WELT Online and my Experience on their Comment Section

Germans are hardly on social media. I wrote a piece about in-group out-group communication that talks briefly about the platforms available in Germany. The most obvious ones are the comment sections under the newspapers. In the mentioned article I recalled my experience with ZEIT online. It took me only a weekend to get blocked from the place. I also registered with Tagesspiegel. I spent little time and got also blocked there after a few weeks. The next step was WELT.

CaptureTagesspiegel

What is WELT? WELT is the third most popular political news outlet after Spiegel and Süddeutsche, and enjoys 69.8 million visits per month. It belongs to the publisher Springer, which also owns the tabloid BILD (and a myriad other papers and book publishers). BILD is technically the news outlet with the largest reach, but is usually not considered political. Springer used to be a conservative publisher and became a target of a bombing by the communist terror organisation Red Army Faction RAF in 1972.

Under Merkel the media aligned and Springer is now on the political left. However, WELT is still less screechy than the Washington Post. The sound is comparable to the Wall Street Journal.

I did not read WELT for a while because it had a monthly budget per IP for some time and their views did not clearly enough represent the views of those who actually run the show in media, culture and politics. The power elites are best represented by my usual paper ZEIT. WELT is considered a quality paper and their job is to speak to ordinary citizens. They do so with lacing the cover page with mildly conservative viewpoints.

Yes, they do call Trump a sociopath and compare him with mass murderers, but there is the occasional article that is overall pro-Israel and just makes a nasty self-righteous turn towards the end. Sometimes the White House gets praise, but purely on economic grounds. Left-wingers also want their taxes cut, but not other people’s. Sometimes even an immigrant crime story makes its way to the front page.

Because I did not read it for a while, I also did not pay attention to the comment section. A superficial look at it surprises. It seems to contradict my usual allegations that conservative voices are hardly heard anywhere because of the absurd level of censorship. People say that they want less immigration, that they like Israel, want their taxes cut, prefer less regulation, less nannying, and even favor openly the conservative party AfD.

So I felt that I could finally wrap up by blog. No, of course, not. I became suspicious and registered as a user.

The first thing that meets the eye is that there are no messages to indicate what should and shouldn’t be said. ZEIT online controls their forum with an iron fist because media types know that comment sections do more to persuade people than articles.  Tagesspiegel like WELT did not offer any guidelines. So I grew used to that during my ongoing experiment.

Both Tagesspiegel and WELT check each comment before it goes up. An obvious difference is the size of both platforms. While Tagesspiegel is quick to run through a comment, WELT will have to deal with a flood of texts and each takes its time. A discussion is not possible for the time that an article remains on the front page. The big advantage of WELT is that the likes on your profile page indicate how much of what you wrote is read once a comment of yours goes through.

Did I write “once a comment goes through”? Yes, it is only a tiny, tiny fraction of your comments that will see the light. And this is what intrigues me. What is the selection based on?

Given the very small number of comments that go through, I believe that the censors make a positive selection. They don’t read everything and therefore will also never block a user. They just skim through the messages and pick what they like.

But how does the comment section then look like a conservative outpost? I see safe selects. The comments don’t contain material that is rare knowledge. What is out there is the kind of general sentiment that you cannot help spreading over the kitchen tables. People say that they vote conservative party AfD or that they want less immigration. Important is that it does not get too specific and that no individual member of the elite is called upon to do this or that. There is the occasional oddball that makes conservatives look stupid. Jokes are completely absent because the messaging of jokes cannot be controlled and people are more likely to be convinced with jokes than with long-winding texts.

This is what Noam Chomsky famously called the “controlled opposition.” You give the impression that some criticism is heard, but you don’t show the full range of options or new information. Criticism looks repetitive and dull. The German left repeats over and over again that the right “would not have answers.” Of course, Clinton did the same, but Trump was putting out his policy papers online and could leapfrog the media. In Germany information is so tight that people who are not actively seeking will come to the conclusion that there are no ideas but the “throw tax money at it” solution for every problem. I understand that some Americans are also caught in that CNN bubble which makes them believe there was no Trumpian policy. They simultaneously believe that he is enforcing fascism and also that he does nothing but eat fast food and watch TV. Imagine almost an entire country in such a CNN-like bubble.

What is ironic about this is that for the lack of policy discussions German media almost exclusively talks about foreign countries, much like the media in totalitarian regimes. When it does talk about German politicians – which is different from policies – they talk a lot about their calendars: who meets whom where. This is why you see so many international summits that all have no results but vague “declarations” of their intentions. They come with smiles and photos. And the media outside the English-speaking world is reporting things like when the plane lands, what is discussed on the lavish dinner table, the general “topic”, the location of the conference etc. As if they worked. In summer the parliament goes on holiday and outside the Putinesque Merkel-holiday reports the media openly admits that it turns to other yellow press rubbish. This is called “Sommerloch”, German for “summer hole.” I’m not kidding.

The bottom line is that commenting on WELT is not worth the time. Even the most innocuous posts don’t get through because of the random selection of comments that are chosen for publication.

11 thoughts on “WELT Online and my Experience on their Comment Section”

  1. “Jokes are completely absent because the messaging of jokes cannot be controlled and people are more likely to be convinced with jokes than with long, winding texts.”
    Huh! Jockes! Jockes are always very dangerous in dictatorships.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fewer and fewer watch CNN, according to its perpetual last-place in cable news viewership, after even MSNBC. It’s safe to say only the left watches it and probably they also tire of the constant Trump-bashing with little other “news.” There are good outlets that report objectively on Trump, such as the Daily Caller and Washington Examiner, as well as Fox, mostly. We Trumpsters learn what he’s up to through his daily White House email.

