After I posted this story several days ago, I was inundated on Twitter and in emails with Germans and others insisting that the story was false and that I was purveying “fake news.” Not unexpectedly, it turns out that the establishment media’s “refutations” of the original story were the real “fake news.”
The German press, together with establishment politicians, Germany’s police, and left-wing international news agencies have railed against Breitbart London’s reporting of an 1,000-strong crowd, many of whom were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’, and firing fireworks at one of the oldest churches in Dortmund on New Year’s Eve.
The headlines — which lean on the establishment media’s new “fake news” trope — fail to reflect that reporting from some of the very same outlets now blasting Breitbart News confirmed almost every substantive fact about the Breitbart London report on the issue: there were 1,000, mostly male, mostly non-native German people gathered in the Leeds Square; there were repeated chants of “Allahu Akbar”; the ‘Free Syrian Army’ flag was flown; and there was a fire at the St. Reinold’s Church caused by the fireworks. The only correction Breitbart London is happy to make is the age of the church, which does not constitute a substantive error in our reporting.
The “fake news” claims rely on a few points of apparent contention: the size of the mob in question, the religion of the men involved, the age of the church involved, and the size of the fire caused.
One witness of the event — Peter Bandermann from the Breitbart-critical Ruhr Nachricthen (RN) website — refused to assist Breitbart London in the reporting of the event, despite reporting it at length himself.
Long before any of the controversy surrounding this story began Breitbart London approached RN, offering to buy a licence for the pictures they had taken. Mr. Bandermann’s Ruhr Nachricthen — contrary to what most publications and journalists might do in a situation like this — refused to sell the story and its accompanying pictures to Breitbart News.
The effect of journalists refusing, on ideological grounds, to ensure stories are reported across the international press is both a sign of a partisan media, but also protects criminals, police ineffectiveness, and failing state policies. This tactic, usually reserved for state-sponsored news outlets like Russia Today or TeleSUR, are becoming more commonplace in the West, especially in Germany.
One of the major points of contention raised in the “fake news” reports by AFP, the Guardian, the Independent, POLITICO, the Huffington Post, and German-language papers like Bild, Die Welt, and Deustche Welle is the size of the mob on the night in question.
In a report about police preparations for unrest they anticipated on New Year’s Eve, and which specifically mentioned the events of New Year’s Eve 2015 in Cologne, RN itself reported on December 22nd: “The police have the task, among other things, to counter the emergence of aggressive gatherings of people,” including comments about the “abstract high risk of terrorism” expected.
In 2015/2016, they claim, fireworks were shot in public in Cologne — which experienced another major incident initially played down by the police and mainstream media — and in Dortmund in areas of the city centre that prohibit the use of rocket and other pyrotechnic objects.
The police clearly failed in their attempts to stop this happening again, and are now lashing out against news organisations like Breitbart News for drawing attention to the matter.
Mr. Bandermann’s report states there were “Pyrotechnics thrown into crowds and at policemen”, describing scenes where fireworks were aimed at homeless people. According to RN, people were “seriously injured” and police described the culprits as “with and without migrant backgrounds”.
A video uploaded to the RN live blog of the night clearly shows a large mob of people recklessly releasing fireworks at buildings and each other. The video cuts to a group of men chanting “Syria” while dancing with the flag flown by the Free Syrian Army — a group noted even by the Washington Post to have had extreme levels of desertion to the Islamic State.
This, remember, is Ruhr Nachtrichten’s own reporting.
1,000 PEOPLE IN THE SQUARE
Video evidence shows almost no signs of non-participatory revellers in what was happening in Dortmund on New Year’s Eve, despite RN reporting that many in the square were “peaceful”. What counts as “peaceful” should also be called into question, given that many of the participants were not firing fireworks themselves, but rather, egging those who were doing so on.
Parallels can be drawn with a protest that took place in the United Kingdom recently, where police and media reported “peace” and “calm” despite protesters smashing up police cars and shutting down roads. Expectations, as RN reported in late December, have changed from just a few years ago, and therefore the frames of reference have been altered.
Despite video evidence from RN — edited by RN themselves — suggesting otherwise, another substantive claim against Breitbart London’s reporting on the matter is that the number of people was grossly overestimated.