The established media are the ethnic observer of the Anti-Russia campaign of Western media. The NS weekly show in the guise OF ARD / ZDF stands out particularly strongly when it comes to the topic of enemy image building Russia and China. On 1 August 2019, ZDF broadcast a “documentation” that boldly constructs the enemy image of Russia and invokes the citizens for rearmament and war. The filmmakers work with means that they would immediately accuse Russian state television of “propaganda” in the opposite case.
When public television shows a political documentary about NATO and Russia, critical viewers now know for sure what to expect. The experiences with previous ARD/ZDF works, such as “Power Man Putin”, “Putin vs. USA” and many magazine and news articles are too relevant.
The film called “Old Alliances, New Threats: Germany’s Role in NATO and the Wel” by Nick Golüke and Michael Mueller is classified by ZDF as a “documentary” - but in fact it is not so much a journalistic documentary show as it is about an extremely one-sided series of claims and demands. To understand the message the film conveys, it is enough to look at the first and last minute.
In fact, not even what is needed would be so predictably partisan, and so unteachably one-sided is what public service broadcasting has had to report on the subject for years. The only surprise is that Vladimir Putin is hardly demonized. Only twice does he come into the picture, but is then criticized as usual as a belligerent, unpredictable provocateur who sends his tanks to other countries. But for a 43-minute ZDF broadcast on such a subject, that is remarkably little.
Leopard tanks as the sound of today’s conflict resolution
More important this time are the German tanks. From the very beginning, the film is about the means of military use of force in conflict matters. Military force is presented as a perfectly normal, even indirectly, only one in such matters. The filmmakers do not question this view in a single place. The documentary gives the impression that nothing but roaring around Leopard-2s are conceivable as a means of modern conflict management.
Throughout, the Bundeswehr can present itself transparently, friendly and competently as a suitable instrument for problem solving: A blonde major explains with a smile how she organizes the tank loading to the Eastern Front, a daring tank commander his crew, a brigadier general presents his higher insights.
There are also dynamic PR images of the maneuver when the Leopard 2 ploughs through the Polish heath. Camera footage from inside the tank shows how polished projectiles are loaded. What such a shiny bullet does with people when it hits a house or other tank, however, is not even hinted at. A film that the Bundeswehr PR department could hardly have wished for better.
Tank show instead of background knowledge
The main problem, however, is that none of this contributes to understanding the current conflict situation. If it were really a matter of conveying important knowledge about modern geopolitical conflicts and Germany’s role in the world, one would not have wasted a second of the scarce airtime with inconsequential maneuvering images — but to illuminate complex conflicts, is clearly not the intention either.
Rather, it is a question of giving the viewer an insight into the need for armament. According to the calculations of the army, according to the documentary, 40 billion euros are only necessary for the full equipment of the promised eight German tank brigades (16:15). This corresponds to almost a complete annual defence budget.
And since very good arguments are needed for such huge sums, the documentary claims an acute lyrism for Germany, the European Union and NATO.
The ZDF film gives the impression that the North Atlantic military alliance is permanently and exclusively exposed to threat scenarios. There is no mention of NATO’s constant growth and transformation from a regional defence alliance to a global offensive alliance. Such information disturbs the thesis of the film.
Russia and China, on the other hand, are identified as aggressors. Transatlantic politicians, military and Western arms lobbyists serve as the pillars of this thesis. Viewers wait in vain for other voices in the film.
No diversity of perspectives
The media researcher Uwe Krüger from the University of Leipzig has serious doubts as to whether such a film complies with the requirements of the Broadcasting State Treaty. Both there and in the ZDF guidelines, objectivity, diversity of opinion and balance of reporting are named as central criteria of journalistic work on ZDF, says Krüger in response to Rubikon’s request.
“Now objectivity is difficult to measure. But in terms of balance, I see clear flaws in the film. There is little discussion and diversity of perspectives regarding the assessment of Russian and Western foreign and security policy or NATO’s 2 percent target. These are highly controversial issues.”
With the exception of one SPD man, only those people who support the basic theories of the film, from NATO Secretary General peter to CDU man Peter Tauber in the Ministry of Defence to passers-by in Lithuania, would have their say, criticizes the communication scientist.
