More Taqqiya from the Spiegel

Posted by John Rosenthal

I have pointed out before – in the context of contrived charges of xenophobia against the renegade former SPD Party Chair Oskar Lafontaine – that the German magazine der Spiegel practices a form of taqqiya on its English-language site.  In his contribution on the discourse of Tariq Ramadan in the current issue of the Trans-Int Quarterly, Paul Landau provides the following definition of the Islamist practice of taqqiya: “if one cannot say something openly, say the opposite”. On its English-language site, the Spiegel cherrypicks content from its full German offerings or provides original English content in such a way as to create for itself the image of an impartial or even “critical” source of information on European and German matters for the English-speaking audience. After all, to return to the example of the alleged Lafontaine faux pas, what could be more “critical” than a German publication denouncing a German politician for racism and xenophobia? Only German speakers and experienced observers of German politics might realize that the German politician in question just happened to pose a threat to the electoral chances of Gerhard Schröder and the SPD and, moreover, that his supposed sin was simply to have employed the literal German translation for the expression “foreign worker” (of which there are some in Germany).  I will leave it for another time. But I can assure readers that Gerhard Schröder himself (notably in 1998, in the run-up to his first campaign for the Chancellorship) has been known to use language whose xenophobic charge is far more obvious and unambiguous than that.

On the other hand, der Spiegel politely refrains from including in the English site virtually all the frothing-at-the-mouth anti-American propaganda that constitutes the steady fare of its German readership and that has been extensively documented on sites like this one (see, more precisely, the archives of the old site) or Medienkritik.  And even when under exceptional circumstances it happens to include content that in the original German reflects all the missionary fervor of the writers’ and editors’ factually-challenged rants against America, in the English version that content has been air-brushed to remove their most obnoxious and obviously propagandistic flourishes.

Medienkritik has called the Spiegel out – and provides another telling example here.

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