Not my headline or my choice of image: A request for apology and retraction from Die Zeit

Brief note for my German friends. Last week Die Zeit published an article of mine to which they appended an appalling sub-title, which I had not approved. In the larger scheme of things it is no big deal. Generally, I am not fussy about my editing, wording etc. But I draw the line when it comes to content and the content here is serious i.e. European security and the question of “rearmament”. Since the piece and its ghastly headline are out in the public realm, I wanted, without drawing further attention to the matter, to make clear that I do not endorse what Die Zeit added to the article. To this end I copy below an email I sent to the editors just now.

“I am sorry to have to write to you about an urgent and serious matter.

Yesterday I was dismayed to read my article online and to discover the subtitle that you had attached to it. “Von den Amerikanern alleinegelassen, muessen die Europaer aufruesten” (Abandoned by America, the Europeans must rearm). I would not have agreed to this sub-title if you had shown it to me ahead of publication. This is not what I think. Nor is this what the article says. Of course, you as editors have the right to choose titles and sub-titles. But to do so in a form that completely misrepresents your author is disconcerting to say the least.

As you know, the article is very deliberately couched in the conditional form. “If … then….”. What comes after the “then” is strictly conditional on what comes after the “If”. Since opinions legitimately differ about the security threats that Germany may or may not face, many options are open. My call was to think about them seriously and coherently. I did not advocate rearmament and certainly not in the imperative form that your sub-title suggests.

I am afraid that this is not a small matter. To have my name associated with an imperative call for rearmament misrepresents my position. I consider it damaging to my reputation.

I wrote to you yesterday expressing in no uncertain terms my dismay at what had happened. I hoped for a response. I have not heard from you since then. So I write to you today in a rather more formal fashion.

I insist that you remove the sub-title from the online version of the article as soon as is practical. If it is difficult to make a small editorial change, for whatever reason, I would ask that you remove the article altogether from your website.

I would also consider it no more than a professional courtesy for you to publish in the next paper issue of Die Zeit an apology along the following lines:
“In the last issue of our paper the editors of Die Zeit added to an essay by Adam Tooze the sub-title “Europa muss aufruesten”. These words were not agreed with Professor Tooze. They do not represent his opinion. Nor do they represent a reasonable interpretation of his article. We apologize for misleading our readers and misrepresenting our author.”

I am sorry to have to write to you in these terms. I have always held Die Zeit in the highest regard. But what has happened here is unacceptable. I am copying into this email xxxxxxx of Wylie Agency who represent my interest and handle my legal affairs.

I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience.”

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