Would a Martian agent preparing the ground for the invasion of Earth discover much that was useful from reading the Sun or the Daily Mirror?
Actually, he would learn quite a lot about humanity and would certainly be entertained. But whether he would find anything relevant that his masters back on the Red Planet could productively factor in before launching their fleet is something else.
Much the same is true in Germany, where Bild Zeitung, with its daily circulation of nearly 2.5 million, is the undisputed market leader of the country’s tabloid press. Bild is a phenomenon. Founded in 1952 by Axel Springer, the Rupert Murdoch of Mitteleuropa, it has weathered many storms down the years and remains the most widely-read newspaper in the European Union.
So what could we take from it this morning? Well, the big news, unsurprisingly, was that Germany, after 167 days of political wrangling, finally has a new government, with six cabinet ministers appointed from the Social Democratic Party, or SPD. One of these, Heiko Maas, is to be foreign minister in place of the hapless, and now forgotten, Martin Schulz, the former President of the European Parliament, who led his party to its worst defeat in decades – worse even than that of Angela Merkel, the Chrsitian Democrat leader, who has now embarked on her fourth and final term as federal Chancellor.
The new leader of the SPD, Andrea Nahles, has chosen not to enter the Government in order to concentrate on rebuilding the party in advance of the 2021 elections. We will hear much of Frau Nahles in the years to come, but in the meantime it is those with seats in the Cabinet who are making the headlines.
Maas, as foreign minister, will be an important voice in the Brexit negotiations, which, however, do not rate a mention by Bild, which reports only that the new man at Berlin’s Auswärtiges Amt was “particularly pleased” by his promotion from the Justice Department.
“We have decided to install a good team,” was the not entirely unexpected view of the incoming finance minister and outgoing mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz, whose chief virtue seems to be that he is Scholz, not Schulz. Nomenclature is also to the fore in the choice of the new Labour Minister, Hubertus Heil, who sounds as though he ought to be Professor of the Dark Arts at Hogwarts and in fact, as his party’s long-serving secretary general, knows where all the bodies are buried and how they got there.
But Bild is not all about politics. The paper gives prominence today to a plea from environmentalists aimed at the British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, calling on him to help save 100 trees scheduled to make way for a new entertainment venue in Düsseldorf at which he is due to perform. “Please, don’t come” is the message of the spokesperson for the tree party Andrea Vogelgesang, whose name, appropriately, means Birdsong. Sheeran’s response is not recorded. Maybe he’ll write a song about it: Düsseldorf girl.
Speaking (almost) of whom, Carolin, aged 27, is Friday’s Bild-Girl, her “youthful sinfulness” a product, apparently, of Germany’s best-known sex therapy site, Doctor Sommer. Bild is old-school when it comes to what British tabloids used to call pulchritude, and bare breasts remain the order of the day, paraded almost by the hour.
But if MeToo has yet to inflitrate the ranks of Bild’s picture desk, the paper shares with its British counterparts a morbid interest in the welfare of young women and girls.
“Mother finds daughter in house covered in blood.” “Woman killed during sex with hand grenade.” “Police pull girl (8) kicking and screaming out of her elementary school” (the story of a girl who struggles as officers enforce a custody order). German readers, it seems, can’t get enough of this kind of stuff.
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There is also colourful coverage of Donald Trump, both for his agreement to meet North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and his threat to impose increased tariffs on EU steel imports, which Bild labels “an attack on Germany”. More bitingly, the paper publishes a picture of Annalena Baerbock, the new “face” of the Green Party, giving Paul Ziemiak, a Christian Democrat youth leader, the middle finger, or Stinkefinger, during a heated discussion on the behaviour of young immigrant males. No doubt Baerbock was just making a point, but at least we now know how Germans might respond to an actual alien invasion.