All the True and Tried Tactics in Support of War on Syria Are Being Rolled Out in Support of the COVID Hysteria
Welcome to the mother of all 'humanitarian interventions'
Even elements that are known mainly from the Syria-campaign have arrived here: for example, the instrumentalization of children to exploit emotions to distract from factual questions. For example, Bavaria’s Minister President Markus Söder recently read out an appeal allegedly from a ten-year-old: «Could you extend the movement restrictions?» Many media outlets did not criticize this instrumentalization of children for political use, but continued it themselves:
«’We should fight together. Thank you for being there’, the girl closed her letter. The lines are followed by a painted pink heart, in which you can read ‘Thank you’. Underneath a sun is smiling. This is a letter and a message that must have made a big impression on Söder! In his press conference, otherwise entirely focused on crisis management, he made reference to these lines.”
THE IDENTICAL REPORTING SURPASSES WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE MAIDAN CAMPAIGN
This episode reminds of “Bana from Aleppo”, a child who allegedly sent Twitter messages from the contested city of Aleppo. If children are used to form public opinion, one can assume that the facts are thin. The need must be great, because the use of children is effective, but taking advantage of them is not seen as fair play. This also applies if the Bavarian letter – in contrast to the Twitter messages from Bana from Aleppo – should turn out to be authentic.
This method from Bavaria is just a tiny piece in a troubling picture seen in the major media: Anyone who thought that the identical media presentation in the campaign for regime change in Ukraine or influencing public opinion about the war against Syria couldn’t be outdone, was sorely mistaken.
IN FAVOR OF LOCKDOWN, AGAINST ALTERNATIVE MEDIA
Three dominant themes in reporting can be observed at the moment. One of them is about health, prevention and the defense of the restriction of liberties. In this matter, some official documents have recently found their way into media. This includes a pandemic plan by the Robert Koch Institute, a risk analysis by parliament and a working paper from the Ministry of the Interior, with a bit less certain provenance. The communication strategies described in these papers will be discussed later in the text.
One can also see a defense mounted against the economic policy conclusions after the virus. An extreme example is this contribution by a banker: «A nightmare: in comes the state, exit the market economy». And recently the [left-liberal] «taz» wrote:
“The great narrative that a neoliberal elite maliciously cancelled the welfare state consensus and destroyed the welfare state is widespread. This seems so self-evident that no evidence is required. (…) This is symptomatic of the social debate in Germany. Even substantial improvements are ticked off without comment when they have been achieved.”
There is also an opposite dynamic to be observed: economic liberal media, which (with a threatening moral exposure of the system possible) are now preaching a renaissance of the strong state. This unmasking (which is something good), however, has to be put into perspective: The liberal economic system has been exposed numerous times before – most recently very starkly in the financial crisis of 2008. The changing positions of some media outlets must be seen with caution, because this channeling was also seen in 2008.
A third strand of current reporting is the defamation of alternative media and Russian state media, as well as Russia itself. In this context, it should be emphasized that China and Russia of course also carry out propaganda. We have earlier observed that they are currently successful because Western politics are giving them an open goal.
THE CONFUSION OVER THE DAILY NUMBERS
One certainly can imagine situations where the population should be required to behave as currently is the case. However, as a prerequisite for discipline, one must demand that the threat is real. The entire judgement of the coercive measures stands and falls on how real the risk potential is. We discussed how incomplete and therefore largely meaningless the dataset on the virus is in two interviews with the statistics professor Gerd Bosbach (one of them here). [..]
As a layperson in medical and statistical questions, one is almost repelled by the reporting: the daily series of figures, where you can clearly sense that they have no real meaning without comparative data, achieve the opposite of what they suggest – instead of more scientific clarity; they create widespread social confusion. One could argue whether this effect is intentional or the result of a failure.
THE GOVERNMENT’S BRAVE FIGHT AGAINST THE VIRUS
The fact that many large media outlets, despite this lack of data, largely report without alternative viewpoints about the brave (and allegedly without ulterior motives) “fight against the virus”, takes away another part of their credibility. As a result, they are almost completely useless as guidance, which further increases the general confusion. Because the longer the total medical crisis fails to materialize, the greater the skepticism many citizens have. On the other hand, it can also be described as frivolous to describe the virus as all lies and deceit and to promote an all-clear, based on an equally insecure data foundation.
