Monday, November 27, 2006

Irony and Zoo Animals

Today’s Berliner Zeitung reported that at the Sunday funeral of Stasi bigwig Markus Wolf, whose career focused on foreign espionage, one speaker praised the dead man for “always accepting a variety of outlooks [and] listening patiently to different opinions.” Hmm. For a former leader of the German Democratic Republic’s notoriously repressive Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, this is unlikely. Wolf’s long-time pal Gerhard Neiber, known for brutally taking care of “special assignments,” was also in attendance but didn’t bother to speak up about whether or not Wolf was the Voltaire this eulogy made him out to be.

There was also coverage of the office of the President's annoucement that former Bundespraesident Horst Koehler was spied on by the Stasi during his career. The representative insisted that it was a one-time incident on a trip Koehler made to the GDR, and insofar as spying practices of the day went, fully routine. The federal office that handles former Stasi files—literal tons of secret paperwork were discovered after Reunification—refuses to release the file because it contains private information about the then-employee of the Finance Ministry. The private information does not have to do with Koehler’s historical role, the office clarified.

Finally, the paper reported on a meeting in Parliament between “troubled youths,” i.e. the teenage and twenty-something children of immigrants in poor neighborhoods, and the mainly old white Germans who want to help them integrate. One youth pointed out that all this talk about not being part of German society is nonsense; if one goes to school and works hard, one becomes integrated. However, he asked whether his own culture can then remain a part of his identity as an “integrated” society member. This seems like a pretty good question in light of the fact that he was sitting next to Kurt Wansner, parliamentary representative for the conservative Christian Democratic Union, who once campaigned in a Turkish neighborhood under the slogan, “Germany must remain recognizable [here].”

Since recently coming under new ownership, the Berliner Zeitung has been criticized for weaker-quality reporting and increasing technical imprecision, such as growing numbers of typos. The recent surprising number of articles about the lives and migratory patterns of animals seems to be a symptom of the downward trend in quality, from a blurb about the new blue shoes of New Zealand zoo penguins to a long feature about stranded whales. Coverage of Wolf’s funeral lay below a feature about endangered Chinese dolphins. However, despite the perhaps negligent and fauna-friendly editorship, the Berliner Zeitung still makes a valuable contribution. Its transmission of the ironies of political chatter is worth flipping past the penguins for.

1 comment:

Matt Wing said...

Lovely post, with beautiful pictures and background. I was particularly pleased to see you were able to include detailed sources AND a Stanley Kubrick quote.
1. George Ferris won a World's fair competition to have his unique engineering construction built in the center of the world's fair. The purpose of the competition was for the Chicago World's create something that would be seen in the eye's of the world as on par, if not surpassing the construction of the Eiffel Tower in the previous World's Fair in Paris.
2. On the first day that the Ferris Wheel was turned on, hundreds of screws and bolts fell from the Iron mammoth onto the ground. Luckily the wheel held on regardless.