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"All of that felt like a really bad movie"


As a Juso boss, Kevin Kühnert first made the acquaintance of the "Bild" newspaper. In a new book by critics, he is now settling accounts with the tabloid. An excerpt from "Regardless of losses: How BILD divides society with fear and hatred".

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Kevin Kühnert, Deputy Federal Chairman of the SPD: "The problem is that some of the› Bild ‹have become delusional"

Photo: Michael Kappeler / DPA

Journalists Mats Schönauer and Moritz Tschermak have been observing and analyzing how »Bild« works for a decade. As the former and current editor-in-chief of »Bildblog«, you regularly uncover misconduct, false reports and distortions of the tabloid editorial team. In your new book "Without Regard to Losses: How 'Image' Divides Society with Fear and Hatred", you allow reporting victims to have their say and talk to people who know "image" from within. It will be published on May 11, 2021. Here you can read the abbreviated epilogue by Kevin Kühnert.

In my grandparents' guest room, where I occasionally spent the night as a child, stood next to the fold-out sofa and a misaligned piano, as well as a somewhat aging wall unit. Between all kinds of dust collectors, it also housed a small collection of books, which I liked to rummage through in the evening. I do not remember very well what I read on these occasions. But one book captivated me and stayed in my memory for a long time: Günter Wallraff's undercover research “The lead story” from the inner workings of “Bild”. Since then it has been clear to me that this newspaper must be treated with caution.

As a so-called public figure, for more than three years I have experienced first hand what it means when »image« shapes debates.

Every day I am recognized on the street, in the train or in the supermarket and often spoken to.

This is definitely a very helpful starting point for a politician.

But while the last portrait in "Die Zeit" or the guest article in SPIEGEL is rarely mentioned, trace elements of "Bild" reporting pave my way.

“Oh no, the milk face!” Is such an example.

David versus Goliath

"Merkel wants to overthrow this milk face," wrote "Bild" on January 17, 2018. I was the milk face.

Elected Juso chairman less than two months earlier and stumbled into a rather nerve-wracking argument about the re-launch of the grand coalition, I should now be introduced to the nationwide public.

The second party congress was imminent within a few weeks, and the roles were assigned for the preliminary and follow-up reports: the hapless party leader Martin Schulz, Andrea "Bätschi" Nahles, the supposedly trembling Chancellor, and as David against the many Goliaths, he keeps his milk face off Jusos.

"Juso boss" was apparently not enough, perhaps because too many did not know the Jusos and would have suspected some Jesus youth group behind it.


Moritz Tschermak, Mats Schönauer

Regardless of losses: How BILD divides society with fear and hatred

Published by KiWi-Paperback

Number of pages: 336

Published by KiWi-Paperback

Number of pages: 336

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In January 2018, the contacts by the »Bild« editorial team increased.

And with every request, someone else came on the scene.

Some made us smile, for example the request from the »Bild« parliamentary office for the format »Driving into the weekend«, in which politicians are accompanied into the weekend in a company or private car.

Since I do politics on a voluntary basis and have neither a company car nor a private car, I »unfortunately« had to cancel.

The next story hunter introduced himself as a chief reporter by email and had reached deep into his investigative tool case to get to know each other digitally.

He wrote:

  • One more request: since we are doing another SPD play tomorrow in which Mr. Kühnert appears, I would ask you to give something personal to Mr. Kühnert:

  • You mentioned that he is still working:


  • Is he in a relationship

  • How big is he?

  • Hobbies

  • origin

  • Role model in the SPD - even more beautiful: among the old Juso bosses

  • Does he see himself as a left-wing social democrat?

We answered all of his questions that had anything to do with politics in a rather taciturn manner, and we also referred to an SPD meeting open to the press, at which I had a panel discussion on the question of the grand coalition on the same evening in Berlin-Friedenau.

It was January 16, four days until the party conference in Bonn.

"Without regard to losses"

The focus now came on the 463,723 members of the SPD. Or rather, a few of them. Just in time for the registration deadline for new SPD members willing to vote on February 6 at 6 p.m., the headline “Bild” the next day read: “Foreigners are allowed to vote on the German government”. And editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt spat poison and gall on page 2 in a comment. "So only Germans can decide who rules Germany," he said with angry rage, only to state shortly thereafter that the SPD would undermine this "actually irrevocable principle" with its membership vote. Kühnert in particular would mobilize “regardless of losses”. He didn't have it smaller on offer.

