(By Ray D.)
During Angela Merkel's visit to the United States, SPIEGEL ONLINE published an article on anti-Americanism by Reinhard Mohr that seemed to contradict the publication's largely negative approach to reporting on the United States. Here are a few excerpts:
"...But the litany of anti-Americanism that passes over the lips of Germans at parties as easily as the ordering of beer at the summer biergarten has something unpleasantly inexpensive, cheap and convenient about it. Not the least because it is filled with German and European self-righteousness. Their moralism all too often follows the structure of classical resentments and it is not coincidentally that anti-American attitudes connect lighting fast with anti-Semitic attitudes. This clearly expressed itself in some reactions to the terror attacks of 11 September 2001, in the conspiracy theories between "CIA," "Wall Street" and "Mossad." Not seldomly they unify into a compact, supposedly progressive worldview."
Duuuuuh. Haven't we been saying that here at Medienkritik for years now? Better late than never as they say. But wait, that isn't all: The "SPIEGEL Atlantic Forum" has been brought online to serve as a conducive echo chamber for leftist moonbats sounding-off across the Atlantic. The new forum's stated objectives include:
"To coincide with Chancellor Angela Merkel's first trip to the United States as the leader of Germany, SPIEGEL ONLINE is launching a new forum to explore the trans-Atlantic relationship. Each week, the forum will explore a different aspect of ties between the United States and Europe with interviews, essays and an interactive discussion."
On one hand, readers could interpret this token article and the new forum as the magazine's latest ephemeral attempt to atone for a long history of profound bias and America bashing. On the other hand, readers should recognize the magazine's sudden interest in improved transatlantic relations for the cynical, disingenuous hand-wringing and tokenism that it truly is. And, as much as we at Medienkritik would like to believe that SPIEGEL ONLINE has turned a new page when it comes to transatlantic relations, we cannot but assume that this is yet another feeble (and failed) attempt to appear objective.
But, hey, we aren't total pessimists. Instead of completely losing hope that any positive change will ever happen at SPIEGEL or elsewhere in the German media, we would like to make a few suggestions that would dramatically improve reporting on the United States in Germany. Here are a few ideas:
1. Conduct more interviews with people who are not vehement critics of the United States, George Bush and the Iraq War.
A major problem with SPIEGEL's coverage of the United States has been that past interviews with Americans and "America experts" have been conducted almost exclusively with individuals who lean to the left politically and are outspoken Bush critics and Iraq War opponents. Remarkably few interviews have been done with Bush supporters and conservatives to provide balance. In the rare cases that Bush supporters are actually interviewed, there is usually a critical, negative spin on the introduction.
2. When it comes to transatlantic issues, publish contrarian articles prominently and expose your readership to both sides of the debate frequently, even if they may complain. This means including the views of American conservatives more than once a year.
Articles published on the United States in German on SPIEGEL ONLINE are almost exclusively negative on Bush, negative on Iraq and negative on American society in general. The vast majority of The New York Times articles published on the site in English tend to follow the general trend. SPIEGEL must make an honest attempt to publish more articles in German that counter the monolithic negativity and challenge the majority view. Here are a few examples from the past that we need to see more of. Such articles must become more than the rare token piece published once in a blue moon or whenever the new Chancellor happens to be in Washington.
3. If you are willing to publish something on the United States in German, you should be just as willing to publish it in English, and vice versa. Don't try to engage in selective translation or two-faced pandering. Make sure your translations are accurate and complete.
4. Stop the stupid, simplistic, black-and-white stereotyping of Americans. If your article has anything to do with fast-food, guns, Bible-thumpers, fat people, cowboys or Rambo, take a moment and think about the hollow stereotypes you may be perpetuating.
5. Stop trying to convince your readers that Bush controls the US media and that conservatives have somehow intimidated everyone into fearful, cowering silence. This myth insults our collective intelligence.
6. Stop pandering to the lowest-common-denominator and cashing-in financially with sensationalist anti-American magazine covers. In other words, stop publishing covers that demean Americans in order to "please your million readers."
7. Stop referring to world leaders as vassals or poodles of the United States. This cheap polemic is beneath professional journalism. Stop implying American minorities who support Bush are his dogs or slaves. Stop the demeaning put-downs altogether.
8. Stop bashing the United States with populist baseball bat issues like Kyoto, the ICC and Guantanamo. Start educating your readers on the reasons behind America's positions on these issues and provide both sides of the debate.
The above list is by no means complete or comprehensive. These eight ideas are just a jumping off point. Hopefully, our readers will have a few more good suggestions in the comments section...
Endnote: For more, have a look at this piece for more on how we feel about the general situation.