to protect the vulnerable from state abuse, not to protect abusers from their victims” (Punch Up Collective)

I have been and continue to be accused of various things. In most cases, it is not even a case of statement against statement, but the facts could be checked and corrected. Anyone who refuses to do so and at the same time clings to accusations is contributing to continued damage to my reputation.

It is also the case that I receive these accusations in a distorted form and usually only through several channels. But I can’t show any insight anyway and can’t ask for an apology for something I didn’t do. A correction and a focus on the facts would be close to my heart. I have asked repeatedly and in various forms not to believe the rumors that continue to circulate uncritically, but to get in touch with me and at least give me the chance to correct them. Now again at this point.

When I encounter this argument, I have always tried to find out what I am actually being accused of, to respond to it on the basis of facts and to ask what I can actually do to make amends. It leaves me disoriented that no such path is shown to me. What did I “do wrong” from the other person’s point of view? How could I have “done it right”? What can I do now?

Am I forever persona non grata from now on? For me, this is in serious contradiction to the self-image and principles of the club. The CCC Arbitration Board, as a body specifically set up for such cases, has dealt with the accusations against me (while at the same time my references to the clearly refutable misrepresentations of the other side were not addressed). In my opinion, their “verdict” should be the final verdict (Non bis in idem). If you are interested in the details, I can provide you with my statement to the arbitration board and their “judgment”. You can also speak to the person of trust I elected in the proceedings, a former board member of the CCC. (Incidentally, my questions as to why the arbitration board did not adhere to its own procedures in this case remain unanswered even after repeated requests for clarification).

There are actions that I regret. I do not claim to have never made any mistakes or to make any more. I would like to apologize, and I am making this public once again. Unfortunately, I am denied any communication. I consider it important to allow people to make mistakes and to learn from their mistakes. To show them a way to participate in the community again. Without permission to make mistakes, a society stagnates and is ruled by fear. I want to learn, and share, about how we, and how I, can do a little better in the future. Problems don’t go away if you don’t talk about them. On the contrary.

Whenever I come across this argument in this context, it doesn’t seem to me to be about understanding exactly what happened and why, whether I show any insight or how to deal with it now and in the future. There is no discussion of what the other party said or did, and what I reacted to. One seem to have picked up something here without knowing or caring about details, and is now using it every time as an argument that I can’t do anything about. I would expect people to be willing to separate facts from allegations, conjecture and misunderstandings, in order to resolve this once and for all. And to engage in a dialogue. To demand that whenever someone makes allegations. I have still not been granted this.

I went public only because I was categorically denied any conversation by those involved and those around it, in contradiction to the basic CCC principles.

“Aversion to conflict is aversion to relationship. On a social level we don’t simply live with those we personally know. We don’t only impact those who know our names. Dialogue is a precondition for society. And painful conflict is one of its crucial tests.” (Dominic Barter)

“Can’t you simply help those affected in the background?” #

“When will you finally be able to let it go?” #

“That’s the way the CCC is, there’s nothing you can do” #

“Why are you doing this to yourself, against all the odds?” #

“You can’t change anyone” #

Really interesting arguments, coming from (human rights) activists of all people, which I have never come across on any other topic. We are welcome to discuss them. When do you stop with data protection activism, for example? There will always be surveillance.

As an activist, it has always been important for me to maintain an appropriate balance and to look to the future with confidence and hope. It’s nice to make a positive contribution to the world together with others. I’m not doing this for myself: this child has already fallen into the well. It has already failed. I am committed to improving organizational structures with a view to the future so that we (can) treat each other more peacefully as a society.

“Helping in the background” means letting the toxic waste continue to flow in streams, and constantly cleaning up the beaches, right in front of the smoking and choking industrial plants. I (also) want to curb the production of waste. The production of new victims, who potentially become new perpetrators. To look at the roots. And I want to network and exchange ideas with others who see it the same way.

It seems that I have not yet succeeded in getting my point across clearly: We have a structural problem here that is not being addressed by Awareness and the Arbitration Board, but tragically is being fueled by them. You can’t improve something like this by “helping in the background”. The processes must be improved and the dynamics of toxic relationships need to be taken into account. Conflict resolution mechanisms are nowhere to be seen. Improvements need to be made here. Instead, any conversation about is it getting stonewalled.