Breathe in. Exhale. Was that really true? Strictly speaking, the first part does. The voters send representatives to the German Bundestag for the Bundestag election. The Bundestag elects the Chancellor, who then proposes a cabinet that is appointed by the Federal President. According to the law, all those involved in this democratic process must be German citizens. Julian Reichelt just suppresses the fact that the members of the SPD did not actively intervene in any phase of this process. Even if they wanted to, they couldn't.

The only thing they had to vote on was a coalition agreement. In other words, an agreement on political goals and projects between the CDU, SPD and CSU that freely elected MPs can never mess with. Such coalition agreements have been and are decided by all parties that have a government anywhere. For example at party congresses. In 2013, no less than 181 delegates from the CDU voted to join a grand coalition. The legitimation was therefore much less than that of the SPD, which in 2018 called all its members to a vote for the second time.

Of course, Julian Reichelt knew all of this.

But it didn't stop him from inciting his readers.

After all, at this point in time we were in the fifth month after the federal election and the impatience for the sluggish government formation was growing.

A good portion of people's anger got off to a great start.

The whole thing was then garnished in the reporting with quotes from a constitutional lawyer, who politely stated that he found all of this to be "highly constitutionally questionable."

Only to meekly admit in the following sentence that the Federal Constitutional Court confirmed the proceedings several times in the past.

And so the scandal insinuated with a lot of pathos did not materialize, but not without giving the SPD an official broadside.

Something will get stuck.

A dog named Lima

Lima was three years old at the time, a bitch and - according to the editorial team - recently became a member of the SPD. In addition, Lima was of Spanish origin, although the status of "foreigner" did not seem to enjoy any special attention here for once. And so, in an elongated article with a swollen chest, the editors placed a string of e-mails and other documents that had been sent to Lima within the previous two weeks. By far the largest part were automated SPD member mailings. So further doubts were sown about the SPD membership decision. Look here, now the crazy socis are even letting dogs vote on the fate of the country!

But even in this case, »Bild« argued bypassing the facts. Yes, with a correspondingly malicious motivation, one can register fantasy persons online as new members in the SPD - as in any other party. After all, there are good reasons why parties cannot access the population register in order to compare data. So far, so unspectacular. But that's not what "Bild" was about. The newspaper set out to provide evidence that Hinz and Kunz could manipulate the SPD's membership decision. A serious allegation.

There was only one tiny problem, because "Bild" had withheld a not entirely insignificant piece of information. A prerequisite for participating in the vote was the completion of an affidavit that had to be attached to the voting documents. The title title "This dog is allowed to vote on the GroKo" was - with all due respect for Lima's abilities - the printed untruth. If a ballot had actually been received in the name of Lima, then masters, mistresses or Nikolaus Blome would have made themselves liable to prosecution.

The press council also found it uncomfortable to keep this fact secret, so that a few weeks later it disapproved of the report because of a breach of the duty of care anchored in the press code.

Of course, hardly anyone would have noticed, while the "Bild" title was on everyone's lips.

Yuri and the bad Russians

It must have been exhausting weeks for the editorial staff. Because not only Lima panted and attempted to torpedo the membership vote of the SPD. No, "Bild" was on the trail of another big thing these days. An anonymous whistleblower wanted to have reliable evidence that Milchgesicht Kühnert, in league with a Russian named Juri, wanted to use social networks for controlled publicity against the new edition of the grand coalition. Excerpts from the alleged mail traffic were leaked to the editors. And while Julian Reichelt lights three cigarettes at the same time in our minds - a big House of Cards story firmly in view - the seriously accused Juso boss at least had to be confronted with the allegations and asked for an opinion.

And so we received an email from the editorial team on February 15th at the Göttingen main train station. We were in the middle of our NoGroKo tour and rushed from appointment to appointment when we were confronted with the allegations for the first time.

