from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Do-gooder is a term that is often used as an ironic or contemptuous disparagement of individuals , groups or milieus (“do-gooder”). From the point of view of the users of the word, an exaggerated desire to “be good” requiring external recognition in connection with a moralizing and missionary behavior and a dogmatic , absolute, not permitting other views of the good is assumed. In political rhetoric , “ do- gooder” is used as a battle term.


Users of the term assume people or groups of people with a pronounced moral attitude to be misguided or dubious behavior. According to Siegfried Jäger, it has been used since the 1980s as a derogatory term for people "who value humanistic , altruistic , and also religious-fellow human goals and arguments higher than utilitarian ones and who orient their actions, their politics and their lives accordingly."

Do-gooder has been associated with the term " political correctness " since the mid-1990s and understood as an indictment. In public parlance, it is consistently used as a foreign name with negative connotations. A “loving” use can usually only be found in personal conversations, for example for “having your heart in the right place”, generous behavior or for “exaggerated” altruism .

The term also alludes to a possible difference between “well meant” and “well done”: do-gooders have good intentions, want to solve certain problems or “make the world a better place”. However, their actions / opinions and / or the means used could have negative consequences, which in the eyes of their critics often outweigh the positive ones. In this sense the term is partly used in everyday language; The Duden , which took up the term in 2000, defines 'do-gooder' as "[naive] person who behaves in a way that is perceived as uncritical, exaggerated, annoying or similar in the sense of political correctness, advocates political correctness" .

Origin and use

After Rembert Hüser , Gutmensch emerged as a "joke" of the "89 generation" columnists and authors such as Matthias Horx and Klaus Bittermann , who wrote "anti-68er lexica" in the tradition of Eckhard Henscheid's Dummdeutsch dictionary. These dictionaries - a mixture of confessional and popular literature - do not distinguish between word explanations and word usage . In the afterword of his dictionary of the do-gooders , Bittermann writes:

“At the end of his glosses directed against the 'terror of reconciliation in the federal republican province' […] Karl Heinz Bohrer wrote at the beginning of 92: 'Perhaps it would be best for Mercury to create a small dictionary of the do-gooders in the future. That included tearing down the wall in one's head or culture of controversy or stubborn or lateral thinkers . ' We have been waiting for this with excitement, but unfortunately in vain. The situation has not gotten better since then, so we were forced to tackle the project ourselves. "

Since the mid-1990s, the term has established itself in political and ideological debates and is often used together with “ Political Correctness ” to criticize the political opponent and his views as moralizing.

The editor of Merkur , Kurt Scheel , claimed to have been the first to use the term in this sense. The word was seen in the feature pages as the fashionable “latest critical chic”. Political correctness was sometimes called, for example by Klaus Bittermann, "do-gooder", "concern language", "opinion kitsch", "opinion language" and "chattering jargon".

According to a frequently expressed opinion, the term was coined by Friedrich Nietzsche . In Nietzsche's work there are numerous contemptuous remarks about the “good person” as well as the entire theoretical superstructure of the complex of topics, but not the word good man . The Society for German Language cites an issue of the English-language Forbes Magazine from 1985 as the first known source of the term , in which Franz Steinkühler , then second chairman of IG Metall , was named.

In 2006, the German Association of Journalists (DJV) claimed that the term originated in the time of National Socialism , and referred to a language primer planned by the DJV, which will guide journalists in how to use language as a working tool and which will in future be carried out in collaboration with linguists from Duisburg Institute for Linguistic and Social Research should be created. According to the previously published language example of the planned primer of the DJV, the term Gutmensch is said to have already been used for the supporters of Cardinal Graf von Galen who opposed the murder of disabled people by the National Socialists . The DJV refers to Adolf Hitler , who in his speeches and his book Mein Kampf repeatedly used the prefix well in a derogatory context. For him, well-meaning and good-natured people were those who played into the hands of the enemies of the German people. The Duisburg Institute for Linguistic and Social Research later explicitly contradicted the claim that the word do-gooder was used in National Socialist parlance. Corresponding allegations have been investigated, but these have proven to be baseless.

Matthias Heine (Die Welt) refers to the pedagogue Christian Oeser , who was born in Pressburg in 1791 and who invented the term. In his book Letters to a Virgo , published in 1859, on the main subjects of aesthetics , it says about particularly naive well-meaning people: “Isn't such an unsophisticated do-gooder laughed at for his unconditional human love, taken for a fool by the whole world and a victim of his weakness? "

In the 20th century, the term and the problem of the “good person” were also processed literarily in a non-pejorative way, for example in Bertolt Brecht's play The Good Person of Sezuan : The protagonist “Shen Te” tries to act kindly and selflessly but exploited mercilessly and then invents her alter ego "Shui Ta".

