Investigative Journalism in the Post-Factual Trump Age

Investigative Journalism in the Post-Factual Trump Age

Apart from media people who just like to spread celebrity gossip and live a life in the environment of the rich and powerful, there is a species who want to take the journalistic path, because they think they can use the media to make the world a little better, have ethically high standards and Claims or would like to be adventurers, detectives, enlighteners, unmaskers of morally dubious conditions and social grievances. The older representatives of this third kind usually started in school newspapers, Bob Woodwards and Bernstein’s Watergate revelations, Günther Walraff’s BILD “revelations” or Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon papers in the Washington Post as a role model like most recently in the film “The Publisher/ Die Verlegerin” and then attended a journalism school or worked in an alternative newspaper, in the hope of being able to land an investigative coup that would make them famous and maybe also rich.

First of all, many grievances that an investigative journalist would like to uncover are well-known in their existence – including the last Joe Doe and suppressed or precisely this one, since they mostly experience them themselves – poor working conditions, environmental pollution, power hierarchies, etc. The normal course of business in capitalism or the social system, which already produces and perpetuates most of these critical symptoms again and again, that they already appear and are considered normal and are therefore no longer newsworthy, is not the focus of investigative research at all, but only moral or illegal transgressions and border crossing.

They change from time to time. The subcontracting enterprises and the bad working conditions of the guest workers have been known for years, were considered normal and were accepted by all parties and also by society, they were not considered newsworthy, but since Corona and hot spots they have aroused journalistic and political interest. Reporting about it is not even investigative, but only mainstream and will be forgotten again so quickly if neoliberalism is pushed forward again during and after the corona crisis. At best, this is seen as a scandal, i.e. an industrial accident and less as a system. And everyone talks about Tönnes and maybe also about bad working conditions in the meat industry, as if they didn’t exist in other industries and sub-contractors or entrepreneurs.

Now one should not deny that individual reports can at least alleviate individual grievances, but their effect remains more selective and often after such investment reports nothing decisive happens except a wave of outrage for a few days which soon is forgotten again until the next „scandal“ .

Investigative journalists are also more interested in individual cases than in systemic, geopolitical or economic contexts. The individual deviation from the rules is the subject of excitement, which is best served by focusing on an evil and morally depraved individual perpetrator, such as an overly greedy boss or morally lacking politician or plagiarism-prone academic or socially parasitic Florida Rolf, who takes his Hartz 4 sex vacation in the Caribbean with subsidized Viagra. And often such investigative journalism is simply dubious – be it the STERN with the Hitler diaries or FOCUS with its story of the alleged Stasi killer.

Specifically: what there is in investigative journalism on private television is only the rarely broadcasted Team Walraff and the stand-up and uncover comedian Mario Barth. Today this is considered the highest form of investigatism. A lonely exception from the rule was the undercover report by Pro Sieben against the AfD, which led to the resignation of the fascist Lüth after ZEIT made his name public. And with the public broadcasters, with the exception of NDR and WDR, things look also very poor. Rather the exception than the rule, especially since the framework for it, the political magazines have been shortened in favor of crime and entertainment programs.

Political activism and journalism and investigative journalism used to go together. The favorite of the generation in Germany at the time was Günther Walraff with his industrial reports, “The man who was Hans Esser” against BILD and as a brilliant achievement “Our fascism next door”, when he infiltrated Portuguese fascist circles and revealed and prevented a planned coup d’état planned by General Spinola and FJ Strauss. Today’s Team Walraff on RTL essentially only takes care of occupatitional and consumer protection in individual companies and the highlight is when it is investigatively revealed that the burger at Mc Donalds was prepared with too little minced meat and also unhygienically. This has landed on the level of market check or reports, where investigivatism consists in taking a closer look at shitty toilet bowls from tourist strongholds with a hidden camera.

This is also due to the fact that as a result of neoliberalism many journalists have been fired or made precarious, the remaining journalists tend to hold back and prefer to report conformistically in order to avoid the same fate. The censorship was also tightened. In the past, critical war reports and pictures of Vietnamese girls burned to death in napalm, self-immoling Buddhist monks or the Viet Cong shot live by the police chief of Saigon were still possible, but since the first Gulf War at the latest there have only been video game images and during the second Iraq war embedded journalists and foreign correspondents and journalists who only report from Baghdad’s secure Green Zone, investigating and drinking at the bar for foreigners with diplomats and the military and reporting their stories. For the rest there were Reporters Without Borders, who also only documented immediate events, often only war crimes of the side hostile to the West, and who had a high mortality rate. World explainers and adventurers like Peter Scholl Latour, who was at the front, but brought the events into a geopolitical overall context, no longer exist in this form. And thr same development with investigative journalism.

Investigative journalism and alternative media used to be dominated by the left. That has changed fundamentally. The fact that investigative journalism was pushed back more and more and emphasized more the scandalous individual case and less the systemic connections, as there were hardly any offspring in the younger generation who knew how to work like a secret service or conspiratorial, a mostly right-wing conspiracy scene has now developed into so-called conspiracies- spreading „Alternative media“ developed on all social media from Infowar to Breitbart, which are as new and as old and as alternative as the Höcke´s Alternative for Germany and pretends to unite a lot of alleged crossborder thinkers and seekers of truth and presents their most abstruse conspiracy theories as investigative journalism– with alleged scandals, racist and sexist inflammatory news and hate speech as well as the very broad context of world events, which is then mostly always directed by the Jews, Rothschilds, Soros, Bilderbergers or an NWO secret government or IM Erika-Coronadictator Merkel and other Illuminati in their programme.

Essentially, however, the investigative genre is mainly only covered by whistleblowers like Assange, Snowden, Manning, who put the information on Wikileak or other platforms or give research collectives and information pools, mostly from Süddeutscher Zeitung, Guardian, NDR and WDR. But that remains the exception, especially since Assange pays a high price for it and there are hardly any real political revelations anymore and one has not heard much from new whistleblowers either.

If so, these are probably deliberately staged or launched from the political side, such as the last Strache video in the Ibiza affair, which the Süddeutsche Zeitung also made public. The question arises to what extent this was the work of an investigative journalist or whether it was not simply leaked intelligence material or material from interested parties that the alleged investigative journalist then published in a way that promotes the quota and presented it as an investigative personal contribution. In addition, media companies only print or broadcast what their owners, who are part of the upper class themselves – usually nothing that could be directed against themselves as a class. Not only is investigative journalism almost extinct today, its individual orientation and lust for scandals, as well as political instrumentalization and control, strongly relativizes its purpose and belief in its effect.

In addition, even in the post-factual age, a scandalous noodle and taboo breaker like Trump lets all revelations against him go into the void and with it any investigative journalism. The film „The Publisher“, which probably hoped to remind of the good old days, when a Nixon could still be overthrown by the Washington Post, the Pentagon Papers and their investigative journalists. Such publications leave Trump and Trump voters completely cold, especially since they also have Twitter and their own social media bubble and simply present the rest as fake news. So far, no investigative publication has harmed him. And what else is there to unmask and reveal – the man is a completely open book. Times are changing and Time seems to be over!

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