Last week we brought you a report on an article written by newspaper correspondent Markus Guenther. (Read that here). Mr. Guenther's work put forth the argument that Americans gladly commemorate distant tragedies (Holocaust or slaughter of Armenians or the plight of Cubans or the victims of other communist regimes) - yet fail to commemorate their own national tragedies - such as slavery or the plight of Native Americans. The opening lines of his work read:
"Ein neues Mahnmal in Washington erinnert an die Opfer des Kommunismus. Doch über die Leichen im Keller der eigenen Geschichte geht die amerikanische Gedenk-Leidenschaft eher wortlos hinweg.
A new monument in Washington reminds of the Victims of Communism. But, when it comes to their own skeletons in the closet, the American passion for commemoration really goes by without a word." (emphasis ours)
We took him to task on that claim - pointing out that Americans commemorate the horrors of slavery and the plight of Native Americans through museums, holidays, film, education and many other means - including monuments and memorials. We also pointed out that millions of Americans are, in fact, victims of communism and/or took direct part in the struggle against communism - in Korea, Vietnam and along the Iron Curtain - refuting Mr. Guenther's claim that the Victims of Communism Memorial commemorates nothing more than a far away tragedy to Americans. Finally, we pointed out that Mr. Guenther's incorrect claims were certain to feed German resentments against the United States.
Well - it did not take long for Mr. Guenther's media friends to react. Journalist Ralf Schuler of the Maerkische Allgemeine (one of the papers for which Guenther writes) responded with an article on our posting - and the basic message was this: When criticized, Guenther and his colleagues will put protecting one another ahead of facts. In this case, Schuler defends his colleague by downplaying and diluting his anti-American comments, presenting an incomplete and one-sided version of the dispute and pointing to emails Guenther received that have absolutely nothing to do with our discussion - distracting readers and attempting to smear us by association. He writes:
"In the Crossfire of the “Incorrect”
Self-appointed media watchdogs in the Internet accuse MAZ’s America correspondent Markus Günther of anti-Americanism
It was just a little tongue-in-cheek poke in the ribs, but it drew a violent response. MAZ’s America correspondent Markus Günther took the occasion of the solemn dedication of a Monument to the Victims of Communism in Washington by US President George Bush to look into the modes of thought of the Americans. His – somewhat loosely formulated – rule of thumb; “The further away suffering is from the USA, the more Americans empathize with it.” After all, the fate of the native American Indians or the Afro-American slaves is not as significant in the USA of today as the mass murder of the European Jews, the Armenian genocide, or the misdeeds of the Castro regime in Cuba.
This thesis isn’t particularly exciting in itself. After all, for obvious psychological reasons, people in other countries aren’t usually in the habit of wringing their hands over their own country’s misdeeds. Nevertheless, Ray D. flew into such a rage over the article (MAZ of June 20) that he published a fiery philippic against Günther on his website, “Davids Medienkritik-Online” (medienkritik.typepad.com) that was hardly justified by the actual text. He claimed that the author was one of those ignoramuses who don’t let the facts stop them from freely expressing their own anti-American resentments while they cater to those of the German public. D. drew attention to the many American museums which commemorate the history of the blacks and Indians. Fair enough, although museums aren’t the same thing as public monuments. And, for that matter, the level of engagement of the Americans in fighting Communism (not least significantly at the Berlin Wall) certainly gives them some connection to the victims of Stalinism. The article concludes with the question of why Günther was recently awarded the Arthur F. Burns Prize, which is supposed to be given for contributions to German-American understanding. After all, Markus Günther has actually contributed to the gulf between Europe and America, and reinforced anti-American stereotypes.
Normally one wouldn’t take such misleading and obviously ignorant rants from the nether regions of the web seriously, if D. hadn’t gone on to list the mailing address of the correspondent, so that other “good Americans” could give him a piece of their minds. What gives self-appointed media monitors (“we consider ourselves a watchdog site”) the right to take such punitive actions isn’t quite clear. Ray D. and his partner, David Kaspar, who run the site, reveal only that they are both German citizens, and consider themselves “politically incorrect” observers of politically correct reporting about America.
