A lot of us can get frustrated when waiting at the security line in the airport, but you always have to be careful with what you say. One American woman is now finding that out the hard way after she was sued by German police for uttering a phrase that doesn’t sit well within the country’s borders.
At Frankfurt Airport, security officers indicated that a bag belonging to C. Christine Fair was containing a possibly explosive material. According to the police, Fair’s luggage was checked by hand, and the cosmetic items that she had with her were not stored into a clear plastic bag like regulations request.
The press release added that she refused to transfer some of her items from a carry-on bag to a checked-in bag, which led to more frustration. They then said that Fair “began to insult the Federal Police officers, by call them, among other names, ‘f***ing bastards’ and ‘ f***ing German Nazi police,’ as witnesses can confirm.
Because of this, Fair was taken in on a count of defamation, as calling a German official a Nazi is a punishable offense. Fair paid a total of $260 for anticipated fees in legal proceedings. Upon returning to the United States, Fair took to the internet to voice her displeasure, posting her account on social media and on a lengthy blog post.
In the post, she spent much of the time criticizing how some younger Americans behind her weren’t being harassed for what she described as a “Nazi haircut.” She added in a note to the arresting officer that “I did not call you a Nazi. But you are an insolent bully. The only thing that differentiates you from the criminals one may encounter in the street is the weapon and badge the state has given you along with the authorization to use force in the service of the state.”
German police have been following her on social media as she continued to update her complaints and hurl more insults in their direction. Eventually, Fair said that she muttered the word Nazi under her breath, adding that “I’m tired, I’m jet-lagged, already missed two flights…Of course it was terrible judgment that I muttered this to myself, but I didn’t call (the officer) a Nazi.”
The law regarding insults such as this one is actually not a new one in Germany. Back in the 1870s, a law known as Beleidigung Gesetz was implemented so that people could not publicly insult one another. This can include any insult, and adding the word Nazi after the end of World War II was a natural fit for the law. Each year sees more than 200,000 complaints being filed under this law, and breaking it can land you in jail for a short time, though most offenses simply come with a fine.
Institute of German Language cultural linguistics expert Heidrun Kamper said that calling a German person a Nazi incites “the entire spectrum of a totalitarian dictatorship, the belief in conforming to one reality. It conjures up the oppression known under that type of state. There have been many cases where charges are dropped for violating the law, but many of them have fallen under the satire category.
Manfred Heinrich of Kiel University also noted that the law is up for interpretation, and always has been. “If I say, you’re a moron, you’re an idiot, you’re a Nazi, there’s of course more to it than the insult ‘you’re dumb.’ Saying ‘Nazi’ implies unscrupulous acts and barbarism,” he said. “You could call it overly sensitive. But in Germany, most people don’t want to be put into that category. Those were terrible things that happened and people don’t want to be compared to that.”
As for fair, she has been a bit of a polarizing professor for quite some time. A Georgetown University professor, Fair has received criticism for defending drone strikes by United States forces overseas. She has not let up on the German officers, either, continuing her beratement on social media. It appears that although her initial insult case was closed, she’s now dealing with the lawsuit on her hands.