India Insight

Indian newspapers fall for baroque Nazi war criminal hoax

June 30, 2008

You would think a press release about a German Nazi war criminal named Johann Bach being caught in the jungles of Goa after trying to sell a stolen 18th-century piano would be worth double-checking.

A reconstruction of the head of 18th-century German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who is not known to have visited Goa.Nonetheless, the press release has been regurgitated on the front pages of the Deccan Herald and the Indian Express and inside the Telegraph, citing Perus Narkp, “the intelligence wing of the Berlin-based German Chancellor’s Core (sic)”, as the source.

Perus Narkp, a not especially Germanic name, is an anagram of “Super Prank”.

The organisation’s motto, printed at the top of the press release, is “Eht rea enp cabk skripc” — clearly not the language of Goethe or Virgil, but another anagram: “The Pen Pricks are back”.

The Pen Pricks, who run a blog skewering the Goan press, promised readers on Sunday they were about to break a “big, Big, BIg, BIG” story. It looks like they succeeded. Still, it should not take pranksters to remind us that gullibility is a dangerous flaw in journalism.

It takes Google only 0.13 seconds to establish that the Marsha Tikash Whanaab concentration camp at which Bach was apparently posted does not exist. The Express reporter, at least, telephoned the German embassy and Indian police for comment. The fact they had no idea what the reporter was talking about did not deter publication. Only the Times of India gave even a hint that it smelt something fishy, but ran a story all the same.

(I don’t want to seem like I’m recklessly throwing stones in a glass house: no organisation is immune to occasional lapses in journalistic perfection, as readers of the Reuters’ blog Good, Bad, and Ugly may be aware.)

I asked Ramakrishna Upadhya, a senior editor at the Deccan Herald, what might have gone wrong.

“We all believed that it was real because it had so many details,” he said about the press release. “They should have been cross-checked,” he added.

He said he is investigating what happened, and that the paper will run a correction if necessary.

An official at the German embassy in New Delhi very politely said they were looking into what happened but considered it too soon to declare it a hoax.

I have tried to e-mail the Pen Pricks. I’ll let you know if I get any response.

Hopefully this was a singular blip and from now on we can once again believe every word we read in the press.

Comments
29 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

All in a day’s work for the Indian media, which takes the common Latin root of the words media and mediocre very seriously. J Bach selling an 18th Century piano – nice one!

 

Indian media is by and far a JOKE. There have been numerous instances where they simply ‘copy and paste’ content that is fed to them. Enter the age of spineless media!

They seldom question and consider facts before running articles. TABLOIDS may be a better label for the vast gamut of publications that once boasted of journalistic excellences.

Examples:
1. Almost all mainstream newspaper sites now run pictures of scantily clad women on page 1 – a rather cheap way to gain attention. ‘Sun’ anyone?

2. In cases that politicians foist and promote – ex. in the case of the State sponsored attack on a venerable Hindu monastery the media had a field day simply echoing the State-sponsored lies. How do you say spineless in Hindi?

3. Most media companies have a bunch of kids running around with mics and camera crews. I know for fact that a majority of these kids have nothing more than a ‘cram course’ in journalism to show for credentials. These kids are so swayed by emotion and ego that many times they get caught up in the action and lose the arm’s length distance they need to maintain. Did we say immature?

Bottomline – I am NOT surprised at all by this abject poverty of excellence.

NY Sharma

Posted by NY Sharma | Report as abusive
 

Times of India and the rest of these news papers are the worst tabloids around. Their reporting is amateurish and awful. They sensationalize “news”, do not fact check, and write very carelessly. Most of the headlines are a big stretch from the bare facts reported in the story. Indian news media has a long way to go. Some papers like The Hindu do a fairly good job.

Posted by HaHa | Report as abusive
 

This is not new to Indian Journalism. They have been making fun of “newsmaking” for long.

When on TV you can see entire half hour devoted to a cold/sneeze that superstart had, or entire half hour devoted to lost dog of comissioner, you can expect and will see such lapses in future as well.

Posted by HS | Report as abusive
 

“the intelligence wing of the Berlin-based German Chancellor’s Core” – LOL. The sloppy, self-righteous Indian press got what they deserved! LOL

Posted by Bacha | Report as abusive
 

The Indian media (both visual and print ) are
after sensational news. I am not sure whose gift
it is anyway, but we lose our patience at their
madness. Many channels and papers are serious.
They just follow hit and run mode. I do not think
they ever repent their actions. Not even the
regional media is aloof from this. So under these
conditions it is no big surprise to hear about
catching a Nazi in deep karnataka forests with
intentions to sell a Piano. Hats off!

Posted by Prasad | Report as abusive
 

haha amusing!

Posted by Mohandas K Gandhi | Report as abusive
 

English language media in India has been a joke for a long time. They are the snotty western wannabe who in the process end up copying Sun and the National Enquirer. I am not surprised. Indian local language media do a very good job.

Posted by Vinay | Report as abusive
 
 

Actually, the better talent has gone to work for call centres — which pay more than media jobs do. I have more details in my blog.

 

I think you caught the wrong hoax – the Perus Narko story about Johann Bach’s piano is probably the nearest to truth in these newspapers!

Posted by Vishnu Shastri | Report as abusive
 

My first journalism professor used to quote Benjamin Disraeli, if I remember right, as saying the Indian press was the most amusing thing he read since the Arabian Nights!

The German Embassy quote actually added the touch of journalistic righteousness to the farce.