“The left, peace researchers or military critics are waiting in vain, as are comparative figures from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute Sipri on the military expenditures of Russia and NATO states, especially the USA. Then a different picture would emerge in terms of threat.”
This film is like a gift to those circles in the Western security establishment who want to drastically increase Germany’s defense spending.
No one-day fly
Anyone who argues that individual films do not have to be balanced, as long as the broadcaster’s overall programme offers a diversity of opinion, may be right in theory. But in reality, with the exception of the cabaret show “Die Anstalt”, ZDF offers in fact only the one-sided transatlantic opinion.
The media scientist and propaganda researcher Florian Zollmann, who teaches at Newcastle University, recognizes propagandistic methods in the partisan overall representation of the global political conflict in the established media.
“The discourse that sees Russia (and China) as the only threat is to serve NATO’s interests.” The NATO integration of all the states of the former Warsaw Pact, despite the promise to the contrary in 1990, is, of course, a threat to Russia’s interests, Zollmann explains.
“That is, a confrontation with the relationship between Russia, China and NATO, which does not address these obvious issues, may well be considered selective and thus propagandistic according to conventional scientific definitions. information mediation.”
What is also missing is the opinion of the German population, argues the trained journalist. If the documentary had presented corresponding survey results, the military-skeptical viewer would not feel so alone and would be less easily convinced of the film’s theses.
Principles of War Propaganda
Helpful for identification are the “The basic principles of War Propaganda”, which the English politician and pacifist Lord Arthur Ponsonby established after the First World War and which the Belgian historian Anne Morelli systematized in 2004.
If you look at the list point by point, you will see that six of the ten principles are already appearing in the ZDF documentary, even though the supposedly imminent war with Russia has not yet begun.
The West does not want war, in the event of war one only defends oneself and in a noble way all those who cannot defend themselves.
Aggressive is only the opposing camp, whose leader is malicious and dictatorial. Russia uses illicit weapons, thus infringes the INF Treaty, and anyone who wants to call all this into question, i.e. want to choke off the arms debate, acts naively and creates a “fire-hazardous” situation entirely in the sense of the enemy.
“A film that makes you afraid”
Media researcher Uwe Krüger confirms this impression. “There are some criteria for Ponsonby, which I also see fulfilled by the ZDF film.” There is no critical view of the military-industrial complex of the West, which benefits from NATO’s 2 percent target.
The geopolitical and economic interests of the NATO states are a blind spot of the film, and the provocateur in the relationship between Russia and the West is always called only Putin. Even Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as German Foreign Minister, has already accused NATO of “saber-rattling and howl of war,” Krüger emphasizes.
“Anyone who watches the film without any special background knowledge will probably draw the following conclusions: we are the good guys, Putin is evil and looking for expansion, a war with Russia is imminent and Germany is doing far too little to arm itself for it. The film is frightening and represents armament as a solution.”
Propaganda is also what is concealed
This opinion makes it clear that the documentary is also dangerous because it does not say much. It is important to remember this, as it is a goal of propagandistic framing to make crucial information invisible.
Everything the filmmakers in the documentary accuse Russia and China of doing is actually doing the NATO terrorists themselves. And much more.
The US is waging wars, threatening and destabilizing many other countries, spying on Germany to the top of the chancellor, having proven to be waging cyber wars, spending gigantic sums on its armaments, and operating hundreds of military bases worldwide. However, this does not matter in the documentary for the assessment of who is the aggressor here.
Vacancies on Russia
It shows that Russian warplanes carry out “sham attacks” on US warships in the Baltic Sea 130 kilometers off Kaliningrad (11:20). ZDF: “The provocations are piling up.” Absurdly, the provocation for the documentary is not the presence of US warships off Kaliningrad, but the active presence of the Russian Air Force on their own doorstep.
Of course, the documentary mentions that people in the Baltics are afraid of Russian occupation because of their historical experience. Of course, it does not mention that the people of Russia are also afraid of Western invasions as a result of historical experiences. Incidentally, the Baltic was also occupied by Germany for several years, which does not seem to raise historical concerns either in the Baltics or in this country.
Vladimir Putin is accused of testing NATO’s borders (11:06) — for example, with the “invasion of eastern Ukraine”. Since ZDF still does not seem to have any pictures of this invasion after five years, one shows Ukrainian tanks, with a large Ukrainian flag on it, the doofen people do not notice it.
