(By Ray D.)
Ms. Astrid Proll’s situation is a genuinely unfortunate one. According to SPIEGEL ONLINE, Ms. Proll maintained only "peripheral" connections to the hard-left German terror group RAF (Red Army Fraction) and spent five years in prison for bank robbery and forgery in the 1970s and 80s. Today the 57 year-old photojournalist leads a quiet, law-abiding life. But because of her checkered past, she recently ran into trouble attempting to attain a US visa to visit her dying mother in San Francisco. This past week, Ms. Proll's visa problem made it impossible for her to attend her mother’s funeral in the United States. It would appear that the ex-terror figure is the victim of an overstretched bureaucracy, something that most of us, even those of us with no terrorist past or prison record, have experienced to one degree or another at some point in our lives.
The story is certainly sad and represents a personal tragedy. But why is an ex-terrorist's immigration problem deserving of a front-page news article on SPIEGEL ONLINE's home page? Is Ms. Proll’s story more newsworthy than, say, atrocities in Chechnya or human rights abuses in China? One could argue that Ms. Proll’s history as a member of the hard-left and her current work in journalism make her one of the family in the German media. Perhaps that explains the special treatment. Just look at what the UK's Observer had to say about Ms. Proll and the German media in 2002:
"Thirty years ago she was one of the most feared terrorists in Europe, joining her Red Army Faction (RAF) comrades in bombing raids and murderous attacks on establishment figures, terrorising Germany throughout the Seventies. (...)
Many more of Proll's former comrades committed suicide or are still in prison. But others on the periphery of those tumultuous times - the lawyers who defended them and those who contributed to the cause as street fighters, including the Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer - sit in the German cabinet, while other so-called 68ers form the backbone of the judicial system and the media." (emphasis ours)
One of Europe's most feared terrorists? But I thought she was only a "peripheral" figure...I guess SPON isn't telling us the entire story...so what else is new...
But the story itself is only the half of it...It is the headline that truly reveals both the deep and ugly anti-American resentments seething just beneath the surface at SPIEGEL ONLINE:
AMERICA’S NEW ENEMIES
Why a German can’t travel in the USA
Instead of depicting Ms. Proll as the unfortunate victim
of an unresponsive and overburdened bureaucracy in the midst of a
dramatic and sweeping overhaul, SPON has once again chosen to lash
out at the United
States by declaring Ms. Proll and others like her to be “America's new
enemies.” Clearly, the headline also has a dark
nationalist twist: Note how the headline refers not to “Ms. Proll” but to “a German” as if the ex-terrorist were just an average person.
This gives the headline a distinctly generic, national character combined with the
words “enemies” and “America.” If one reads only the headline, one might easily get the false impression that “America” has declared an entire group of
SPON's attempt to propagate the notion that the USA would intentionally declare innocent people "enemies" out of spite and intentionally seek to punish such imaginary "enemies" by denying them visas is shameful, false and disingenuous. The new security organizations and bureaucracies emerging post 9-11 are simply struggling to separate the real terrorist threats from normal people in a new age where terrorists often intentionally seek to blend-in or disguise themselves as members of the general populace. And yes, as most large bureaucracies tend to do, America’s immigration authorities have made glaring mistakes and embarrassing blunders along the way. Just ask Ted Kennedy. If it can happen to a US Senator, it can happen to anyone, especially someone who is a convicted felon with past terror ties. That doesn’t mean that Mr. Kennedy or Ms. Proll are now suddenly “enemies” of the United States. Obviously, such bureaucratic blunders and hang-ups are not intentional nor are they malicious as the word “enemies” would suggest.
So why does SPON use a headline containing the words “America's new enemies” and “German?” After all, if every government suddenly decided to brand every innocent victim of its incompetent, overworked bureaucrats and immigration officials’ “enemies,” than Germany would have an enemies list long enough to stretch from Berlin to the moon and back.
The answer is simple: This is populist, nationalistic pandering at its worst. It is designed to satiate the enormous appetite of Germany’s hard left for anti-American news. SPIEGEL ONLINE ought to be ashamed of this headline, but don’t expect them to change or show the slightest remorse any time soon. As Jeff Gedmin reported in his brilliant article, “Mad About Us” earlier this year, SPIEGEL staff have openly admitted that they exploit anti-Americanism to “please their millions of readers.” If pleasing your readers means taking advantage of a personal tragedy, stirring up hatred and damaging transatlantic relations, well, than SPIEGEL ONLINE is entirely prepared to do just that...