Nothing quite manages to silence opposition and join people in the spirit of loyalty like a national crisis. When crises are real, people legitimately bond and work toward a common goal. The United States faced such crises on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.
Unfortunately, despots read history - at least for pointers on how either to seize, or to tighten hold on, power. Crises are right up some despots’ alleys.
Adolf Hitler took office as Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. On the evening of February 27-28, 1933, the Reichstag - the German national legislature as well as the name of the building in which that body met - caught fire. “The whole truth about the Reichstag fire will probably never be known. Nearly all those who knew it are now dead, most of them slain by Hitler in the months that followed. Even at Nuremberg the mystery could not be entirely unraveled, though there is enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends.” Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 192.
By that summer “over 100,000 Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists and others had been arrested....” The night after the fire, then-President Hindenburg signed an emergency decree “suspending civil liberties and allowing the cabinet to take any necessary measures to protect public safety.” Evans, The Third Reich in Power, pp. 11-12.
On August 9, 1999, Vladimir Putin was named Prime Minister of Russia. “During the 12 days from September 4-16, however, everything changed. Four Russian apartment buildings were blown up in Moscow, Buiaksk, and Volgodonsk. The controversies that wracked the country over corruption and privatization were suddenly forgotten. Eight years of post-Soviet Russian history was telescoped into the shocking images of bodies being carried out of the rubble of bombed apartment buildings.” Satter, How Putin Became President, 5/19/16, The Hudson Institute, p. 2.
Unfortunately for Putin’s plans, on September 22, 1999, one of the bombs did not go off. The origins of the device were traced back to the Russian government. Putin expressed outrage that anyone would suggest the undetonated bomb had been placed with any official complicity. Lucas, The New Cold War, pp. 35-36. “The weight of evidence so far supports the grimmest interpretation: that the attacks were a ruthlessly planned stunt to create a climate of panic and fear in which Mr. Putin would quickly become the country’s undisputed leader, as indeed he did.” Lucas, pp. 37-38.
The current occupant of the Oval Office is no genius. His “control” officer, Putin, is rat-smart, though. Putin has created crises to consolidate his power. Hitler did the same.
What will be our Reichstag fire? When will it occur? I ask these questions now, because once the crises exists, any expression of doubt of the Great Leader - or whatever title the current occupant of the Oval Office bestows upon himself - no longer will be tolerated.