Ach, die verrückten Deutsch!

Gourmet store proprietors and posh restaurateurs in Hamburg are being raided by a gang of roaming left-wing activists who dress up as superheroes and pilfer expensive foodstuffs that they then give to the poor, in a Robin Hoodesque protest against the unequal distribution of wealth in Germany.

The lefty activists believe growing social inequality is reason enough to justify their actions. "They feel like Robin Hood," speculates Hamburg police official Bodo Franz. But just like Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, Franz hasn't been able to find out much more about the mysterious group…

The "superhero" activists, who sign their communiqués with names like "Spider Mum" or "Santa Guevara," claim to be acting in solidarity with welfare recipients and others on the down-and-out side of society. They claim their activities are carried out with an eye to those working under "precarious" conditions, and that they are fighting to improve the situation of the "networked perennial intern," the "homeless cleaning woman" and those "who get workfare instead of job training." The note the activists left in the plundered Hamburg gourmet paradise said that "surviving in the city of millionaires requires superhuman abilities."

German authorities consider the activists part of a loosely organized group calling itself "Hamburg For Free." In past years, members of the group attracted public attention by distributing flyers with tips for avoiding subway fares or sneaking into cinemas with counterfeit tickets. They come "from student backgrounds and from the fringe of the leftist movement," police investigator Franz suspects. "They want to have their fun, but with a political twist."
Although these people are obviously breaking the law, and it’s certainly not right to punish shopkeepers for society’s inequities, I have to admit that my main reaction to this story was not outrage, but a tickled envy. There’s something very appealing to me about masked mischief-makers with a populist bent, not the least of which reason is because it seems to recall a past and a perhaps inevitable future at the same time—an intersection which was brought to life so spectacularly in V for Vendetta. Few concepts have the capacity to frighten and thrill me in equal measure at the same time. Which is, frankly, a good thing.

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