Thursday, January 22, 2004

Getortet! A new German verb

I learnt a new German verb recently - torten, or to cake, as in hitting someone with a custard pie. The reason for this was that the students at Vienna University are out protesting again, and this time it seems they have seized the media after unknown persons successfully "torteten" the Rektor, Georg Winckler, and the sektionschef (UK - permanent under secretary) for higher education in the ministry, Sigurd Höllinger, at a discussion held at the university with the students. I care about this because I spent quite a lot of time in the winter and spring of 2001-2 at that fine institution, protesting against their lovely government and its amusing education policy. Back then, although we did all the usual things - mass demos, sit-ins on the Ringstrasse, occupying the main lecture theatre, blockading the Ministry of Education, transferring lectures into parks and the like - nothing much happened, except that I got the back of my head into Die Presse and an amusing time was had by all.

This time, they are angry at the concrete arrangements set up by Winckler to put the Universities Act 2002 (which is what got us furious) into effect. And this is what led to the Tortung.

The instant of impact on Winckler. Note that the pie was directly delivered rather than thrown, and that the UTV (Independent TV) camera was clearly close behind the piethrower at the moment critique. Given many of their staff's political sympathies one might almost suspect complicity. Note also the rapid escape of the senior academic, Eva Blimlinger, on his left, who ducks rapidly out of harm's way.

The reality of pie. You could almost feel sorry for the pompous ass. The pie, reportedly procured from your friendly local Aida, clearly achieved both excellent bursting and high stickiness.

Surprise was evidently achieved. Note that the woman to Winckler's left seems to be having difficulty suppressing laughter. It's a pity the same cannot be said of the political Right - a wide range of nationalist and Catholic-conservative figures have condemned the "outrageous escalation of violence", "breach of all rules of the democratic game" and similar remarks, whilst the Interior Minister has given the case to the Office for Combating Terrorism and the Protection of the Constitution (Landesamt für Verfassungschutz und Terrorbekämpfung), a new post-11/9/01 body established in imitation of the German Verfassungsschutz (=the internal secret service).

Perhaps Tony Blair might yet announce that cakes suitable for terrorist use have, indeed, been discovered in Iraq.

I doubt very much that this will change anything at all, and I beg forgiveness for wasting bandwidth on the frivolity of student politics. But the pictures were too good to miss. ( and you can see the film here)

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