What follows is an introduction for Anglophone readers of GEKAUFTE JOURNALISTEN (BOUGHT JOURNALISTS) by Udo Ulfkotte, in the absence from public view of the ‘official’ translation.
Alerted by James Tracy’s piece in Off-guardian.org on 8 January 2018, which mooted the apparent suppression by powerful background forces of an English translation of Udo Ulfkotte’s exposé of German media manipulation, I obtained a copy of the German version of Gekaufte Journalisten in order to check for myself whether this work is a credible critique which merits exposure outside Germany. (NOTE: a web link was given by one reader to an online version of the German text; but that text does not provide the 500 endnotes.)
Here, as a first pass, I present in English, first the complete Contents, and then a summary of the Foreword, with web links to some of the material cited by Ulfkotte. This is clearly fair dealing under copyright law. I have not seen the ‘official’ English translation, so clearly have not plagiarised it.
Is active suppression in play here?
An English translation of the full title of the work reads: Bought Journalists: how politicians, secret agencies and high finance steer Germany’s mass media. First published just over three years ago, it is still available from the publisher www.kopp-verlag.de. My copy shows the title went through four printings in the two months after publication in October 2014. It is flagged by the publisher as a ‘Spiegel bestseller’.
Is there a clear reason why a best-seller in German on a topic of deep concern to many Anglophone readers would not also sell well in an English edition?
Some commenters on the 8 January piece suggested that the English version is not being suppressed, but is maybe just out of print. Other commenters pointed out that pre-orders were cancelled with no explanation; and that the publisher has removed all mention of the translated version from its website.
There was a suggestion that since the German edition is still on sale, there is in fact no suppression: “it isn’t as if German is a secret code”. On that basis, we may assume that the world’s entire translation industry can just pack up and go home.
I believe there is a clear prima facie case that the English version is indeed being deliberately suppressed, even though many readers would welcome an English version. This article is therefore a first attempt to bring Ulfkotte’s research and views before the English reading public.
THE CONTENTS PAGE
CHAPTER 1:Simulated press freedom: experiences with publishers
- The truth – exclusively for journalists?
- Purchased truths: on elite networks and secret agencies
- How I was bribed by an oil concern
- FAZ : a corrupt head lurks behind it
- How journalists finance their villas in Tuscany
- Well-bribed: the system of sleaze behind journalism prizes
- Easy-going interviews: PR trips and tax fraud
- Scurrilous drinking pals: glimpses of journalistic grunt-work
- Nice racket: how advertising buyers are cheated
- The spiral of silence: what does not appear in the papers
- today, down tomorrow: executions by media
CHAPTER 2: Our media: coordinated, obedient and unwilling to do research
- Thilo Sarrazin: a popular hero is condemned
- Propaganda: the Balkan Prussians are coming
- Verbal tricks of deception in politics and media
- The loss of credibility
CHAPTER 3: Undercover truth: alpha-journalists aligned with the elites
- Establish your own opinion
- ‘Best man’ journalism: establish your own power
- What makes Kai Diekmann tick?
- Atlantic Bridge
- In the stranglehold of the secret agencies
- The names: controversial contacts
- Embarrassing flattery
- Undercover power: classic propaganda techniques
- Bohnen and Kallmorgen2 : dubious PR professionals and reputable newspapers
- Obama’s Trolls: the USA Fifth Column
- The spirit of Rockefeller: the Trilateral Commission
- In memory of FAZ-chief Schirrmacher – knight in shining armour in civic service
- Buying contacts using big names? Nobility destroyed
- Bilderberger power group: conspiracy theory or reality?
CHAPTER 4: Buy yourself a journalist – bribed coverage
- Two thirds of journalists are bribable
- Pleasing favours: how the media are tamed
- Revealed: the perks
- Brainwashing: claws in the head
- Harmonising through the wallet – from journalist to welfare case
- Non-party? The SPD media empire
CHAPTER 5: Exemplary cases from the propaganda front
- The higher goal: amputate the German identity
- Merkel’s fairytale hour –How the Federal Government lies to the people
- Battle of Lies: the propaganda of Sabine Christiansen(TV ublic affairs presenter)1 and Ulrich Wickert
- Detergent advertising as currency – the Mannstein agency
- Democratic failure
- Crime scene: the editorial suite – shadow side of the media world
- What can be done
NOTES [These total 575]
INDEX OF PERSONS [Entries total roughly 500]
In the 18-page Foreword, Ulfkotte sets out the impetus for his exposé: disgust at how his own journalistic career was facilitated by the kinds of pressures and inducements he writes about here. (For example, he was made an honorary citizen of Oklahoma, to the delight of his editors, who did not think to ask how that might colour his approach to US related topics.)
