(By Ray D.)
However, a recent photo gallery entitled "USA: The Divided Land" is so heavily filled with such utterly typical and demeaning stereotypes of Americans that it needs to be openly displayed and discussed. Here now, is the entire gallery with English translations of the Stern captions beneath each entry:
Page 1: Gun-totting Southerner: (Definitely Evil)
Highly Armed vs. Disarming: "I was born in Arkansas, in probably the hardest region of the state. I've always had to do with weapons. I personally own 75 guns." ---Darylle Wagnon, owner of a gun store, Ada, Oklahoma
Page 2: Oppressed Prison Inmate (Good) vs. Conservative Florida Retiree (Evil)
Black: "The USA is a pretty rotten country viewed from in here." ---Charlez Ezeb, serving life in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana
White: "If you forget about the liberal crazies on the east and west coasts, we live in a really nice country." ---Ronald Wilhelm, President of the lawn bowling club, Sun City, Florida
Page 3: Heroic Left-wing Political Activist (Very Good) vs. Midwestern Farmer (Evil)
Involved: "If you stay at home during the election, nothing will change. Our votes are the ones that count." ---Kelley Simone, activist for the Democrats, New Orleans, Louisiana
Self-Satisfied: "The USA is great. A super country, no one can argue with that." ---Herald Eilderts, farmer, participant in the three-day "Great Iowa Tractor Ride" Sigourney, Iowa
Page 4: Toiling Immigrant Underclass (Good) vs. Affluent Suburbanites (Evil)
Proletarian: "Our job is damned dangerous. We won't get rich doing it. But as Latinos without a good education we have no other choice." ---Carlos Valles, Arturo Martinez, Junior Martinez and Jesus de Leon, workers on an oilfield, Andrews, Texas
Bourgeoisie: "I have always lived in one of the clean suburbs. In the USA everyone has the same chances." ---Mike Musial with wife Joellyn and son Joseph, systems analyst, Saint Charles, Illinois
Page 5: Anarchist Vagabonds (Good) vs. Right-wing Texans (Absolutely Evil)
Left: "In 20 years we will have class struggle here. I hope the Proletariat runs the Bourgeoisie out." ---Snail Trail and USNEA with Savage, Vagabonds from Los Angeles, Garbeville, California
Right: "9/11 opened our eyes. We had to hit back. Since then I think, hey, the guy next to me could be a terrorist." ---Michael Nouel with Suzzy Q and Charity, Mary Nouel with Mary Jane, keepers of a highway rest stop, Iowa Park Rest Stop, Texas
Page 6: Open-Minded Democrat (Very Good) vs. Conservative Cowboy (Super Evil)
Democrat: "I am totally against Bush. We had our own terrorists in Oklahoma. One can not always make foreigners responsible for that which happens here." ---Mary Nishioka, Vice President of Celco Insurance fly-fishing on vacation, Newberry Crater Lake, Oregon
Republican: "The good thing about 9/11 is, that more people are voting Republican. Being Republican means being more free." ---Asa Stothart, horseshoe smith, cowboy, Pinedale, Wyoming
Page 7: Ditsy Blonde (Looks Good) vs. US Military (Looks Good - But Evil)
Fatalist: "Why worry, life is short." ---Aubrie Lemon, model, bartender, Daytona Beach, Florida
Actionist: "It is my duty as a soldier to fight for this country to make it safer and better." ---Sergeant Theresa Mazluf, Marine trainer, Parris Island, South Carolina
Page 8: Retired Southerners with Boeing 727 in Yard (Must Be Evil)
Cynical vs. Romantic: "As long as there is war, the economy goes uphill." ---Joe Ann and Arthur Pogue Sr., retirees on their Boeing 727 in their garden, Benoit, Mississippi
Page 9: Devout Christian (Primitive and Evil)
Devoted to God vs. Enlightened: "I believe the USA is on the way down. The decline of morals is bad. God is disappearing from daily life. Now the devil is ruling. But Jesus will come again. Then peace will come." ---Thomas Ingrassia, retiree, Grand Isle, Louisiana
Page 10: Modern, Enlightened Bush Opponent (America's Great Hope - Very Good)
Critical vs. Trusting: "I believe that we are too arrogant, we only think of ourselves. If President Bush stays, he will ruin our country." ---Tatiana Janzen, accountant, Denver, Colorado
There you have it ladies and gentleman: America as Stern would like Germans to see it. The characters presented here truly represent the most black-and-white American caricatures imaginable. To me, these people are not representative of average Americans, but of typical German stereotypes of average Americans. In fact, most Americans are critical of both Bush and his opponents and see issues from many different angles. Most Americans are not as primitive or one-dimensional as many of the people in the gallery seem to be.
