(By Ray D.)
Last November, former German Ambassador to the United States Juergen Chrobog visited Washington, DC and held a small discussion and lecture. Yesterday, Germany's current Ambassador to the UN in New York, Dr. Guenter Pleuger, also visited Washington and held a lecture before a modest audience (25 to 30 people) at Georgetown University. I attended both meetings, and asked both men about the problem of anti-Americanism in German media. In the case of Ambassador Pleuger, I specifically showed him the infamous IG Metall cover that depicts Americans as bloodsuckers and also mentioned Stern's series on US History that states that Americans could care less about the rest of humanity.
In both cases I received a remarkably similar response, which can be summarized as follows:
- Anti-Americanism in German media is "not a problem." Ambassador Pleuger failed to condemn the IG Metall caricature and told me to not take it so personally. He told me that the cases I mentioned were just two cases and strongly attempted to downplay the situation. Apparently it didn't bother him that Germany's largest trade union was vilifying Americans as blood-sucking parasites.
- The media are the media and boys will be boys. In other words, it is not the responsibility or prerogative of German politicians to speak out or ever take a moral stand against defamation, racism and hate-mongering, especially when directed against Americans. (We have to point out that Westerwelle and the FDP are exceptions here.) Former Ambassador Chrobog actually implied that my criticism of German media made me like the "Russians" because the "Russians" apparently wanted to shut up critical German media and deny them freedom of speech. I made it clear that we at Medienkritik were not like the "Russians" in this respect and that honest criticism of media was not at all inconsistent with democratic principles.
- The US media is also bad and that somehow lessens the German media's failure. Ambassador Pleuger mentioned that the NY Post called Schroeder and Fischer "weasels." Mr. Chrobog told me that the US media was not interested enough in Germany or other countries (which may be true). Still, I wonder how failure in US media justifies chronic bias in German media. I also wonder how calling politicians "weasels" is comparable to stating that Americans don't care about the rest of humanity or that Americans are bloodsuckers.
When I asked about anti-Americanism in German media, both diplomats were noticeably uncomfortable, and in Chrobog's case, downright combative. Ambassador Pleuger struck me as a friendly, good-natured man, but his long lecture and even longer answers to questions literally put the man sitting next to me to sleep (and he snored quite loudly for about a minute) and left the room half empty by the time he had finished answering questions. (That may explain why he is at the UN.) On a funny note, Pleuger continually refered to George H. W. Bush as "father Bush." On the other hand, his unwillingness to condemn the IG Metall cover was downright disturbing. (I even passed a copy of the magazine up to him and he barely looked at it.)
Article Title Page: "The Plunderers are Here"
Anyway, I did not want to report on this sooner because, as many of you know, Chrobog was kidnapped in Yemen not long after he visited Washington and I didn't want to make any critical remarks about him while he was in danger. Still, I think it is vital that people understand the mindset of top German officials, particularly top diplomats. Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that Pleuger and Chrobog's attitudes are highly representative of their fellow colleagues and employees in the German Foreign Ministry. They are highly critical of American conservatives yet condone and downplay the most egregious and troubling behavior in German media. Considering that, is it any wonder that bilateral relations aren't what they could be?