The largest ‘Bild’ lie ever? Factchecking Bild-zeitung
“We wanted to make sure that the … money for Greek bank recapitalisation is for that purpose, not for recapitalisation of the government,” Dijsselbloem said.
Bild-Zeitung, the largest newspaper of Europe, owned by Axel-Springer press, tells its readers that the money used to bail out Greece is used ‘for instance’ to pay pensioners and teachers. It does not tell its readers that by far the larger part of it is used to bail out creditors and refinance debts… Inspired by a weekend during which I did not have internet but did have Bild-Zeitung acces (and therefore learned nothing about the macro-econmics of the situation), Inspired by the multi-layered writing of Bild, I thought this might be a way to state the Bild-framing:
(Look here for Günter Walraff, who wrote a ‘reality beats satire’ book about his stint at this journal which portrays a cynical, nihilist world. This is the way Walraff ‘celebrated’ fifty years of Bild). The German paper has nothing about failed austerity policies in Spain, Ireland, Portugal and the Baltics which led to mass emigration in countries with often already declining populations. Nothing about the fact that the only thing which kept East-Germany going during its wasted years of austerity (when unemployment went up to 20%…) was government investments and transfers. Nothing about the fact that austerity didn’t work in East Germany: unemployment only went down because of emigration, not because of net job creation. Greece is indeed very much East Germany without the transfers (and in fact with negative transfers). Bild even invokes mister Waigel (75), a former German minister of finance (1989-1998) who, in the German press, is supposed to have been ‘the father of the Euro’. Well, these (graph 1, source: Bundesbank) were the German government deficits during mister Waigel: -2,5% or more, and in 1995 (when the “Treuhandgesellschaft” was bailed out) even -9,5%. Compared with the 3% Maastricht limit not exactly an awe-inspiring track record for ‘The father of the Euro’!
As always, the most effective propaganda is what you don’t tell people. After reading the newspaper, it seemed to me that it was best to look for their largest lie. Which is that they do not tell the readers where the bail out money is going. Though they, quite misleadingly, do say that Varoufakis (instead of Greece) needs the money (note the personal style) they are misleading the readers with the next two letters: “z.b.” (“Zum Beispiel”, i.e. “for instance” or, more literally “as an example”). The money is, according to Bild, “z.b.” ‘used to pay pensioners and teachers’. Hmmm… doesn’t Greece have a primary surplus at the moment, which means that all ‘normal’ expenditures are covered’? But the point: we all learn from our trusted teachers that “z.b.” kind of phrases should be used in a honest way, which makes us expect that other people do this, too. However – Bild clearly preys upon and destroys this hard-won social trust by using it in a dishonest way (which by the way reveals that they do know better). And wasn’t the larger part of the bail-out money destined for banks and creditors anyway (graph, source)?
Aside – the small present German surplus seems to be caused by a non-sustainable low level of government investment which is of course burdening the young with the real costs.
Dear Bild-Zeitung, it’s not about Varoufakis. F*ck Varoufakis. It’s about an economic ideology which, in Finland, in East Germany, in Lithuania, in Latvia, in Estonia, In Ireland, in Spain, in Portugal and in Greece led to private (or, in Greece: government) exuberance, mega-debts, ridiculous current account deficits and out of control unemployment. Please, come to grips with this.