German Gov't Admits to Paying MSM Journalists via the Bundesnachrichtendienst
If you wondered why legacy media reporting is all the same, here's why: the German gov't payed journalists via the intelligence services, as a parliamentary enquiry by the AfD shows
Today I’ve got something really neat for you, dear readers: I think there are few individuals left who don’t think that legacy media reporting was, well, quite fishy in these past three years. Mind you, I’m not saying that the world before Covid was perfect, actually, far from it; but—in what seems like an eternity ago—this kind of behaviour was, for all purposes, deemed ‘beyond the pale’ of any self-respecting liberal democracy.
No more, it seems. Apart from virtually everything else, the past three years have witnessed a massive ‘normalisation’ of what, not long ago, used to be incompatible with the a healthy democratic-republican body politic, in particular with respect to the Fourth Estate.
Without much further ado, here’s a piece that appeared in German legacy media outlet Focus on 10 March 2023. As always, translation and emphases mine, as are the bottom lines.
Government Paid Fees To 100+ Public Service Journalists to the Tune of 1.5m Euros
At the request of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the federal government published a list of journalists to whom it has paid money for assignments in the last five years.
A total of around 1.5m Euros is alleged to have been paid.
More than half of the journalists work for the public broadcaster.
At the request of the AfD [a kleine Anfrage, i.e., a minor parliamentary enquiry, which you can find here], the federal government submitted a list of journalists to whom it paid fees—e.g., for moderating events—in the past five years. The 25 pages list 200 names. More than half of the journalists work for
public state broadcasters [ARD or ZDF, my edit]. Journalists from many major German newspapers are also on the list.
All in all, the journalists are said to have collected 1.5m Euros in the past five years. More than 875,000 Euros went to journalists working for the
public state broadcaster [my edit] and the foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Technically, ARD and ZDF [as Germany’s two supposedly main public broadcasters] are subject to objective and even-handed reporting.
One ZDF journalist received more than 32,000 Euros.
Former Tagesschau [Germany’s main evening news] anchor Linda Zervakis interviewed Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the digital trade fair re:publica. Costs were covered by the Federal Chancellery. In total, Zervakis moderated four events for the Chancellery.
Since 2018, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) has used eight journalists for events on behalf of the Ministry of the Economy. The sum is said to amount to around 100,000 Euros. A ZDF journalist allegedly collected more than 32,000 Euros from the Federal Press Office for the ‘creation of video content’.
FDP Vice-Chairman Kubicki: Journalism is ‘led ad absurdum’
The deputy leader of the FDP [which is in government], Wolfgang Kubicki, describes state contracts for journalists in the Bild newspaper as ‘highly problematic’. The democratic role of journalism is ‘led ad absurdum’. The Fourth Estate should ‘control’ politics instead of serving it. Kubicki demands that at least those working for public broadcasters should reject offers from the federal government.
It should be noted here that TV presenters are often freelancers who sell their work to the broadcasters as much as to other clients—in this case the government.
Vice-chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group Thorsten Frei (CDU) told Bild that the journalists involved were raising ‘doubts about their independence’. This harms ‘the entire industry’.
There’s a whole lot to unpack here, ranging from the ‘neoliberal’ business model (sic) of legacy media to serious concerns about the personal integrity of both politicians and journalists.
It is well worth taking legacy media reporting—on itself, no less—with a grain of salt.
Their reporting—if you’d google these issues, you’d find a late Friday afternoon ‘taking the garbage out’ dump—is characterised by omission of the most relevant passages from the AfD’s enquiry.
Hence, here’s a translation of the two most important questions submitted to the German gov’t by the AfD. If you’d read them, I’m convinced you’ll see why these issues are noticeably absent from the above-mentioned reporting (here and in the excerpted answers below, emphases are mine):
Did the Federal Government, over the course of the past five years, pay for assignments, fees, or rendered any other payments (e.g., for moderation, presentation, consulting, expert reports, interviews, rhetoric, language training, etc.) to freelance, permanent, part-time, and full-time journalists of ARD, ZDF, Deutschlandradio or Deutsche Welle, and if so, which ones (please specify by date, federal ministry or authority, type of assignment, journalist, journalist's employer, and amount of gross payment). Moreover, information is sought about how the Federal Government assess its assignment practice with regard to the constitutionally required ‘sufficient state neutrality’ [hinreichende Staatsferne] of public broadcasters?
Have there been any remunerated commissions, fees, or other payments (e.g., for moderation, presentation, advice, expert opinions, interviews, rhetoric or language training, etc.) from federal ministries or authorities to freelance, salaried, part-time, and full-time journalists of private-sector radio stations, newspapers, or other media outlets over the past five years? If so, which ones (please break down by date, federal ministry or federal authority, type of assignment, journalist, employer of the journalist, and amount of gross payment), and how does the federal government assess its assignment practice with regard to the importance of the ‘fourth estate’ as a check on state action?
