Censorship? Here in Germany? The country whose Basic Law says clearly and unequivocally: “Censorship does not take place”. Should there be censorship here? How can that be?
What is certain is that anyone who wants to deal with censorship in our media landscape must be prepared for complex contexts. Quite a few adhere to a narrow understanding of censorship that does not allow us to recognize the real censorship in the reporting. This is convenient because such a pleasing reality can be drawn from a functioning media system. But this is also dangerous, namely for our democracy and for our society.
The Tagesspiegel recently showed in a contribution what it looks like if the accusations of censorship against the media are not sufficiently covered. The tenor of the article is that there is no state interference in reporting. That is why the accusation of censorship is inappropriate. Would it just be that simple.
First of all, it is true that, even if there are attempts at influence “from above” on the media, there is no permanent, broad-based control of the press by a state body. There are also presumably no actors or power groups who, from the background, ensure that all relevant media censor permanently in their sense.
But it is also true that censorship is still ubiquitous in our media and, above all, almost comprehensive. The censorship that characterizes the reporting, the more politically and socially relevant the topic is, is so ingrained in the journalistic products that it requires a stubborn denial of reality in order not to recognize it. The censorship that can be observed in our media comes – and this leads to misunderstandings – but not first from the outside. It is not caused by an external censor. This censorship comes from within the media itself. What we are dealing with is a socially structured censorship.
To understand how this censorship arises and how it works, a one-dimensional understanding of censorship does not help.
It has long been known from various studies that the social composition of the media is one-sided (e.B. Siegfried Weischenberg). Although there are now certain efforts to ensure a little more social diversity within the media, it should be noted that many journalists come from the “veritable middle class”, from similar milieus, and they have experienced a similar socialization. Anyone who follows the reporting over a longer period of time finds that journalists act in the editorial offices – not to mention cross-media – whose perception, thinking and action schemes are similar – just as their socialisation-related and educational biographical backgrounds can be expected. “About two thirds of journalists' fathers (67%) are or were employees or civil servants; Children of workers represent a small minority,” as the large 2006 study of journalists states (there is no current comparable study. However, it can be assumed that the social closure of the media is even more advanced).
Clearly, the more political it becomes, the more significant the social issues that are addressed, the more similar the positions and consequently the reporting.
Journalism in our media, which cannot be emphasized often enough, is characterized by a largely socially closed Milieu. This Milieu, as the observation of the media shows every day anew, is almost incapable of reporting on controversial political and social issues in the same way as it is the task of journalists: as objectively as possible, as far as possible without prejudice, objectively weighing up, putting one’s own world view at the back. Those who do not trust their everyday observation and want it to be academically sound: there are studies that show that journalists deliberately undermine objective reporting in favour of their worldview.
A healthy media landscape that works the way it should could counter these attacks from within. A media system that can only be described as dysfunctional in terms of political and socially relevant journalism is no longer in a position to do so.
Without going into the Details at this point: through an interplay of
- socialization-related influences on the individual journalists
- the social composition of the media
- the prevailing Recruitment practices
- professional socialization and the relations of forces and dynamics within the media
day after day, a new form of censorship emerges that is recognizable to anyone who follows the reporting with open eyes. Since, as mentioned, this censorship takes place without a tangible censor and journalists who practice it are by no means always aware of it themselves, its conditions of origin are elusive.
In many editorial offices there is a kind of ideological vacuum. Journalists constantly confirm each other in their worldviews. Their view of “outside” – which unfortunately also means, above all, of other media – reinforces their belief that they share the “right” view, since other media reflect an identical truth to them. Since the perspectives are similar to those of your colleagues in other media, almost identical, there is a kind of collective confirmation error within the media system. One Journalist, one Medium, relies on the other. There is no longer a real, weighty contradiction from the inside. Internal discussions, yes, sometimes fierce debates, for example at the editorial conferences, do exist. But these disputes are at best about marginalia within a very narrow circle of opinions defined as “legitimate”. The selection, weighting and preparation of news and reporting, which supposedly take place with a high degree of journalistic professionalism, but in reality are shaped to the Mark in a world-view, no longer meet any serious contradiction from their own ranks.