Terms with a similar content and a similar history of use are also part of everyday political discourse in other languages, for example Italian buonismo for "bonism, guttuerei, do-gooder".

Use in political discussion

The term is used with varying intent and frequency across the political spectrum; as an ideologically occupied battle term in the dispute with (actual and supposed) representatives of a "political correctness" but mainly in the conservative, right-wing populist and right-wing extremist area.

Use within socially critical circles

Actors who see themselves as socially critical sometimes practice ironic criticism of alleged comrades-in-arms who criticize society without making the claims made. Gutmensch, for example, considers a criticism of racism to be purely symbolic if one's own racist behavior is not reflected on. This criticism means that political statements that do not require any consequences only serve the speaker to appear in a “good light”. Sunday speeches by politicians are particularly criticized when they pretend to be advocates of “victims”. On the other hand, those affected also resolutely reject a commitment to the role of victim .

A special example is the well-meaning " stranger " who, based on the humanitarian principle, assumes that all people are equal, but imposes "own needs, ethical or moral ideas and goals" on strangers (Sabine Forschner).

The media and communication scientist Norbert Bolz ( TU Berlin ) said in a broadcast by Deutschlandfunk on August 11, 2014:

“Do-gooders are people who cultivate a rhetoric that has also got its own name in the last few decades, namely political correctness. And this political correctness can be described very well and with it actually also the do-gooders: It is made up of political moralism, a kind of language hygiene, in a lot of language taboos and also a kind of puritanical anti-pleasure attitude. "

Use in political rhetoric

The political right uses the term more often to discredit its political opponent: By devaluing “ left ” ideals as do- gooders” , it underlines the claim to argue realistically and on a factual level, while those who are labeled as do- gooders have a loss of reality and lack of it Reflectiveness , an unrealistically high moral standard or utopian ideas are assumed. For example, Michael Klonovsky , Head of Service at Focus and currently personal advisor to the AfD parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag, Alexander Gauland , raised the charge:

“The do- gooder finds the fact that there are unproductive lower classes , social parasites , yes, that there are plebs , so scandalous that he declares anyone a bad person who points it out. If, on top of that, it is about migrants, the accusations of racism and xenophobia that are so popular in this country are used with the same certainty as those who handle them are far away from socially disadvantaged areas.

Those attacked see it as a rhetorical device that is supposed to ridicule their efforts for humanity , solidarity and social justice . The classification of the other person as a do- gooder” draws the discussion to a personal ( argumentum ad hominem = “ad personam”) and emotional level in order to avoid a substantive argument.

The term is very often used as an aggressive defense strategy against criticism of one's own positions. Criticism of (actual or supposed) racist, homophobic , anti-Semitic (and increasingly anti-Islamic ) or sexist violations of taboos should be refuted by devaluing the person using this rhetorical strategy.

On the strategy of moralization

Political power issues are given a morally polarizing form through the use of the term “do-gooder”, which is suitable for reducing respect for political opponents and discrediting them. In political rhetoric, there are strategies for negotiating political issues either on a factual level or on a moral level. External attributions of the political opponent through stigmatization such as "pc" (for political correctness ) or "do-gooder" moralize communication. The position of the political opponent is thus discredited, and he is forced to take one side or the other if he does not want to (further) lose his reputation. This strategy becomes particularly evident where there are (actual or even alleged) taboos . The art of rhetoric consists in using stigmatizing terms such as “do-gooder” or “moral club” to bring the political opponent into situations in which the alternative is: “my view or the taboo one”. This rhetoric often proves to be very effective, since it is only possible to discuss factual issues analytically here under difficult circumstances. The linguist Clemens Knobloch ( University of Siegen ) refers to this connection . (see also unword )

Use as "ideological code"

According to a discourse-analytical study published by the political scientist Katrin Auer in the Austrian Journal for Political Science (ÖZP) , under the code “pc” (for political correctness ), for the emergence of which “do-gooders” are often held responsible, especially in the political right Topics named, about which one can no longer speak loudly and publicly without falling victim to the "terror of the do-gooders". The “do-gooders” identified in this way would often be depicted swinging clubs. We are talking about " moral club ", "racism club", "fascism club", "Auschwitz club" and the like. This creates an image of the enemy and a taboo situation in which misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic statements in particular appear to be rebellious and taboo-breaking. The term “do-gooder” works here as a code in order to be able to speak and be understood in this way of thinking without having to clearly formulate one's own attitude. A well-known example is to replace the word “Jew” with the word “do-gooder” in anti-Semitic speeches. Listeners who do not see themselves as anti-Semites could agree to these speeches without hesitation.