He begins by asking if the German media are all on drugs. How else could they have missed major stories like the bankruptcy of some EU states? Why did they not see the coming financial crash? Why did they help drum up wars based on lies in Iraq and Afghanistan? He concludes: it’s not drugs, but propaganda specialists hiding in the background, pushing agendas that benefit primarily the USA and Israel.
In support of this view he provides links to two interesting items:
1) an article in the UK Independent by Patrick Cockburn (26 July 2014): “The secret report that helps Israel hide facts” which describes –
a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those ‘who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel’
2) a CIA-authored paper published by Wikileaks: “Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led Mission—Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough”. Wikileaks introduces it:
This classified CIA analysis from March  outlines possible PR-strategies to shore up public support in Germany and France for a continued war in Afghanistan. After the Dutch government fell on the issue of Dutch troops in Afghanistan last month, the CIA became worried that similar events could happen in the countries that post the third and fourth largest troop contingents to the ISAF-mission. The proposed PR strategies focus on pressure points that have been identified within these countries. For France it is the sympathy of the public for Afghan refugees and women. For Germany it is the fear of the consequences of defeat (drugs, more refugees, terrorism) as well as for Germany’s standing in the NATO. The memo is a recipe for the targeted manipulation of public opinion in two NATO ally countries, written by the CIA. It is classified as Confidential / No Foreign Nationals.
German media people and organisations, Ulfkotte says, far from treating lobbyists for the USA and Israel with suspicion, actually revel in these spider’s webs of influence, and are proud to be brought into membership of the most controversial circles.
In 2014 two very senior media figures, Jochen Bittner and Josef Joffe of Die Zeit, brought a legal action against a satirical TV programme which had publicised their controversial contacts with dubious networks. One media critic said of this: “For a flagship like Die Zeit, the suit brought by Joffe amounts to an open admission of journalistic failure.” [The suit was finally thrown out in January 2017.] Ulfkotte comments that it is not only from heavy hitters like Joffe that one must be on guard.
Suspicion of the media appears to be widely shared, Ulfkotte says. For example, Karl Albrecht, the multi-billionaire founder of the Aldi supermarket chain, never gave interviews, never joined elite clubs, refused to meet top politicians, and despised banks and finance houses. When he died in July 2014 the German media reported nothing of his life: just one photo.
Until recently, Ulfkotte says, the concept of media manipulation belonged to the realm of conspiracy theory. Now it is bitter reality, and he will unmask in this book an elite network of lobbyists, though those unmasked will be unhappy. His method: first compile data on the incidence of individual names in major media outlets, then cross-refer these names to the official Bundestag index of lobbyists, and to the public-citizen initiative Lobbypedia.
In this way a secretive circle of elite organisations is brought to light. Certain journalists are revealed in fact to be only pretend-journalists, who only simulate objectivity and party neutrality. He asks: in attaining exclusive entry to powerful elite circles, does one not become too close to those who provide the access? Are journalists not thereby ‘corrupted’? Do they lose their bite, perhaps without realising it?
The journalists named in this book deny they have lost their bite through contact with elite networks, and/or that they have become ‘corrupted’.
But what then if the name of the journalist or organisation appears in the Wikileaks dump of secret US diplomatic cables? Quality German media pop up there again and again.
The book will make clear, declares Ulfkotte, that a whole army of apparently serious agents earn their pay by influencing German media to promote foreign interests, for example in “transatlantic friendship organisations”. The task of these is to restrain German political and media elites from developing a spiritual affinity with Russia, and to maintain a pro-US course. Washington’s clear goal in Europe is to foster a new Cold War, and it brings big resources to the task of manipulating opinion.
Ulfkotte says he has proof that opinion survey agencies could call on funding from the US embassy in Berlin, if they undertook to falsify results in Washington’s interest.
A range of opinion
How limited the range of opinion has become in the media is clearly shown, says Ulfkotte, by the way every title of the ‘quality’ press will run exactly the same photo on the front page on the same day, e.g. of the German Minister for War [sic!] visiting Afghanistan, or motherly Angela Merkel inspecting a restaurant kitchen in Beijing. (The tabloids, by contrast, may all lead with the death of a footballer.)
