Misrepresenting Germany in 'The New York Times'
It is strange to think that there was a time when I bought The New York Times every morning and pored through it over my coffee, genuinely convinced that I was reading the most reliable news source on the planet. In my defense, I was very young. And The New York Times was a better paper then, although nowhere near as good as I thought it was. It has, in any event, long since become a travesty – a propaganda sheet that systematically, and dangerously, distorts the truth about the most crucial issues of our time.
Case in point: a 14-minute “Times documentary” entitled “Seeking Asylum in Germany – and Finding Hatred.” Credited to Ainara Tiefenthäler, Shane O'Neill, and Andrew Michael Ellis, and posted front and center on the Times website last Thursday, it's about Abode, a tall, lanky 22-year-old Libyan refugee who, at the beginning of the film, has been living in the Saxon town of Bautzen (pop. 41,000) for over two years.
From the outset, Abode is presented as an innocent victim of racist hatred. We see him in his room at the Bautzen asylum center, talking softly, his large brown eyes oozing sensitivity. We see a cell-phone video in which a young white woman half his size kicks and hits him, apparently without provocation. We see him rehearsing for a hip-hop stage adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in which he plays Mercutio; the theater director, a middle-aged woman, speaks of him glowingly.
Providing contrast to this peaceable young man, we see a ragtag neo-Nazi group in Bautzen's town square, waving flags and praising Donald Trump. And we see close-ups of racist online comments (in German) about refugees.
Abode says that when he used to see pictures of Europe on TV, he thought it looked wonderful. But now he hates it. “Libya is the land of good,” he says. Germany, by contrast, is a land of Nazis.
“Nazi” is a word he uses a lot. He says he's had “problems with Nazis and the police” ever since his arrival in Germany. Eventually we discover that he's been described in the local media as the head of a gang of refugees who engage in rioting and violence. We see a newspaper front page featuring a picture of him aiming a machine gun.
But Abode has explanations. The picture with the gun, he says, was taken at a wedding, where the guests fired rounds to celebrate. He claims that he's never started a riot, but only acted in self-defense. He admits to having committed an act of violence, but only because he “blew up” at the sight of a Nazi rally. The theater director makes a curious statement: “He is someone who steps to the front when there is conflict.” She makes it sound as if he's some kind of peacemaker, trying to put an end to conflict – not a gang leader, inciting conflict.