In any case, since then MAZ-correspondent Markus Günther has received a great deal of e-mail characterized by a remarkable niveau: for example, Frank Knapp from California – “A proud (yes proud) American!!” wrote, “I read your piece of excrement about how we Americans sweep our ugly past under the carpet. Slime balls like you are the reason that German-Americans like me don’t want to return to Germany.” And a certain David asks: “What did your father do in World War 2, Markus? He should have concerned himself more about you. The absence of normal parents often leads to problem children. I suspect the ovens in hell are more or less as hot as those in Germany’s past. Let me know when you get there.” Sowing hate between America and its one time allies or spreading disinformation are generally the least severe of the charges formulated in the messages. The point is made repeatedly in no uncertain terms that anyone who criticizes America in that way can only come from a Nazi family. No one with any self respect would seek to justify himself in response to such drivel, not to mention reply to it. Brazen anti-Americanism certainly exists in Germany; however the way in which D. and Kaspar use the protection of the Internet to unleash the most vulgar and shadowy species of “patriots” on journalists certainly won’t improve the situation. Quite the contrary.
Aside from the fact that Mr. Guenther did not have the courage to speak for himself - this article is nothing more than journalistic rear-covering. Mr. Guenther simply cannot support his flawed thesis: That the (supposed) absence of national monuments is somehow proof that Americans are unwilling to commemorate (or even make mention of) the tragedies of slavery and the oppression of Native Americans. But instead of making a case for his argument (or admitting he was wrong) - Mr. Guenther apparently decided it would be better to allow his colleague to score a few cheap points by lowering the debate and distracting readers with references to irrelevant emails.
Unfortunately, he simply cannot or will not address the following, specific criticisms of his original article:
---Mr. Guenther claims that Americans suppress memories of slavery. That is simply not the case. In fact, there are numerous museums, films and monuments that remind Americans of the horrors of slavery. Additionally, the American educational system spends a great deal of time and effort teaching about slavery and the Civil Rights movement at all age levels. Americans also celebrate Black History Month and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
---Mr. Guenther claims that Americans suppress memories of oppression of American Indians. Again, that is ridiculous. As we point out, there are dozens of museums and monuments all over the country - including the national museum in Washington - which does deal with the oppression and removal of Native Americans from their lands.
---Mr. Guenther addresses Abu Ghraib: Members of the US military, political elite and press all came forward to expose and address Abu Ghraib - and the issue was debated for months. The result was an anti-torture bill passed with an overwhelming majority in the Senate and signed into law.
---Mr. Guenther claims that Americans have little direct connection to the victims of communism. This despite the fact that 1.) Over 100,000 Americans died fighting oppressive communist regimes in Korea and Vietnam - with countless thousands more wounded. 2.) The United States spent enormous amounts of money and manpower to defend Western Europe from communism during the Cold War. 3.) Millions of Americans fled their home countries (Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere) because of communist regimes and have family members who died at the hands of those regimes.
Once again - we invite Mr. Guenther to address those concrete criticisms of his article - not to defend his theory in abstract or general terms - or allow a colleague to do so. Further - the assertion that I was somehow in a "rage" is rather amusing considering my email attempts to engage Mr. Guenther in a dialog on his article and my expressions of empathy for Mr. Guenther in those very emails. Interestingly enough, that dialog stopped as soon as I asked Mr. Guenther to address my specific criticisms - for which he has yet to offer a direct response. Finally - the complaints about a few angry or inappropriate emails are really quite pathetic: If we dropped a tear every time we received an angry or inappropriate email - we would be crying our readers a river. Grow up - and stop deriding our entire readership as "vulgar patriots" simply because a few people went overboard in their email comments.
One of our commenter's put it best:
"Hat tip to Scholl for posting the German media response. Nothing surprising here. We’re all familiar with the MO from the German media apologists who show up here occasionally. Instead of addressing the substance of Ray’s criticism, the responses dismiss him as a self-appointed ranter. They then use the pretext that Ray posted Günther’s (public) e-mail address to try the usual canard of associating him with poison pen messages with which he and Medienkritik have no connection whatsoever. As you can see, the first response is mainly self-righteous whining and pathetic posing as the poor, misunderstood victim of the evil Medienkritik, and the second one is more of the same. We get the usual ludicrous and hackneyed “objective criticism” defense, demonstrating the extent to which German journalists are capable of the “self criticism” they so freely recommend to Americans. Apparently, “self criticism” is only of value when applied to Americans. German journalists have no problem with savage criticism of America. Dare to criticize them, though, and you can forget about “self criticism.” Read the hand wringing, self-righteous responses below, and you’ll get the idea. Other than the blurb from the second article (see below) there is no attempt to actually address the substance of Ray’s critique. If you think it might occur to these “professional journalists” to investigate further the many instances of American self-criticism in museums, monuments, children’s school books, etc., noted in the article, not to mention the comment section, dream on. After all, if they actually had the integrity, not to mention the common decency, to look at the facts for themselves, it couldn’t escape the notice of these “professionals,” not to mention that of their readers, that Günther’s “gentle poke in the ribs” is nothing but more of the usual lying propaganda. That, however, is a level of integrity to which they hardly aspire. Instead, Günther’s lame excuses are simply accepted at face value, with no attempt at further investigation. So much for German media “self criticism.”"