This does not mean that there is no real contradiction. It exists. But it comes from outside.
The very existence of all the so-called alternative media clearly indicates that something is getting out of hand within the traditional media. If journalists of large media were to report as high-quality as they pretend, their reporting was really carried out according to the highly held journalistic ideals, alternative media would not find such a large response.
One thing is certain: Alternative media have long ceased to be a marginal phenomenon. Social observation shows that citizens from all classes, strata, income and social positions access alternative media. Many citizens use alternative media because they recognize that media is censored.
For the traditional media, the alternative media are a threat, as they fundamentally question the" truths " that can be found in ARD and Co. Many journalists in the leading media react to this “external threat” in the same way as threatened religious communities do.
The more one’s own beliefs are criticized from the outside, the greater the internal isolation. Meanwhile, a degree of ideological ignorance in the editorial offices has been reached, which leads to an almost sectarian reporting.
Just as a reminder: we are currently experiencing the most serious violations of fundamental rights since the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany. The fact that the media, which are aware of their constitutional and democratic responsibility, must necessarily enable a genuine discussion between supporters and opponents of these fundamental rights encroachments is downright democratic duty.
The reality, however, is that citizens must submit a Petition calling for this discussion in a prominent place within the public sphere. There is a meeting between ARD leaders and critics to discuss the demands (which of course will not be met). In December 2020, for example, will there be public media that “do not” exercise censorship?
In other words, if the media worked as they should, the discussion called for in the Petition would have been going on for a long time. There should not be a hint of an occasion to think about a current Petition at all.
The reality, however, is that in a media landscape whose coverage is marked by censorship based on ideological evaluation principles, this discussion is deliberately suppressed.
Critics of the censorship accusation, who point out that what they say is “real” censorship, which emanates from a dictatorial Regime, cannot be compared to the conditions in this country, are mistaken.
Even if there are undoubtedly differences between censorship in this country and that in a dictatorship (there there are hardly any more free spaces, but harshest penalties against persons who violate censorship), the respective conditions under which censorship takes place are a sideshow for the consideration made here. From an analytical point of view, the first question is whether censorship can be found in a media landscape. If this question can be answered in the affirmative, it is more or less irrelevant in terms of the outcome whether the censorship is generated by clearly visible repressive means emanating from a Regime or is based on “gentle”, invisible, socially structured conditions.
As a result, both forms of censorship are very similar. On the one hand, a Regime ensures that unwanted views are mercilessly suppressed (think, for example, of those journalists who are imprisoned and sometimes tortured by a Regime for their work), on the other hand, journalists of their own free will ensure that unwanted views and information contrary to their worldview are banned from public discussion (and colleagues who try to resist this non-formal censorship face social attacks).
For Democracy, a socially structured form of censorship is poison. A media landscape that undermines the free democratic discourse as it is the case with us literally drives society apart. The integrating power of a censorship-free discourse can no longer take hold.
The fact that the media has been trying for some time to outright combat critics of the Corona measures does not lack a certain comedy and irony in an otherwise sad chapter of censorship-driven reporting. Contents and positions worthy of discussion, which are represented by a not inconsiderable part of the citizens of a state, but which are not given any space in the public discourse of the large media, are found at some point as a “cross-thinking” Protest on the street. So media are fighting an" enemy " that they themselves have created. The protests against the Corona-measures are also the visible expression of a journalistic field, in which a perverted notion of journalism has established. No longer" saying what is", is the maxim, but"saying what is supposed to be according to one’s own world view".
The result of the circumstances outlined here is a “journalism” which, even if it sounds harsh, has to be denied its raison d’être at the moment.