Germany has long struggled with authoritarianism. Depending on which scholar you ask, this may even go back as far as the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, ending the brutal Thirty Years War, and cementing the serf-like relationship between peasant and lord. Since then Germany developed along lines, particularly in Prussia, that had an authoritarian and militaristic bent (with a touch of early socialism), although far short of a 20th century style police state. With the advent of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, Germany became one of the most despotic, absolutist regimes in history, rivaled only by the various Communist regimes.
Now, after what many felt was finally German progress towards the a stable, democratic, western-style republic, there appears to be very ominous new signs of Germany’s return to the Polizeistaat. German police in Berlin announced on Wednesday that they had raided 10 apartments and arrested the occupants for the despicable crime of having “right wing” opinions on Twitter. The culprits had the audacity to criticize the government’s policy towards the current tidal wave of immigrant “refugees,” as well as some anti-semitic comments. Police reportedly found some narcotics, weapons (what kind was not specified, though there were pictures of some pistols in the original article at Berliner Morgenpost)… But no plans or conspiracy to commit any kind of violence.
German police were very cavalier about the entire affair, stating the the raids demonstrate that Germans are “not as safe online” as they think. “Hate speech” is a crime in Germany, and the government has gradually stepped up prosecutions for online speech since 2014. Despite all of Germany’s problems with things like mass rape and other issues, German police have found time and resources to set up a special task force led by an ex-Stasi agent, Anetta Kahani, with the sole purpose of investigating and prosecuting speech on the internet that is critical of migrants.
This has not been the only such raid or series of raids. There have been 3 raids in the last six months, though Wednesday’s raid was the largest. Germany has even gone so far as to crack down on comedians mocking Turkish president Erdrogan. In the words of Redlich, spokesman for the German police in Berlin: “The internet is not above the law.”
Such 1984-esque, sinister pronouncements are not confined to Germany. On Monday, police in Glasgow, Scotland (UK), issued the following warning: “Think before you post or you may receive a visit from us this weekend. Use the internet safely. #thinkbeforeyoupost”. Essentially, in both Germany and Britain, criticizing people, even in such a way that does not constitute incitement to violence or conspiracy to commit any kind of actual crime, is all it takes for the police (who are devoting considerable manpower and resources to this) to come and hunt you down.
Perhaps even more disturbing, Germany is aided and abetted by companies that supposedly promote free speech, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. The irony of these companies is that they claim to promote free expression, and that they represent an transfer of ideas and communication that is unprecedented. To some degree that did used to be true. Now, in the ultimate exercise of hypocrisy, they have made themselves the accomplices and servants of a policy that represses people for no crime beyond dissenting with government policy. They have allowed liberal values to trump any sense of civic responsibility or mission, and they will find that it is those same liberal values that will suffer worse when it is time to pay the full consequences of such surrender to tyranny.
One thing is certainly clear: the beneficiaries of this policy will not be the German people (or the British and others following in their steps). This will not create a more tolerant, happy, liberal society, but rather just the opposite. As National Review points out, stifling any and all opposition, no matter how nonviolent and restrained, as racism, will merely create a backlog of anger and frustration within the population that is sick of being told it cannot express its displeasure at the current situation in any way for fear of being imprisoned. This will fuel the arguments of the radical right (or the “alt right” as it is known in America) and its paranoid, racist (genuinely racist, not the leftist definition) rhetoric that tells people the [insert scapegoat here] is in control of their government and the only answer is to embrace regurgitated and discredited racial ideas from the early 20th century.
Nor should one imagine that this is strictly an immigration/racial issue. When the government can brand anybody it doesn’t like with something as vague as “racist” or “right-extreme,” that means any form of political opposition can be silenced. Elections overturned. Candidates disqualified. Politicians arrested for imagined “hate speech” offenses that are merely a smokescreen for asserting ever more control over political discourse. Ultimately, immigration will not be the issue at all, compared to what will simply be the go-to excuse for a government that finds it increasingly convenient and easy to rely on that rather than actually being held accountable on any subject.
If the government has become a totalitarian state of “tolerance,” this will massively bolster the arguments of fringe groups and their appeal, until the people, who are now used to heavy handed government authority, support a swing to the other extreme. What will suffer is any notion of the enlightened, moderately center-right republic that America’s founders wanted, and which has served us so well these centuries, and which Europe would have done much better to try and emulate.
Make no mistake – there will be no beneficiaries on the right or left, if this policy continues. Eventually both sides will find themselves under merely a series of competing tyrannical ideologies that do not hesitate to rely on increasingly harsh methods to maintain control. Germany will certainly not be more tolerant or liberal as proponents of this madness may imagine, but merely far less free.