The Bias of Emphasis

The Bias of Emphasis

How would you describe the night of November 9, 1938 in Germany?

Kristallnacht was a nationwide, government-sponsored,  pogrom or series of deadly attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions across the Third Reich (Germany and  Austria) on November 9–10, 1938.

That sentence hits the highlights. That the attacks were 1) sponsored by the government, 2) carefully coordinated and controlled, and 3) deadly.

None of these three key facts appears in the first sentence of the actual Wikipedia article, which reads “Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, also known as Reichskristallnacht, Pogromnacht, and Novemberpogrome, was a pogrom or series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on November 9–10, 1938.”

If you read the entire four paragraph lede, you will discover that the attacks were horrific and deadly, but you will not find an explicit statement that they were carefully planned, controlled and sponsored by the government.   Although that information does appear later in the article, it belongs in the first sentence of the lede.

Moreover, the first sentence reads “parts of Austira.”   While it is true that the pogrom was uneven in its brutality, the unevenness applies to Germany and Austria (then unified as a single nation under a single government) as a whole, i.e., the events in some towns were less violent than in others.  But Austrians equalled or exceeded Germans in their enthusiasm for Hitler and the Reich and  Kristallnacht was no less violent in Austrian than it was in German cities.   Far from making this clear, the article repeatedly refers to “Germany” subtly implying by omission that these vents took place in the lands that form modern Germany when, in fact, they took place in the Reich as a whole at a time when Austrians and Germans were united.

The article is seriously biased in its verbal concealment of Austrian Nazism.

There is also an article on  November 9, and it is problematic in its own way.   (Wikipedia has an article on every date, with a string of events each described in a single sentence, arranged in chronological order.)

November 9, 1938 ought to read more or less the way the first sentence of the article on Kristallnacht ought to read:

Kristallnacht was a nationwide, government-sponsored pogrom or series of deadly attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions across the Third Reich (Germany and Austria) on November 9–10, 1938.

Instead, the Wikipedia page November 9 reads  as though the most significant event that occurred on November 9, 1938 was the death of Ernst vom Rath:

Nazi German diplomat Ernst vom Rath dies from the fatal gunshot wounds of Jewish resistance fighter Herschel Grynszpan, an act which the Nazis used as an excuse to instigate the 1938 national pogrom, also known as Kristallnacht.

Bias on Wikipedia is often a matter of emphasis and omission.   And it is very troubling.

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