Indian newspapers fall for baroque Nazi war criminal hoax
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.