THREE WALL STORIES, THREE NEWSPAPERS, THREE PHOTOS
By Kevin Stoda, Germany
I decided last weekend to make a trip to Berlin.
On the drive to Berlin from Wiesbaden, I came upon a McDonald's offering a free BILD newspaper (dated October 31, 2009) , with cover stories and photos of 3 aging men who are intrinsically intertwined in the popular myths about the collapse of communism and the opening of the Wall in Berlin on November 9, 1989. The faces were of Helmut Kohl (called the Unification Chancellor by many), George Herbert Walker Bush ( the former US President and ex-CIA chief, who made one of his unusually good moves in foreign policy by supporting German unification in 1990), and Michael Gorbachev (renowned as the architect of a new Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, i.e. through his leadership as final Soviet Premier in the era called Perestroika by modern European historians).
The BILD Zeitung (Newspaper) is the most-read tabloid in Europe, thanks to its many bare-breasted beauties scattered throughout its bountiful pages. The paper is owned by the Axel Springer Verlag, and used to be the bastion of what Americanologists see as Germany's equivalent to the USA's FOX-NEWS-type culture of readers and consumers.
Founded in the middle of the Cold War, "[f]rom the outset, the editorial drift [of BILD] was unabashedly conservative and nationalist." BILD had called the East German government simply by the name "Soviet Occupation Zone" for decades
BILD, back in the 1960s and early 1970s, had often unfairly biased many West Germans against the student protest and reform movements. "A popular catchphrase in left-wing circles sympathetic to student radicalism was "Bild hat mitgeschossen!" (Bild shot at him too). At the height of left-wing terrorism around 1977, Bild took a strong stance that could be said to have contributed to the climate of fear and suspicion."
In Nobel Prize winning author's, Heinrich Boell's novelette, THE LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM, the BILD-like German newspaper is considered the main character or target of the author's venom. The subtitle of the work is "how violence develops and where it can lead". In short, according to Boell, media (like BILD) has the ability to kill and to propagate violence--and most of the left-wing audience of Germany back in the 1970s agreed with Boell's opinion on BILD.
Interestingly, following the collapse of communism in the 1990s, this very wealthy newspaper, BILD, has actually moved closer to the center. This trend enabled the paper to finally pick up its roots and move from a conservative location in Hamburg it was publishing out of for decades to the modern and moderate city of Berlin in 2008.
Wrapped in its new image, BILD, has now somewhat reverted to its older image by bringing Kohl and Bush, as cold warriors, back to the center stage in this week--i.e. during the 20th anniversary of the collapse of a communist regime in East Germany. Simultaneously, Kohl and Bush (the elder) see this week of festivities in Berlin as a means to roll-back-the-clock on historians who have been painting the collapse of communism as a more populist or people's affair. In short, Kohl and Bush legacies have quite a lot invested in reviving or keeping up the myth that only by outspending and out-threatening the Soviet Union in the arms race had the immediate collapse of Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s occurred.
NOTE: Interestingly, Michael Gorbachev has been using his own public podium in Berlin this week to note that both the USA (and Germany) need a bit more Perestroika, too, these days.
Interestingly, on my journey to Berlin last weekend, I sat down with a former CIA agent, who had been married to a Sovietologist in the early 1980s.