On Tuesday, a panel of linguists in Germany declared Lügenpresse the dubious winner in the annual "Unwort des Jahres" competition. The annual, politically charged "non-word of the year" event critiques phrases that have taken on a pernicious meaning in the country over the course of a given year.
The coronation of Lügenpresse represents a troubling trend. The phrase, which means "lying press" and found most recent use in the Nazi era, has become something of a watchword among Germany's increasingly vociferous anti-immigrant (and largely anti-Muslim) activists. In recent months, these demonstrators have called on the media to "tell the truth" about what immigrants are doing to Germany.
Other recent winners include Sozialtourismus ("social tourism"), which in a certain context also relates to immigrants who come to Germany to indulge in state benefits, and Döner-Morde (Döner murder), which dismissively refers to murders of Turkish and Greek people. (For a compelling contrast, consider that just last week, the American Dialect Society named #blacklivesmatter as 2014's word of the year—the first time a hashtag has won.)
The non-word announcement came one day after the anti-immigrant group PEGIDA, the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, staged a massive, 25,000-strong rally in the German city of Dresden. The event, scheduled before last week's shootings in Paris, doubled as a tribute to victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and a rally to promote an anti-immigration platform. According to Reuters, the crowd marched to chants of Lügenpresse, halt die Fresse ("Shut up, lying press").
PEGIDA has inspired even larger counter-demonstrations across Germany, including one in Dresden this past Saturday, which drew 35,000 participants. (Hours before the rally, arsonists firebombed the offices of Hamburger Morgenpost, a German tabloid that had republished cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.)
French cartoonist Michel Cambon's cartoon ahead of tonight's PEGIDA demo in Dresden. pic.twitter.com/B76cgF9Ao1— Helen Russell (@helengoth) January 12, 2015
As The New York Times reported, a group of cartoonists known as Caricaturists Against PEGIDA also disseminated cartoons slamming the PEGIDA for capitalizing on the events in Paris to further stoke anti-immigration fervor.
In a statement, the group said: “PEGIDA is cynically seeking to exploit the Paris attack. We reject that the memory of our friends is being exploited and dragged through the mud in this way.”