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Nothing like a Holiday to Sharpen the Mind (And the Pen)
Drachenlord's birthday and what he can teach us about our society at large
Today is the thirty-fourth birthday of Rainer Winkler, known to most people simply as Drachenlord. Winkler is probably the saddest celebrity of the German-speaking part of the internet, having gained fame — or rather notoriety — as, in the opinion of many people, Germany’s worst YouTuber. In about ten years, he went from having inherited his family’s home and a few thousand euros to having said home demolished, having lost the car he bought with the proceeds of the house’s sale and living alternatively on the street or in dingy hotel rooms, always on the run from his audience. I’ve been following the story of the “Lord of Dragons” for years now. Not only because it is quite entertaining in a can’t-look-away-from—the-car-crash sort of way, but also because it is a prime example of journalism and public opinion gone wrong. Gone wrong to such an extend that it almost resembles mass delusion.
To the majority of Germans who have heard of “the Drachenlord” (or of Rainer Winkler), he is a victim of “cyber bullying” or what people tend to call “hate on the internet”. This is because almost all journalists covering his case have not bothered to do any decent research. If you look into the guy’s story in a cursory way — or simply copy what other people have written before you — it would indeed seem that he’s the victim of a pretty aggressive mob of people who call themselves “Haider” in a mocking semblance of Winkler’s attempts to pronounce the English word “hater”. But if you do some actual research, and watch enough of the man’s content (which many people simply can’t stomach), you soon realise that the reality is much more complicated than well-meaning do-gooders would have you believe. As is almost always the case in life.
Drachenlord is definitely being attacked on the internet and in real life. But what is happening isn’t bullying. Because the man continues to provoke this behaviour. In fact, he thrives on it. The attacks by his “haters” have been his only content for years. He paints himself as one of the biggest victims of bullying in Germany (if not the world), and makes a decent living off people who believe him, as a streamer and YouTuber. In the last few years, he’s earned between 2,000 and 6,000 euros a month this way. First on YouTube and YouNow, later, after being banned off these platforms, mostly on TikTok. For a while the federal state of Bavaria was paying for his hotel rooms, but this stopped once the tax authorities realised he was earning thousands of euros at the same time. Because the antics of his haters are his only source of content (and money), he hasn’t even stopped provoking them when he was facing a prison sentence for a number of verbal attacks on the police and for assault against people visiting him at home.
As someone who has suffered quite severe bullying myself in the past, I can tell you that actual victims of this kind of abuse will do anything to make it stop. Essentially, bullying happens so often in places like school and sports clubs, because in those places, the victim can’t escape the tormentors easily. Nobody who has suffered actual bullying would provoke the people attacking them. Especially not to earn a living. It seems obvious, that whatever is going on with Rainer Winkler is a different kind of phenomenon. Well, I say it is obvious, but that presumes that you actually did some research before pronouncing a judgement on the case. Like several German judges, in fact, have done. They’ve all come to the same conclusion as the non-profit anti-bullying organisation HateAid, which after looking into the Drachenlord phenomenon, came to understand that Winkler is definitely complicit in what is happening to him because he derives financial gain from it. This does not excuse what his audience is doing to him — and some of these people have, in fact, gone to jail for it. But it means that the situation is a lot more complicated than most people make it out to be.
Sadly, almost all journalists (including podcasters) who have covered this story did not look into it long enough to figure this out. Or they are deliberately hiding the facts because they do not fit in with their ideology and the current zeitgeist, which dictates that Winkler must be a poor victim of evil people spreading hate on the internet. When he’s actually a lazy asshole scamming gullible idiots out of their money.
It seems to me that Winkler is a fitting sign of the current times. I’m just back from spending a week on a remote campsite in Tuscany, being almost completely disconnected from the internet. I enjoy this kind of thing profoundly once in a while. It helps me think and lends a renewed clarity to my thoughts. Tuning out the myriad distractions of modern life by living in a van and heading out into the Great Outdoors is a wonderful thing.
And I’ve been able to do a lot of thinking while doing this. Not specifically about Rainer Winkler, but his birthday is a pretty good fulcrum point for the kind of thoughts I have been having. Specifically, that our modern world — especially through the influence of technology — has become very detached from what is real and important in many ways.
Politicians vastly misunderstand the actual needs of their constituents. Leading to an outcry when fringe right-wing parties win over hearts and minds with the utterly predictable strategy of looking at what the voters actually want and then promising it to them.
Companies advertise based on showing how virtuously they fight for the betterment of mankind instead of advertising why anyone would actually want to use their products. Case in point: Fiat is trying to sell me an underpowered and underperforming electric Abarth Cinquecento, while at the same time, driving thousands of kilometres along Italian highways, I see almost no electric vehicles with Italian plates at all. And Volkswagen switched a whole factory from a highly sought-after petrol car to producing an electric vehicle nobody wants and then acts surprised when they suddenly produce as many cars in a week as they used to produce in a single day.
Journalists write about things they want to be true, instead of observing what is actually happening. Which, after years of pronouncing things as catastrophes that subsequently turned out to be ordinary facts of life that we’ve all been dealing with for decades or centuries, has caused people to notice that they are full of shit and made most news outlets a laughing stock. But instead of seeing their error, media companies double down on replacing facts with ideology and then complain when they continue to lose trust.
And last, but not least, Hollywood is continuing to produce shoddily written content laced with highly patronising ideological messages instead of engaging entertainment. Ignoring the obvious facts telling them that people, by and large, do not enjoy this kind of thing.
I think these examples of mass delusion have become possible because of technology. Specifically social media and the internet. These could have been used for communication, understanding and the unparalleled dissemination of knowledge. Instead, we use them to reinforce our prejudices and flawed view of the world. We build filter bubbles, we censor dissenting voices and we stroke our own egos instead of looking out past our narrow horizons, learning what is actually out there, and humbly changing our mind once in a while. This is why journalists actually believe the crap they write and why companies and politicians, in the face of obviously being wrong on almost all levels, continue with their idiotic products and programmes that were doomed to failure from the start.
Because it is easier to block and censor than to learn from your mistakes. As a society, we’re increasingly acting like petulant children, not like adults. Very much like Rainer Winkler.
Shut Up and Start Creating
As you can tell, I’ve returned from holiday with new ideas and renewed vigour to write, to podcast and to otherwise create. One of these ideas — inspired by a scientific practice my wife started quite a while ago — is to work on my novel for an hour every day before doing anything else. My wife calls this Shut Up & Write and I’ve begun to institute my own version of this practice today. Therefore, this morning, I transcribed a number of pages of my novel before doing any other work.
My hope is that this habit will finally enable me to finish the painstaking process of transcribing the handwritten part of my novel. A process which I have written about before. I will let you know how it goes. Additionally, I want to take up releasing regular episodes of my podcast again, a project that has had way too little attention from me in the last few months. I also have some ideas for blog posts and, naturally, want to make this newsletter a more regular staple in your inbox as well.
In short: I want to finish my novel. I want to write more. And I also want to get back to regular podcasting. And I think to do this, and not simultaneously drop my newfound daily exercise routine which has been very good for my mental and physical well-being, I need to turn off some of the distractions of modern life. Less time on social media, less time scrolling through apps on my phone, less time watching livestreams and YouTube videos and more time being creative and active, straining my mind and my body.
Nothing like unplugging from everything and having time to think to re-centre yourself and to reorganise your life. Holidays are wonderful that way. Let’s see if I can actually make it happen!