One of the things that began making me skeptical about the German press was breaking Rule of the Internet #2: Never Read the Comments. Amid the racist insults and moralizing lectures, there were nuggets of information that I laughed off as obvious exaggerations. Until I decided to look into them, and some of them turned out to be true.
For example, I once saw a comment to some FAZ-or-similar article about a political dispute over German deportation policy. Queefburglar69 or whoever he was (thanks, BoJack!) wrote: "What a pointless argument. They never deport them anyway." I looked into it, and sure enough, the number of deportations every year in Germany is far, far, far below the number of immigrants who are ordered deported. As of January 2015, 600,000 people were living in Germany even though their asylum application had been denied and their temporary refugee status expired. So Queefburglar had a point.
Which brings me to sites like Politically Incorrect, a right-wing, anti-immigrant German website. Amid the rants and name-calling, of which there is quite a bit, there are also reports of amusing PC cowardice on the part of German news outlets and mainstream politicians. As I was posting Soeren Kern's exhaustive catalog of sexual assaults by asylum seekers in Germany earlier, I read in that piece: "in an effort to protect the identity of Ali S, a Munich newspaper referred to him by the more politically correct 'Joseph T.'"
And it turns out to be true. In June 2015, a Somali migrant named Ali S. allegedly tried to rape a woman in a Munich disco bathroom. Fortunately, the woman fought back, smashed open the door, and alerted police. Ali S. had been previously convicted of a sex crime. He said he was high on the African stimulant Kat. He was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison. The Bild-Zeitung reported much of this, calling the suspect Ali S. But when the Munich tabloid Münchener Abendzeitung covered the case, the last line of the report was: "Joseph T. wurde von der Disco-Security festgehalten." (By the way, you now know how to say disco security in German). From Ali S. emerges Joseph T.!
On the left we see the writer for the Münchener Abendzeitung confronting the former Ali S.: "Ali S.! Put aside your wicked idolatry! Cease and desist from worshiping the wrong God! In the name of the Father, the Son -- who was much more than a prophet, mind you -- and the Holy Ghost, who definitely does exist, I hereby christen you Joseph T. Go and sin no more. Also, stop raping people. Seriously."
This whitefacing of Ali S. was noticed by Politically Incorrect, who mocked it heartily and asked its readers to let the Münchener Abendzeitung know they didn't fancy being lied to.
The article now reads: "Der Täter ("The criminal") wurde von der Disco-Security festgehalten." So the current version of the article just calls the man "the suspect", no mention of "Joseph T." Were the right-wing trolls of Politically Incorrect wrong? Did they invent an absurd story about a newspaper changing the name of a criminal suspect to hide his foreign identity? Was this all just a scam?
There was only one way to find out. I went over the Internet Wayback Machine and found out, sure enough, that the original version of the article did in fact re-christen Ali S. to Joseph T. and that it was later changed, doubtless after the bumptious readers of Politically Incorrect had their say.
Ali S. / Joseph T. could not be reached for comment about his new faith.