|Company||TITANIC Verlag GmbH & Co. KG|
Titanic was founded in 1979 by former contributors and editors of Pardon, a satirical monthly, which the group had left after conflicts with its publisher. (Pardon ceased to exist three years later.) The founding writers and cartoonists of Titanic were mainly based in Frankfurt, and are therefore often called "New Frankfurt School", a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Frankfurt School in philosophy. The heading of Titanic's monthly reviews of humorous publications bears the portrait of philosopher Theodor W. Adorno wearing a fake goatee.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl was a favourite subject of the magazine, appearing on the front page more often than any other person. In the 1980s, Titanic coined his nickname "Birne", the German word for pear (accompanied with drawings of his head resembling a pear). One of Titanic's most widely known cover pages appeared in November 1989, following the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The East Germans' perceived obsession with bananas was spoofed by a Titanic cover depicting "Zonen-Gaby (17) in luck (FRG): My first banana", where Gaby is shown holding a large peeled cucumber. "Zone" refers to the GDR's informal name "sowjetische Besatzungszone" (soviet-occupied area). To make light of the prevailing public sentiment that strongly favoured German reunification, Titanic purported to oppose it. This culminated in the founding of the Titanic party Die PARTEI (The Party), whose sole agenda is to revoke reunification and to reconstruct the inner German border. In addition, Titanic changed its mission to "The ultimate division of Germany — our commitment".
Titanic staff members have frequently engaged in activities that took aim at the media and entertainment. For example, then editor-in-chief, Bernd Fritz, made an incognito appearance at the game show Wetten, dass..?, followed by his revelation of how easy it was for him to cheat on the show. In recent years, the magazine has repeatedly attracted attention, for example by taking the football world cup to Germany by bribing a FIFA delegate (see below).
Before the German federal election, 2005 Titanic was running a campaign against "das Merkel" ("das" being the neutral gender definite article) and was publicly searching for a female contender for chancellor with the slogan "Frau? Ja, aber schön" ("Woman? Yes, but beautiful").
Titanic has generated a number of scandals, some of which have resulted in lawsuits against the magazine. Up to 2001, 40 plaintiffs had brought lawsuits against Titanic. Politician Björn Engholm, for example, received 40,000 Deutsche Mark in compensation, and this, coupled with 190,000 DM in legal fees, drove Titanic close to bankruptcy.
2006 FIFA World Cup bribery affair
In July 2000, Martin Sonneborn (then Titanic's editor-in-chief) sent hoax bribery faxes to a number of delegates of the FIFA World championship committee. In these letters, he offered the delegates gifts if they showed their support of the German bid for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Before this incident, it had been widely expected that the tournament would take place in South Africa. However, New Zealand's representative, Charlie Dempsey, who had been instructed to vote for South Africa by the Oceania Football Confederation, abstained from voting at the last minute. His vote for South Africa would have brought the tally to 12:12, resulting in FIFA's President Sepp Blatter—who had supported South Africa's bid—having to break the tie. Dempsey was one of the eight members of the executive committee who had received Sonneborn's fax on Wednesday, the night before the vote. In his letter to Dempsey, Sonneborn promised him a cuckoo clock and Black Forest ham in exchange for Dempsey's vote for Germany:
In this difficult situation, Germany would like to emphasize the urgency of its appeal to hold the World Cup 2006 in Germany.
Let me come straight to the point:
In appreciation of your support we would like to offer you a small gift for your vote in favor of Germany:
A fine basket with specialties from the black forest, including some really good sausages, ham and — hold on to your seat — a wonderful KuKuClock!
And a beer mug, too! Do we leave you any choice?
We trust in the wisdom of your decision tomorrow,
Martin Sonneborn(WM 2006 initiative)
Secretary TDES—Original text of the fax, sent by Titanic on July 5th, 2000
Dempsey himself famously stated "This final fax broke my neck." He argued that the pressure from all sides had become too much for him.
In July 2000, the biggest German tabloid BILD-Zeitung urged its readers to phone Titanic and express their outrage at damaging Germany's reputation through bribery. Titanic recorded those phone calls and published an audio CD with a selection of the funniest of them, called "BILD-Leser beschimpfen Titanic" ("BILD-readers insult Titanic"). One of the harshest was : "In einem Rechtsstaat gehören Menschen wie Sie in's KZ" ("In a constitutional state people like you belong in a concentration camp")
The German soccer association threatened Sonneborn with €300 million in damages, requiring him to swear never again to influence a FIFA decision. In November 2005, Sonneborn published a book about the affair, "Ich tat es für mein Land" — Wie TITANIC einmal die Fußball-WM 2006 nach Deutschland holte. Protokoll einer erfolgreichen Bestechung ("I did it for my country" — How TITANIC once brought the Football World Cup 2006 to Germany. Story of a successful bribery), Bombus Verlag, ISBN 3-936261-37-7.
In 2006, the year the world cup took place in Germany, Titanic arranged an exhibition called "Wie Titanic einmal die Fußball-WM 2006 nach Deutschland holte" ("How Titanic once brought the Football World Cup 2006 to Germany") in the Historical Museum of Frankfurt am Main, which displayed the events surrounding Titanic's bribery faxes.
- Academia Catavencu, a Romanian counterpart
- El Jueves, a Spanish counterpart
- Frank, a Canadian counterpart
- Le Canard enchaîné, a French counterpart
- Molla Nasraddin, an early 20th-century Azeri counterpart
- Moskovskaya Komsomolka, a Russian counterpart
- Noseweek,a South African counterpart
- Teacher's Diary
- The Clinic, a Chilean counterpart
- The Onion, a US counterpart
- The Phoenix, an Irish counterpart
- Private Eye, a British counterpart
- Eulenspiegel, a postwar German satirical magazine published from 1945–1950
- Titanic's imprint
- Fröhling, Wolf Amadeus (2007). Ick ooch: meine 20 Jahre DDR und die Folgen. Dosse. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-85109-628-2.
- BBC Sport: Call for World Cup revote. July 7, 2000.
- BBC News World Edition: Legal threat over World Cup prank. July 8, 2000.
- David Crossland. The Hoax That Brought the World Cup to Germany, Spiegel Online, 17 January 2006