Our reaction fluctuated between hysterical laughter at the absurdity of the story and serious concern about how one can dispel such serious allegations quickly and credibly in such a sensitive phase. At this point in time, it was also not at all foreseeable which waves the process would make. Will it remain a "picture" story or will other media emerge? How am I supposed to have several discussions every day in front of a large audience and across all media over the next two weeks, while outsiders are asked whether I might want to achieve my political goals with the help of Russian hackers? And anyway: who brings something like that into circulation? And why?

We proceeded based on a division of labor. While I was trying to cope with my daily schedule, Benni took care of the Juri cause. He spoke to the party headquarters and obtained, among other things, the assessment from the SPD's legal department. We truthfully denied all allegations. They also explained why the mail flow could not be authentic for technical reasons, that my English was not sufficient for the language level in the mails presented to us and that I would never have drawn an e-mail with »Kev«. The party judiciary informed "Bild" that they routinely consider filing criminal charges against unknown persons.

In the afternoon we received further "image" inquiries, among other things with the request for authentication of the server data.

All of this felt like a rotten movie, but we'd done everything we could on short notice to help clear up the matter.

What remained was the oppressive question of how the coverage would turn out the next day.

The clarification was found in the very last sentence

I had imagined my first cover story in »Bild« to be different. I was horrified when I saw the lead story of the print edition of February 16, 2018 in front of me in white on black: »New dirt campaign at the SPD! It's about explosive emails, the Juso boss and a man named Juri «. And in the sheet: "SPD wants to file a criminal complaint about email". Not a word in a prominent place that questioned the credibility of the source. No clearly recognizable indication on the title that we had flatly and unequivocally rejected the allegations. The sentence "His explanation to BILD sounds plausible" was hidden in a caption on page 2. And the clarification that there was no proof of the authenticity of the emails was found in the very last sentence of the corresponding article. For outsiders got stuckthat the matter may be confusing, but the SPD and the milk face cannot be entirely kosher. Thank you very much!

Why does "Bild" raise a story for which it has no solid evidence and for which it classifies the defendant's line of defense as plausible? Why does she certify a "dirt campaign with the SPD" when there is actually a lot to suggest that it is a dirt campaign AGAINST the SPD? Why does the »Bild« introduce its article with the statement: »The SPD cannot get out of the headlines« when the »Bild« itself is responsible for having placed the SPD there in spite of the poor information available? The answer is as simple as it is sobering: Because "image" can. And because she wants to.

For outsiders, the decisive plot twist may be that a few days and twists and turns later, the satirical magazine »Titanic« revealed itself as the author of the story.

For me, however, the plot twist consisted rather in the fact that this attempt to undergo an alleged scandal on "Bild" was successful.

And that he unmasked the picture.

This is not a cause for joy, but rather a cause for concern.

Because in the winter of 2018, the picture of a political editorial team working on campaigns was completely unvarnished.

From never-ending coalition negotiations and general GroKo reluctance, a toxic mixture was created in which the SPD should be subjected to an extensive acid bath.

In the process, the »Bild« newspaper left its role as a classifying observer several times in order to intervene in what was happening itself.

She has decided not only to describe the great political play, but to transform it into an improvised theater in phases.

One in which new stage directions are called from the audience, main actors are regrouped at will and extras are flexibly introduced into the play if necessary.

And in the end she was even ready to give the big stage to a more than adventurous robber pistol.

The price of truthfulness

Not because it was journalistically necessary.

The opposite was the case, and shortly afterwards there was another reprimand from the Press Council, this time a reprimand for the front page of February 16.

No, the »Bild« swallowed the satire of the »Titanic« rather full of gratitude and enthusiasm because this carefully laid out bait fit so well into their menu.

It must have been a moment of great happiness bought at the price of truthfulness.

The problem is not that »Bild« is a tabloid.

Diverse political journalism also needs the boulevard.

And there is nothing wrong with emotionalized and personalized reporting, as long as basic journalistic standards are maintained.

The rest is a matter of taste.

Rather, the problem is that some of the people in »Bild« have fallen into the megalomania of being able to play fate. And that they get away with it too often because we let them be. I learned my lesson in this regard at the beginning of 2018 and understood that unmistakable distance must be kept when methodological limits are exceeded. And today, three years later, I know that this is also the way to get to sleep better in the evening.

Source: spiegel

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