In the Telegraph on Wednesday, filed under their weird news section, was the story of an Austrian gentleman who apparently won the right to have a picture of him with a colander on his head on his driving licence.
Niko Alm announced the decision on his blog saying that after three years of struggle a psychologist had passed him fit drive and so he could wear the kitchen implement for the official picture.
A self-styled “pastafarian”, Mr Alm said he belonged to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which lampooned religion. “Today I was able to get my new driving licence, and in it you can clearly see that I’m wearing a colander on my head to demonstrate my allegiance to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” Mr Alm wrote in his blog.
“My headwear has now been recognised by the Republic of Austria.”
On the face of it this is one of those stories that shows up equality legislation for the farce that it is and allows the British to indulge in one of their favourite pastimes, viz mocking Johnny Foreigner… and indeed the comments below the line are generally quite funny.
Sadly, and as to be expected, the true story is apparently slightly different. According to religion.orf.at (German language; quote below a product Google Translate):
“This photo was not approved for religious reasons,” says Manfred Reinthaler, spokesman for the Vienna Police Department, in an interview with religion.ORF.at. “With photographs of the license is the only criterion is that the entire face must be recognizable.” Indeed, in the driver’s license law implementation regulation is no mention of those criteria apply as for the European passport. There is indeed an exception that reads: “The wearing of headwear is permitted only for medical or religious reasons.” When you license it says in the photo only, “a photograph, with a height of 36-45 mm and a width 28-35 mm, the head must be mapped and completely recognizable.”
The strainer on the driver’s license photo was only approved because there is no part of Alms face obscured. Even the rumored three-year waiting period is, according to the Vienna Police Department is not correct. “The license is completed since October 2009. He was not only picked up, “says Reinthaler.
The Telegraph though was not alone in running this without apparently checking. A quick bit of googling reveals that the story ran in the Mail, the Sun, the BBC and plenty of other news organisations in many countries.
Copy and paste journalism is, it seems, a global disease.