German media responds to WikiLeaks revelations with nostalgia for the authoritarian state

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The publication of US State Department internal documents by WikiLeaks has prompted a vociferous response in Germany. With few exceptions, officials and media commentators have echoed Washington’s witch-hunting attacks.

The vast majority of journalists and politicians have condemned WikiLeaks and defended secret diplomacy. This is true not only for right-wing and conservative circles, but also for the so-called “liberal press,” the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens.

Typical is a guest contribution published December 3 in the Frankfurter Rundschau by the leader of the social democratic faction in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. The author employs a cheap debater’s trick, equating the protection of state secrets with the defence of individual privacy....

Schulz's article culminates with the accusation: “WikiLeaks has not understood the distinction between the interests of the public and the public interest.” He thus expresses an understanding of the state that has more to do with the authoritarian Prussian state than with a democracy or a republic.

Under the Hohenzollern monarchy, broad sections of the petty bourgeoisie—including such icons of German liberalism as Friedrich Naumann and Max Weber—defended the rule of the emperor against the democratic parliamentary system. In their eyes, the monarchy was needed to enforce the “public interest”—which included the build-up of the German Navy, the conquest of colonies and the subordination of central Europe to German rule—against the growing influence of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which was on the eve of becoming the strongest party in the Reichstag (parliament)....

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