Corporate cancellation culture hits Germany with a Jewish twist
(August 26, 2022 / JNS) Outside of Germany, most Jews haven’t heard of the German media Achgut, short for “Die Achse Des Guten”, translated as “the Axis of Good”. He doesn’t have the legacy media name recognition like the left The Spiegel or the pro-Israel tabloid, BILD. But in Germany, he has a cult and is better assimilated to the daily thread in America. (In full disclosure, I’m a contributor to Achgut.)
Its co-founder and lead columnist is prominent Jewish intellectual Henryk Broder. Known for his biting satire, Broder, 76, is the author of the book The eternal anti-Semite and countless essays on the failures of modern Germany in the fight against anti-Semitism. Achgut is arguably the most pro-Israel and pro-Jewish publication in Germany, with articles supporting the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria – a position considered anathema to German politics. Most German publications are publicly funded. Not Achgut.
“We started it 18 years ago just because we’re journalists and wanted to have our own playground. No editors and agents in between. It took time, and now it’s really, really successful,” Broder said in a phone interview from Berlin. Achgout has over a million unique views per month.
The son of Polish Holocaust survivors, Broder was a famous intellectual across political lines until he questioned Merkel’s decision to take in more than a million refugees/migrants from Middle Eastern countries. East. In parallel, Achgut did not shun the right-wing party opposed to this policy, Alternative for Germany (AfD). On the contrary, he treated it as a legitimately elected German party equally worthy of censure or praise when the time came. Embroider spoke to the AfD in the Bundestag in 2019, giving the party a chance while chastising them for minimizing the Holocaust by some of their leaders. This put Broder and Achgut at odds with inherited Jewish institutions as well; they called on the German Jewish community to ostracize the AfD.
Since then, Embroider and Achgut have been slandered as “right-wing”, the worst epithet in Germany, recalling, even wrongly, Germany’s dark past. Among his fans, Broder became an even more prominent spokesperson, especially on Jewish issues. But on the center-left, he fell out of favor.
The analogy with the daily thread (DW) has become more real in recent weeks when Achgut became the alleged target of corporate ‘cancel culture’ as Audi (a Volkswagen subsidiary) and Eurowings (a Lufthansa subsidiary) removed adverts from the site following a campaign by activists from Twitter. DW had been the victim of a similar “cancellation” last year by Harry’s razor blade company. Harry had replied to an anonymous tweeter denouncing DW for posting “homophobic and transphobic” content. DW CEO Jeremy Boreing got revenge by starting his own razor company with a explosive viral advertising on YouTube and whose domain is: “ihateharrys.com”.
from Achgut the enemies seemed to have learned a lesson from the trolls targeting DW. The Twitter handles of his “informants” usually don’t have a name attached to them. They simply tagged Audi and Eurowings asking, “Are you sure you want to advertise in Achgut?” They point out from Achgut “harms” as being coronavirus and climate change “deniers”, and attach screenshots of Achgut columns accordingly.
In effect, Achgut was one of the few outlets to question lockdowns and vaccination mandates. Audi and Eurowings publicly tweeted: “Thanks for the tip! We’ve looked into the matter and this site will be blacklisted. Audi reportedly got advertising company Taboola to terminate its contract with Achgut.
Broder was shocked that a company would follow up on an anonymous tip like this. “To me, it’s like calling the police because your neighbor is hiding Jews in his basement,” he said.
Achgut provided Audi with its own “tips.” It turns out that this group of informants attacked Broder online with anti-Semitic tropes. One posted “Nazi Alert” over a photo of a menacing-looking Broder; aanother “informant” called him “The Jew Broder”; another accused him of exploiting his status as a “persecuted” Jew. (Some have been deleted.)
“They become anti-anti-Semitic, but only as far as I’m concerned,” Broder said.
But could an attack on him be considered an expression of anti-Semitism?
“Of course they don’t expressly attack me as a Jew,” Broder said. “They don’t do that anymore, but sound makes music.”
An Audi spokesperson explained the reasons for its decision. “Like any company, AUDI AG continuously analyzes and adapts advertising activities. This is done based on criteria such as reach, measurable customer contact and communication objective.
In the case of Eurowings, the advertisement was placed automatically on Achgut by the online advertising company it hires. A spokesperson said Eurowings was not involved in the contentious social media discussions that followed, which “had nothing to do with the Eurowings product range or the content of any statements or promises made by Eurowings “, did he declare. “In this context, we have decided to suspend the placement of advertising there. This decision should not be understood as an evaluation of the editorial content of the portal, nor does it call into question the integrity of the publisher or other authors who publish there.
In another Jewish twist on the matter, the beleaguered anti-Semitism commissioner of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg hailed the boycott against Achgutdemonstrating a strange intersectionality of German politics, has “awakened” corporate culture and anti-Semitism.
Commissioner for Anti-Semitism of the German Land of Baden-Württemberg Michael Blum (who is not Jewish) is accused of fighting anti-Semitism, but Achgut was one of Blume’s harshest critics, with the Simon Wiesenthal Center naming Blume one of “World’s Top 10 Anti-Semites” of 2021. Blume was found to like tweets comparing Zionists to Nazis and failed to crack down on entities in his region supporting BDS or the Iranian regime. More recently he called the late British General Orde Wingate, a ‘war criminal’ and ‘British murderer’.
Blume used his office to attack Broder as a “right-wing troll” and Achgut as “racist” and “undemocratic”. Via his official Twitter account, Blume welcomed Audi’s decision to blacklist itself Achgutwho, according to Achgutconstitutes a violation of the political neutrality to which State agents must adhere. Achgut filed a lawsuit.
Broder is disheartened that Germany has not learned the lessons of politically motivated boycotts.
“And it’s really kind of a German model,” he said. “In a normal country with a normal social structure, someone who writes an anonymous tip would not be taken seriously.”
In the case of Eurowings, Broder plans to retaliate by rallying outside its parent company Lufthansa with a “Don’t Fly Lufthansa” type of retaliatory campaign. Incidentally, Lufthansa once had a run-in with anti-Semitism when its employees prevented the Jews to board a flight because many did not follow mask-wearing protocol. While it’s easier to make razors rather than cars or planes, Broder might consider having a chat with DW’s Jeremy Boreing to come up with more lucrative and sharp retaliation.