This article was originally published on Nachdenkseiten.
That’s one of the standard phrases of Western self-portrayal. And anyone who denies that our political way of life really meets the necessary criteria of democracy is looked at with big eyes. The opportunity for political change would be such a criterion. Anyone who consciously experienced the first 20 years of West Germany realized that this opportunity did not exist. Research by the historian Henke, which the Süddeutsche Zeitung and later some other media published, has now made it clear why this change at the top of the government was so difficult and not possible: the first Chancellor and CDU party leader Konrad Adenauer had the SPD, the Socialist party, spied on. He received almost 500 confidential reports from his spies in the rival party. These spies were not paid by the CDU, the cheeky Adenauer used the foreign secret service BND, which was paid for by the taxpayers, and its predecessor, the Gehlen organization. Is this what a democracy looks like?
There are a number of other reasons for being skeptical about the characterization of our political life – for example the high degree of controlled formation of opinion and will. Paul Sehte, then co-editor of the FAZ, announced as early as 1965:
“Freedom of the press is the freedom of two hundred rich people to express their opinions.”
“As the production of newspapers and magazines requires ever greater capital, the number of people editing press organs is becoming smaller and smaller.”
In Der Spiegel of August 14, 1966 there was an interesting analytical article on the development of concentration in the media. See here: FREE IS WHO IS RICH.
That was very enlightening and depressing. Now our print media and private broadcasters are in the hands of a few individuals and groups. The print media usually have regional monopolies. And the public service broadcasters are not free, independent competitors, but conformist to the extreme. We are now experiencing the result, for example, in two large issues one after the other: the corona pandemic and in the Ukraine war. You have to use a magnifying glass to look for really free, critical opinion. Since the parties themselves are also largely infiltrated, this second institution of democratic life hardly exists as a real democratic authority.
Anyone who finds this statement too radical should perhaps follow what our current foreign minister has announced. Today the headline above an article on the front page of my regional newspaper reads:
“Baerbock: Heavy Weapons for Ukraine”
Do you think this blatant warmongering, which is also being practiced here in the name of all of us, was developed within the Greens as an opinion and concept? When forming your own opinion, perhaps you should take into account that Ms. Baerbock enjoyed the Young Leaders Program of the World Economic Forum (Davos). She reliably announces what the leading Western power would like to have announced. And in Germany this is then distributed as an agency report, in this specific case by afp/dpa. The highly concentrated power of these agencies is also part of the characterization of what we call democracy.
Back to Adenauer’s spying on his competition, the SPD, in the 1950s and 1960s: I quote from the “Freie Presse”:
“What happened in Bonn, a super watergate”
Asked about parallels to the Watergate affair in 1972 in the USA, Henke said “Zeit online”: “The Watergate affair was triggered in 1972 by the break-in into the US Democrats’ party headquarters: US President Richard Nixon wanted to have bugs installed there.” As is well known, it was all extremely amateurish. “If you wanted to measure it by that, what happened in Bonn would be a super watergate.” Because what didn’t work for a single day in Washington worked in Bonn for almost ten years. “Not with bugs, but through a traitor in the ranks of the SPD. And not by some plumber’s troop, but by the instrumentalization of the foreign intelligence service by the top government.”
This is what our dear democracy looks like. And that doesn’t bother us? It doesn’t bother many because from their point of view – and even viewed objectively – the conditions in other countries are even less democratic. That’s cold consolation.