Endnotes: Mr. Guenther's email address is readily available online to anyone willing to take two seconds to Google it. Our publication of his email address was nothing more than the replication of information already available to the online public. If Mr. Guenther thinks that I am somehow using the Internet as cover or a hiding place to ambush and attack him - I will be happy to meet him anytime in person for an on-the-record taped interview on his article in Washington, DC in which I will give him every chance to clarify his comments. He can email me anytime to set that up.
Again - I am willing to continue this discussion. Is Mr. Guenther?
According to the website of one of Guenther's publishers, he received the Arthur F. Burns prize for journalism from the German Foreign Ministry in 2006. The site further states that: "Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier congratulated Guenther on the award and emphasized that he was "successful, in an impressive manner, in promoting and deepening the understanding between the United States and Germany." We encourage readers to contact the Arthur F. Burns journalist fellowship program with concerns about Mr. Guenther and his work. Email to: email@example.com. Please keep all comments polite and professional.
UPDATE: More journalistic circling-of-wagons in defense of Guenther at the "Augsburger Allgemeine" in an article by Rainer Bonhorst entitled "Unser Mann im Orkan der Empörung." (Looks like the attack of the "B" newspapers.) The modus operandi is much the same: The author attacks emails and comments left by others that have absolutely nothing to do with the arguments put forth by Davids Medienkritik. He then disingenuously attempts to imply that Guenther's comments were simple irony.
Since I have not heard from you since our last email, I can only assume that you have no intention of addressing the obvious problems and mistakes with your article "Gedenken and Verdrängen." Once again, I openly request that you address the obvious problems with your work (that we have identified on our blog) in a follow-up article - one that corrects the false and misleading innuendo of the first piece. Otherwise, I will see myself forced to directly contact your editors in Germany. I will also post an article on my blog encouraging readers to do the same.
We simply will not allow this form of disingenuous America bashing to go unanswered - it has gone on for far too long in German media and it needs to change. You of all people should know that - and stooping to satisfy the outrageous appetites of those virulently anti-American members of your audience is no excuse for publishing sensational distortions.
If you refuse to act to correct your work and set the record straight - we (the community that follows Davids Medienkritik) will take action.
Sincerely, Ray D. Managing Editor Davids Medienkritik
We demand that Mr. Guenther publish an article directly addressing our criticisms and setting the record straight. We will no longer sit back and accept this sort of "journalism" in German media - we will no longer quietly discuss the problem on this blog. We are serious about action on this. Read all about the problems with Mr. Guenther's work here.
German journalist Markus Guenther believes that the United States and its people are hypocrites. Why? Because - according to yet another supreme German media "expert" - the people of the United States conspicuously suppress their own injustices while busily memorializing distant tragedies. In an article entitled "Commemorating and Suppressing," (that appeared on the Passauer Neue Presse and Maerkische Allgemeine websites as well as in the "Politics" section of the Donauwörther Zeitung,) Guenther argues that, while Americans busily erect monuments to the victims of Communism and virtually everything else, they allegedly refuse to acknowledge the darkest chapters of their own history. He specifically brings up the legacies of slavery and the fate of the Native Americans. As "proof" that Americans are hypocrites, he claims that there is no museum documenting the plight of the Native Americans and no statue dedicated to the victims of slavery in Washington.
Well - as is so often the case - our German "expert" is dealing more in resentment than in fact. Let's set the record straight:
Not only is there a museum in the United States dedicated to Native Americans and their plight - there are dozens if not hundreds - including the renowned National Museum of the American Indian - which has branches in New York, Maryland and Washington, DC. One of the permanent exhibits at the Washington, DC museum, entitled "Our Peoples: Giving Voice to Our Histories," is described this way: "Powerful forces transformed life in the Americas post-1492, and every Native community experienced loss in unique ways. Nearly all wrestled with the impact of deadly new weaponry, the weakening of traditional religion and ritual by the Christian church, and the dispossession of traditional lands by other governments. But the story of these last five centuries is not entirely about destruction. It is also a story about Native resilience—about the intentional, strategic adoption of tools and customs that kept cultures alive. It is a story about the ways Native peoples used weapons, churches, and governments to ensure their futures."
