What are some lies that are inevitable

True wave

Maximilian Probst

To person

Maximilian Probst is a freelance writer for Die Zeit and previously worked for Passagen Verlag in Vienna.

The conspiracy theory of a “lying press” that wants to dupe society has not just existed since yesterday. What is the difference between legitimate criticism and blanket prejudice?

"Frontal 23": The news on Wahrwelle (& copy Turbokultur / bpb)

The accusation that the press lies as if in print, that it has been bought and that it acts against the people in the service of dubious powers, is a real classic. As early as 1800 this conspiracy theory was worked out in conservative circles.

Why at this point in time? Because it was a phase of rapid upheaval in which the enemies of technical and social modernization were looking for an explanation for everything that displeased them in the world - and because the central suspects, the devils, demons and witches, in an increasingly scientific and this-worldly one World as agents of evil no longer convinced. This role was now taken over by the journalists, pamphleteers, authors and booksellers of the Enlightenment movement. According to the new media conspiracy theory, they had united in the secret society of the Illuminati Order and in Masonic lodges, bewitched the world with their thoughts, suppressed all other thoughts and finally brought about events like the French Revolution.

The term "lying press" then became popular in conservative circles after the March Revolution of 1848. The Jews in particular were now identified as their agents. The supposed evils of the entire modern world, liberalism, socialism, democracy: all Jewish inventions that were spread with the help of the "lying press". This anti-Semitic puller theory found its authoritative form in the falsified "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in 1903 and later became the hot core of the National Socialist ideology.

The battle term "lying press" has been rediscovered by neo-Nazis since 2001. Once again, the underlying conspiracy theory is being adapted to the new era. In addition to traditional enemy images, the Israeli secret service Mossad and a Jewish infiltrated CIA are now supposed to buy and control the press.

In 2014 the term was finally declared "Unword of the Year". He has already made a career in AfD and Pegida circles. Since then there has been talk of "state radio", "system media" and "bought journalists", of the "synchronized journalistic establishment" on television, radio and in the newspapers - especially when it comes to topics such as displacement, terrorism and integration goes.

This clearly shows the overriding function of the term "lying press", because it does not mean that the press (which actually only exists in the plural) is mistaken every now and then that a newspaper or program is sometimes wrong, which is inevitable, or unconsciously and in rare cases perhaps consciously spreading lies. What is meant is that "those up there" should systematically manipulate using the press and cheat "the people" to their advantage. The term has a seductive identification potential that is well suited for mobilizing supporters: Us against them!

This friend-foe scheme leads to the "lying press" being countered with an alleged "truth press". Pegida and AfD supporters include right-wing nationalist German internet blogs, as well as the Russian state broadcaster RT. One believes these "news sources" as flatly as one mistrusts the "lying press". This works all the better, the less the supporters of the media conspiracy come into contact with reality beyond the media. Today the Internet offers undreamt-of possibilities for this. can find "alternative truths" of all kinds in this almost infinite space from the desk that immunize him from criticism.

But the price for this is high: a democratic discourse and the processes of negotiation and compromise, which are so important in pluralistic societies, are incompatible with a fundamental approach to truth and lies.