Phallic insult sparks German media feud

Mural mocking editor incenses new rival who wants to be taken seriously

No editor of Germany's right-wing, mass-circulation Bild newspaper could ever expect to be liked by the country's left-wing press. But what was mere mutual animosity has now erupted into an embarrassing and vitriolic row over the size – believe it or not – of the Bild editor's penis.

The dispute concerns a massively exaggerated phallus attached to an image of Bild editor and bane of the left, Kai Diekmann. His altogether striking endowment features prominently in a huge satirical mural on the outside wall of the office of Berlin's alternative left-wing Die Tageszeitung (Taz) newspaper.

The mural, by the artist Peter Lenk, was put up months ago. It was the latest weapon in the Taz campaign to mock Bild, whose offices are just opposite, as well as Mr Diekmann, its flamboyant, hair-gelled, red-baiting 45-year-old editor.

Bild has a daily circulation of more than three million and offers its readers a mixture of sex, sport, crime and middle-of-the-road politics. Taz sells 65,000 a day and sees itself, in the tradition of 1968, as a bastion of the alternative left. It enjoys a reputation for poking fun at the German establishment. But the penis row now appears to have put that reputation at stake.

Four months ago, Taz appointed Ines Pohl, 42, a former anti-nuclear and women's rights activist, as its editor. Her brief was to return the paper to its left-wing roots after a much-criticised foray into more popular journalism.

Ms Pohl is not amused by the mural. "If I comply with Peter Lenk's wishes, then I will have to lock up my bike underneath this six-meter-long willy every morning for the next two years," she said. "What a miserable piece of provocation, how pathetic. I am simply fed up with this kind of inflated petit bourgeois male power-game nonsense. Take it down."

Unfortunately for Ms Pohl, not all the journalists at Taz agree with her. As the paper remains rooted in the alternative left principles of grassroots editorial democracy, a full meeting of all staff had to be called to discuss the issue. Half of them insisted the mural be kept and accused its detractors, such as Ms Pohl, of being "neo-petit-bourgeois aunties"; the rest wanted it taken down. Peter Lenk, the mural's creator, has since added weight to the "Keep the penis" campaign by pointing out that his contract says that the mural's early removal would result in Taz having to fork out €130,000 in compensation. "Ms Pohl wants to turn the Taz into a serious newspaper," Mr Lenk said. "But I am not serious."

Meanwhile, the mural's intended object of ridicule, Bild editor Kai Dieckmann, is enjoying a field day. Although he yesterday insisted to Der Spiegel magazine "It can't be me, Peter Lenk has expressly denied that it is," he has certainly made the most of the association. Instead of legal action, he has started a popular blog which runs headlines such as "The Naked and the Reds" and "How much cock should be allowed?" and lampoons the Taz journalists for being "humourless and inflexible".

His reluctance to sue the paper is understandable. In 2002, Taz wrote a satirical article which claimed Mr Diekmann had travelled to Miami for a penis extension which had backfired and turned him into a virtual eunuch. Mr Diekmann tried to sue Taz for defamation. But the court turned him down flat and the editor of Germany's biggest-selling newspaper was made to look distinctly petty.

Mr Diekmann has since switched tactics. He sells hotpants and handbags online, inscribed with mottos such as "I love KD" and "Sympathy for the devil". In a bid to end the row, he has suggested a "peace party" for Bild and Taz journalists, with Bild paying for the drinks. Taz has yet to respond to his invitation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test