Germany. What are you doing? You’re the poster child for oppressive government!
And maybe it isn’t fair to single Germany out. The Soviet Union under Stalin had a much higher body count, and China’s under Mao was still higher.
But Germany is European, Western.
China and Russia reformed and changed on their own without being defeated by outside military forces. They were never entirely broken down to be built back up, like Germany–or Japan–for example.
So it’s not especially surprising when China marches ever onward toward authoritarianism. For instance, China introduced a social credit system where every behavior including online comments and neighbors’ opinions is factored into a social credit score. Low scores are used to deny citizens jobs, apartments, and the ability to travel.
But there is something especially ironic about German authoritarianism, even for an allegedly good cause.
For instance, in Germany, it is illegal to deny that the Holocaust happened. They were so concerned about that horribly oppressive time in their history… that they oppressively limit free speech.
I understand that Germany is extremely sensitive to the rise of any groups that could be easily compared to Nazis. But to paraphrase Nietzsche, he who fights Nazis should be sure that in the process, he himself does not become a Nazi.
In Germany you can get up to five years in prison for “insulting, maliciously maligning, or defaming segments of the population.”
Let’s go through five examples of German officials becoming free-speech Nazis.
A “far right” political party called Alternative for Germany first gained seats in the German parliament last year. They are said to be aligned with racist, xenophobic, and anti-Islamic groups.
Angela Merkel has been quite liberal in her immigration policies. The AfD is the answer to an increase in terrorism in Germany from Islamic extremists.
A poll found 57% of Germans believe the political party should be placed under surveillance.
So just for affiliating with a party which has valid concerns about loose immigration policies for refugees, you could be monitored like a criminal. No specific accusation required.
This year Germany banned “hate speech” and tasked social media websites with combatting “offensive speech” on their platforms. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter face €50 million fines if they do not remove “hate speech” within 24 hours of a complaint.
The clear problem becomes defining what exactly is incitement to hatred, or offensive speech.
And the German government defines it with a broad brush.
For instance, failing to call a transgender person by their preferred pronoun is considered “hate speech.”
And now people are afraid to even talk about issues like immigration and refugee policies. It is just too easy to be labeled a racist hate monger for expressing skepticism about liberal immigration policies.
Sovereignman.com summarized this absurd incident which took place in July.
Unable to obtain the information they wanted from an activist group, police basically played six degrees of separation until they found associates that they could raid.
Police say a blog’s planned protest included calls to violence. That blog used the privacy VPN and email provider RiseUp. RiseUp used a site called Zwiebelfreunde to collect donations. Zwiebelfreunde is a partner organization with TorServers.net.
So naturally, police raided the homes of three TorServers board members, a former board member, and Torservers’ office. The raid was based on the original warrant regarding the protest.
Among mountains of personal electronics and communications, police seized a list of donors to RiseUp and Torservers, including bank account details.
So now people who have donated to these privacy advocacy websites have all their information in the hands of the German Federal Police. And these are people who have absolutely no connection to the blog on which the original warrant was based…
There is absolutely no legitimate reason for the police to have raided the homes and offices of TorServers board members.
But RiseUp deletes all data about its users, so the police would gain nothing from raiding them. Raiding an associated organization was the closest they could get. But it was completely unjustified.
Last summer, German authorities raided 36 homes of people accused of hateful posting on social media.
Most of the raids concerned politically motivated right-wing incitement, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, whose officers conducted home searches and interrogations. But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone’s sexual orientation.
“The still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action,” Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said in a statement. “Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet.”
Unless of course that climate of fear is created by the German authorities against whoever they decide to target.
Last year, Germany passed a law that allows authorities to track suspected extremist Muslims.
Suspected is the key word. The people forced to wear the GPS monitors have not even been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime.
Previously, only convicted individuals could be required to wear the device used to monitor location and movements.
The cabinet proposal, “Gefährder,” or people who pose a security threat, who have not been convicted can be forced to wear the device by order of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).
So now they are policing pre-crime.
Has no one considered that being treated like a terrorist might actually make it more likely that someone is driven to extremism?
Germany is using the rise of the Nazis in the past to justify the current government’s quite Nazi-like behavior.
Being unable to express yourself without fear of arrest is not a good place to be.