Associated Press and the Nazis – Political reporting and propaganda

Associated Press and the Nazis – Political reporting and propaganda

By Chris Jeżewski (UK) and Marek Błażejak (Germany)

The news services of international agencies like Associated Press and Reuters reach the desks of thousands of journalists around the world. Therefore they have a significant impact on how events are perceived by the public.  Misleading and inaccurate reporting inevitably causes a misperception of events and can trigger hostile attitudes towards a person, institution or a state that was a subject of the misleading report. Biased opinions masquerading as news are a form of “Fake News”. For instance, describing a group of people as “radical”, “nationalist”, “far-right” or “undemocratic” is frequently a private opinion of a reporter. However, if presented many times by several reporters as something very obvious, it becomes a commonly accepted truth. Such distorted reports can indirectly influence voting preferences, selection of an investment partner or a willingness to co-operate with a group of people which was portrayed in a bad light.

For this reason, the news agencies are obliged to apply higher journalistic standards. The reporting should be objective, accurate and factual. The personal and subjective opinion of the journalist should not creep into the story.  News agencies have style books and reporting guidelines. Some of them like the Associated Press (AP) or the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) are owned by their client media companies. It works as a co-operative. Theoretically, it avoids the pitfall of shareholders or owners being able to influence news reports. All this should ensure that the agency reports which are read by the public are accurate, unbiased and well balanced. But it doesn’t.

Lutz Hagen, a professor of communication science at the Dresden University of Technology observed in 1995 in his comparative study of news agencies present on the German media market (AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters): “According to some German editors, the style of the AP’s German news service resembles the style of a tabloid newspaper.” In 2009 the German subsidiary of AP was sold to a German news agency ddp which disappeared from the market one year later. The German subsidiaries of AFP and Reuters, which are much less “sensationalist” than AP, are still in business. A selection of the AP’s world news is disseminated in Germany nowadays via dpa. John McManus, another media scientist, reported in his “Market Driven Journalism – Let the Citizen Beware”: “Market-driven news’ is often believed to replace public service news with trivial, cheap sensationalist news such as celebrity gossip. This happens, it is said, because the public prefers trivia and non-serious news and people shy away from buying serious content that takes an effort to understand – for example, grappling with how systems of proportional representation might work.”

Such “cheap” and “sensationalist” news is also present in the reports from the Warsaw office of AP. It is perfectly illustrated by AP’s coverage of celebrations of Poland’s independence.

Every year on November 11 Poland celebrates the anniversary of regaining independence. One of the key events on this day is a so-called Independence March. During the rule of the EU-friendly coalition of the Civic Platform (PO) of the then prime minister Donald Tusk and the peasants’ party PSL between 2007 and 2015, the march was disturbed (for various complicated reasons) by clashes of hooligans with police. However, AP never condemned or criticized the inability of Tusk’s government over the march. AP never called the march “far-right” or “neo-Nazi.”  Since the Law and Justice (PiS) party of Jarosław Kaczyński came to power in 2015, AP changed the optics completely. The Independence March has been called a gathering of thousands of fascists or far-right nationalists, and the Polish government was accused of being in league with them. This despite the fact that there have been no clashes with the police!

In 2016 AP reported 75,000 “far-right nationalists” for the march.  In 2017 it was reported as 60,000. The word “nationalist” or “far-right” appear in nearly 50% of the articles written by the head of AP’s Warsaw bureau. 12% have both far-right and nationalist!  One could play fascist word bingo with their stories.

On 11th November 2018, Poland celebrated 100 years of independence and the re-emergence of Poland on the map as a sovereign country. 250,000 people took part. There were masses of white and red Polish flags carried by people and families of all ages. It was peaceful, there were no incidents unlike what happened under the previous Polish government. But, the syndicated AP copy, with its sexed-up news, described it again as either fascist, nationalistic or far-right!

The Independence March in Warsaw on November 11, 2018

In 2008, Michael Shermer, an American science writer, and historian coined the word “patternicity”, defining it as “the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise.” In “The Believing Brain” (2011), Shermer wrote that humans have “the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency”, which he called “agenticity.” Both “patternicity” and “agenticity” can be found in AP’s reports from Warsaw. 

Table showing analysis of the website.

[ On the sample date, there were “about” 496 articles by Gera of which 113 contained the words “far-right”; 126 contained “nationalist” and 60 had both.
Whenever Poland was mentioned on the AP site so was “far-right” on 769 occasions; Etc.]