Other uses

Until the 20th century

"Do-gooders" (Bonhommes, boni homines) was a name for the members of the medieval heretical movements, who were also known as Cathars and Albigensians and called themselves veri christiani , "true Christians". In French there is the expression bonhomme (literally: good person or good man), which attributes moral qualities to the people so designated, but in general - similar to narrow. gentleman - is a polite word for “person” and can be translated as “good guy” with which there is no derision or criticism, although the term is also used as an equivalent of the German idiot. With a mocking intent, however, the French term was used by Karl Marx , who occasionally referred polemically to Max Stirner with the expression “Jacques le bonhomme” . Goethe wrote one of his ballads as “Gutmann und Gutweib” .

Harald Martenstein

The journalist and author Harald Martenstein redefined the term “do-gooder” after having repeatedly dealt with the phenomenon of shitstorm in his publications , and in 2015 suggested using this expression to describe a type of aggressively self-righteous contemporary who “believes, that in the struggle for what he considers 'good' to be freed from all interpersonal considerations and all civilizational rules. Insults, humiliations and even violence are allowed. "After the article was announced in advance, Matthias Heine Martenstein held in the newspaper Die Welt that the word" had been made unusable by excessive use by the wrong people [...] "and that" no sane person Man “could use it more. A year earlier Akif Pirinçci had in his polemic Germany von Sinnen Martenstein called “do-gooders”, while the latter had polemically defended the expression, at about the same time, in his book Die neue Leiden des alten M .: “Being good is, like everything, one The question of the dose, if you overdo it, it becomes totalitarian ”.

Word mark of the band Die Toten Hosen

The manager of the band Die Toten Hosen, Patrick Orth, had the Gutmensch word mark protected by the German Patent and Trademark Office in Munich in 2014 . The band sells T-shirts with the imprint “Gutmensch - No one likes us. We don't care! ”, With 10 euros per shirt going to the victim counseling center RAA Sachsen.

Bad word of the year

As a result of the language critical campaign Unwort of the Year in Germany, the word received second place in 2011 and first place as Unwort of the year in 2015 . The jury justified this as follows in 2011:

“With the expression do-gooder, especially in Internet forums, the ethical ideal of the 'good person' is taken up in a malicious way, in order to defame those who think differently across the board and regardless of their arguments and to disqualify them as naive. Similar to the expression angry citizen , which is usually also used with defamatory intent , the derogatory use of the expression do- gooder contradicts basic principles of democracy, which include the necessary orientation of political action to ethical principles and the ideal of negotiating common social value orientations in rational discussion. The expression has been used in the manner criticized here for 20 years. In 2011, however, it became influential in various socio-political contexts and thus increasingly developed its defamation potential as a "battle term against those who think differently."

