Persecution of dissenters, hollowing out of democratic rights, exclusion of people based on their religion, their origins, their skin colour. Whenever an injustice like one of these takes place, is accepted, is enforced, it is the consequence of a long process via which that injustice has been legitimised—by portraying it as necessary, as normal, as mere collateral damage of authoritarian policies that benefit the broader masses.

By qualifying it: it’s really not all that bad. By practising a lack of solidarity: it only affects a few people, which is to say: not you! By downplaying it: nothing really happened!

The harrowing consequence is that people look away, shrug it off, tolerate it. So much happens every day, accompanied by so much noise on social media—and one can’t, after all, pay attention to everything.

The ubiquitous media phenomenon in which only things that appeal to extremes still garner attention also does its part to further shrink that space in which societal developments are critically observed, analysed, and discussed. The debate over how we live and how we want to live goes on quietly and frequently gets ignored. And those who admonish and warn go unheard. Or worse yet: aren’t taken seriously. Nothing really happened!

It’s now the case that Wien Museum has been forced to transfer its open-air exhibition Face it to the virtual realm due to massive threats, attacks, and acts of vandalism. Back in early 2020, photographer Elodie Grethen had been commissioned by the museum to take pictures of people with mouth and nose protection and ask them about their situations. Her pictures were then shown directly along the demonstration route used by self-acknowledged pandemic denialists. They’ve since been covered with anti-Semitic and right-wing extremist slogans to such an extent that the museum has now capitulated. So isn’t it really the case that way too much has happened already?

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