Here’s the money paragraph from the gov’t’s reply:
The commissioning practice by federal ministries or authorities documented herein does not constitute a conflict of interests with respect to the importance of journalistic work as a means of monitoring state action or with the principle of broadcasting independent of state influence [an assertion; trust me, sayeth the gov’t].
It is pointed out that the names of the journalists commissioned are not disclosed for reasons of data protection…In view of conventional trade secrecy concerning the respective contracts, the amounts paid per federal ministry of authority are only listed in their aggregated form. With regard to the Bundesnachrichtendienst [Foreign Intelligence Service, BND, whatever they are doing in domestic media funding…], it shall be noted that the questions cannot be answered for reasons of state [Staatswohl] because the BND's cooperative activities are particularly worthy of protection [this is circular ‘logic’, at best].
The individual cooperation partners work with the BND only under the condition that their cooperation with them is not disclosed—not even indirectly—but that it is kept absolutely confidential [that inspires confidence]. This means that information requiring secrecy on and from the cooperation may not be passed on outside the BND [remember, this is the allegedly sovereign people of Germany represented in the Bundestag asking the gov’t to do so]. Disclosure of the government’s cooperation partners would therefore significantly damage the reputation of and trust in German intelligence services worldwide. Consequently, there would be a serious risk of a far-reaching loss of cooperation opportunities. If the Federal Government were to release the information, it would also be feared that cooperation partners would not, or only to a limited extent, maintain confidentiality or would do so only to a limited extent [smells like an implicit admission of wrongdoing; if there’s no such wrongdoing, why keep this ‘secret’?].
As a consequence, the number of future contractual partners could decline or cease to exist and, as a result, the German intelligence services would no longer be able to gain intelligence [ahahahahaha, good one]. In addition, the disclosure of cooperation partners with regard to remunerated assignments, fees, or other payments (such as for moderation, presentation, consulting, expert opinions, interviews, rhetoric, language training, etc.) by the Bundesnachrichtendienst would provide [the enemy’s] governmental and non-governmental actors with a reliable basis and considerable added value with regard to establish how and by which means Germany gathers information. All of this would be contrary to the welfare of the German state. This would result in significant information gaps and negative consequences for the security situation in the Federal Republic of Germany as well as with regard to the protection of German interests abroad. Therefore, the right of the MPs to ask questions must exceptionally take a back seat to the Federal Government's interest in secrecy [Geheimhaltungsinteresse]. In this context, the fact that the answer cannot be given is neither to be regarded as a confirmation nor as a denial of the facts inquired about.
Basically, the federal gov’t arrogates the right not to disclose what it is doing to the elected representatives of the allegedly sovereign people.
Read this again:
Insofern muss ausnahmsweise das Fragerecht der Abgeordneten gegenüber dem Geheimhaltungsinteresse der Bundesregierung zurückstehen.
The right of the MPs to ask questions must exceptionally take a back seat to the Federal Government's interest in secrecy.
What the federal gov’t is telling the Bundestag is this: go f*** yourself, we’re not telling you because we deem it necessary to do so for reasons of state (but we’re not going to share this information with the public).
If you’d need any more proof of the transformative nature of the present times in terms of the joint putsch to dramatically alter domestic (Covid) and foreign (Ukraine/Russia) relations, there you go.
At the end of this point, I’ll delimit myself as to what will follow next—which is, actually, a binary choice in front of us.
One vision holds this:
The alternative starts out like this:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…
Afterwords: ‘History isn’ t the Past’
I’m not an American; rather, I was born in Austria, but since 2010, I’ve lived abroad.
I’m a professor of history, specifically what I conceive of as ‘European Civilisation’, that is, the period from roughly 800 through 1850, with specialisations in Renaissance Italy and East Central Europe in the early modern period.
The words by Thomas Jefferson cited above are objectively true, though. Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers of the U.S. were part and parcel of the final phase of European Civilisation, and they represent one strand of its manifestation.
The ideas behind the Declaration of Independence are sound, which is why, to me at least, they so powerfully resonate to this day.
James Baldwin, in I’m Not Your Negro, famously wrote:
History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we are literally criminals.
He was correct.
If We the People let these corrupt and utterly spineless politicians get away with these shenanigans, we probably deserve to be serfs or peons.
I refuse that fate. Come, join me, and let’s work on our future.
I’m with you 😊🙏 and yes it’s our future!
After reading every word of the Twitter Files and listening with revulsion to the hearing of the Committee on the Weaponization of the Government, it is disconcerting but not totally surprising to find out that the particulars of the German version of the American dystopia are so similar. Same story In the UK, where journalism is an arm of intelligence services. I tremble for the future of my children and thank heaven for the alternative press and Substack.