„Weltspiegel“ is a tv magazine on ARD, the foremost German public TV channel. ARD’s foreign correspondents report on international topics of potential interest to German viewers.
Coverage of the USA, especially of U.S. Administration politics, adheres to the highest journalistic standards. It’s objective, considered, and concerned with factual information.
“Weltspiegel”’s reports from the USA are marked by an overwhelmingly arrogant, critical, know-it-all posture of moral superiority that’s become routine for the German left since the Vietnam war. Pro-Bush Americans appear on “Weltspiegel” as naïve jerks who are paid tribute only if they turn critical of the war in Iraq. On the other hand, leftist Bush critics constantly get complaisant opportunities to present their positions.
The U.S. Administration’s Iraq strategy is of course – we’re talking about German public TV here after all – declared a failure. The morale of U.S. soldiers in Iraq (and their loved ones in the USA) is allegedly sinking to never before seen lows, and naturally the U.S. Administration lied to the whole world about WMDs in Iraq. „Weltspiegel“’s reports aren’t silent about how „terror hysteria“ is increasingly endangering the foundations of civil society in the USA either. The hopeless plight of the “poor” in America – a favorite target group for coverage in the German media – is bemoaned to the point of tears.
Since German media employees can’t manage to explain for the life of them how an administration could get re-elected in the face of such horrific scenarios, TV viewers are plied with dire theories about elections stolen by Bush kool-aid drinkers. It probably merits no special mention that, for “Weltspiegel”, the death penalty in the USA is the result of the kind of totally out of control justice system imaginable only under a dictatorship. (We’ll present some typical passages from “Weltspiegel” reports at the conclusion of this text.)
To be fair, it has to be conceded that not all of “Weltspiegel”’s reports occupy themselves with criticizing the Bush Administration or the war in Iraq. Occasionally such typical American happenings as trappers auctioning off single women in Alaska, cosmetic surgery as a Christmas gift, holiday wish lists for Hollywood’s four-legged friends, or a Rodeo competition in prison are presented. This stuff nourishes the deeply rooted certainty, held for generations among Germans, that America is the home of comical people and bizarre goings-on.
“Weltspiegel” – The reality of US coverage in the German media. Their job is to communicate a caricature of conditions in the USA. (Translation by Richard Bartholomew)
Crumbling Homefront / May 18, 2003
One of the largest companies, Swiss chocolate manufacturer Nestle, has closed the factory with a more than 100-year tradition of producing sweets. (...) 8% unemployment here in the state of New York, 6% in the country as a whole – it will take Americans quite a while to become re-accustomed to these kinds of figures and misfortunes (...)
Against the backdrop of war, the President now issues almost daily proclamations about how to help the ailing economy. His doctrine and secret weapon: comprehensive tax cuts. The idea is for Americans to be able to buy more, since more consumption means more jobs. But critics of all political persuasions say the billion-dollar tax cut program favors the rich, will make the budget deficit skyrocket, and will take several years to actually create jobs – too late for [the President’s] election campaign. (Translation by Laín Coubert)
Furlough on the Home Front / 11 July 2004
The townspeople of Killeen, Texas, are dispirited about the large number of their fellow citizens who are currently deployed on military duty in Iraq. This war is lasting longer than many had expected. And there is no end in sight. The soldiers families are suffering hardships. Until now, foreign duty was limited to six months duration. Calls to perseverance are ubiquitous in this military town in the heart of Texas. Of the 43000 troops originally stationed here, no more than 3000 remain.
Only specially selected service members are allowed to speak with us. And they all avoid talking about allegations of torture. (Translation by Paul Smith)
A population behind bars / September 14, 2003
...more than two million Americans are behind bars. (...) since stiffer drug laws were passed 30 years ago with minimum sentences similar to the penalties for kidnapping and murder. The number of prisoners has more than doubled since the stiffer penalties were introduced. (...) 650 new prisons have been built since then. Now opposition is growing. (...) Actor and director Tim Robbins says, “This is so dumb what we're doing, locking up drug addicts with violent criminals. Just dumb.” Actress Susan Sarandon says, “As a mother, I am horrified when children are taken away from you. That you’re in prison and you can’t see your children anymore. That just has to move you.”
The protests have never been as loud, yet the current government currently has priorities other than sentencing reform. (Translation by Jim Cohen)
Children in prisons: America's reality, as presented by WELTSPIEGEL.
The Broken Special Forces Soldier / March, 14, 2004
Tyrone Roper has shot 20 Iraqis. Now, the U.S. Special Forces soldier is himself struck down, one of the many who have not come to terms with the war in Iraq. While inspecting an enemy soldier he had just riddled with bullets, something happened that would change his life. The man was still alive.
Says Tyrone: “He didn’t cry, he just glared at me, full of hate. I saw how the life faded from his eyes. Then, it was gone, he just stared, his face still filled with hate.”
Since that day, death has been Tyrone’s constant companion. He cannot come to terms with having killed people, deserts, leaves his family, flees to Canada. Tyrone is an Indian, and looks for peace with his tribe. (...)
They taught me how to shoot, says Tyrone about his time in the U.S. Army, but didn’t prepare me for what war really is: death and misery, the horrible feeling of having power over the lives of other people. Now, at home, he hopes to find a way for himself back to life. (Translation by Joe Tamblyn)
Broken soldiers: America's reality, as presented by WELTSPIEGEL.
