By L Whitener
The term Lügenpresse, ‘lying press’, has been used intermittently since the 19th century in political polemics in Germany, most notably when the Nazis began using it to vilify the German press that was critical of Hitler and the Nazis. Before that, it was used in Catholic polemics against the liberal press after the failed revolutions of 1848. And, after the Franco-Prussian war, the term was directed at the French press for its alleged ‘lies.’ During the first world war, after Germany was lambasted by foreign newspapers for what they called the “rape of Belgium,”Allied newspapers earned the ‘lying press’ moniker.
In 1933, Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, was assigned the task of producing Nazi controlled media that was conducive to their agenda and to further undermine the press. This propaganda was a crucial instrument for acquiring and maintaining power, and for the implementation of Nazi policies. During the first weeks of 1933, the Nazi Party seized control of printing machines in Germany. The regime deployed the radio, press, and newsreels to stoke fears of a pending “Communist uprising,” then channeled populist anxiety into political measures that expunged civil liberties and democracy.
The term has been reintroduced in recent years by various alternative political groups. Most recently, the alt-right in America. At Donald Trump rallies, his supporters taunted the media, calling them “lügenpresse.” And, Donald Trump echoes their sentiments and fuels their disdain daily with claims of “fake news.” Watch here:
Why is this significant in today’s political discussion? If you understand the logic behind the term, there is no question as to its implications. The sole purpose of it is to discredit the media to gain control of the political narrative. And, history has proven this logic to be an invitation to tyranny.
It is no secret that the media is untrustworthy. Dating back to Biblical times, information has been biased, inaccurate, misleading or just plain wrong. Lying is not against the law unless a crime precedes or follows it. As we continue in moral decline, we should expect even more of it. The way to solve this problem is a topic for another day, but it starts with raising the bar for moral standards and electing moral leaders.
America is a constitutional republic that guarantees freedom of the press. With that freedom comes the responsibility of us all to discern the information that we digest and decide for ourselves whether it is authentic or not just as we have since the beginning of time. Allowing the President of the United States to dictate the way media is to be perceived is perilous to freedom and our American way of life.