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Mainstream versus alternative media

In recent weeks, the attacks by German media against the Russian government have intensified – keywords: Navalny or the prevention of Nord-Stream-2. How do foreign students explain the questionable mechanisms of the German media landscape?

How far the official Germany has positioned itself against Russia since the Ukraine crisis in 2014 can be easily answered by calling for “Another war in Europe? Not in our name!”, which was signed in December 2014 by former Federal President Roman Herzog, former Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, film director Wim Wenders and 60 other public figures.

Who joined the call “Again war in Europe?“reading through today has the feeling that he comes from another world. The call also recognises the “security needs of Russia”. And this despite the fact that Crimea had been united with Russia for nine months and that there had been war in Eastern Ukraine for eight months.

Russia as a threat

Since the coup d’état in Ukraine, Russia has been demonized by the major German media in a way that has not been seen since the beginning of the policy of détente at the end of the 1960s.

When the Malaysian passenger plane MH 17 was shot down over the Donetsk region on 17 July 2014, there was a sudden fear of war in Germany, the first time since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. According to the major German media, the warmonger was Russia. “Stop Putin now!“was on the front page of the “Spiegel”. In addition, photos of the passengers killed in the shooting were shown on the cover.

Russian-backed separatists shot down the plane, according to claims in major German media. The research group Bellingcat has tried to use photos collected from the Internet to prove that the plane was shot down by a Buk missile approaching from Russia. But this photo “research” was not enough to launch a legally watertight indictment against Russia. Why Ukraine had not closed the war zone over Donetsk to air traffic was not addressed by the German media.

In order to portray Russia as a threat, topics have been repeatedly blown up in scandal waves by the media since 2014. Russian intelligence services are to blame for the poisoning of former KGB agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in England. Russian agents had poisoned the opposition politician Aleksei Navalny and killed a Georgian in Berlin’s Tiergarten park who fought with Chechens against Russia. But instead of evidence, only assumptions were made for Russia’s guilt.

Seven Years of Drumfire

“The security needs of the Russians are as legitimate and pronounced as those of the Germans, the Poles, the Balts and the Ukrainians,” says the 2014 appeal:

“Columnists and commentators demonize entire peoples without sufficiently appreciating their history. Any foreign policy-savvy journalist will understand the fear of Russians since NATO members invited Georgia and Ukraine to join the alliance in 2008.”

Seven years of suspicions and media drumbeat against Russia have not failed to have an effect. Today hardly any journalist or politician dares to talk about a “security need” of Russia. Almost all opposing votes were pushed into the extra-parliamentary margin.

The fact that since 2014 more and more alternative media were founded and peace actions were started (Editor’s note: The first articles on the reflection pages were already published in 2003) was seen by the political elite in Germany as a threat to their power. The critics were presented as a threat to democracy. Since 2015, studies have been published annually by state and party-funded foundations that try to put the alternative media in the corner of right-wing extremists, anti-Semites and spinners.

The trade union-affiliated Otto Brenner Foundation started in 2015 with its"Querfront” study. The study, published by the former editor-in-chief of the Frankfurter Rundschau, Wolfgang Storz, warns of a “cross-front” of peace activists and anti-liberal right-wing forces. It was claimed that the emerging alternative spectrum lacked “positive commitments to the democratic-representative social order and its underlying values”. After a legal dispute with video blogger Ken Jebsen, who accused Wolfgang Storz of inadmissible generalizations, Storz had to revise the study.

Centralization in the media market

In order to understand why the political elite in Germany has managed to trim the media on an aggressively anti-Russian course, one has to look again at the economic and political development of the last ten years.

The old model of a party system with two leading major popular parties has been broken. The Greens became the new People’s Party. The right-wing populists of the AfD achieved 16.5 percent of the votes in the last Bundestag election.

The gap between a small layer of very rich people and a large number of people living on the fringes of the subsistence level is widening. Today, 20 percent of children in Germany live in poor families. You can’t afford a holiday and have trouble buying new clothes.

It’s crazy. While the number of unresolved social and political questions in Germany is rapidly increasing, an important part of the media world, whose task is to clarify problems in society, is breaking away. The daily newspapers in Germany are experiencing their biggest crisis since 1945. For ten years, the circulation of leading media such as Bild and Spiegel has been falling. The media have lost a lot of trust. They do not give answers to the burning questions of time.

There are always new waves of layoffs in newspaper editorials. The editorial offices of regional newspapers often no longer write their own reports on federal politics and the economy, but draw texts on these topics from the Berlin editorial network Germany, which supplies 50 regional newspapers.

If you used to go to kiosks at the newsstands in a German train station, you would find regional newspapers with different topics and headlines. Today you often only see the same topics and almost the same headings. This development is reminiscent of the Soviet Union in Pravda claimed to spread the truth.

“Effectiveness” in all areas

So far, people in Germany believe that they live in a fully developed democracy. But how can a democracy work when many newspapers report the same thing? When there are no more reports from social hot spots and other countries?

Everything that can be centralized and effective in Germany has been subjected to merciless “modernization”. Hospitals were privatized, spending on education was cut, newspaper editorials were thinned out or dismissed altogether.