In 2015, the reason was that in connection with the refugee issue, especially those who volunteered in refugee aid or against anti-refugee attacks in the Federal Republic of Germany were insulted . The choice was influenced by the refugee issue in 2015 . “Do-gooder” was chosen because the term helpfulness generally defamed as naive, stupid and unworldly. The criticism is directed not only against right-wing populists , but also against journalists in the leading media , who would use the word “do-gooder”.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Gutmensch  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Clemens Knobloch: Moralization and practical compulsion. Political communication in mass democracy . Duisburg 1998 (future: Knobloch: Moralisierung ).
  2. a b c d e Jürgen Hoppe: Memorandum on the “Initiative Journalists Against Racism”. ( Memento of September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ; PDF; 27 kB) German Association of Journalists , March 27, 2006; Retrieved October 26, 2007.
  3. Katrin Auer: "Political Correctness" - Ideological code, enemy image and stigma word of the right. (PDF; 103 kB). In: Austrian Journal for Political Science . Volume 31, No. 3, 2002, pp. 291–303, especially p. 294 (in future: Auer: "Political Correctness" ); also Knobloch: moralization ; Gesa von Leesen: “You don't say that!” Political correctness between morality and battle concept . In: The Parliament . February 1, 2007 (in future: von Leesen: “You don't say that!” ).
  4. , accessed on February 24, 2012.
  5. Klaus Bittermann (ed.): The dictionary of the do-gooders. Affliction jargon and kitsch of opinion . Munich 1998.
  6. E.g. by Reinhard Günzel , see there .
  7. See Auer: "Political Correctness" , p. 294; and Brigitta Huhnke: "political correctness" - a mantra of national awakening . In: ZAG 30, 1999 (also in: ZAG Online . ); Brigitta Huhnke: "pc" - the new mantra of the neoconservatives . In: Andreas Disselnkötter u. a. (Ed.): Evidences in the river. Loss of democracy in Germany . Duisburg 1997.
  8. ^ Letter to the editor from Kurt Scheel in the Frankfurter Rundschau , November 19, 1997.
  9. Dieter Herberg et al. a .: New vocabulary: neologisms of the 90s in German. Berlin 2004, p. 148 f.
  10. ^ Society for German language to the first appearance of the term in German: Questions and answers: Gutmensch .
  11. See Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf . There as the “well-intentioned” often synonymous with “the Jews”, but also for Germans who cannot clearly decide for or against the National Socialist “movement”. As in the case of Nietzsche, however, no use of the word do- gooder could be documented here either.
  12. ^ DISS-Journal of the Duisburg Institute for Linguistic and Social Research
  13. Anyone who says do-gooder deserves his Shitstorm.
  14. Theaterbremen: The Good Person of Sezuan (accessed on January 2, 2017)
  15. ^ Auer: "Political Correctness" , p. 294.
  16. See Susan Arndt: Whiteness. The misunderstood structural category of Europe and Germany and myths of the white subject: denial and hierarchization of racism . In: Maureen Maisha Eggers u. a. (Ed.): Myths, masks and subjects. Critical whiteness research in Germany . Münster 2005, pp. 24–29 and pp. 340–362.
  17. to impose something on someone; see imposing ( Wiktionary )
  18. See also Susan Arndt: Myths of the White Subject: Denial and Hierarchization of Racism . In: Maureen Maisha Eggers u. a. (Ed.): Myths, masks and subjects. Critical whiteness research in Germany . Münster 2005, pp. 340–362, also tractability (Arndt), → Weißsein .
  19. Ulrike Köppchen: “Do-gooders”: Just save the world! In: Deutschlandfunk broadcast “Zeitfragen”. August 11, 2014, accessed May 13, 2015 .
  20. Auer: "Political Correctness"
  21. Von Leesen: "You don't say that!"
  22. Michael Klonovsky: The God word of the good. In: Focus. 31, August 2, 2010.
  23. ^ Auer: Political Correctness. (PDF) p. 294 and 300 (PDF; 103 kB).
  24. ^ Marx, Engels: Marx-Engels works . 3, pp. 121-123.
  25. Max Scharnigg : Criticism of the “do-gooders”: Peaceful, noble - and to blame for everything. Sü of September 3, 2011
  26. ^ Text of the poem
  27. Harald Martenstein: About the longing for moral superiority. Retrieved May 13, 2015 . , Zeit magazine, April 6, 2015
  28. Matthias Heine: Whoever says do-gooder deserves his Shitstorm. Retrieved May 13, 2015 . , Die Welt, March 23, 2015
  29. Harald Martenstein: About criticism from all sides. Retrieved May 13, 2015 . Zeit-Magazin, May 17, 2014; Akif Pirinçci: Germany out of her senses. The crazy cult around women, homosexuals and immigrants. Manuscriptum, Waltrop 2014, ISBN 978-3-944872-04-9 , p. 228
  30. Harald Martenstein: The new sufferings of old M. Naughty observations on everyday German life. Bertelsmann Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-641-15077-8 , p. 45
  31. Interpretation sovereignty: "Tote Hosen" secure rights to the non-word "do-gooder".
  32. Language criticism: “Do-gooder” is the bad word of the year. In: Spiegel Online . January 12, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2016 .
  33. Press release: Unwort of the year 2011 ( Memento from September 21, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). 17th January 2012.
  34. Election of the 25th “Unword of the Year”. (PDF) In: Press release of the language-critical campaign UNWORT des Jahres. January 12, 2016, archived from the original on January 18, 2016 ; accessed on January 18, 2016 .
  35. The good old do-gooder is back. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from January 12, 2016.
  36. Language criticism: “Do-gooder” is the bad word of the year. Spiegel Online from January 12, 2016.
  37. "Gutmensch" is a bad word of the year 2015. Süddeutsche Zeitung from January 12, 2016.
  38. ↑ Do- gooder is the bad word of the year. The time of January 12, 2016.