Although there is no national monument to the victims of slavery in Washington, there are literally hundreds of monuments, museums (including the United States National Slavery Museum - currently under construction in Fredericksburg, Virginia) and reminders of the horror of slavery throughout the United States. Dozens of prominent films on slavery and civil rights including Roots, Amistad, Beloved and many more have been produced in the United States and seen by hundreds of millions worldwide. Additionally, every young child in American public schools learns about slavery and the civil rights movement from Kindergarten forward. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday and - unlike Germany - minorities and immigrants (including the descendants of slaves) are represented throughout the highest levels of government.
To state that Americans have repressed the memory of African slavery or the plight of the American Indian is
outrageous, ludicrous and and an insult to the intelligence of all thinking people. And since Mr. Guenther has lived in Washington, DC for years, perhaps he ought to make a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian. (It doesn't seem that Americans have attempted to hide or repress the museum by placing it on the National Mall right next to all the Smithsonians...) In the not too distant future, Mr. Guenther will also be able to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington and the United States National Slavery Museumin Fredericksburg, Virginia. Both are currently in planning or under construction - hardly evidence that Americans are interested in ignoring or hiding their past.
Now let's address the Victims of Communism Memorial and Mr. Guenther's claim that it commemorates victims of regimes distant and largely irrelevant to Americans: Here again, a profound ignorance of history and a disregard for obvious fact makes itself evident. For starters, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers (including those who stood guard at the Berlin Wall and along the West German border) fought and died to stem the tide of Communism during the Cold War. Further, millions of American immigrants and their descendants fled their homelands (Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Cuba and elsewhere) and saw family members imprisoned or murdered by Communist dictators. The claim that victims of Communism have no significant or direct connection to Americans is nothing less than delusional - but Mr. Guenther doesn't let the truth stop him from making it.
To fully drive home his point and heat resentments to a boil - Mr. Guenther presents Abu Ghraib as a further injustice that Americans have allegedly failed to acknowledge. This despite the fact that members of the American government, military and press revealed, discussed and condemned the widely publicized abuses in great detail for months on end. Ironically - members of the German media largely ignored the mass death and torture that took place at that very prison during Saddam Hussein's decade long reign of terror - even as German firms sold Saddam bunkers and components for his weapons' programs. It was not until Americans uncovered and voluntarily corrected their own abuses at Abu Ghraib (incredibly mild when compared with those of Saddam) that people like Mr. Guenther sat up and took notice and condemned what was happening there.
But those inconvenient facts won't stop Mr. Guenther from feeding resentments. It's not about fact or fairness or constructive criticism - it is, at least in this case, about tearing down the United States and selling more newspapers. And - as this article demonstrates - the truth and any attempt at real context or perspective is simply left by the wayside. This is particularly sad considering the fact that Mr. Guenther himself eloquently complained about German stereotypes about America in an article he published in 2004...
Endnote: According to the website of one of Guenther's publishers, he received the Arthur F. Burns prize for journalism from the German Foreign Ministry in 2006. The site further states that: "Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier congratulated Guenther on the award and emphasized that he was "successful, in an impressive manner, in promoting and deepening the understanding between the United States and Germany."
Well - with journalists like Mr. Guenther busily at work "promoting and deepening the understanding between the United States and Germany" in this manner - and America's diplomats asleep at the wheel when it comes to effectively engaging foreign mass media - we can fully expect a continued deterioration in the years ahead.
One final point: Mr. Guenther's upset at the Victims of Communism Memorial may have been exacerbated - if not motivated - by choice comments made by keynote speaker Tom Lantos about ex-chancellor and Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder at the dedication.
UPDATE: One of our readers pointed out that there actually is a United States National Slavery Museum. Readers also point out that there are literally hundreds of streets named in virtually every major city named for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and point out that Americans also commemorate Black History Month. That hardly seems like Americans are determined to forget their own past.
Another reader emails this information:
"Hello Ray and thanks for all you do to combat anti-Americanism
Just a few more facts for your case. Long in the works, but now finally to be built is the National Museum of African American History and Culture which, like the Museum of the American Indian which I have been to, is to be a part of the fantastic Smithsonian Institute. Not only that, the new museum is to be built in a wonderful and prominent place on the mall - essentially the closest museum to the Washington Monument on Constitution Ave.
