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Cinema For Peace 2018

Speech at the Gala Event in Berlin
to honor brave publishers, independent journalists and the Spielberg movie „The Post“ (in den dt. Kinos „Die Verlegerin“)


Good evening everybody.

Let me ask you frankly: What do you like most? Your car? Your profession? Your bank account? Or your iPhone?

As a journalist, I would say, what people like the most is: their own opinion.

We all like our worldview. We appreciate our strong beliefs. We even love our fallacies and misconceptions. We are so modest and generous – to ourselves.

The trouble comes with the others. The opinion of others. Their opinions confuse and unsettle us. They irritate us. They turn cool heads into volcanoes. When these harmless, nice-looking 26 letters of the alphabet turn into words, often enough, all hell breaks loose.

Politicians know how to press the emotional button and polarize. Generals and religious leaders know how to turn polarization into real confrontation. Voltaire once said: “Opinion has caused more trouble on our little earth than plagues or earthquakes.”

Masses of books were burned, right outside this door, because the regime at the time didn’t like what the authors had to say.

People get killed for their opinions.

Politicians go to war for their opinions.

Journalists like Deniz are sent to prison for their opinions.

Others just get fired. I know how that feels.

But let’s be fair: I have lost my job, not my life or my personal freedom. Nobody sent me to prison; Cinema for Peace put me on stage. Thank you all for your solidarity!

I think we all feel it. It’s time not to back fire, but to reflect. And to rethink our bad behavior. In a world of a deep social divide and cultural clashes, we would be better off if we started disrupting not only several industries but ourselves. And started celebrating the opinion of others.

If hate speech and fake news are poison for our society, quality journalism and fearless films are the immune system.

Nobody knows better than you, how hard it might be to hug the media if your brilliant film were torn apart or even bashed by critics. In that situation, many people wouldn’t want freedom of the press but freedom from the press.

But be brave: Strong minded publishers like Katharine Graham, bold journalists, curious readers and filmmakers like Steven Spielberg with a clear stance on the freedom of speech – they are the lifeguards of democracy. Tolerance is the suspicion that the other person might be right.

The keywords are not: I like.
The keywords are: I respect. Or as Michelle Obama put it: If they go low, we go high.

That’s the most complicated thing about the opinion of others:
We may not like what people have to say, but we sure have to defend their right to say it.

We don’t shoot, we argue.
We don’t arrest, we listen.
We don’t agree, but we tolerate.

Not because it’s comfortable but because it’s the right thing to do: The opinions of others are the strongest power for progress.

The opinions of others are….

wild and impressive.

brain dead.




They are important.

They are stupid.

They are tempting and dangerous.

They are spooky.

They are sometimes unbelievable.

But the bigger message is: Others matter! And their opinions matter. They are the engines of our societies.

The exchange of ideas is the core of the core of our liberal culture.

We should dare to think the impossible: Maybe the other person is right. Maybe his or her argument is even smarter than ours? We have to find out.

Like our children, we should believe in miracles. Because: Sometimes they happen.

Opinions are like mysterious creatures. They are always ready to change ownership. They fly around. They settle down somewhere else. We can’t see them. We can’t touch them. But we can invite them to come live with us.

And sometimes our opinions and those of others find common ground. It’s the triumph of tolerance and respect over fear and anger. We have a special name for this beautiful natural spectacle: We call it democracy.

Thank you for listening.