In addition, national media titles constantly offer reports and commentary that clearly conflict with the views of a large majority of the public. How strange, Ulfkotte quotes a media researcher, that for all kinds of products we are presented with a huge range of choices; but the newspaper industry more and more offers just one choice. It’s not the Internet, but the actions of the legacy media themselves, that have caused their catastrophic fall in sales. In one German media group, exactly the same article will appear in up to 18 different titles.
These phenomena can only be understood by observing how the ‘stream of information’ is channelled in the background. The sunlight-averse nexus of media, lobbyists and politics has remained too long unexposed. In the chapters that follow, the questions to be addressed are:
- Who is influenced by whom?
- Who bribes whom, and for what?
- How are we citizens manipulated by the media?
Ulfkotte asks why the public must pay a compulsory levy for a TV channel watched by only a tiny percentage of under-30s, put off by its manipulation in favour of the ruling party.
The price we pay, he says, is not just financial. There’s a blood price, for all the major media seek to stir up war, presenting us with a single enemy: Russia.
Evil Russians, good Americans: a kind of psychological warfare (Psy-Op). That the media have largely replaced soldiers as a weapon of war is widely recognised; for example, once prestigious titles like FAZ often receive comments such as “inflammatory press” and “disgusting warmongers”.
The destruction of the Malaysian airplane MH-17 offers a good example, says Ulfkotte. The wreckage had hardly fallen to earth before an “opinion cartel” was vigorously pushing the “evil Russia did it” line, even as Washington itself was expressing reservations.
Why, asks Ulfkotte, do our leading media rush with such premature obedience into one-sided anxiety-making propaganda and disinformation, leading directly to warmongering? Scholars of the media have noted with growing alarm how German “quality” media have become spiritually captured by the EU, the armaments industry, NATO, and the USA.
The media castigate the public as cowardly for being unwilling to send more soldiers to Afghanistan. They hail “revolutions” in North Africa and the Middle East, which would bring peace and democracy if only we citizens would sing loudly enough along to the Washington songsheet. All we get in fact is ever more terror and hatred. Not to mention dead and seriously wounded soldiers.
Having done with MENA, our warmongers then without shame roar “War!” in Ukraine. Our media, as will be shown, thanks to their adherence to US lobbying groups, serve as the long arm of the NATO Press Office, the armaments industry, and a small clique of leading politicians.
The media remain silent about the disasters in the Middle East, because they are unable to explain to citizens why, for all their cheerleading articles, the promised peace and democracy haven’t materialised.
As Markus Wiegand, chief editor of Wirtschaftsjournalist [‘Economic Journalist’] puts it:
The elite of the profession live in a bubble, where nobody hurts anyone else but gives a nice pat on the shoulder.
Ulfkotte cites his long experience as a correspondent in warzones. Germany would not send its young to fight in foreign wars if the media had not prepared the ground psychologically. The German public are being damaged by “friendly fire” from their own media.
A 2014 report by Human Rights Watch on the growing restrictions on journalism arising from covert surveillance measures in the western democracies was ignored by the German media closest to the US propaganda line. How would they have reacted if the report had been referring to Russia?
Ulfkotte says he hasn’t a clue what will happen once his book is published. He has named so many individuals and organisations, not to slander them or bring them into disrepute, but to serve the public interest, because their actions bring consequences that damage everyone.
Corrupt journalists, unlike corrupt politicians, cannot be prosecuted for manipulating or suppressing the truth. Ulfkotte approached several of those named for a statement. The responses came in the form of lawyer’s letters, threats of litigation, and hints of possible criminal prosecution. He then refrained from contacting major media organisations. After all, the afore-cited Wiegand has called the German media elite a “club of wimps”: when criticised, they start howling like old women.
Ulfkotte hopes his revelations (not least about his own past) will encourage readers to help bring about change. But how that change will turn out is hard to predict.
“In the shadow-zone of democracy,” writes Ulfkotte:
information is shaped by hidden hands in the opinion cartel. In the background: elite organisations close to the secret services. They are active in the world of ‘think tanks’ and foundations. Only upon recommendation is one admitted to this worthy Fifth Column of the powerful. Money can’t buy admittance. For plenty of money has been amassed as it is.
In conclusion, Ulfkotte asks: how can the reader be sure he’s telling the truth?
Firstly because he names names, firms, times and places; he provides copious footnotes and sources.
Secondly, he has received on many occasions an accolade given only to those who tell the truth: a thorough search of his residence by the authorities on suspicion of leaking secrets. Which never happens to liars such as those unmasked in the following pages.