The negative and fact-less reporting results in outbreaks of stupidity as ably exemplified by Guy Verhofstadt in the EU parliament in November 2017: “Mr. President, on Saturday 60 000 fascists marched in the streets of Warsaw – neo-Nazis, white supremacists – and I’m not talking about Charlottesville in America, I’m talking about Warsaw, Poland, 300 km more or less from Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Poland, a country that helped liberate Verhofstadt’s Belgium from Nazi Germany and Warsaw, a city which stops every year for “Godzina W” on 1 August to commemorate hundreds of thousands of victims of the Warsaw Uprising against German occupation, a city which was destroyed by “fascists,” are put in one box with Nazi Germany.

Netherlands is the home country of Frans Timmermans who is an anti-Polish and Dutch member of the EU parliament. He is often critical about Polish democracy. In NL, the AP reporters have failed to mention regular (and properly) far-right nationalists on the streets defending the racist Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet. Instead, the AP reporters refer to the far-right neo-Nazis as “people”. Double standards? Surely, yes.

In this perverse way, Poland, a country which suffered worst losses during WWII (6 million victims) is being falsely perceived not as a war victim but as a perpetrator that must be ashamed of its past and expiate its “eternal guilt” towards the “true victims.” Contemporary political correctness frequently cuts out the word “German” in the context of WWII perpetrators and replaces it with the stateless word “Nazi.” Germany is whitewashed for its war crimes and the WWII genocides are being shifted on to other nations, primarily to Poland, which fought against Nazi Germany on all war fronts from the very beginning until the end of the war. Biased AP reports contribute to the whitewashing process.

Ironically, of all non-German news agencies, only AP stayed in Germany and closely collaborated with Nazi Germany before and during WWII. The agency had to get rid of its Jewish employees and subsequent AP photographers were part of the Waffen SS. According to the British daily “The Guardian”: “The Associated Press news agency entered a formal cooperation with the Hitler regime in the 1930s, supplying American newspapers with material directly produced and selected by the Nazi propaganda ministry, archive material unearthed by a German historian has revealed.”

That story was prompted by the work of a German researcher Harriet Scharnberg.

And another: “In the middle of World War II, the US news agency AP secretly cooperated with the Nazis. Thousands of photos were exchanged – a dirty deal, says the Stuttgart historian Norman Domeier.” It is claimed the co-operation continued after AP were supposed to vacate Germany.

AP conducted it’s own internal review and absolved itself of any wrongdoing. But their own report admits some shortcomings that are worth highlighting. 

“This review, however, found no record that AP protested directly to the editors of pro-Nazi media about the biased headlines and captions that they often supplied around AP photos that appeared in their publications.”
“We recognize that AP should have done some things differently during this period, for example protesting when AP photos were exploited by the Nazis for propaganda within Germany and refusing to employ German photographers with active political affiliations and loyalties, whether to the Nazis or any party.”

AP reporters in Warsaw should be aware of the fact that their news agency collaborated with Nazi Germany and along with other collaborating American companies like IBM, Standard Oil or Ford they indirectly contributed to the destruction of Poland by the German Third Reich during WWII and to millions of war victims. They should know that Warsaw is a city that had the biggest uprising against the German Nazi occupiers in 1944 and that hundreds of thousands of innocent Warsaw civilians were killed at the hands of Germans. But instead AP have the gall to engage in a Goebbels-like propaganda and call the participants of the Independence March “nationalists” and “neo-Nazis”! Their biased reports come to the attention of millions of people around the globe, who now may think that contemporary Poland is a “Nazi-friendly” place where “far-right” hordes celebrate Poland’s independence. Millions of Polish war victims turn in their graves, if they have a grave at all – hundreds of thousands of them left this world via German gas chambers or unmarked execution pits.

Christmas is a time of Santa Claus! There are many events involving sometimes hundreds of white and red Clauses who pop-up on the streets of big cities to entertain the public and raise money for charities. It’s a good job Associated Press in Warsaw do not report on these since white and red are the national colors of Poland. According to the “patternicity” and “agenticity” theory of Shermer, AP could consider this combination of colors as far-right, neo-Nazi or nationalist. Since AP have been naughty again, no presents for them this year. Although, the stylebook was on the AP Warsaw bureau’s wish-list.

Video from the Polish city of Gdansk by 24plreporter

%d bloggers like this: