SPIEGEL and Stern: Global Economic Crisis = America's Fault
SPIEGEL ONLINE's decision to launch an English site a few years back has proven a double-edged sword. It can reach a wider audience - but - when it chooses to translate its German articles accurately - it can also be challenged on its hyper-simplified reporting on the United States.
Case in point: When SPIEGEL attempted to exploit the current economic crisis with another decidedly anti-American cover and feature article with all the usual anti-American clichés designed to pander to the magazine's predominantly anti-American German readership, English-language readers spoke out. The headline quickly changed from "America's arrogance" to "Is America Arrogant?" The encouraging side of this is that SPIEGEL ONLINE's English site was willing to publish the critical responses. Perhaps this is the beginning of some real dialog - (or perhaps we are hopeless optimists). Here is a sampling:
"Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,
I am not surprised by the America bashing in your magazine -- it is the European way. America is only good when you need us, and history has proven that you needed us very frequently. But you are dead wrong to count Americans out and to count capitalism out. Free markets and capitalism are the only road to prosperity.
I was having dinner with a friend last night and he brought his 26-year-old nephew to dinner with him. His nephew had just arrived from France to work here in the USA at a hedge fund. I asked him why come to America now with all this financial turmoil? His answer was that America still offered the best chance for prosperity. "France could never give me the financial opportunities that I can find here in America," he said.
Furthermore, if America is so down-and-out, why is an American education still the best in the world? Why is it that workers from France, Germany and Poland come here for a better future? Why don't they stay in Europe?
-- Michael Faustini , New York, USA
Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,
Rarely have I read such overwrought wishful thinking regarding the US. The US economy is challenged, yes, but I do believe the reports of our death are greatly overstated. We will continue to be the engine that drives most of the world's economy. If this is not the case, then why are world markets begging us to move quickly to fix our problem so that business as usual can continue overseas?
German bitterness over its relegation to a B-Team economy -- take a look at your tax system, loss of technology investment, perverse immigration system, etc. -- should yield the energy to improve, not point fingers. You don't like George Bush? Wait about 31 days and he'll be history. You think our system is based upon avarice and greed? Watch our Congress move against those who tried to over-leverage our markets. The bottom line is this: The current "crisis" is less a debacle than it is an opportunity to do what the US always does, namely step up and fix the problem.
-- Steve Kopper, Washington, DC"
On a final note: Let's hope whoever wins the upcoming election in the United States does not suffer from the illusion that the sort of harmful America-bashing exemplified by the cover above will go away or even significantly abate anytime soon. The price of much of the European media's arrogance towards the United States over the past decade is an audience conditioned to blame the giant world scapegoat America for virtually any and every problem.
Update (from David): In other news (Oct. 6, 2008): European shares in biggest one-day fall ever / Comment: "Fact is, European Banks are even more highly leveraged than US banks, and many still have political appointees on their Boards (yes folks, people more venal and incompetent than Wall Street bankers DO exist, but in the US they generally are kept under control by being confined to Congress. In Europe they get to play with banks and industry too). That's why Europe is in trouble."
Update #2: Not a huge surprise, but Stern magazine also published a cover that screams: Your economic hardship is all America's fault!
"Greed and Megalomania: How the Wall Street Bosses Gambled Away Billions and led our Financial System to Ruin"
The symbolism of America as giant scapegoat is pretty obvious here. The only thing missing is a desecration of the Statue of Liberty...