This is yet another sad disservice to German society on the part of the German media. It serves to widen the divide of understanding between Germans and Americans, not to close it. It serves to more deeply ingrain the dim-witted, anti-American stereotypes prevalent in German society, not to dispel them.
Just imagine what the reaction in Germany would be if a major American magazine published a photo gallery of Germans with these sorts of one-sided, stereotypical caricatures. If the uproar over Rumsfeld's harmless "old Europe" quip is any indicator, it would be the source of enormous outrage throughout Germany for months on end. Yet the German media bashes the United States in this manner on a daily basis. Sad but true.
(Note: Just to be very clear, the (ironic) comments directly following each red page number are from Davids Medienkritik and are intended to reflect the way we think Stern really views the pictures. The translated captions beneath each page are directly from the original Stern gallery.)
Update: We just received an outstanding comment from Jenny. Jenny believes that the images "aren't anti-American, per se, but they are extremely anti-Conservative." She has a number of highly interesting thoughts about this post that I found very worthwhile, so I've added her comment to the end of the post. To read it all, just click the link below:
Comment left by Jenny:
"The pictures aren't anti-American, per se, but they are extremely anti-Conservative. In the case of images and/or comments depicting the Southerners and "religious Conservatives," the majority show the extreme edges of the stereotype - or, more accurately, stereotypes carried to the point of caricature. On the other hand, almost all of the images and/or comments from the Liberal side of the spectrum show moderate examples of the stereotype - or rather the stereotypical image of how the Liberals see themselves. The point of the contrast between the two sets of pictures is to show the ignorant, intolerant, war-mongering cluelessness of the slobbering in-breds that voted for Bush (or that think America is a pretty great place.) The reason we find this so irritating is that, while few Americans are witless enough to believe everyone in Germany is either a Nazi or wearing Lederhosen, most Germans unquestioningly believe these images accurately portray Conservative Americans. Beyond that, the point of showing such extremes is to effectively discount and discredit Conservative values, arguments and ideology - because, clearly, such self-absorbed imbeciles are not to be taken seriously. Finally, we tend to view this as anti-American because we recognize that Germans (and the rest of the Europeans) don't technically think of the left as American (which is not entirely unfair as the left doesn't much, either,) but rather as enlightened global citizens such as themselves who are being held hostage by the nutters on the right - so when they sneer about America, they are sneering about the Conservatives - and vice versa.
I personally find the pictures offensive. I'm a staunch Republican and a reasonably far-right Conservative. I am well-educated (I'm currently working toward my PhD in history.) I have lived in Europe (England,) I am married to a German and have traveled extensively - so I am fairly Euro-aware. I don't attend church regularly, but I far prefer the company of those who do to those who adhere to fundamentalist secularism. Other than living in a suburb, I don't really conform, however mildly, to any of the above stereotypes - nor do any of the Conservatives I know (and I live in Texas, capitol of Jesusland, so I know a LOT of Conservatives.) A few years ago I found this sort of bias tiresome. Nowadays I find it small minded, intellectually lazy and infuriatingly offensive – particularly as it’s so common and so widely believed.
My husband is constantly astonished at what sort of nonsense his parents and brothers stubbornly (dare I say, religiously) believe about America. He says they get bombarded with this crap in the media and rarely if ever see realistic portrayals of America or Americans. It drives him batty hearing how America’s media “controls’ information so we don’t know the “truth.” He keeps trying to explain about pots calling kettles black, but it doesn’t seem to be getting through. It has gotten to the point that I almost dread going to Germany every summer because I know I’m going to have to listen to people endlessly pontificate about the abject stupidity and insidious evil of America – and for the sake of family harmony, I can’t smack the shit out of anybody, however fervently I desire to.
In the end, we get angry about such stereotypes because they aren’t stereotypes, they’re caricatures and, in any case, aren’t presented as stereotypes, but as simple, straightforward pictures of who we are. If I called you a Nazi every time I disagreed with you (and really, truly believed that was what you were,) and constantly referred to the Germans as Nazis, dismissively and as though it were a simple, well-known and generally accepted fact (I mean, well, gosh, look at WWII, etc...,) you would be furious with me – and justifiably so. Well, that’s generally how we feel when we see this stuff again and again and again and again …"