The wildly exaggerated threat of so-called Islamic terrorism is being shamelessly used by some western governments to boost their flagging fortunes at a time of economic malaise.
Marketing fear is a sure-fire political ploy, as the Bush administration showed. But if you think promotion of “terrorism” hysteria in order to curtail democratic freedoms is something new, have a look at Germany, 1933.
In that year, Germany’s democratic Weimar republic was foundering under economic depression, mass unemployment and raging hyper-inflation. The Reichstag, or parliament, was deadlocked between bitterly feuding parties, including the minority National Socialists, led by Adolf Hitler, the Catholics, Socialists, and Communists.
In Berlin, on the night of February 23, 1933, the Reichstag was burned down by a massive fire set by an arsonist. A young Dutch Communist found on the premises was charged with the arson attack. Germany was outraged and horrified by the crime – as much as was America after 9/11.
The Communists, of course, quickly blamed the National Socialists (or Nazis, for short). But the most likely culprit was indeed the Dutch Communist.
Five days later, Weimar President Paul Hindenberg, a conservative and war hero, signed a new act known as the Reichstag Fire Decree that suspended free speech and assembly and many legal protections. It gave government the right to arrest “terrorists” under a state of emergency.
In early March, Hitler promulgated the Enabling Act that used the threat of so-called “terrorism” to give him virtual dictatorial powers. This coup was made possible by the support of the conservative Catholic Party which, having seen the slaughter of Catholics in Russia and Ukraine by Communists, decided the Nazis were a lesser evil than the Communists.