After Germany’s “first” public television network, ARD, compared Elon Musk reducing Twitter censorship to “letting rats out of their holes,” Germany’s “second” public television network, ZDF, has now compared Musk to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels! (The network’s name Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen literally means “Second German Television.”)
Thus, last Friday, ZDF’s would-be comedy program, the “Heute Show,” posted the below tweet and photoshop.
The Tweet reads: “Thanks to Elon Musk, you’re allowed to say anything again on Twitter! Total freedom of speech! #heuteshow.” The caption, whose color scheme and font invoke Nazi-era propaganda, reads “Do you want total tweet?” It is an allusion to Goebbels’s 1943 speech at the Berlin Sportspalast, in which the Nazi Minister of Propaganda famously shouted, “Do you want total war?” – in response to which audience members leapt to their feet shouting “Yes!” and raising their arms in the Hitler-salute.
The background image appears to show a Nazi Party rally with the swastikas replaced by the Twitter bird logo. Two smaller swastikas are still visible in the lower left-hand corner of the full-size image.
Leaving aside the extreme mental contortionism required to associate freedom of speech with Nazi Germany, if ever there was a don’t-throw-stones-in-glass-houses moment, this was it. For, as so happens, during the Second World War, the founding director of ZDF, Karl Holzamer, himself served in one of the propaganda units that none other than Goebbels’s Ministry of Propaganda embedded with the different divisions of the Germany military.
Holzamer served in a propaganda unit of the Luftwaffe or German air force. As noted in a 2012 article titled “Goebbels’s Soldiers” in the German daily Die Frankfurter Rundschau, Holzamer was embedded with the Luftwaffe during its April 1941 bombing of Belgrade and was “the first” to report on the German subjugation of the Yugoslav capital.
The online Lexikon der Wehrmacht, which also notes Holzamer’s service in the propaganda troops, cites Goebbels himself, who explained that “the Wehrmacht’s propaganda troops ensure the coordination between propaganda warfare and armed warfare in the theater of operations.”
As touched upon in my previous post here, Germany has been leading the global push for online censorship in recent years: notably, in the name of “combatting misinformation.” It is thus ironic that one of the explicit tasks of the propaganda troops in which Holzamer served was precisely to spread misinformation. According to the Lexikon der Wehrmacht, these tasks included: “war reporting…, combat propaganda (influencing the enemy)…, combatting enemy propaganda, camouflaging [German forces’] own operations by using targeted misinformation.”