These are the now usual suggestive images that have nothing to do with journalism. The filmmakers do not care that Ukraine is not a NATO member at all.
Almost sensational, that one admits in the documentary that Russia felt “provoked” by NATO’s eastward enlargement. Note that the filmmakers are not talking about an objective threat situation, like that of NATO, but only of feelings. Later in the documentary, a Russian journalist critical of Putin even refers to this “feeling” as “paranoia”.
A documentary full of blank spaces
The documentary gives the impression that German defense spending is very low and continues to decline. In reality, however, German military spending has steadily increased over the past five years: from €39.9 billion in 2014 to €49.5 billion the previous year.
Germany is thus ranked 8th out of around 200 countries worldwide.
Later in the article, China is also an issue and is highly stylized as a military threat to the West. The Chinese message to everyone is: “We are great, we are powerful, and we take what we want,” the ZDF documentary claims.
In reality, China has taken nothing at all. It has not started a war or annexed Taiwan, the documentary warns. In fact, it is the US that is letting its warships sail in the South China Sea, that is, on the doorstep of the alleged aggressor.
The documentary is full of such omissions, all in Washington’s interest. This shows how unobjective the contribution is. It is particularly worrying when one recalls that the filmmakers do not report from a US perspective, but actually from a German perspective. But there seems to be no difference between German and US interests for Gödicke and Mueller.
ZDF: The EU is a dwarf dependent on the US
Against this background, the strange conclusion of the documentary is hardly surprising. It says, for example, that the EU is “politically and militarily a great dwarf on the drip of the USA” (41:00). Moment, so the EU is politically dependent on Washington? It’s nice that it’s finally said in public.
If this sentence is taken seriously, ZDF is in fact doubting the sovereignty of the European Union — a remarkable statement. Because that is not what any Reichsbürger or Vladimir Putin says, but the Second German Television.
As far as the military sector is concerned, the ZDF statement is equally dubious. After all, EU states, including two nuclear powers and many rich industrialised countries with large arms companies, also have huge military budgets. And the documentary goes on to say:
“Germany will have to invest more and do more. Not just financially. If Germany wants to be a reliable partner, it must take responsibility and send soldiers into combat missions. For the tasks are getting bigger, and they are becoming more dangerous.”
Here the filmmakers let the cat out of the bag. The whole contribution is about defending the alliance area. But suddenly Germany is supposed to send troops into combat operations. Quite apart from the fact that the Bundeswehr is currently in more than a dozen foreign missions, including combat missions.
Here it becomes clear that the ethically sound argument of the home defense is used to promote the mental readiness of the spectators for the mental readiness for war, but also to create consent for attack missions that may be contrary to international law far away from NATO territory. should be used.
Conclusion: Fear-mongering instead of international understanding
The current ZDF film is part of the well-known pattern of one-sided transatlantic media contributions to the world political situation. The documentary merely expresses the prevailing discourse within the security-political elites and ignores the majority opinion of the population.
It is striking that the open, unvarnised advertising for armaments and war reaches new dimensions not only on Bundeswehr posters, but also on public television, which seemed almost unimaginable only a few years ago.
If such maneuvering images, such as those of the documentary, were to run in reverse with Russian tanks on state television there — the same German filmmakers would probably speak of threatening gestures, sabre-rattling and militarism. They would complain about how uncritically and hastily the Russian “information warriors” accompany the aggressive foreign policy of their leaders, dropping all inappropriate information under the table. They would talk about “state propaganda.”
With this film, ZDF constructs enemy images and fuels fear of Russia in order to bring about rearmament and mental readiness for war. The documentary acts like the accompanying program to Ursula von der Leyen’s rhetorical failure of April 2018, when she recommended talking to Russia “from a position of (military) strength”. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu replied at the time:
“After all that Germany has done to our country, it is better not to say anything about the subject for another 200 years.”
However, this article is intended to end with the quote from another Russian. Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883), one of the Russian world-class writers of the 19th century, who spoke German very well and lived in Germany for a long time, once said:
After all, Russia is a member of the European family and worthy of better recognition, especially by the Germans.
One can still dream that ZDF will eventually re-implement this spirit of international understanding, which also corresponds to the Broadcasting State Treaty, in its programme.