Beware the Reichstag Manager who Fabricates Crises for his Own Glory
Early in the evening of February 27, 1933, just a month after Adolf Hitler had been sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, there was an fire that devastated the Reichstag Parliament Building. The police arrested a known leftist, Marinus van der Lubbe, at the scene and found evidence of arson. There was a quick trial, he was found guilty and executed by guillotine. While it is quite possible that Lubbe was involved, and even had intended to start the fire, there is considerable evidence that he could not have acted alone, that the materials to set the fire were too spread out for one person to achieve this, and that there were inconsistencies in his confession, but this did not matter. The Nazis quickly capitalized on the opportunity, loudly proclaimed that this was evidence that the state was under direct threat from leftists and the Communists in the East. They urged the police to round up large numbers of leftists throughout Berlin, including parliamentarians. With left opposition in the Reichstag virtually eliminated, the Nazis soon gained additional power over the government which they used to further their control over the city and the country. Under an apparent threat to the state, they quickly moved to control the media, implemented restrictions on the people’s right of expression, used their party’s supporters to suppress, often violently, all left and even centrist opposition, and consolidated all power under the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler as their leader.
It is a very common practice to take advantage of a violent event, even help it along, and to use it as a catalyst to consolidate power. It has been used many times since:
- Operation Ajax of 1953 which funded and supported violent protests in Iran to discredit and ultimately overthrow PM Mohammad Mosaddegh
- The Gulf of Tonkin Incidents of 1964 which blamed the North Vietnamese for attaching navy destroyers off the coast of North Vietnam, which allowed popular support for the Vietnam War to grow
- The staging of terror attacks by undercover agents to discredit Islamic opposition in the Algerian Civil War of 1994
- Using of violent agitators during protests to discredit Union opposition against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in 2011
It is common because it works. As it turns out, a milder form of this process also occurs in places of work. This is typically the case when a new manager has to follow in the footsteps of a successful predecessor. S/he is usually in a position of weakness, may be on contract-basis initially, and has to show results quickly. The quick and dirty option is to be a Reichstag manager. The event is usually sudden, shortly after the new manager starts and bears many similarities to the larger historical and political examples that preceded it:
- An existing problem is identified and amplified.
- If there are no problems, then they are created by shaking the tree and seeing what falls out: moving people to new offices, reassignments, audits, pay/bonus inequities, or the most common trope: a budget shortfall.
- The new manager ensures s/he has the support of superiors and those superiors usually make this support public – after all, they bear some responsibility for bringing him/her on board, so they have to stand by that decision.
- A small group, or more often, a single employee is quickly identified as the root cause of the problem.
- This employee is quickly silenced, moved, or fired. This serves as an example to others.
- There is a general announcement about the problem, but there is usually little detail about it.
- All employees are urged to not discuss the issue, work harder, and focus on new goals.
- If there is any grumbling, an emphasis is made in closed meetings on the good fortune of the remaining staff for not suffering the same fate as the fired employee.
- If necessary, some employees, usually junior ones, are identified as supporters, urged to report on the others and given advancement for their loyalty.
This is the classic Reichstag scenario and weak managers follow the model almost as if it’s a rite-of-passage. It is actually striking how often this exact scenario unfolds in project teams, in offices, organizations, and yes, also educational institutions.
Collegiate Gigsters recognize the phenomenon. They have read about the Reichstag and other False Flag operations in their college history books. They may also have seen it happen in organizations or departments they worked in, and they understand that there will be fallout. If they can, they will try to be reassigned to a different project or team before others realize what is happening and well before the damage starts. If not, this is the time to be on their best behavior, to show up on time, to complete tasks and projects well, and most importantly to stay clear of the rampage. The transition isn’t always easy, but recognizing it early is their advantage. Because of their education, training and experience, Collegiate Gigsters are better equipped to survive the scheming and unexpected whims of the Reichstag manager.
This blog post was previously published in The Gigster 'Zine, our free newsletter discussing new and innovative part-time opportunities & strategies for anyone with a college degree. To sign up for the newsletter, click here.