Der Spiegel's rallying cry for liberal values makes for a masterpiece of hypocrisy.
On paper, the German magazine's new cover editorial "Rise of the autocrats: Liberal democracy is under attack" seems compelling. As advertised by one of its editors, the cover identifies four presidential culprits; Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Donald Trump.
New @DerSpiegel cover: „I am the people - the age of autocracy“ pic.twitter.com/seXzWcBNjX— Mathieu von Rohr (@mathieuvonrohr) June 8, 2018
Yes, all four leaders in that picture are either authoritarians or (in Trump's case) harbor authoritarian sympathies. But there's a deep hypocrisy to Der Spiegel's lament. Because in another editorial last November, the magazine offered its avowed support for the European Left's new authoritarianism.
That editorial renders this week's new editorial one of shallow credibility.
The November editorial's most striking moment came with its ruling that "demonstrably false claims and expressions of hate [online] should not be tolerated." Here we see the European Left's contemporary cause celebre: its utterly idiotic campaign to control offensive speech. Like many European leftists, Der Spiegel ignores the fact that the right of offensive speech is integral to vigorous debate and thus societal health. The principle of societal health being that where we limit what can be said, we chill that which can be thought and so degrade the most intrinsic quality of free societies: energetic discourse.
And whereas its latest editorial focuses on increasingly authoritarian tendencies in Hungary and Poland, it is also notable for the authoritarian tendencies it ignores. It does not, for example, lament the Netherlands government's effort to eliminate advisory referendums. Holland's governing elite have decided that it is too problematic to ask voters what they want. To continue with advisory referenda, they fear, is to risk the horror of voters choosing to take back their sovereignty a la their own Brexit.
Neither does Der Spiegel reference the Italian president's recent anti-democratic decision to reject a voter-empowered Italian coalition's first choice of finance minister. The suggested minister, President Sergio Mattarella decided, was too skeptical of the European Union and Germany. So he vetoed him.
This isn't just a failure of emphasis, either. This is the sort of authoritarianism that Der Spiegel approves of, praises, and lionizes with sympathetic profiles. That is how Der Spiegel treats authoritarianism when it serves the interest of European Union supremacy.