Two main questions are currently diametrically opposed to each other. On the one hand: when, if not now, should you stand up against the restrictions of basic fundamental rights? On the other hand: when, if not now, should you pull together and sacrifice individual requirements for the big picture?
Satisfactory discussions about the health issues and the social dangers from the coercive measures, as well as the actual risk potential of the virus, hardly ever take place in the big media outlets (extremely rare exceptions confirm the rule). Thereby the debate happens in alternative media, some of which are great and some rather dubious.
The division into good TV/radio & print media on the one hand versus bad internet on the other hand should be rejected, because of the sometimes disastrous behavior of the large media outlets, and because alternative media are very diverse. Tageschau, the main evening news, and numerous other media are still trying to do this.
PEOPLE CRITICIZING THE LOCKDOWN ALSO LACK DATA
A dilemma for people criticizing the current measures is that the relevant data foundation is missing also for this position. Isn’t that why it still takes courage – even insouciance – to dismiss the virus as a myth with demonstrative certainty? The daily flow of images and columns of figures remains as an “orientation” for both sides: the impression then fluctuates between the Italian horror scenario and the apparently mild German impact. The questions remain.
Personally, I still hesitate to give a final evaluation: Who wants to risk human lives for a short protest pose? On the other hand, who would like to be accused of accepting threatening restrictions on freedoms without a fight? But the signs are growing that something has gone wrong in the name of fighting the virus. Doesn’t the relationship between impact and measures seem increasingly absurd? If you look at India, for example, aren’t they downright bizarre?
The apparently international agreement across geopolitical boundaries is also irritating. One one hand, doesn’t this global «lockstep» point to the existence of a force majeure that must be combated and must unite all former enemies? On the other hand, if this force majeure should turn out to be radically exaggerated: Who would dare oppose the global (self-)dynamic that was set in motion and is accompanied by unprecedented propaganda?
LOCKDOWN «ONLY» TO PROTECT CITIZENS?
So what’s behind it? The virus does not have to be invented for it be exploited for geopolitical purposes. However, many people simply cannot believe that the global economy is being shut down “only” to protect the health of its citizens, because this contradicts all of their experiences from the past decades.
The virus (regardless of whether its potential danger is real or massively exaggerated) contains not only the danger of a neoliberal plundering raid. There is also a potential for gaining knowledge and creating radical, generally positive changes. Many options seem possible at the moment: the final appropriation of public wealth by international private oligarchs on the one hand, or an opportunity for the citizens to reconquer the state and its wealth.
Just as with the risk potential of the virus, a final assessment of the economic and political national and global processes that take place in the shadow of corona can hardly be answered yet. There is a lot of fumbling around in the dark: Also this debate about the great risks and possible opportunities is not adequately given space in the big media outlets, and they don’t even make an attempt to clear the fog.
SHARP CRITICISM OF THE MAJOR MEDIA
The media’s handling of the virus has now been sharply criticized beyond alternative media. Science journalist Harald Wiesendanger declares he is ashamed of his profession. Germany’s association of science journalists has complained sharply to health ministries, health authorities and the government that working conditions are impossible.
In German public television “the editors-in-chief have abdicated,” the media scientist and President of the Swiss Federal Media Commission, Otfried Jarren declared. According to him, “the people responsible for talk shows and entertainment have a simple program plan: corona.“ Presenting threats and giving a stage to executive power dominates. The Internet portal Übermedien states that even in times of crisis it is “not the job of the media to play the extended arm of the government”.
THE OPINION INFLUENCERS PRAISING THEMSELVES
This criticism contrasts with self-praise, for example when the channel NDR claims that Corona is «the hour of quality media». Or when the channel ARD raves about its own media performance and once again misuses the broad reach of the daily news as an alleged sign of quality:
“Whenever things get really serious in our country and the world, people in Germany watch the daily news. This simple truth is confirmed even in times of the corona crisis. We can see this from the viewing numbers. (…) But it is not the pure numbers that affect us. It is the fact that behind these numbers are people who look at us in times of great uncertainty in order to seek orientation. We offer this orientation across all age groups.»
The Editor Network Germany agrees with the praise: «What ARD and ZDF achieve in these times is actually public broadcast in the very best sense.» They claim the broadcasting fee has never felt as sensible as in the days of corona. The private broadcasters are also winners in the crisis, and RTL has just announced the best result in its history.
«THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE: ANGELA MERKEL BECOMES THE UNDISPUTED CRISIS MANAGER»
The media praise not only their own achievements, but also the work of the federal government. For example this headline: «This is how well the strict corona measures work in Germany.» And Spiegel simply calls the current measures: «There is no alternative». In the article, the magazine says: «At the end of her time as Chancelllor, Angela Merkel once again becomes the undisputed crisis manager.»
As a result of this intensive media support for both the government and the measures it has decided, one sees a (alleged; according to surveys) massive improvement in the popularity of some politicians. So no politician has, supposedly, ever been as popular as Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder is today. And according to the Tagesschau, corona creates “great trust in Merkel and Co.” And according to ZDF «the federal government’s crisis management continues to be very satisfactory.»
OFFICIAL MEDIA STRATEGIES
Are these media phenomena the result of interventions or «guidelines»? Some official documents that talk of communication strategy have recently received attention. A media strategy is outlined in this document by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) (German,from page 187). According to this strategy, it is necessary, for example, that «certain messages are communicated globally uniformly”. But local communication is at the forefront in the document. Even the «pre-crisis phase gives the possibility to maintain continuous contacts with the media and consumer groups, with whom cooperation is possible even in the event of a crisis, without excessive hysteria.» It might also be necessary that “appropriate crisis teams or situation centers from RKI, Paul-Ehrlich-Institute and the Federal Centre for Health Education are are activated», so that «in the event of a crisis, information, measures and decisions are coordinated more quickly on a technical and political level, and then consistently communicated».
In this context, in order to build trust in the population and media, it is recommended that «one or a few people with technical, communicative media experience (‘talking heads’) are available to provide information to media representatives at regular (and possibly close) intervals”.
At the latest when an acute (pandemic) disease event begins in Germany would “communication media that enable a very quick update of information and a high number of requests from the population, such as television, radio, text messaging systems and internet services” be central.
TIPS FOR «CRISIS COMMUNICATION» FOR PARLIAMENT
In a paper from the Bundestag in 2013, a «hypothetical pathogen, Modi-SARS, was taken as a basis». The spread was rapid: «The event begins in February in Asia, but is only recognized a few weeks later in its dimension/significance. The first Modi-SARS case identified occurs in Germany in April.” The comments on the duration are worrisome: “For the present scenario, a total period of three years is assumed, with the assumption that after this time a vaccine will be developed, released and in be available in sufficient quantities.” The proposed measures have now been introduced in real life: “Means of containment are, for example, school closings and cancellation of major events.” Nevertheless, “for the entire period of three years, one has to calculate with at least 7.5 million deaths as a direct result of the infection.»
The suggestions for communication are: «In the initial phase, the occurrence of the disease and the associated uncertainties are communicated (e.g. unknown pathogen, extent, origin, danger not exactly described, countermeasures only to be formulated broadly).» This communication is essential: «Whether there are demands for resignations or other serious political effects also depends on the crisis management and the crisis communication of those responsible.»
SHOCKING PAPER FROM THE INTERIOR MINISTRY
A recent strategy paper allegedly from the Interior Ministry has also received some attention. There is more information in this article. This document works with shock figures based on a questionable «worst case scenario» and was presumably deliberately leaked. As Jens Berger writes:
“The data and assumptions on which the worst-case scenario are based are not understandable and immensely exaggerated. It is interesting that the paper states that this scenario should be the basis for all communication. In a nutshell: The government wants to frighten the people with an exaggerated disaster scenario and «leaks» this document to selected media for this very purpose. And lo and behold – the first one to oblige and uncritically spread the worst-case scenario was SPIEGEL.»
WITH THE VIRUS AGAINST RUSSIA
Many of the large media are now accompanying their own failure with a further increase in propaganda against Russia. And according to the FAZ, the EU is also “tracking down disinformation campaigns. Especially those from Russia”and collaborates with Facebook etc. The latest example of anti-Russian influencing of public opinion can be found in the newspaper Bild, which claims: “ Kremlin propagandists are stirring up the Corona revolt. ”
However, it should be emphasized that there are always individual articles in the major media that solidly refute the negative analysis – however, these good articles are usually lost without trace in the overwhelming stream of questionable articles.