What in God’s name was the Cold War for? We were told for decades, most eloquently by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, that this was a fight for freedom against tyranny; a West in which free speech and the sanctity of the individual were honoured, and an East in which they were crushed under the might of the state.
Deutschland 83, set six years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the toppling of European communism, has done much to remind us of this dichotomy between two sides of the same country. In West Germany, dissenting voices are tolerated and people are wealthier but more unequal; in East Germany, dissenting voices find themselves in prison and people are equally poor.
The Communist parties of eastern Europe and their masters in the Kremlin were our enemies, we were told, and the misery their totalitarian ideology dolled out to their own people at the point of a bayonet made them an ‘evil empire’. The last evil empire the West dealt with before this was the Nazi empire, and the Allies very consciously ‘denazified’ their sectors of Germany in an attempt to ensure no-one formerly associated with the regime could have influence in German society, culture, press, economy, judiciary, and politics again. So why was this not done after the fall of the Berlin Wall?
More to the point, why after losing so much blood and treasure in the Cold War have we started co-opting the very ideology of those we were told threatened our liberty? I have written many times on the terrifying totalitarianism spouted by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary in this country, but mercifully it has mostly been little more than talk thus far. Using the same rhetoric, Germany has gone a step further. In partnership with Facebook, the social network will now be policed in a crackdown on free speech, specifically targeting ‘extremism’ – that ambiguous term again – though it does not appear certain whether people will merely be penalised through Facebook or handed over to the authorities.
The way it’s been sold to the German public is particularly concerning. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s read like something straight out of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, mangling language in a doublespeak with directly contradicts itself. “The best cure for bad ideas is good ideas,” she said. Absolutely, that’s why we don’t need to ban certain types of speech! “The best remedy for hate is tolerance.” We’re seeing eye to eye here, Sheryl, keep going! “Hate speech has no place in our society – not even on the Internet.” Sigh.
But even worse, the ‘initiative’ is being executed with the help of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which is run by former Stasi agent Anetta Kahane, codenamed ‘Victoria’ between 1974 and 1982. As demonstrated in Deutschland 83 and films like Stasiland, the Stasi were infamous as being one of the most brutal of the Soviet Bloc’s secret police forces. And yet, despite the fight against communism and totalitarianism supposedly being over, here is a former Stasi agent spying on the largest social network on the planet in an effort to extinguish free expression.
So, that question again. What was the Cold War for?
Paul is Creative Director for Conservatives for Liberty. Follow him on Twitter: @Whiggery
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty