As anyone who googles the words “guillotine” and “eat the rich” will soon find out, the internet is full of related articles and images, including a children’s guillotine T-shirt and the “eat the rich” bumper stickers. You can even buy guillotine earrings, some of which feature Donald Trump’s severed head. The Rapper and YouTuber Lil Guillotine makes his stance clear in songs such as “Thirst (Eat the Rich).”
In her “No Class” column in Teen Vogue, Kim Kelly, a radical left-wing columnist, published an article under the headline “How the French Revolution is Inspiring Today’s Online Anti-capitalists”. The author, who makes no secret of the fact that she has the words “eat the rich” tattooed on her stomach writes: “The language of anti-capitalism and revolution is popping up in other mainstream arenas as well. Multiple Democratic presidential hopefuls have seemingly declared war on billionaires, which — while it may prove to be empty rhetoric — is a far cry from 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton’s cozy view of capitalism. On social media, a tone-deaf tweet or Facebook post from any wealthy CEO or out-of-touch politician is invariably met with a sea of guillotine gifs, calls for retribution against predatory billionaires, or otherwise vitriolic responses from people with guillotine in their usernames — and it feels less and less like they’re joking.”
In recent weeks, leftist demonstrators set up a large model of a guillotine in front of the house of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in Washington, D.C. In response to the news that Bezos — the richest man in the world – earns $4,000 dollars per second, the activists camped outside Bezos’ home to demand a minimum wage of $30 per hour. And it is not only left-wing radicals in the United States who have a love affair with the guillotine. In early September, left-wing demonstrators gathered in Berlin’s Grunewald villa district. They called on residents to come out of their villas and voluntarily give up their wealth before it is too late. One speaker loudly reminded Grunewald’s homeowners not to forget what had happened to people like Marie-Antoinette and warned them not to let history repeat itself. The warnings were clear: “We can’t afford to let the moment pass us once more as history rattles established power structures. We need to start redistributing wealth today!” Famously, the French queen Marie-Antoinette was executed by guillotine.
The rich in Germany are increasingly becoming the explicit target of hate. One example of hate-speech directed at the rich occurred during a strategy conference organized by Germany’s leading left-wing party, Die Linke. The party is the latest iteration of the former Communist Party (SED), which ruled East Germany and has changed its name several times since the fall of the Berlin Wall and is now a junior coalition partner in several German states (the state of Thuringia even has a Die Linke Minister President). The Social Democrats and the Green Party have declared their willingness to enter a coalition with Die Linke at federal level after the 2021 federal elections. Given the party’s high profile, it is no surprise that the German media devoted significant coverage to the following statement from one participant at the party’s strategy conference on March 1, 2020: “An energy transition is necessary after a revolution as well. Once we have shot the richest one percent, we will still want to heat our homes and travel.” After this contribution, one of the party’s two leaders, Bernd Riexinger, was obviously a little embarrassed and corrected the speaker: “I just wanted to say that we are not going to shoot them — but we will find some useful work for them to do.” This exchange was followed by a mixture of applause and amusement from the party officials present.
Guillotine t-shirts, guillotine earrings and stark warnings to villa owners that the same fate awaits them as those who died by the guillotine’s blade — is that supposed to be funny? Why does this bother so few people?
Our modern society is sensitive — and often hypersensitive — to critical statements people might about minority groups, for example black people or Muslims. Even the slightest hint of criticism is deemed to be an expression of racism or Islamophobia. Even those who deny the existence of “systemic” or “institutional” racism are called racists.
The only minority against whom one can demonstrate without fearing a storm of public outrage are rich people. And maybe the rich are indirectly to blame, because they do not — unlike other minorities — put up any kind of fight. Some rich people believe that if they are “self-critical” and complain about capitalism, they will somehow placate the radical left. This is a fatal error. At no point in human history have extremists been placated by attempts at appeasement. If anything, such reactions only make them feel even more empowered to continue their attacks.