Saturday, August 13, 2016

Authoritarianism did not return to Germany recently - it has been here all along

You have probably read articles and seen TV footage of Germans marching against some imaginary islamization of the West (the PEGIDA folks), of anti-immigration AfD party clocking up double-digit results in three German regional elections, of burning refugee shelters, and more.  And after the recent shootings and stabbings, calls for more police, more surveillance, harsher punishment were heard.

Bad as it is, figures for extremist killings over the past 25 years in Germany are very clear: according to research from 2015, the death toll of extreme right violence was 156 between 1990 and 2015, with 2 Islamist murders. Even if you add all the victims of 2016, the big picture has not changed.

Yet, it is the outcry by conservatives denouncing the latest series of measures and infringement on civil liberties as woefully inadequate to counter the alleged immense danger of Islamist terrorism that is getting almost all of the attention.

We can take some of the sting out of stating that German authoritarianism is not new by calling incidents "isolated". Which is what conservatives did when an Amnesty International report in the mid 1990s accused German police of abuse of foreigners, including cases in which people in deportation detention suffocated while in custody,

The older generation of conservative German politicians is currently mocking Donald Trump for his advocacy of waterboarding and more, yet some of those very Germans remained silent as young hopefuls when a Christian Democrat state prime minister openly called for torture of "reticent" suspects. The ticking time bomb and weapons of mass destruction justification we continue to hear in the US was made by the German Mr. Albrecht, the father of the 2016 German defense minister Ms. von der Leyen. Calls for extra-judicial killings were also in his repertoire.

Officials not protesting against known widespread torture in an another NATO country (Turkey) was par for the course in Germany well before 9/11. A well honed strategy that came in handy after 9/11 when one German resident landed in Gitmo and another was abducted to Afghanistan. This silence was encouraged by the fact that alleged highjacker Atta had lived in Hamburg and planned his deed there.

And if you want to look for media going full on xenophobic and hateful towards asylum seekers, look not further than bad old tabloid BILD. This collection of headlines from the pre-Welcome-Refugees past is as clear as needed:

Members of one of the very same parties (Christian Social Union, the Bavarian "sister party" of the CDU) were even fond of introducing caning/lashes and bragged about it in BILD.

[Same day update] Fixed officials not protesting. Inserted "to counter the alleged immense danger of Islamist terrorism"

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