(By Ray D.)
Over the past year, we at Medienkritik have pointed out several conspicuous cases of crooked, selective translation at SPIEGEL ONLINE. The harsh, often abrasive German-language articles directed against the United States and the Bush administration are rarely published on the publication's "English Site." If they are published, the English translations are usually watered-down, milder versions of the originals.
So it was with an interview the magazine recently conducted with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. And while the English-version of the interview was placed at the very top of the "English Site", its German counterpart was not featured as prominently on the main site.
Above all, the introductory paragraphs are noticeably different in tone:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The "English Site" Intro in Bold Print Above
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The German Site's Intro in Bold Above, Translated Below
Here is a translation of the German-language title and introductory paragraph:
"We Will Straighten Things Out"
The American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 73, on the rivalry between China and the USA, the fiasco in Iraq, dealing with dictators and his relationship with the Germans."
An interesting contrast indeed. On the magazine's "English Site", Rumsfeld is presented positively as a "strong believer in the building of democracy in Iraq." It all seems so tame and friendly. Yet in the German version, there is no laudatory mention of "building democracy" and instead Iraq is grimly referred to as a "fiasco".
Note also the marked difference in the tone of the two headlines. The English version is optimistic despite acknowledged difficulty whereas the German version is hard and authoritarian. In both cases, the headline and introduction are followed by the actual interview.
Of course, the negative tone on Iraq in the German-language text is entirely consistent with SPIEGEL ONLINE's coverage over the past few years. The magazine has already labeled the Iraq conflict a "debacle", "disaster" or "quagmire" scores of times and repeatedly predicted doom, defeat and civil war. That is why it is so amusing to see the "English Site" attempting to navigate a more moderate, middle course digestible to British and North American readers rather than re-printing the nauseating propaganda the German public is subjected to on a daily basis on the main site.
But we still have to ask: If Iraq is such a "fiasco" to the German site, why isn't it a "fiasco" to the English site? Were the editors worried about a negative reaction from Rumsfeld? Were they afraid to express their true feelings in English?
The end result is obvious: A two-faced, inconsistent approach to the very same interview. The "English Site" staff has once again sacrificed what little journalistic integrity and honesty it has left to cover for the mother site and promote a false image. Unfortunately for SPIEGEL ONLINE, quite a few people are noticing the Jekyll-and-Hyde-like inconsistency and have come to the conclusion that the "English Site" is little more than a prop created to improve the publication's deservedly negative image in the English-speaking world.
And by the way, here is a little reminder of just why SPIEGEL's image is so negative:
Cheap Anti-American Populism Sells Well in German: Not So Well in English