Posted by HN | Report as abusive
 

for those who are unaware (from the posts above) both Hindu and the goan and Kannada local media picked up this story. in fact, local media first, followed by the nationals – Hindu included.

every institution needs a jolt once a while. hope these guys learn the lesson

Posted by ap | Report as abusive
 

I remember there was a boy from bihar who won Nasa test. which turned out to be a hoax. i was laughing to see the news media being punked without Ashton kutcher in the picture. they even went to believe the story that Abdul Kalam came second in that test years ago. When Kalam was asked he had no answer than few blinks. boy it was too funny.

indian news media would qualify for oddly enough in reuters.

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive
 

Shame on Indian Media… need not to mention , they are run by uneducated politicians..

Posted by Badri | Report as abusive
 

Ah … if only such lapses were confined to the press of India.
“Dewey Wins!” “Weapons of Mass Destruction” “Peace in Our Time”

Nope, the press of India is only carrying on an ignoble global tradition … that of the “Yellow Press”. I don’t think that many of today’s teens learn about the Yellow Press due to the rather shabby state of recent education; but that’s grist for another comment on another day.

 

Ha ha! The Indian media is comprised of idiots! The fact that they can fall for such tomfoolery is incomprehensible. Oh well. I still feel bad for them though. I hope they get their piano back.

Posted by Bryan M. Hovde | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Hovde, I think you fail to see the point of the joke…

Posted by GuardianKnight | Report as abusive
 

Apparently, a nuclear deal is not the only thing in which India and the US are coming together. Here is a fine piece on how the American media messed up in covering corporate frauds. No nation, it seems, has a patent on incompetence.
http://www.newsweek.com/id/100453/page/1

 

Is this only true for Indian media? How many journalists in the West cross-check facts before writing up their stories. This is churnalism, not journalism and we are all to blame.

Posted by Jose De Souza | Report as abusive
 

Apparently, there are more “western” readers (read critics) of these “Indian” newspapers than their local audience. I would be concerned to have a NAZI in my country, but i can only fathom what these “critics” are saying when our very own ‘New York Times” reports a “disastrous” change in milk jug design!!

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/30/busine ss/30milk.html?ex=1372651200&en=db4d28ba 844b8c27&ei=5124&partner=permalink&expro d=permalink

 

I read somewhere that these newspapers were leading change in India with their campaign initiatives (Lead India Movement?). Just something American media can ponder about doing?

Posted by Narik | Report as abusive
 

What do you mean “We” are all to blame? I’m not! I never put “Fox” and “News” in the same sentence, unless it’s followed by their motto: We Distort, You Comply

Posted by Aptar | Report as abusive
 

Shukoor Ahmed ran for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1998, after coming to America a decade earlier from Hyderabad, India. Campaigning door-to-door, he was surprised so many voters did not know who represented them! After his race ended slightly short of victory, he took advantage of his Master’s degree in Computer Technology and Political Science to build StateDemocracy.org, a website he launched in 2001 to connect citizens and lawmakers. His website’s motto encapsulated its mission.

 

India-born entrepreneurs empower US voters

Shukoor Ahmed ran for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1998, after coming to America a decade earlier from Hyderabad, India. Campaigning door-to-door, he was surprised so many voters did not know who represented them!

After his race ended slightly short of victory, he took advantage of his Master’s degree in Computer Technology and Political Science to build StateDemocracy.org, a website he launched in 2001 to connect citizens and lawmakers. His website’s motto encapsulated its mission:

 

This is a slap in the face of humanity (The hineous act of terrorist attacks in mumbai).If we claim we are the most developed race on the earth,then how come such beasts are there among us.Lets all pledge that we will root out such beasts ,such enimies of humanity should be wiped out from this world.

Posted by anil singh | Report as abusive
 

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In all endeavors, whether in the world of business or charity, Mr. Islam strives to create opportunities that are sustainable and uplifting for humanity — always guided by the virtues of hard work, focus, quality, innovation and kindness!

 

Frank F. Islam is a successful entrepreneur and investor based in metropolitan Washington, DC. He is the Chairman/CEO of FI Investment Group LLC (FIIG), an investment firm he founded in 2007. FIIG focuses on providing growth capital to emerging companies, as well as managing specialized and branded funds. His investment style centers on innovative strategies for value creation, such that he is often the first to invest within a new economic paradigm.

Previously, Mr. Islam was the founder and CEO of QSS Group. QSS Group was an Information Technology company which generated a revenue of $300 Million. Through QSS, Mr. Islam garnered multiple industry awards for leadership, entrepreneurship and excellence. In 1999, Mr. Islam was recognized by the Ernst and Young as Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year. The US Small Business Administration selected him as the Small Business Person of the Year of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area in 2001.

Mr. Islam has been an active participant in the Information Technology, Aerospace Engineering Services and Systems Integration business for more than 25 years. He holds a B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Computer Science from the University of Colorado. His extensive business development experience within the Federal Government sector was the key to the remarkable growth of QSS.

Mr. Islam is a well-known philanthropist whose private foundation supports educational, cultural and artistic causes worldwide. He participates in a number of non-profit organizations as a board member, such as TiE –DC and the Strathmore Center for the Arts (located in Montgomery County, Maryland), as well as chairing the StateDemocracy Foundation. He speaks often at a variety of commercial and non-profit forums, and is frequently included in press coverage.

Mr. Islam hosts a TV show “Washington Current Review” on MHz Networks.
In all endeavors, whether in the world of business or charity, Mr. Islam strives to create opportunities that are sustainable and uplifting for humanity — always guided by the virtues of hard work, focus, quality, innovation and kindness!

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