New York Times Berlin bureau chief Katrin Bennhold managed to make a shocking case of German media malpractice all about Trump, and fretted about how the “far right” in Europe would pounce on the controversy to tar the media, in “German Reporter Made Up Stories and Now Critics Are ‘Popping the Corks’":
He told the story of a Syrian boy who believed he had helped start the country’s civil war with a prank. He profiled an American woman who traveled around the United States to watch executions. He brought to life, in astoundingly granular detail, the anguish of a would-be suicide bomber in Iraq.
Claas Relotius, a star writer at Der Spiegel, Germany’s most respected newsmagazine, won many awards for his reporting on the most important stories of the day.
Except, it turns out, much of it was invented.
This, of course, would making Relotius, who worked for the left-wing German news magazine Der Spiegel, the Jayson Blair of Germany:
“Spiegelgate,” as it has been dubbed on social media, is one of Germany’s biggest postwar journalism scandals, potentially spanning seven years and many dozens of articles. Coming at a moment when public trust in journalism is already low, it could hardly have arrived at a worse time.
Untruths and half-truths circulate liberally on social media platforms, and populists on both sides of the Atlantic have been aggressively trying to discredit and intimidate the mainstream media.
Bennhold classlessly dragged the Nazis into the mix, putting the genocidal dictatorship in the same paragraph as the democratically elected Donald Trump:
President Trump routinely accuses the media of producing “fake news.” In Germany, members of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, describe mainstream outlets as the “Lügenpresse,” or “lying press,” a term used by the Nazis in the 1920s before they rose to power.
“It’s a dark day for German journalism,” said Ines Pohl, editor in chief of Deutsche Welle, a publicly funded broadcaster. “For something like this to happen in the heart of Europe is devastating -- and just as we’re seeing the attacks on the free press in places like Hungary and Turkey.”
“Trump and populists everywhere will be popping the corks," she added.
It did not take long before far-right activists took to social media and reveled in the news.
Bennhold also seemed less worried about the fraud in her profession and more about the (deserved) loss of reputation it would suffer. The hypothetical she offered to show the threat was predictably skewed left-ward:
The loss of credibility is dangerous at a time when democracy depends more than ever on the ability of journalists to hold power to account, Ms. Pohl said.
“Imagine what will happen if tomorrow a Spiegel reporter says he overheard members of the AfD crack anti-Semitic jokes: Who will believe them?” she said.
She finally got around to mentioning former Times reporter Jayson Blair and his fabricated journalism, which helped topple then-executive editor Howell Raines.
There have been egregious cases of journalistic fabrication before, including those by Jayson Blair, a New York Times reporter who resigned in 2003, and Janet Cooke, a Washington Post reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for an article the paper later determined to be untrue.
Bennhold previous work betrays the thinking of a left-wing European. Her flattering profile earlier this year of German socialist Kevin Kuhnert claimed “Trickle-down economics, already the default ideology on the right, was embraced by the left, too. Some say that is when the problems of social democracy began.”
A month previous Bennhold offered this paean to Communist East Germany: “Eastern women, who were part of the work force and with free child care, were more emancipated than their western sisters, and proved to be more mobile than their male counterparts.”