New magazine channels revival in German conservative anger
Journalist behind venture says magazine a backlash against political paternalism
Chancellor Angela Merkel with president of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi. If Tichy’s readership can agree on one thing, it’s that there’s a special place in hell for the ECBank, whose zero per cent monetary policy is financial sleight of hand: sustaining a failed single currency by firing inflation and endangering Germans’ nest eggs. Photograph: Getty Images
For the past decade German readers have embraced lightweight, lifestyle glossies, from cookery magazines (Beef!) to aspirational countryside journals for committed city dwellers (Lust for the Land). But now the country’s groaning newsstands have a striking new arrival.
Tichys Einblick (Tichy’s Insight) is different. In a crowded media market of successful launches and copycat titles, this new magazine stands alone. Now on its third issue, the high-end political, business and cultural publication channels an interesting Zeitgeist in Germany’s election year.
The magazine is the brainchild of Roland Tichy, a veteran journalist and editor. Two years ago, by accident more than design he says, he launched an opinion website for German conservative-liberals like himself who see few other outlets in today’s media landscape.
The site, now with almost 600,000 visitors a month, has been joined by the printed monthly with a circulation of 16,000 and growing, despite its €8 cover price.
Liberal traditionTichy’s ambition is to revive Germany’s live-and-let-live liberal tradition by tapping into what he senses is a growing global backlash against political and cultural paternalism.
In Germany, he says, this involves pruning back the tendrils of the 1968 left-wing revolution that began as uprising against post-war German conservative smugness but lost the plot in the last 20 years, since Germany’s first Red-Green government took office.
“As I understood it the 68ers’ priority was breaking open the vice on post-war society,” argues Tichy. “But now we have come so far that we live in a paternalistic world in which people should be re-educated by the state.”
The current issue’s cover story – “What’s making us poor” – ticks all the boxes for Germany’s concerned conservative-liberals: Merkel’s centrist CDU betraying its conservative tradition as it lurches left, while uncontrollable European institutions tighten their grip on Germans’ daily lives – and wallets.
If Tichy’s readership can agree on one thing, it’s that there’s a special place in hell for the European Central Bank (ECB), whose zero per cent monetary policy is financial sleight of hand: sustaining a failed single currency by firing inflation and endangering Germans’ nest eggs.
The apocalyptic mood continues in an interview with influential economist Prof Hans-Werner Sinn. His advice on ECB low interest monetary policy? “Get politically active and end the disappropriation.”
The Tichys Einblick cocktail is crisp conservative-liberal logic with a dash of righteous anger about the west’s perceived loss of control and Ordnung (order). A typically melancholic warning about this looming twilight is a long read in the current issue about Europe’s new identity politics. In it, ex-Der Spiegel journalist Matthias Matussek argues that western states are not viable without borders: physical, mental and cultural.
“At the moment it seems we no longer have the strength for this border service,” he argues. Against whom? “...almost one million anti-Semitic, Enlightenment-hostile, in part illiterate Muslims.”
Ask Tichy about this sweeping logic – that only some recent refugees to Germany can spell Jews, but all hate them – and he laughs nervously and denies offering a platform for dog-whistle xenophobia. “I am the first to get annoyed when a sentence like that happens,” he said. “That’s not what we mean at all and we should have been clearer.”
The regularity of such “slips”, however, has prompted Die Zeit weekly to dub Tichy a moderate liberal “ventriloquist” for people with more extremist views. “Tichy,” Die Zeit suggested, “provides them with the verbal ammunition.”
Unsurprisingly, Tichy disagrees. Despite policy overlaps – on migration and the euro – he disassociates himself from the hard-right Alternative für Deutschland. But he makes no apologies for serving what he sees as a lost liberal tradition in Germany: putting up contrarian, controversial arguments for intellectual debate.
His belief that today’s Germany is gripped – politically and intellectually – by a centre-left, consensual grand coalition is shared by many Tichy contributors, such as Czech-born writer Dushan Wegner. But Wegner sees the recent refugee crisis as a tipping point. It provided a focus for previously diffuse public concerns in Germany: that leftist idealism about how the world and its peoples should be – as opposed to how they are – is defining government policy and that Germany, as he sees it, is “sacrificing its freedom for the sake of ideology”.
“[Germany’s] official public debate is ridiculously left, freakishly narrow,” argues Wegner. “Holding a conservative opinion in Germany is dangerous. Leftists will try to cut you off from funding. They will approach your employer and try to get you fired.”
For now it remains a David and Goliath battle with unfair distribution of resources and influence, he believes. But the arrival of Tichys Einblick reflects a notable shift. “There is dangerously little connect between a lot of the morally infused reporting and many people’s reality,” said Wegner. A growing number of Germans, he believes “can’t take the bulls**t any longer”.