German State TV spreads conspiracy theories and we are right in the middle of it
On Tuesday night, German “public” TV station ZDF aired its satirical “Die Anstalt” program, slandering libertarians and classical liberals.
„Die Anstalt“ means literally translated „the facility“ but is also a German slang term for a mental hospital.
The program showed a huge banner with logos of presumed member organizations of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) and others. All these logos were laid out on top of a huge spiderweb. It was titled “The Mont Pelerin Society and the network of neoliberal think tanks from 1947 until today”.
During the show, the “Die Anstalt” hosts and actors continually misrepresent the ideas and motivations of classical liberal and libertarian individuals and organizations.
Among else, they claim that “neoliberals” control public opinion and are merely interested in enriching the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else.
Institutions listed on the banner include the Mont Pelerin Society, Institute for Economic Affairs, Institute for Humane Studies, Cato Institute, Atlas Network, the late International Policy Network, Open Europe, NOUS and many more.
Showing political opponents as spiders in a web is also a recurring topic in cartoons by conspiracy theorists and also antisemites.
Among the organizations shown is also our own, Freedom Today Network (FTN). Because FTN is a member of the Atlas Network, we have reason to believe that the ZDF simply presents a list of Atlas Network members as the neoliberal network.
FTN’s chief executive officer Andreas Jürgens responded to the mention of our network as follows:
We are flattered that the ZDF truly believes we are so mighty. We trust in the power of better ideas. And over time the free exchange of ideas will prevail over the dusty and dated conspiracy theories peddled by some sad socialists.
Background on the MPS
The Mont Pelerin Society was founded in 1947, at the mountain of the same name in Switzerland. On its website the organization describes itself as follows:
After World War II, in 1947, when many of the values of Western civilization were imperiled, 36 scholars, mostly economists, with some historians and philosophers, were invited by Professor Friedrich Hayek to meet at Mont Pelerin, near Montreux, Switzerland, to discuss the state and the possible fate of liberalism (in its classical sense) in thinking and practice.
Background on the ZDF
The ZDF is one of several “public” German broadcasting networks. These networks are theoretically independent. But they depend on the government to secure their funding. They demand a mandatory fee from German citizens. That fee is levied on all households regardless of media usage. The networks extract the fee with the help of government force up to imprisonment if citizens refuse to pay.
Also, politicians from both major parties CDU and SPD continue to control the membership of the boards that oversee the public networks and influence crucial executive decisions. In 2014, conservative politicians were able to push out Nikolaus Brender, then Editor in Chief, from the ZDF.
There is widespread controversy around these “public” broadcasting networks in Germany. Many critics label them as state TV media. Journalists from these networks have responded by likening critics to right wing populists and claiming that they are not controlled by the state.
Well, they are certainly not controlled by libertarians.