There’s been plenty of news in the ongoing correction campaign about Jens Söring. I’ll go point-by-point:
The Söring System Podcast
The final episode of the 8-part podcast “The Söring System” (g), entitled “Control”, was released yesterday. This episode focused on Söring’s media strategy after landing in Germany in late 2019. He planned it carefully, developing three “themes” which he wanted to establish: The “Romantic Hero” who sacrificed his future to protect his girlfriend, the “Resilient Survivor” who managed to make it through decades in prison, and the “Freedom Fighter” who never gave up fighting to have his innocence claims recognized, and is now calling attention to flaws in the American criminal justice system.
As the podcast shows, German media outlets eagerly took up these themes. Former Söring supporter Annabel H. also recounts her fear of Söring. Although he cultivates a peace-loving facade to the outside world, he is (still) capable of articulating graphic, bloody revenge fantasies, such as in a communication to the Söring Circle of Friends in which he raged that the entire staff of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, “from the janitor to the manager”, should be mowed down “with an AK-47”.
The podcast currently has a 4.1 rating on Apple podcasts, which is surprisingly high in my view, since some Söring supporters are vigorously panning it. Some listeners also didn’t like the “gendering” of the language in the podcast (this gets into a complex dispute about gendered nouns in German). Overall, though, the response has been positive. Episodes of the podcast have been listened to or downloaded about half-a-million times according to rough calculations by industry insiders. An English version of the podcast will be released in the summer.
At the conclusion of the podcast, the makers noted that they asked every one of Söring’s prominent supporters to comment on the podcast and defend their actions and statements on Söring’s behalf, including Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger and Söring himself. All refused. Söring has not publicly acknowledged the podcast in any way. However, my sources confirm he has listened to at least some of it — very likely all of it — and is very upset indeed.
Interview with the Podcast Producers
The producers of the podcast, Dr. Alice Brauner and Johanna Behre, gave an hour-long interview (g) to the nationwide German public-radio network Deutschlandfunk Kultur about the background to the podcast: How Dr. Brauner became aware of the issue, what the early negotiations were like, and how the main protagonists — Annabel H., Terry Wright, and myself — got on board. The interview contained criticism of the German media landscape. Although the producers stated they were not out to “attack” the German media, they believed that many German journalists were far too uncritical in adopting and broadcasting Söring’s claims. Again, they point out that they gave every single prominent supporter of Söring in the USA and in Germany an opportunity to defend their work, and every one refused.
In a text accompanying the interview, DLF Kultur writes:
The media allowed themselves to be deceived for quite some time, Alice Brauner and Johanna Behre say. Söring’s story ultimately offered many points with which people could identify: the tale of the “nerd from a nice middle-class home” smacks of David and Goliath, “one man against the system.” Many media outlets allowed themselves to be persuaded and, they claim, greeted Söring with open arms.
Further, Söring has prominent supporters such as the bestselling writer John Grisham or the actor Martin Sheen. This led, say Brauner and Behre, to a situation in which “everyone reassured and convinced one another” [that Söring’s claims were true]. It is indeed the case that Söring’s story was received uncritically in the German media.
There’s an important shift in the last sentence of this excerpt. Until that sentence, the piece is written in what’s called “indirekte Rede“, usually translated as “reported speech”. This means that until the last sentence, the excerpt is only providing summary of what Brauner and Behre were saying, not what the author him or herself said. The last sentence, however, switches to normal, direct speech: The author of the article is confirming that it is indeed true that Söring’s story was never critiqued in the German media (until quite recently). Of course this is something we all know to be true, but it’s important to see DLF Kultur coming straight out and saying this.
The appearance of this interview on this nationwide public-radio network is significant: The channel had earlier broadcast several interviews (g) and other (g) pieces on Söring which never mentioned criticism of his innocence claims. One primary theme of Söring’s critics has been his repeated appearances on German public radio and television programs. These shows are financed by a license fee, so every adult in Germany finances them to some extent. Söring skeptics found it especially dismaying that they were indirectly financing presentations in which Söring was permitted to circulate falsehoods and defamation. The decision by DLF Kultur to give a fair hearing to the other side can be seen as an attempt to balance out its coverage. That’s progress.
Söring’s Latest Appearances
Söring’s latest significant public appearance (other than his talks at a wine bar in Kiel, Germany, whose owners seem quite taken with him) was a “salon conversation” in the restaurant Meyers Keller (Meyer’s Cellar) in Nördlingen, Germany. The restaurant is run by a famous Michelin-decorated chef, Jockl Kaiser. Guests were treated to a four-course gourmet meal and Söring’s wisdom. Tickets cost €120. Approximately 3-4 out of a total contingent of 55 were sold. As is customary with Söring, the talk was devoted primarily to his innocence story, even though most audiences are more interested in his life in prison and his readjustment to German society.
A local reporter, Peter Urban, served as moderator and later composed a glowing write-up for a local newspaper:
One typical passage reads: “Even before the salon conversation, the author of seven books, who has lived in Germany for two years now, stated that no questions were off-limits, and, most importantly, no question would go unanswered. And so a dialog unfolded which often left hearers speechless: a tale of crime and punishment, lies, biased judges, suppressed evidence, and the horrible details of an American justice system which, from a German standpoint, appears inhuman in most respects.“
Söring could have written this himself. People have complained to the journalist and to the paper about the biased formulations in the article, but, like most people who have decided to actively propagate Söring’s alternative history, they refuse to defend their work.
By now, there is so much accurate information about Söring’s innocence claims that people (hat-tip JT) are complaining in advance when venues invite him to speak. And that’s working. The “Health and Sport Weeks” in the quaint South German towns of Sindelfingen and Böblingen had invited Söring to give his standard speech there on 8 April. However, readers complained, noting that Söring is a double-murderer and would inevitably deliver his standard misleading innocence narrative. The event organizers decided to drop him (g).
So there’s the update. Much has happened since the podcast launched, and now the it’s out there, on every platform, and will never go away. Any German-speaking journalist who wishes to hear the inside truth about Söring’s innocence claims can do so now. If there ever were any excuse to allow Söring to present his innocence claims without critical questioning, there’s certainly none now. The record stands corrected, once and for all.