I was fired last week. It happened when I received an email from the editor-in-chief of an outlet I’d contributed to for the last eight months, saying that he’d found a social media post of mine to be unacceptable. This is said post:
For context: Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist who sparked international (though most notable in Europe) school walkouts to demand “climate action” from governments. Thunberg hasn’t done anything but moralize about how we need to reverse capitalism to save the earth. For that, she got to speak at the World Economic Forum, and has since been nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (though Barack Obama also got one, so the relevance has certainly diminished). The protests received a lot of favorable coverage, with children appearing on TV uncommented on and unquestioned.
I don’t consider that professional journalism. Even though reporting is something I myself only do on occasion, I still get to have opinions on it, particularly since I write columns and analysis pieces. My post was there to illustrate how the reporting would have been much different had the children held less popular beliefs. I don’t mind if The Guardian or The Independent has a lack of consistency, because those are both far-left broadsheets. But this bias has become obvious at supposedly “objective” outlets too.
The editor told me he expects opinions to be backed up by facts. In essence: the hypothetical scenario I was drawing could only be drawn if it actually happened, which would make it not a hypothetical. …Right.
The same editor also wrote in his email: “Some of your columns have suffered from the same problem, and I have worked hard with you to give you a chance to improve. I now see a pattern here that I fear I am unable to change.”
Give that some thought. I am a contractor writing opinions for your news outlet, yet you’ve taken it upon yourself to change those opinions? Note that this is an outlet that pretends to have no political bias, that supposedly allows diversity of thought. Apparently not. Said outlet received €100,000 ($113,000) in government subsidies in 2018.
A bit more than a year ago, I was fired from a public radio broadcaster after I submitted a column criticizing the overblown and overpaid public sector in my home country. Echoing my more recent episode, an editor claimed my statement that the public sector is inefficient was “not factual.” Here as well, I was initially brought in to diversify the range of opinions. On the same taxpayer-funded broadcaster, you can listen to a wide range of left-wing pseudo-intellectuals day in and day out, lambasting global predatory capitalism and recommending the creation of new welfare programs.
Sometimes they do get caught.
German public broadcaster ADR was recently found to have commissioned a framing document by a linguistic expert, in order to find ways to demonize opponents of Germany’s media royalty, which taxes all citizens to fund public broadcasting. The linguist recommended that those who do not want to pay the fee shouldn’t be labeled simply as opponents, but as “questioning the authority of democratic decisions.” She also recommended that ARD portray those opponents as acting “contrary to democracy,” “untrustworthy,” and “disloyal.” Rejecting the media fee should be portrayed as “asking for less democracy.” She even suggested new slogans for ARD: “Others want profits, we want cultural profits,” “TV without censorship for profits,” “excellence instead of profits.” The idea was to demonize both opponents of the licensing fee and private media companies that could replace the functions of public broadcasting.
These outlets need to be asked: what have you become?
Does anyone remember when The Economist was a thorough magazine with classically liberal leanings? Today, you get stories about how Emmanuel Macron walks on water. “Electoral victory will make France’s president a potent force,” they say. Hah. I think in journalism school, that counts as “headlines that don’t age well.”
The British BBC has had so many controversies that Wikipedia has a six-subcategory list for them. Many news outlets in Europe suffer from the same problem: a consistent lack of objective reporting.
The French news show Quotidien reported on Elizabeth Warren claiming to be Native American and Donald Trump betting $1 million against it as Trump losing the bet since Warren’s DNA test revealed her to be “part” Native American. That the “part” was between 1/64th and 1/1,024th was not mentioned.
Or how about the German Spiegel journalist who got caught writing fake news about Fergus Falls, Minnesota? Claes Relotius pretended that this town of Trump voters had a sign at its entrance saying “Mexicans out” and embellished the portraits of the people he interviewed with completely fictitious stories. The fact that Relotius was awarded with two “Journalist of the Year” awards by CNN is just a bonus at this point.
The European press in general suffers from political bias that clearly goes in one direction. No wonder, what with all the journalists graduating from universities where Che Guevara T-shirts are common, and with a majority of news outlets either owned by the government or funded by it. There isn’t much room in such an environment to question the Etat-providence, the “providing state,” better known as the welfare state. Anyone questioning it must be demonized and laid off.
Bill Wirtz comments on European politics and policy in English, French, and German. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Examiner, CityAM, Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Die Welt.