|Nothing to see here - All is well with our Muslim citizens of peace. Dortmund ist bunt!|
German media and politicians have warned against an election-year spike in fake news after the rightwing website Breitbart claimed a mob chanting “Allahu Akbar” had set fire to a church in the city of Dortmund on New Year’s Eve.
After the report by the US site was widely shared on social media, the city’s police clarified that no “extraordinary or spectacular” incidents had marred the festivities. The local newspaper, Ruhr Nachrichten, said elements of its online reporting on New Year’s Eve had been distorted by Breitbart to produce “fake news, hate and propaganda”.
The justice minister of Hesse state, Eva Kühne-Hörmann, said that “the danger is that these stories spread with incredible speed and take on lives of their own”.
The controversy highlights a deepening divide between backers of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal stance toward refugees and a rightwing movement that opposes immigration, fears Islam and distrusts the government and media.
Tens of thousands clicked and shared the Breitbart.com story with the headline “Revealed: 1,000-man mob attack police, set Germany’s oldest church alight on New Year’s Eve”. It said the men had “chanted Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), launched fireworks at police and set fire to a historic church”, while also massing “around the flag of al-Qaida and Islamic State collaborators the Free Syrian Army.”
The local newspaper said Breitbart had combined and exaggerated unconnected incidents to create a picture of chaos and of foreigners promoting terrorism. Stray fireworks did start a small blaze, but only on netting covering scaffolding on the church and it was put out after about 12 minutes, the paper reported. The roof was not on fire and the church is not Germany’s oldest.
Dortmund police on Thursday said its officers had handled 185 missions that night, sharply down from 421 the previous year. The force’s leader judged the night as “rather average to quiet”, in part thanks to a large police presence.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily said Breitbart had used exaggerations and factual errors to create “an image of chaotic civil war-like conditions in Germany, caused by Islamist aggressors”.
It said the article “may be a foretaste” of what is to come before parliamentary elections expected in September as some websites spread “misinformation and distortion in order to diminish trust in established institutions”.Source
All of the key facts in the case were reported accurately by me and then later by Breitbart. There was a mob of 1000 Arabs/North Africans. They did launch fireworks at police and at a church, setting fire to it. They did chant "Allahu Akbar". Even the fact that the local authorities were describing the events as unremarkable was reported both by me and later by Breitbart. And all of this was sourced from German news publications. How, then, is this fake news? Because Breitbart added some incorrect detail about how this was Germany's "oldest church"? That minor inaccuracy hardly transforms it into "fake news".
When the Fake News meme first surfaced, it was referring to stories that had been wholly invented. "Hillary had sex with a rhinoceros on a trip to Africa". "Trump is secretly a grand wizard of the KKK". These would be examples of fake news. But European politicians, concerned about the growing mobilisation against their lunatic immigration policies, are now branding as fake news any reporting of facts that "creates an impression", evokes an emotion or applies an interpretive framework to the facts that they don't care for. And they are planning to introduce legislation to tackle this imaginary problem of "fake news". It's clear that anti-free speech activism in Europe is going to take a new and sinister turn.