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The German mainstream media landscape is so uniform in style and substance that you will be forgiven to surmise that somewhere some Dr. Strangelove has created an army of journo-clones.
That is particularly obvious in television journalism where the entirety of German TV journalists appear to be played by a generic looking sibling couple, that changes its cloths ever so slightly, changes its wigs, gets aged in the mask a bit - but otherwise is the same person*.
What unites them is a droll self-importance and lack of irony that borders on the robotic**. It is a style of journalism that maybe lends itself well to a country where nothing is happening and everything is working well. But it does not at all lend itself to a country where bizarre and suicidal behaviour of its elites needs to be called out fast, loud and unequivocally.
We have therefore been waiting for a journalist with precisely these skills ever since 2014/15 when our elites suddenly gave up on borders, reality, mathematics and believed that large masses of functionally illiterate men were a “tremendous opportunity” for the German high tech economy.
There were a few dissenters who from day one of the “refugee crisis” criticized the prevailing opinion but they were either too old, too brainy or too polite. Instead, over the past 15 years or so journalism in Germany has evolved into something that I call “government press release”-journalism. In this style of journalism there is little to no difference between the government narratives and “journalistic” articles. Especially during Covid crisis the motto of journalists was “the government is always right”. They might have as well just reprinted what the government press speaker said.
During the Covid-crisis a number of dissident voices emerged for instance on YouTube, some good, some terrible, some in between. However, there is ONE thing the German journalistic mainstream has always been great at - sneering from above at these unwashed ‘wannabee journalists’ that lacked the academic credentials and resources. Thus, any new-comers and dissidents were either outside ‘the club’ or, worse, never part of it and viewed as disreputable. The sentences of ‘you are not a real journalist’ or ‘he is a guy with a website and a webcam who thinks he is a journalist’ from these established and highly subsidized outlets (as in the case of the state television, subsidized with compulsory fees to the tune of 9 billion Euros) were enough to deter plenty of would be viewers from tuning in. It should be added that what could not be driven away by simply sneering and name-calling, was often simply disappeared from YouTube and Twitter by Germany’s rigorous online censorship law (A monstrously long word, even by German standard: “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz” i.e. network enforcement law). Some of the dissident voices did not do themselves a favor by stating good points on excessive Covid lock downtown measures and then completely overshooting the mark on other topics.
Still, the German mainstream survived the fake refugee crisis, the Covid Lockdown crisis, the early days of the unnecessary war in Ukraine without any of the alternative dissident voices gaining mainstream kind of followers or subscriber numbers (some maybe had 5,000 followers on YouTube).
On the Anglophile German libertarian right we were yearning for someone like Tucker Carlson to emerge - uncompromising, forceful, funny and entertaining. But where should such a person come from given that journalistic recruitment, training and ostracism-mechanisms could never deliver such a person? We still do not even have anything even closely resembling Fox News or even the National Review.
Then out of nowhere arrived such a person from the most unlikely of places - the German Bild Zeitung, Germany’s version of the Daily Mail.
Background for US-readers: The Bild Zeitung used to have a great populist approach, with fresh, plain and funny language. Also, extraordinary in the Germany media landscape since the end of WW2, it always tilted to the right. However, roughly in the early 2000s that went away and the Bild started towing the prevailing left-leaning consensus party line. Unsurprisingly, in 2015, like all other German press outlets it cheered as millions of fake refugees streamed over the border. It even applauded Merkel’s usual platitudes such as “we were gifted people”. It had lost the snark of the olden days where the Bild Zeitung days would have retorted “Yeah, gifted maybe, but they are functionally illiterate young men that will be net-takers until the day they “retire’”.
It was probably Bild’s image and sob-story of the tragically drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi that moved the needle more than anything to open Germany’s borders in 2015.The Bild of yesteryear might have dug into the question why the boy’s father thought it was a good idea to put a little boy on an inflatable boat in Turkey, a perfectly safe place, and head over to the next EU country? Or it might have looked into the people smuggling allegations against Mr. Kurdi who wanted to head for Canada ‘for dental treatment’ and reportedly overloaded the boat.
But suddenly, something changed, roughly around 2017 when Julian Reichelt became editor in chief of the Bild Zeitung. The Bild suddenly regained its fresh, populist verve and suddenly seemed to tilt to the right again. That all ended, happily for the mainstream, sometime in 2021 when Reichelt was alleged of “abuse of power” for what appears to have been an unwise but consensual affair with an employee of the newspaper.
Remarkably enough, even the mighty New York Times, otherwise entirely uninterested in German ‘yellow page’ newspapers, picked up on the story. Perhaps evidence of how much of a danger to the (increasingly globalized) mainstream Reichel had become?
However, what could have easily been the professional end of Reichelt, turned out to be rather empowering and fortuitous for the dissident right in Germany. Unshackled from the many obstacles that a board of directors and editors imposed on him before, in July 2020 he started a YouTube channel by the name AchtungReichelt.
Within less than 2 months, the channel had grown to 133,000 subscribers. Reichelt on camera is reminiscent of a Tucker Carlson, similarly energetic and great at conveying his incredulousness at the German elite’s incompetence. The German mainstream is more than alarmed, it has opened the well oiled floodgates of heaping disdain from above, especially from the highly subsidized state channels. The most common trope is that of him running a “populist right wing podcast”, the second most common trope is that of him being a Tucker Carlson copycat.
By the way, since Reichelt left, the Bild Zeitung is once again in line with the government approved narratives and its writing has gone as stale as an old Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit bubble gum after chewing on it for more than 30 minutes.
It gets truly amusing how the German media twist themselves into a pretzel - critiquing the Russian and Belarusian regimes for defaming dissidents as fascists and in the next article being worried about Reichelt’s “right wing populist and right libertarian approach on podcasting”. The unintended comedy gets even better when he gets described as a “doomsday prophet” - yes, how horrible someone spoiling all the fake optimism that we are spreading, dangerous, indeed. To round things off, the German flagship state-owned news channel the Tagessschau even created a new word “untercomplex” (meaning under-complex) to criticize Reichelt when he places government policies (whether as intent or result) into into simple categories such as “good and evil”.
Yes, where should this end if we started applying a label so simple as ‘evil’ , to preventable inflation or preventable energy price hikes, that hits the weakest in society the worst? What’s next, speaking truth to power? Or, holding the government accountable? Heresy, dangerous-think!
The hysteric screaming and collective pearl-clutching of the mainstream media at Reichelt shows that he clearly is doing something right and that, for once, something good is happening on the German right. Will there maybe be a day where even a German Trump comes along?
So where are we now with the German dissident scene? Where the US was before Rush Limbaugh and talk radio? Or maybe, more optimistically, where we were prior to Trump's election with a burgeoning scene of various YouTube and blog-posts.
Hard to say, we are probably closer to the early Rush Limbaugh than the 2016 media world in the US (before the great de-platforming(s) happened), But who knows, with someone of Reichelt’s charisma coming along, alternative media might be energized and we may leapfrog a couple of stages of evolution (especially as de-platforming is no longer as easy as it was with alternatives to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have been formed, shoutout to Gab, Rumble, Odysee).
For the interested (German speaking) reader, in addition to Achtung Reichelt there are two interesting small podcasts / outlets - one Podcast and Newspaper called Krautzone, very fresh and brainy, very data-driven. The other one, shameless plug here, goes by the very Germanic title WilleWahrheitWeltanschauung every bit as intellectual as the Krautzone, but funnier, with the hosts being much more handsome. Lastly, as you might be aware, the makers of WileWahrheitWeltanschauung also offer an English speaking podcast here on Creative Destruction Media called ‘Euro Bytes'' where they are providing a deep dive in all things Germany and Europe.
*Funny enough, German journalists get really angry if, you call them “gleichgeschaltet” (A term that can be loosely translated as “equaliser switch activated” / “equally aligned” - it is similar to the noun “Gleichschaltung” which was used by the Nazis, where it was used in the meaning of “coordinating” all institutions press, police, labor unions etc). The descriptors “distasteful” and “conspiratorial” are then predictably and uniformly used - ironically they get really angry for being mocked for their sameness and then tend to react in exactly the same manner.
**Unsurprisingly, self-importance leads to journalists mistaking tired tropes with reality- they love talking about „amerikanische Verhältnisse“ which can be translated as…thinking the US does not have a welfare state. Lack of self irony is reflected when the Belarussian president is criticized for considering dissidents as fascists and censoring them.
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