Tue Mar 1st, 2011 at 05:24:24 AM EST
Bild Zeitung is Germany's leading tabloid, and also its leading right-wing propaganda outlet, similar to The Sun in Britain. Der Spiegel, Germany's onetime left-liberal weekly magazine of record, picked no big fight with it after its neocon makeover in the early noughties – when it came to support for U.S. imperialism and neoliberalism, or paranoia and scaremongering about immigration, the two complemented each other.
In the present scandal of federal defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (member of the Bavarian CSU), however, the two opinion-makers found themselves on opposed sides: while Spiegel was at the forefront of the media effort to expose the minister's serial plagiarism in his doctoral thesis, Bild did everything to stand by the conservative popularity champion. For now, Bild was winning: polls showed two-thirds majorities behind the plagiarist even after his doctoral title was annulled. So this week, Spiegel attacked the old-new enemy – on the cover:
Update [2011-3-1 5:24:24 by DoDo]: Breaking: federal defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg just declared his resignation on TV.
Both papers are post-war creations with Anglo-Saxon inspiration.
Bild Zeitung (means "Image Newspaper") is the flagship of Axel Springer Verlag, the German equivalent of the Murdoch Empire. While the daily paper offers a mix of Schumi, scary furriners, tits and football 'for the plebs', its founder was quite open about trying to further the mores of capitalism, Atlanticism and the CDU. On the Left, Bild's propagandistic reporting was particularly reviled by the 1968 generation, who coined the slogan Bild lügt (Bild lies). The paper's general direction didn't change after the death of the founder.
Like its British equivalent with Bliar, the Bild of the nineties made its special pact with Germany's Third Wayist luminary, Gerhard Schröder, and helped making him chancellor. Bild then returned to support right-wing politicians, at times boosting present Chancellor Angela Merkel and at other times egging her on from the right, and in love with the right-wing sharp-shooter of the day (including long-time Merkel rival Roland Koch, and now Guttenberg).
As Migeru put it, spoofing the government slogan Bildungsrepublik Deutschland (Education Republic Germany), Germany could as well be called BildZeitungsRepublik Deutschland. For another good formulation of what Bild is, I won't quote Spiegel, but will quote from the open letter of Judith Holofernes, lead singer of the band Wir sind Helden (for a background see story in the Salon):
| Die BILD -Zeitung ist kein augenzwinkernd zu betrachtendes Trash-Kulturgut und kein harmloses "Guilty Pleasure" für wohlfrisierte Aufstreber, keine witzige soziale Referenz und kein Lifestyle-Zitat. Und schon gar nicht ist die Bild -Zeitung das, als was ihr sie verkaufen wollt: Hassgeliebtes, aber weitestgehend harmloses Inventar eines eigentlich viel schlaueren Deutschlands.||Bild is not a trash culture item to be observed with a wink, nor a harmless "guilty pleasure" for well-coiffured upstarts, no funny social reference and no lifestyle citation. And least of all is Bild what you want to sell it as: a loved-hated but mostly harmless inventory of an actually much more intelligent Germany.|
|Die Bildzeitung ist ein gefährliches politisches Instrument -- nicht nur ein stark vergrößerndes Fernrohr in den Abgrund, sondern ein bösartiges Wesen, das Deutschland nicht beschreibt, sondern macht. Mit einer Agenda.||Bild is a dangerous political instrument -- not just a strongly magnifying telescope into the abyss, but a malicious entity, which doesn't describe but makes Germany. With an agenda.|
:: :: :: :: ::
Der Spiegel (means "The Mirror") was created at the instigation of the British occupying forces with the model of Time and similar Anglo-Saxon weekly news magazines, but, under the leadership of one Rudolf Augstein (which lasted over half a century), it quickly took a life of its own as the most unpleasant scrutiniser of anyone in power. It turned into an institution after the Spiegel Affair in 1962, when the then defense minister instigated a raid on the editorial offices and Augstein was put on trial for treason for leaking some NATO documents – but in the end Spiegel won and the minister had to go.
After Augstein died in November 2002, under new chief editor Stefan Aust, the magazine began to change. Pre-Iraq-War articles about blood-for-oil were followed up by uncritical reprints from Kenneth Pollack's crap propaganda book about Saddam's WMD. Op-eds by Uri Avnery were followed up by increasingly open Likudnik ravings of one editor [Henryk M. Broder]. Articles about the plight of refugees and the hypocrisy of German politicians were followed up by scaremongering about foreign criminals. The paper known for its acerbic style began to show an infatuation with (still opposition leader) Angela Merkel. The economy section stopped interviewing economists challenging the common wisdom (previously a weekly practice).
Then, in March 2004, came the final sign of the neocon makeover: weeks after Spiegel On-Line posted a long article debunking in detail the then loud anti-wind-power propaganda of the traditional energy industry, the print edition posted the total opposite, with this cover:
|THE WINDMILL MADNESS|
From the dream of environmentally friendly energy to landscape destruction with high subventions
Crazy Horse told us that two of Der Spiegel's top technical writers resigned in protest over that article, but then I couldn't find the story – now I discovered it, and more, in the German Wikipedia article on Stefan Aust:
|[Es] wurden Vorwürfe laut, [Aust] stehe hinter der besonders negativen Berichterstattung des Spiegel über die Stromerzeugung durch Windkraft, da Windkraftanlagen Austs eigene Pferdezucht bedroht hätten. Hintergrund ist, dass Aust einen Artikel der Redakteure Harald Schumann und Gerd Rosenkranz abgelehnt hatte, in dem über die Windenergie vergleichsweise positiv berichtet wurde. Kurze Zeit später veröffentlichte der Spiegel eine Titelgeschichte, in der die Windenergie vernichtend kritisiert wurde (,,Der Windmühlen-Wahn", Spiegel 14/2004). Schumann soll Berichten zufolge von ,,Desinformation" und ,,Propaganda" gesprochen und aus diesem Grund seine Kündigung eingereicht haben.||[Aust] was accused of being behind Spiegel's particularly negative reporting about wind power generation because he saw his own horse breeding farm endangered by wind turbines. The background is that Aust rejected an article by editors Harald Schumann and Gerd Rosenkranz, which gave a comparatively positive reporting on wind power [this is the article I read in the on-line edition - DoDo]. A short time after, Spiegel published a cover story with a devastating critique of wind power ("The Windmill Madness", Spiegel 14/2004). According to reports, Schumann spoke of "disinformation" and "propaganda" and submitted his resignation for this reason.|
With his personal style, new chief editor Aust managed to upset other editors enough that there was a rebellion in late 2007, which managed to force him out in February 2008. He was succeeded by a pair of chief editors, but one of those was a safe Atlanticist, and other top dogs of the post-1968 generation stayed on the editorial board.
But last week, the co-chief-editors divided up tasks, with one of them presiding over the print version, and the other the on-line version. There is hope for some improvement! Although, I won't expect editors who went along in the presentation of former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazzin's anti-Muslim-immigrant book as a serious contribution to the 'integration debate' (and in presenting Sarrazzin as a hero of free speech) to grow a spine overnight.