Berlin newspaper erects provocative new artwork

Peter Lenk's sculpture "Friede sei mit dir"

IT’S STORIES LIKE THIS that drive home just how different Europe and America can be from one another. On 15 November, 2009 the left-wing German newspaper Die Tageszeitung (“taz” for short) unveiled a provocative artwork by sculptor Peter Lenk on the wall of its Kreuzberg headquarters featuring a naked man with a five-story, fifty-two foot tall porcelain male member that narrows into a cobra head at the tip. And the man depicted in the installation is not just any man, but Kai Diekmann, chief editor of the right-wing Bildzeitung, whose highrise headquarters is within spitting distance – with an unobstructed view of the artwork.

To understand what could motivate such such a bizarrely counterintuitive image you first need to know something about the German press. Diekmann’s Bildzeitung, founded by publishing tycoon Axel Springer in  1952, is Europe’s largest-circulation newspaper, selling three millions copies daily across forty-four countries. The Bild tabloid is to German newspapers what Fox News is to American TV. Decades before anyone in the US had ever heard of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, Bild was already out there rousing the rabble with anti-communist horror stories, faux populist outrage about the latest public sex or finance scandal, lurid celebrity gossip, a lavish full-color sports section and, its most popular feature, a daily topless photo of a buxom blonde model on the back page. While it has gained a lot of competition in recent years through cable TV and the Internet, its role in fomenting anti-student outrage in the late 1960s and early 1970s remains legendary…

Continued…

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