Thursday, January 21, 2016
How the German Press lies to its readers
More thoughtful observers see a problem deeper than political bias behind the coverage of Cologne and the broader refugee crisis: a press corps that has shifted from dispassionate observer to political actor. Instead of just reporting and analyzing events, some influential journalists, especially those who work for the public broadcasting networks, consider it their professional duty to serve as a counterweight to the populist rhetoric fueling the country’s right-wing revival, critics say.
“Cologne has helped blow the top off,” said Roland Tichy, a veteran German editor who now runs an eponymous opinion site of conservative commentary.
Even before Cologne, many Germans worried the media weren’t telling them everything. In a poll conducted by the respected Allensbach institute in December, 53 percent of respondents said they didn’t believe the media presented an accurate picture of the refugees’ qualifications for employment or other details.
A majority of Germans still trust the media, but more than 40 percent described the reporting on refugees as “one-sided.”
“There’s suspicion that they believe they don’t have to report on such assaults, especially involving migrants and foreigners, for fear of unsettling the public” — Hans-Peter Friedrich.The most virulent strain of that distrust can be seen on Germany’s streets, during the regular marches by the anti-foreigner Pegida group. Even before the recent wave of refugees began arriving, right-wing marchers revived a slur popular during the Nazi-era – Lügenpresse, or lying press. A number of journalists have even been assaulted at the rallies.
While Germany’s printed press offers a multitude of opinions and views, the public broadcasting sector, once similarly diverse, has veered left in recent years, critics say.
“The public stations have evolved into Social Democratic/Green mainstream broadcasters,” Tichy said. “There’s no denying it.”
Hans-Peter Friedrich, a former interior minister under Angela Merkel, accused the public broadcasters of operating a “cartel of silence.”
“There’s suspicion that they believe they don’t have to report on such assaults, especially involving migrants and foreigners, for fear of unsettling the public,” he said.
Following Friedrich’s critique, a freelance reporter for German public broadcaster WDR told a Dutch radio program that she and her colleagues were obliged to toe the government’s line on the refugee crisis. “We’re a public broadcaster and are therefore expected to approach the problem in a more positive way,” Claudia Zimmermann, the reporter, said.
WDR, the local broadcaster in the Cologne region, vigorously denied Zimmermann’s characterization. The station said it “follows the highest journalistic standards,” including on the refugees.
Zimmermann has since retracted, saying she was nervous during the interview and had spoken “nonsense.”
The cautious approach to news, what one commentator recently called “nanny journalism,” is a vestige of the effort to reprogram Germans after World War II from Nazi sympathizers into peace-loving democrats.
This is how they view their job; they'll tell you what to think and how to think it.
“The public broadcasting contract remains and remains intact: to impart values, promote opinion- and decision-making in society and to ensure the functioning of democracy,” she said.
For the broadcasters’ detractors, Cologne represents the latest example of months of tendentious coverage. One common complaint is news reports on the refugees often picture families and women, even though single young men make up the vast majority of those arriving.
Another is that the broadcasters downplay or conceal events that might rouse the public’s emotions. The alleged gang rape of two teenage girls in southwest Germany on New Year’s Eve by four Syrian refugees was not reported by any of the main news programs, for example, despite the parallels to the attacks in Cologne and other cities.
SWR, the regional public channel, reported on the rapes but was quick to add: “The nationality of the suspects played an ‘insignificant role’ in the crime, investigators and prosecutors said.”
Such reporting has fueled criticism that the broadcasters soft pedal any hint of criminal behavior among refugees. It also earned them a new moniker: “Willkommens Broadcaster” — a play on the so-called “Willkommenskultur,” or culture of welcome that swept Germany in the early days of the refugee crisis.
This kind of censorship and propaganda will not work well in an era when news gets disseminated by the Internet. They are exposed as liars. But the "lying press" is aided by an educational establishment that indoctrinates children so that the press and the schools reinforce each other. It's the primary reason that so many people still believe the propaganda put out by the media.Good thing we never see anything like that from our own press.
Glenn Reynolds remarks (sarcastically):
Glenn Reynolds remarks (sarcastically):