There used to be big newspapers in Germany, such as the weekly newspaper “Zeit” and the “Frankfurter Rundschau”. The well-educated part of the population, such as doctors, lawyers and scientists who had undergone six years of training, read these thick newspapers and felt themselves to be bearers of civil values. They believed in the philosophy of the Enlightenment, where the truth is no longer proclaimed by the pulpit of the church, but where the citizen himself dies, analyses facts and draws his own conclusions. This was the ideal of the enlightened citizen.

Today we live in a time of populism. Even large sections of a middle class who consider themselves enlightened switched to the side of the populists, who divided the world with simple black-and-white images, into empires of the “bad” and the “good” countries.

The wealthy educated bourgeoisie * as a stable factor and carrier of values melts away. The middle class in Germany is impoverished. The circulation of self-respected newspapers and magazines is declining. Only the weekly newspaper “die Zeit” and the FAZ can provide an extensive intellectual offering and afford foreign correspondents. The Berlin “Tagesspiegel” has only one foreign correspondent left and he is based in Washington. Foreign correspondents have become a luxury that only a few Newspapers can afford.

Thus, an intellectual desert has emerged in the newspaper market, in which there are only a few oases left. Left-wing newspapers with analytical aspirations, such as the taz and the New Germany, are adapting to the mainstream.

The New Germany, which for decades reported extensively and constructively-critically on Russia, today anxiously avoids everything that could be interpreted as close to Putin. The ND did not report a word about the termination of RT deutsch’s accounts by Commerzbank. What should we think of this silence? Are RT deutsch employees not colleagues? Does the editorial staff of the ND already think like the mainstream, which repeatedly proclaims that the employees of RT deutsch are “not journalists”, but “Kremlin propagandists”?

Because the burning issues of the people were less and less reflected in the newspapers, alternative media such as the NachDenkSeiten, Rubikon, Ken FM, RT deutsch and many others got enormous additional influx from 2014, even though they were demonized by the big media as conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites.

Barrage against RT English

Strange. As in 2015, a union once again took action against the “new danger”. In January 2019, the federal chairman of the German Journalists ' Association (DJV), Frank Überall, urged the state media institutions not to grant the channel Russia Today a broadcasting license for its website RT deutsch. Everywhere declared,“For us, Russia today is not an information medium, but a propaganda instrument of the Kremlin.” “Russia Today has in the past repeatedly invented stories or presented actual events unilaterally.”

Since the move of the DJV chairman there is no peace for RT deutsch. In October 2020, a study by the Naumann Foundation was published in which the harmful influence of Russian media on Germany is described.

At the end of February 2021, Die, the Commerzbank, the man will die accounts of RT deutsch close at the end of May. A search for another bank where RT-deutsch can open accounts was unsuccessful.

In response to the financial cut-off of RT deutsch, the Russian Foreign Ministry, represented by Maria Zakharova, announced measures against German correspondents in Russia.

As a result, the German errand boy of the USA Heiko Maas, who had not yet commented on the blocking of accounts against RT deutsch, turned the tables. He demanded of Russia that German correspondents should not be hindered in their work.

Maas denies that the account cancellations for RT deutsch were enforced by German authorities. The Foreign Minister told Deutsche Welle:

“We adhere to the rules of freedom of the press. Regardless of whether the bodies that are involved in journalism here produce news that we like or not.”

This, of course, is hypocrisy. Firstly, the federal government holds 15 percent of the shares in Commerzbank and secondly, it can be no coincidence that 20 banks with which RT deutsch asked for the opening of a new account either did not respond or rejected the request.

An intervention by editors of the Süddeutsche Zeitung also showed how much fear there is of alternative media. In the article “Jammers” they thought loudly about whether one could not exclude from the event troublemakers who use the die Bundespressekonferenz as a” stage for conspiracy myths and fake news”. Journalists Florian Warweg of RT deutsch and Boris Reitschuster have been named. Die beiden Journalisten do not submit to the adjustment and silence rituals of the capital journalists and repeatedly ask critical and extremely unpleasant questions for the federal government.

Since the Corona crisis, a sharp wind has been blowing for the alternatives

In addition to the” Russia-Verstehern " and RT deutsch, another group was targeted by the media, the so-called conspiracy theorists. According to mainstream media, these people gather around Ken Jebsen’s video channel. The channel on YouTube, which has since been closed, had half a million subscribers.

Conspiracy theorists are (among others) those who suspect that the politicians do not want to protect the population with the anti-corona measures, but want to exercise a rule over the population. The so-called conspiracy theorists therefore reject the obligation to vaccinate, the suppression of fundamental rights and the total control of the individual.

Google and its YouTube subsidiary went on the offensive. On October 20, 2020, the YouTube channel of the popular video blogger Ken Jebsen showed no more video. Jebsen had taken all of the Videos from the channel, because he had received a second warning from YouTube. The occasion was an interview with Markus Haintz, the lawyer of the Querdenken711 movement. Jebsen did not want to wait for a third strike. But this partial withdrawal was not enough for YouTube. The channel has been deleted.

The next victim of YouTube was the portal Rubikon. Founded in 2017, the Internet portal became a popular discussion platform for critics of the corona measures in 2020. The YouTube channel was closed without justification on November 20, 2020.

This much is certain: We are approaching interesting times. The demand for alternative media is high. Many people have realized that they need to spend their free time and money on alternative media if they do not want to be enveloped by the big media and government propaganda.