When there are no jobs / October 31, 2004
On the streets of New York, Gerald Baars is searching for the losers of America’s economic policy. Sadly, he finds them just too quickly. To have a job, and be able to live off of that wage alone, is hard. Pressure builds from the top down. Unemployed college graduates replace clerical employees, they in turn replace sales people. Their only option is a cleaning job; a downward spiral. On Roosevelt Boulevard in Queens, you can see day-laborers - every day – standing in line, hoping for a job as a truck driver or a construction helper. Minimal wages are the rule, therefore one job is usually not enough. And the ones at the bottom – they collect empty cans off the streets. At least you get 5 cents for each one. (Translation by Heike Reagan)
Jobless, hopeless: America's reality, as presented by WELTSPIEGEL.
USA: The Turning Away of the Bush Loyalists / 1 August 2004
Washington correspondent Patricia Schlesinger has travelled through the USA to ask Americans how they feel about the upcoming Presidential election. Former Bush supporters told her that it was foremost the Iraq policy of their President that turned them into Bush opponents. She met soldiers who had volunteered to go to Iraq and then on duty in Baghdad began to doubt their government. (...)
The next stop on our journey is Atlanta, in the state of Georgia. We have an appointment with a former Presidentt of the USA, with Jimmy Carter. We want to hear his opinion of the war in Iraq. In response he does something unusual for a former President: he sharply criticizes the incumbent. "How do you see the situation im Iraq?", we ask.
"America under George W. Bush has made serious mistakes", said the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
"This war is one of them. It was unnecessary and its justification was based on false premises. That could either be the wrong interpretation of intelligence data or in some cases a falsification of the facts. The American voters will make their judgement about that in November. They will primarily be voting about this war."
In Washington we end our journey. There, where America has erected grat monuments to its presidents. The country stands for a peaceful, democratic world, that is its legacy. But the war in Irag has plunged America into self-doubt. (Translation by Scott Hanson. Scott's blog: PapaScott)
The Big Why? / May 9th, 2004
For over a week a small town in Maryland has been fighting a dubious reputation: Home to torturers (Lynndie England). Welcome to Cresaptown, home of the 372nd Military Police Company. The base is closed to reporters. The citizens of Cresaptown keep asking themselves the same question: what was
going on in the heads of our soldiers? Why did they do it? (…) many experts believe that the soldiers were a part of the intelligence services’ interrogation system. Tim Brown, a military expert with Global Security says, “After 9/11 the intelligence services were told, ‘We want results, at any cost’. They completely changed their way of doing business, with the express authorization of the White House and the National Security Council. They were supposed to get the job done." (...)
This behavior isn’t un-American. There are always mistreatments of prisoners in civilian jails - and that across the entire country.” (Translation by Hartmut Lau)
Torture: America's reality, as presented by WELTSPIEGEL.
Soldiers’ Families Accuse – the Victims of the Iraq War / November 16th, 2003
Elaine lost her only son, Darious in a war she did not want, in a country she does not know, for reasons she does not understand. Darius only lived to be 22 years old. He was on his way home when his helicopter was shot down. His mother Elaine is still looking for meaning in her child’s death.
Since then her frustration and mourning has turned into anger. “They sent my son there although they didn’t have a plan. And they still don’t have a plan. I want some answers about why my son had to die for nothing.” Anti-war sentiment is growing in the small town of Orangeburg, South Carolina. Two thirds of its population of 14,000 is black. Most of them join the military because it offers college money or an easier path to a job. The students at Wilkinson High School mourn Vorn, Anthony und Darius. …
The mood has changed now, says the principal. Eight of our students wanted to join the military. Now it’s only two.” (Translation by Hartmut Lau)
Your Christmas present: plastic surgery / November 28, 2004
Americans get silicone injected into their feet. This makes great little pads, so you can walk better in high heels. That’s normal. Nobody frowns upon it. Nobody can frown anymore anyway. A lot of facial nerves are paralyzed by Botox. Liposuction during your lunch break. How far will the U.S. take their plastic surgery delusion? (Translation by Heike Reagan)
Plastic surgery delusions: America's reality, as presented by WELTSPIEGEL.
Rescue from death row / April 17, 2005
Acquittal or death penalty – in the U.S., this judgment is a game of luck. If you can’t afford a good lawyer you might end up on death row. … More than 100 people have been wrongly sentenced to death, later they were acquitted.
Nobody knows how many innocents have been executed. Seeking revenge can blind you – blind you to justice. (Translation by Heike Reagan)
Blind justice: America's reality, as presented by WELTSPIEGEL.
Election Fairness? / October 17, 2004
After the ballot-counting debacle in Florida in 2000, the current US presidential elections are also suspected of being manipulated. This time ballots are supposed to be processed by computerized systems that do not print receipts. They are manufactured by a known Bush supporter. In Bush-ruled Florida many supposed ex-felons, most of them black, have been striken from the voter registers. They traditionally vote for the Democrats. Washington correspondent Thomas Berbner investigates the question: Is there fairness? (This is followed by a pack of claims that the impending election could be rigged.) Even today many Americans believe the country is not governed by a legally elected president. The US has still not completely recovered from the constitutional crisis that followed the last election. For many then, not only was the election lost, but also the belief in democracy. (Translation by Paul Smith)
Manipulated elections: America's reality, as presented by WELTSPIEGEL.