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Opinion

Opinion: Fear devours open societies

A bomb threat halted the recording of a German TV show and an arena evacuation. Bicycle races, opera performances, carnival processions have been canceled. We're on the brink of paranoia, writes Martin Muno.

For umpteen-thousand girls and young women, it was the most important event of the year: the winner of Heidi Klum's reality TV show "Germany's Next Top Model" (GNT) was to be chosen on Thursday evening, in front of an audience of 10,000 in Mannheim's SAP Arena, and many more glued to their TV screens.

But we still don't know which of the four finalists was the lucky one: A bomb threat made sure that the event came to an sudden end. The venue was evacuated, broadcaster ProSieben showed a movie instead of the highly anticipated reality show finale.

The show is part of a spate of events that have been canceled in Germany due to fears of terrorist attacks: others include a May 1 bicycle race in Frankfurt, a Carnival procession in Braunschweig in February, and an anti-Islamist PEGIDA demonstration in Dresden in January.

Less and less outcry

Five years ago, when the Deutsche Oper in Berlin wiped Mozart's opera "Idomeneo" from the season program over fears of disturbances during the performance, there was a political outcry. According to the then culture commissioner, Bernd Neumann, the "democratic culture of free speech" was in danger. A scene involving the decapitated heads of Jesus, Buddah, and the prophet Muhammad had caused offence.

When the Braunschweig Carnival procession was canceled, mayor Ulrich Markurth deplored "a sad day for our democratic society," only to add that "the police assessment left no room for a different decision."

This sort of statement was not made after the GNT cancellation - certainly due to the steady decline in the audiences' levels of respect for the arts as we're talking about an opera performance to traditional parade and a model reality show. However, over the course of those five years, our way of thinking has changed as well.

Every moron can bring something to its knees

Muno Martin Kommentarbild App

Martin Muno

The fact that security takes precedence over all else has led to drastic restrictions of democratic rights. In the wake of the NSA revelations it's a fact that even critical minds acknowledge with a shrug of their shoulders.

But the greater danger lies in an increasing fear of bomb attacks, which inspires copycat terrorists. A threatening call made from a phone booth - similar to that which so badly affected Heidi Klum's show - ensures that every moron gets the "15 minutes of fame," famously mentioned by Andy Warhol, but in the long run it will ruin the nature of our democracy.

After all, every modern democratic society is based on the principle that citizens can leave their homes without constantly expecting to be attacked, abducted or killed. Of course, there is always an incalculable minimum risk involved. But as soon as fear of terrorism in any shape or form smothers social life, then open society itself is under threat.

That is why every politician who mentions an "abstract terror threat" is correct. In today's Germany, being struck by lightning or dying in a car crash is still more likely, thank God, than being killed in a bombing.

That makes it essential to avoid the thought that a terrorist might be lurking behind every corner. And by the way no one was in any danger - an explosive device was not found in Mannheim.

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