DrewDad wrote: thomas wrote:
I'd explain, but I don't think many American readers knowwho Konrad Adenauer was.
Isn't that a prime reason for explaining?
No -- it's the reason I'm so much cooler than American readers.
Konrad Adenauer was Germany's first chancellor. And to understand why he's my favorite hypocrite, you first need to know this piece of background. In Germany, we have a weekly magazine called Der Spiegel
-- comparable to Time
and the Economist
, but more agressive in its reporting and critical in its opinions. Adenauer was a patriarch by temperament, and the Spiegel
's irreverent and sometimes acid criticism had irked him since he became chancellor in 1949.
In 1961, Der Spiegel
published an article criticizing Adenauer's cabinet in general, and defense minister Franz Joseph Strauss in particular. Because the administration mismanaged our armed forces, argued the Spiegel
, there was now a real threat that Soviet forces stationed in East Germany could march through Germany into France, and we would not have enough military power to prevent it.
The criticized cabinet addressed the problem promptly: On learning about the impeding publication of the issue, the defense minister (yes, the same Franz Joseph Strauss whose mismanagement the article had just), ordered the German police to seize all copies of the issue. He ordered Hamburg police to raid the Spiegel
building and arrest the editorial team, including Rudolf Augstein, the chief editor and founder of the magazine. Strauss did that without a warrant, of course -- he had, after all, no police power at all under the German constitution. Furthermore, knowing that an important Spiegel
reporter was currently in Spain, he ordered the ambassador to ask Spain's fascist government to arrest him. And once again, Strauss lacked even the slightest constitutional authority to do that. He was, after all, the minister of defense, not the foreign minister.
This whole thing, known in Germany as the Spiegel-Affaere
, was a blatant, hair-raising, toe-nail-curling, you name it, violation of the constitution.
A few days later, the Bundestag
, our parliament, held a hearing about the affair in the Plenum. Adenauer spoke to the whole parliament, and didn't address the constitutional problems with one word. He didn't address the deteriorating state of national security either. For him, it was all about the Spiegel
and its critical article, which he alleged to have sold out national security to the enemy. His flaming speech started with the now-infamous words, "We are looking into an abyss of treason."
Of course, the Spiegel
had not revealed a single state secret, and Adenauer knew that very well. His whole outrage against the Spiegel
was a sham. But for a few weeks, he appeared to get through with it. The parliament bought it. Germany's mainstream press, instead of standing up for the freedom of the press, quickly denounced their competitor. They didn't wake up until a journalist called Sebastian Haffner, writing in a variety magazine called Der Stern
("the Star"), hammered home that it was the constitutional breaches that were the real scandal in this affair. (Note to self: remember to make Haffner my next avatar.)
After Haffner had hammered home his point things returned to normal. Der Spiegel
ultimate won all the lawsuits that flew out of the affair. Franz Joseph Strauss soon lost his job as minister of defense. Germany's young democracy had asserted itself.
Nevertheless, the hypocricy in Adenauer's abyss of treason
speech had a certain chuzpah
to it that I tacitly admire. And the way Adenauer initially duped all the watchdogs in government and society, which was scary and which I don't approve of it in the least, does deserve some grudging respect.
And that's why Adenauer is my favorite hypocrite in history.