Friday, 28 July 2017

Why Is It So Easy to Manipulate Germans?




Yesterday on Social Media (that's how a lot of stories start nowadays!) a German chap, early 60s, a historian with a PhD was telling me off for saying German media were propagating government viewpoints. Assuming I was British and therefore (!) wouldn't know much, he prodeeded to give me a lecture about freedom of the press in Germany. How German media was founded Precisely!! in order to counteract government propaganda because of all the wonderful lessons learned from National Socialism. And so on and so on.

Why is this important and what does it tell us about Germany today?

Because it shows that Germans - highly educated and informed as they are - understand nothing of how communication works.

Few Germans know what an advertising agency is and what it does. Ask them about PR-agencies or media agencies and you will draw a total blank.

How can anybody expect a nation which can tell you everythig about the Enlightenment and what great lessons of "Mitmenschlichkeit" to draw from it (all said with a Bridget Jones style earnest nodding of the head) but knows nothing about press conferences, "Kamingespräche" between PR-agencies and journalist, the workings of ad placement by media agencies and so on and so on be expected to take a stand against what's going on in their country? They are like naive children repeating what their mummy has told them. Fully expecting to be praised because they are so learned - gut aufgepasst!

Germans are singularily badly equipped to stand up to the manipulation - by the media, by the government - that's going on under their very eyes. #sad

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Mysterious Mr.Knaus




I suppose the first thing I noticed about Gerald Knaus, author of the "Merkel-plan" to make Syrian refugees legal via an exchange system with Turkey, was the fact that he frequently mentioned being an Oxford graduate. Not the fact, mind, that he attended the august university - why shouldn't he - clever chap that he undoubtedly is? No, it was more that  he kept on saying he had studied "in Oxford". I have never come across anybody saying that before. You study "at Oxford", certainly not in Oxford.

Which led me to cast a closer look at Mr. Knaus's CV in general. (Liberally shared btw, all over the internet - Mr. Knaus likes to lay open every step of his most adventurous life, and clearly enjoys talking about himself.) But before we do that here, let me tell  you about a the only "personal" exchange I had (via twitter) with him.

Curious as to his time "in Oxford" (and because we might have overlapped there) I asked him which college he had attended. His reply, and I quote verbatim : "The nicest, the one with the Olympic rower". Which of course left me as baffled, as when after this very amicable exchange, I was subsequently blocked by Mr. K. [1]

But let's look at what Mr Knaus is telling more illustrious people than me about his education. An interview he gave the Austrian station ORF provides us with interesting insights. Mr. Knaus tells the audience, he went up to Oxford in 1988 - bafflingly without having done his A-levels. He left school, he said, at age 17 and spent a year in Paris. Having been admitted to Oxford, he sits his A-levels independently, cramming "in cafés". And hey presto, an Oxford undergraduate is born. [2]

We have to pause here and ask how this is even financially possible. Mr. Knaus comes from an extremely modest background. His father was a railway employee.[3]  A scholarship is wellnigh imposssible - as an independent extern sitting A-levels out of context, he would probably not be on anybody's radar. OU offers scholarships, but as far as I know only British nationals are elegible. And here we have to mention a very embarrassing fact which would in any case weigh heavily against Mr. Knaus being offered an open scholarship form Oxford or any other British institution:

Even now, after years of training and speaking, his English is very very poor indeed. His pronunciation is abysmal - he still says "wiff" for example for "with". His vocabulary is restricted. And - most importantly - he cannot express himself well in written English. You can easily check this by looking at his published tweets - his twitter handle is @rumeliobserver. You'll see that some of his English tweets are difficult to make sense of. [4]

So when our man persuaded those Oxford dons to accept him as a fresh-faced 18-year old, his English cannot have been the main reason. Equally baffling as to how it was possible to write twice-weekly essays about a complicated topic. Knaus mentions he was part of the OU debating society, again - I would have loved to hear his contributions as it is hard to imagine that with his halting, faulty, and weirdly pronounced English, he will have made much of an impression.[5]

But hey ho, he managed it all, and by his own testimony - he even got a First!
After that impressive result, our hero dashed off to the Ukraine where he "taught macroeconomics and political economy at the State University of Chernivtsi" according to his own website.

Bafflingly, between the Vienna café cramming, the whirlwind Oxford tour and the Ukrainian lectureship, he also managed to fit in studies at Brussels University (Institut d'Etudes Européennes) and Bologna (John Hopkins University, Bologna Centre).[7]

Such a shame, that given the meticulousness with which he talks about his metereoric academic career, Mr. Knaus has never let anybody into the secret as to which Oxford College it was that he attended.


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Footnotes
[1] All of the rowing colleges, Christ Church, Oriel, St. Edmund Hall, Ballio, Magdalen would have a matriculated Olympic rower, especially bearing in mid there are also female rowers.
[2] ORF : "Der Mann hinter dem Merkel-Plan". ORF Sendungsreihe "Doppelzimmer", Ausstrahlung v. 25.5.2016.
[3] Metapedia, Eintrag: Knaus, Gerald
[4] Twitter/@rumeliobserver
[5] ORF interview, see above.
[6] www.rumeliobserver.eu