THE UNDESIRABLE JOURNALIST by Gunter Wallraff

THE UNDESIRABLE JOURNALIST

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Tales of a radical West German journalist/infiltrator/agitator--tales that might, many of them, have come out of absurdist theater. Wallraff, posing as the emissary of a right-wing German cabal, wins the confidence of Portuguese terrorists employed, in 1976, to clear the way for a counter-revolutionary coup (""The rebel forces must not get their hands dirty in the eyes of public opinion""); sets up a meeting, in Germany, between Portuguese top-gun General Spinola and his own unidentified ""President""; and, in the course of carrying it off (a dignified friend plays the ""President""), establishes a link between the exiled, fascistic Spinola and Bavarian rightwinger Franz-Joseph Strauss. Next, he demonstrates--by posing as a prospective informer--that while the police will gladly accept, and even pay for, information on the student left, they don't want to hear about the radical right. Unethical? Wait. Wallraff's most sensational disclosure--that paramilitary units were being trained to maintain order at large industrial plants--resulted from his most flagrant deception, the pretense of being a government aide in-the-know. Tried for this admitted ""false impersonation,"" he was acquitted--on the ""subjective"" ground, as he puts it, that he was ignorant of the law; the Court could then disregard his ""objective"" contention that deception was necessary to get at the truth. But if there is a fallacy in this special-pleading, there is also much wisdom in his most striking--and in no wise devious--coup. In Bild, flagship of the Springer newspaper empire, there had appeared scornful stories about a hopelessly inept boss-for-a-day, a ""heartless"" runaway mother (and a Turkish worker), and ""the laziest boy in Germany,"" an apprentice who ostensibly flitted from job to job. These stories, Wallraff shows, were not only false and cruel, but deliberately contrived to propagate employer values. It's a chilling piece, the standout in this ten-year-collection. The last, though, is a howl--as Wallraff, playing a porter in a regal insurance company, attempts to be served in the directors' dining room. He can be faulted for self-deception (in a socialist bureaucracy, that prank would have cost him more than his job), but not for want of nerve or verve.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1979
Publisher: Overlook--dist. by Viking