Syrian ‘Resistance’ hero
The piece that brought him his latest (and probably the last) journalist award delved into a much more high-profile and much more politicized topic – the Syrian crisis. The article centers around the plight of a Syrian teenager living in the city of Deraa, who stood against the Syrian President Bashar Assad, using graffiti as a tool to express himself.
Written in summer 2018, when the city was still at the hands of the militants, the piece calls Deraa the last “resistance” stronghold and the start of the Syrian conflict a “revolution” while the teenager himself is described as “Syria’s liberator” and a “legend” to “thousands.” Now, Der Spiegel has to embarrassingly admit that this story that so vividly depicted the rebels’ selfless fight against their supposed oppressors was mostly fabricated and many details described in the articles were just made up by the author.
Children ‘orphaned’ by Assad
Another report Relotius dedicated to the dire plight of Syrians tells the readers about a heartbreaking story of two Syrian siblings. “They had lost everything – their parents, their house and their country” at the hands of “dictator” Assad and his soldiers, the article says, inconspicuously interweaving the two orphans’ personal story with that of the battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo.
The piece also puts the blame for the tragedy of the Aleppo residents almost entirely on the Assad government and the Syrian Army, missing on the many extremists, who kept the city hostage.
Death threats over joke
Sometimes, the journalist also entertained his readers with the reports from a little bit more exotic corners of Earth. One particularly eyebrow-raising story recounts a haunting experience of a Scotsman, who was mercilessly chased and almost killed by the people of an entire country – Kyrgyzstan – just for a low joke about their food.
Trump’s ‘border hunters’
Notably, Relotious also often wrote about the US but apparently could not stay unbiased here as well. One of his latest pieces, which became a starting point of Spiegel’s investigation against him, used made up details to play to the popular anti-Trump angle in the complicated situation on the US-Mexico border. It tells the readers about a group of self-styled “border hunters” militia.
Its somewhat unlikeable members praise President Donald Trump and viciously hate all illegals seeking to come to the US. One of the supposed group members, who goes in the story by the imposing alias ‘Pain’, says “he wants to kick the devils, who are running into America, out just like Donald Trump.
This man, however, turned out to be nothing but a phantom born in the fraudster’s inventive mind as the story turned out to be made up as well. Now, Der Spiegel has announced it established a special commission to investigate all Relotius’ works and develop recommendations to help it improve its control mechanisms.
However, it also admitted that “even with the sincerest of intentions, it is impossible to fully rule out” such incidents in the future as their causes lie in “human frailty” and journalists are just as “fallible” as any other people. So what made it so difficult for Der Spiegel and other reputable media outlets to see that Relotius was a fraudster?
Maybe, he just was that good at delivering the German media what they themselves craved for so much. His pieces seem to be a blend of heartbreaking personal stories perfectly fitted into the ‘liberal’ narrative touted by the Western media. An ideal deception.