The New Year Internet often dribbles these happiness tips out. I’ve got one: A good way to nurture your mental health in 2018 is to ignore the nine out of 10 news stories that don’t have any actual news in them. That means all the ones that don’t pass on re-heated police press releases or jumped-up outrage for everyone to choke on for 24 hours and whose only effects are to give the populist right-wing bastards more power and make everyone else suicidal.
People seem to think that the news is “left-wing” or something. I suppose that’s because the people who write the news have to have a basic level of sanity and because there are some standards about truth you have to adhere to in the newsroom. But the saddest thing is that just because the reporters are usually just normal people, they serve a machine that almost always only helps the far-right.
These were the biggest two stories in Germany last week (you’ve probably already suppressed them). First, something about Salafist women. It’s not an event, it’s just a regional head of the Verfassungsschutz (BfV; Germany’s domestic intelligence service) saying something – but every news outlet in Germany reported it so it must be real.
Then that particular news outlet tells us (like they all did) that: “The Islamist women’s network also advertises and proselytizes Salafist ideology – which subscribes to an extremely conservative interpretation of Islam – aggressively on the internet, Freier said. And while it was wrong to conflate Salafism with extremism, every jihadi in Europe in recent years had been a member of the Salafist scene, the BfV head added.”
The last quote is disingenuous and actively meaningless, because Salafism is a term used by the BfV to define extremist Muslims. There is no “Salafist scene” in the sense being implied here, as in a secret network planning terrorist attacks. Have any of these women actually committed a crime or been accused of one? You’d have no idea from this story or from the 50 other identical stories about it, but any average reader would assume so and would wonder why they haven’t been arrested yet. But, even though these women have been identified, or so it says, there’s no talk of arrests or raids or even a police investigation. So what are we really talking about? A man you’ve never heard of said something – a man in a suit who’s in charge of something.
This whole story is no more than a post-Christmas news-amplifier so the Verfassungsschutz can pretend it is doing something useful. And, sadly for them, it will backfire, because it won’t make anyone trust them more or feel safer. Because what is any normal reader of this story supposed to think except: throw them all out? What is any American reader supposed to think except: Trump is right – Europe is being swarmed by Muslims and Merkel has ruined Germany?
Or what about this – that “women’s safety area” at the Brandenburg Gate story that everyone – including respected liberal media institutions – went apeshit about for two days, and the AfD had an absolute ball with – with all kinds of talk about how the “state had failed”. But what actually happened? It turns out that the Red Cross had added an extra sign on the tents they already had there, which read “Women’s Safety Area” – no extra people working there – just an extra thing on a service that is provided for every public event.
I don’t know what to do about it except stop reading the news. The news is just despair. “You do not do, you do not do, Any more, black shoe.”