Culture, Hoax and Jokes

Recently a satire outlet claimed that Green party politician Claudia Roth had asked for an alcohol ban on Ramadan. It was picked up by less smart conservative politicians and bloggers. I personally don’t know how people can fall for the cheapest hoaxes when they have the internet at their disposal.

Now, it’s the left’s turn to fall for a joke. This time Titanic, the satire magazine behind it, is quite famous in Germany. And here is what they did: A writer created a twitter account with the name “Moritz Hürtgen / hr Tagesgeschehen”. The writing after the slash means “hr newsroll” (HR is a state radio and TV channel conglomerate), but for the personal name before that he got an authentication check mark. The account then tweeted that the Bavarian chapter of Merkel’s party was to secede.

Both Bild, Germany’s biggest tabloid, and the news agency Reuters took it for granted and published articles about the break-up of the governing party and it’s coalition. It just goes length in telling us how seriously untrustworthy the media is. I should add that double-checking conservative news sources is also worth it, particularly when the story sounds a bit too juicy. Conservative MP Beatrix von Storch also got fooled and as the video above (only German) shows, she asked the parliament if the current debate is affected by a break-up as reported by the mainstream media.

I understand that Mrs von Storch doesn’t have time to check the story and was safest to simply ask her colleagues what was going on, but I don’t understand how media outlets can spread obvious fake news even when they don’t further their own political goals. One reason is probably the unquestioning authoritarianism. And a second one seems to be linked to it: the infamous German lack of humor.

Germany is culturally divided not just in terms of new immigrants and families with old roots. It is very varied in its regional customs, traditions and mindsets although many Germans don’t realise this. There was even an outcry when a left-wing politician claimed that Germany had no distinct culture (which is nonsense, of course). She explained that because of the diversity of its old cultures from Bavarians to Saxons, from Hessians to Low Germany, she could not reduce it to one cultural entity. And that’s fair enough, although I don’t want to open this can of worms again because the right engaged in some outrage culture hissy fit on this one. What I do want to point out is that there are regions that are more critical and some that are more authoritarian.

By and large the divide is between North and South. Rebellious are the Bavarians. Bavaria is regionally multicultural itself but they share this rebelliousness with each other as with other southern tribes such as the Badens, the Rhinelanders, or the Hessians. These cultures have a very strong humourous tradition. Children learn from early on to check if a message that is said to them is plausible or a joke. This is completely different in Northern Germany. If you move to the North and you happen to come from a Jewish or Southern German background you get the impression that a species of Asperger aliens had invaded the country. They do not only refrain from telling jokes, they also don’t understand them.

I’m painting with a broad brush here and all of these characterisations are, of course, staunchly denied because nobody admits not to understand jokes. As a matter of fact all news organisations are located in the North, mostly in Berlin and partly in Hamburg while all entertainment programs are produced in Cologne which belongs culturally to the South. In my personal estimation the region that is best at telling and understanding jokes is the state of Hesse.

(The Titanic tweet story is also reported on The Local)

4 thoughts on “Culture, Hoax and Jokes”

    1. “I personally don’t know how people can fall for the cheapest hoaxes when they have the internet at their disposal.”
      I would say easily. Since there isn’t a single untainted source nowadays, as you show yourself…

      Liked by 2 people

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