Would you stay just as quiet if it were about a different topic? “Linux user groups? They could retraumatize Windows users!”. “Tor Relay Operator Meetups? Why don’t you help those affected by surveillance in the background?”

When a cyclist is killed by a car, political campaigns are launched nationwide. When interpersonal violence occurs in communities, victims are demanded to remain silent and seek therapy. This is a really unfortunate dynamic of repression.

“Narcissism” is a social issue. Traumatizing for those affected is the lack of cohesion and the lack of support from their direct environment, which for various reasons tends to unilaterally believe the perpetrator rather than helping both sides. The manipulative strategies would not emerge and be refined if they did not lead to social “success” and were not tolerated.

Interestingly, there seems to be an awareness of the problem itself, otherwise there wouldn’t be such invasive intervention and blocking, right? Otherwise they would just let me do it. (!)

Conclusion #

On the one hand, it is emphasized how sensitive the topic is, on the other hand, I experience a lot in the communication on the topic that reminds me of my experiences of violence: statements are misrepresented or misinterpreted without a chance to correct them, insinuations are made and assumptions are presented as facts without checking or correcting them, clarifying conversations are refused, there are simply no more answers, and so on. And it’s all my fault anyway. OK. Everything is my fault. Can’t they still respond to my questions and arguments? Not just let me and those who want to do so? What’s the problem with that?

“An argument always has three sides: a good one, a bad one and a comical one.” (Karl Valentin)

It is certainly not without comedy how the exact linguistic means often used here are what we want to discuss at the meet-ups, and which can be seen as violence and a central part of manipulative toxic behavior. In this sense, exactly such an exchange takes place, only on the practical, tangible level, and not on the meta-level. Here, others are prohibited from exchanging information about the very techniques that are used in the “justification” for a ban. That is the tragic-comic side of this debate.

If you are really concerned about those affected and want to protect them from further negative experiences, then this is where you should start. We, including me, also express our needs through our wishes. We want to be seen and heard and experience understanding. Just like every other person. I would be delighted if, in future, “unaffected” people were to join in and show solidarity when they experience such “defensive reactions” in their dealings with others. Many people are not able to defend themselves well in some phases of their lives and would like your support.

I can only see two possible explanations: Either they are deliberately and systematically protecting perpetrators of violence – actually also victims, and ultimately not doing anyone any favors – or they are acting wrongly out of ignorance and overwhelm. I want to continue to believe in the latter (Hanlon). Let’s work together to reduce ignorance and the resulting overwhelm. It would be easy to make small changes to the structures here in order to achieve far-reaching improvements. I can’t understand why people are stonewalling so aggressively here and prefer to accept the constant “drama” and thereby create it in the first place. There is absolutely no discussion here about what is really at stake. What have we experienced as those affected? What suggestions for improvement do we have? Can we get to the actual point?

If we are already unable to deal with interpersonal conflicts in our own communities in a constructive and peace-building way, then we shouldn’t fantasize about making a positive contribution to society anywhere else.

I don’t think that refusing to talk and blocking away are compatible with the club’s principles. And I certainly don’t think that attacking me just because I have an opinion is. Regardless of whether you like or share my opinion or not.

“‘Power-over’ tactics include punishment, reward, guilt, shame, duty, and obligation. This is how you prepare people to be good citizens in a domination structure. Teach them to use punishment. Teach them that punishment is justified. People who get labeled “bad” by the authorities deserve it. Reward is what you deserve if you are judged right by the authorities. So, if you want to educate people to be nice, dead people within hierarchical structures, it’s critically important that you teach them that punishment and reward are justified.” (Marshall B. Rosenberg: The Heart of Social Change - How to Make a Difference in Your World)

“Conflict is essential to human life, whether between different aspects of oneself, between oneself and the environment, between different individuals or between different groups. It follows that the aim of healthy living is not the direct elimination of conflict, which is possible only by forcible suppression of one or other of its antagonistic components, but the toleration of it — the capacity to bear the tensions of doubt and of unsatisfied need and the willingness to hold judgement in suspense until finer and finer solutions can be discovered which integrate more and more the claims of both sides. It is the psychologist’s job to make possible the acceptance of such an idea so that the richness of the varieties of experience, whether within the unit of the single personality or in the wider unit of the group, can come to expression.” (Marion Milner, ‘The Toleration of Conflict’, Occupational Psychology, 17, 1, January 1943)

universal human needs