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    1. I used to like CNN. Thatcher watched CNN. What a decline. My US news intake comes from commentary that amuses me. I’m having a serious overkill anyway. The word “Omarosa” is more present in German news than “Merkel” or “tax cuts.”

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  3. Most TV stations and most print media have no suitable business model for their online presence. Subscription models don’t work very well, except Netflix maybe. Donation models work for a few individual online personalities, only. All the big media publishers and platforms depend on ads/promos/commercials, where Google and Facebook have become near monopolies. Springer actually has a concept there, as it makes most of its money via their real estate and job market platforms. I’d expect them to screen their comment section on the basis of how likely you are to participate in their online offers that actually make them some money, or attract similiarly minded people.

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  4. Der Elefant im Raum ist die massive Einschränkung der Meinungsfreiheit in Deutschland. Deutschland hat da einige Tricks auf Lager. So haften zum Beispiel die Seitenbetreiber für jeden kleinen Pups, den einen Kommentator von sich lässt. Anstatt dass einfach jeder Kommentator selbst haftet. Man bewirkt so erfolgreich, dass auch kritische Medien sehr viele Kommentare weglöschen (müssen), bevor sie selbst dem Unrechtswesen zum Opfer fallen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mir ist bewusst, dass selbst ich mit meinem meist zurückhaltenden Ton die Polizei auf den Plan rufen kann. Ich poste Videos, in denen z.B. Hakenkreuze zu sehen sind. Kontext und Zweck sind zwar klar anti-Nazi, aber das spielt keine Rolle. Da wurden schon Leute zu Gefängnisstrafen verknackt, obwohl sie sich mit den Symbolen gegen (Neo)nazis gewand haben.
      https://goldsteinweb.wordpress.com/2017/08/19/5338/

      Bei meinen Meinungen zu Aggressivität, Männlichkeit etc. kann leicht eine Gewaltneigung unterstellt werden.

      Die LA Times und einige andere US-Leitmedien getrauen sich nicht mehr in der EU verfügbar zu sein, weil es soviele Gesetze gibt, mit denen man Leute wegen ihrer Rede in den Ruin klagen kann.

      Ich versuche verzweifelt die Reichweite zu erhöhen. Diese Woche hab ich noch einmal Facebook versucht. Die hatten vorher eine Handynummer verlangt. Mittlerweile ist das aber passe und ich hab mich angemeldet. Ich hab ne halbe Stunde lang Profil und Themenseite eingerichtet und getestet, dass WordPress auch automatisch dorthin postet. Dann war ich draußen. Man habe ungewöhnliche Aktivitäten festgestellt und müsse meine Identität prüfen. Sie wollten ein Bild. Gegen was soll man das prüfen? Ich schickte erst mein Avatar nochmal und dann tatsächlich ein Bild von mir. Sie behaupten es zu löschen, was natürlich unsinn ist. Jedenfalls wurde ich trotzdem komplett gesperrt.

      Vor einigen Wochen hatte ich auch mal gedacht, einige anonyme deutschen Blogs zu bitten auf einer gemeinsamen URL (http://mitgd8.wordpress.com/) zu publizieren. Ich hatte eine Liste von etwas über 50 Blogs. Dann kam die Datenschutzverordnung und sau viele stellten ihren Blog ein.

      Ich für meinen Teil halte es für möglich, juristisch belangt zu werden und ich weiß, dass ich zu stur wäre die Strafe zu bezahlen. Es macht mich depressiv. Den Point of no Return hab ich längst überschritten.

      Klingt alles melodramatisch, aber selbst Ann Coulter hat neulich zugegeben ohne Security kaum noch das Haus zu verlassen und die lebt in Amerika und kann sich das leisten. Es zeigt, wie aufgeheizt die Lage ist. Während Hamed Abdel Samad, Jabatina James und Seyran Ates ihr Leben stärker eingeschränkt bekommen als Mörder im Knast, lesen Linke wie Katring Göring-Eckhart KGE oder der Boston Globe fake “Morddrohungen” theatralisch vor.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ich komme mir mittlerweile wirklich vor wie in China. Das Netz wird immer enger gespannt, und wer nicht auf Linie ist, bei dem zieht sich der Kafkaeske Justiz-Apparat schon irgendetwas aus dem Arsch, auch nicht anders als die Firma Freisler vor ein paar Jahren.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Die Einschüchterungskampagne ist so weit, dass jetzt einzelne Protestierende öffentlich erniedrigt werden, um ein Exampel zu statuieren.
          https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article181282158/LKA-Mann-auf-Pegida-Demo-Welche-Folgen-drohen-Maik-G.html

          Die dt. Justiz ist ein Witz. Wie ein Spielautomat. Das war schon immer so. In den USA haben Gesetze eine Bedeutung. In Deutschland geht man mal einfach so zum Verfassungsgericht oder einem Verwaltungsgericht und schaut mal, was man kriegt. Je nach Richter findet sich da auch so allerlei. Reine Willkür.

          Zu einem gewissen Maße gibt es das auch in den USA. Da dachte man beim Schreiben der Verfassung an Abtreibungsrecht und Homoehe…jedenfalls meinte das Gericht so. Aber die Willkür in Deutschland ist definitv krasser. Da wird nicht mal erklärt, was das Urteil noch mit dem Gesetzestext zu tun hat. Die “Urteilsbegründungen” sind Papierverschwendung, so schlecht sind die.

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