Here is a link to the site describing information about the new museum:
Correction: A couple readers pointed out that the US National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia has not yet opened and is still under construction. I have corrected the posting to reflect that. I appreciate the helpful fact check.
(Request for readers: Please feel free to translate the Guenther article
into English and post it in the comments section. You have to read the
entire thing to grasp just how outrageous it really is. Hattip: Fred H.)
As you know from the news, the Washington anti-Iraq war demonstration was somewhat short of - demonstrators. Instead of tens of thousands, as German news agency dpa had hoped forpredicted, only a few thousands showed up. dpa blamed the low turnout "mainly" on the weather, in accordance with the organizer's claims.
Our reader J (update: "J" is R. J. Del Vecchio, USMarine Combat Photographer serving in Viet
Nam. More at the end of the posting.) attended a counter-demonstration that numbered in the thousands and possibly in the tens-of-thousands - (great pictures here) a fact grossly underreported in the German media.
Thousands of counter-demonstrators: Not worth covering to most German media... (source)
Checking the headlines, I guess the count runs 100 to 0 in favor of the anti-Iraq war crowd.
J shares this interesting observation with us, which sheds light on the reporting of German Washington correspondents:
I am a Viet Nam veteran, and somewhat active in veterans' activities.
I attended todays protest/counter-demonstration in Washington, DC. As you may know, as many or more Vietnam vets attended as antiwar people, and for the first time, the antiwar people could not dominate the event. I was working as a volunteer photographer for the Gathering of Eagles group. As part of that, I regularly toured the entire area, including the assembly point for the antiwar protesters.
While there, I was approached by a member of the old Vietnam Vets Against the War group, who came up to me and wanted to talk, since he recognized me as a vet and wanted to find out whether I was an ally or not. We had barely started to speak when a TV crew came over to drag him off for an interview. When he came back I asked him how they came to him rather than anyone else, and he mentioned they had interviewed him at other protests and knew him. He also said they were foreign press, so I asked from where. Germany.
Hmm, I decided to try something, so I ran after them found them and said to the lady interviewer "Sind Sie Deutsch?" She, surprised, said yes. So I said "Moechten Sie mit ein ander altem Soldat zu sprechen?" And I told her about speaking German in Viet Nam during the war, when I met the German medical clinic people in An Hoa. (They were later taken prisoner by the VC, and only two of the five survived to return to Germany in '75.) I figured, how could she say no, how often would she ever get a chance to interview an American vet who would speak German to her? They’d love that in Germany.
The German media team in question: The ZDF camera man and journalist couldn't wait to interview an anti-war vet (above), but practically ran away when a German-speaking pro-war vet introduced himself.
But she said that they'd just talked to one of us, and I said, yeah, but I am from a different point of view. She then quickly said "Oh, we have all the interviews we need, I must hurry now", and she turned and walked away fast. I checked with the organizers back at the veterans' area, and she and her team never interviewed anyone there. It seems that interviewing known antiwar veterans and other activists was their goal. I thought you might be interested in this minor event, as one more bit of evidence about German media and America.
As if it was needed...
Note from Ray: The journalist and her editors likely had a clear idea of what they wanted the story to be beforehand: "Massive Anti-War Demonstrations Against Iraq - Bush" They certainly did not want to report any facts, events or opinions that might upset readers' sensibilities or the pre-established story line back home. This sort of cognitive dissonance and outright bias is rampant in German reporting on the United States. While many headlines in English media mentioned both sides, almost none in Germany did - and only a few made mention of the counter-demonstrators - and then only very briefly.
UPDATE: In all fairness, ZDF did briefly mention the counter-demonstration in a report and even showed approximately ten seconds of an interview with a counter-demonstrator. But, as expected, the rest of the three minute segment was dedicated to a highly one sided report that claims the majority of the American people want the troops home from Iraq without explaining the highly complex breakdown of those numbers. In fact, only a very small minority wants the troops home now - something like 20% - others want the troops home in a year, etc., something ZDF totally misses. Ultimately, all Americans want the troops home at some point - the real question is under what circumstances - an issue most German media miss. The nuance and complexity behind the truth are obscured by the political leanings of the journalists. The headlines are utterly predictable and biased - as they have been for most of the Iraq conflict: Iraq = Bush = Bad. It really doesn't get too much more complex than that in most German media.
Click the link below to read J's entire account of the day...
One of SPIEGEL ONLINE's favorite hobbies used to be smearing Tony Blair as a mind-numbed "vassal" of the United States. Blair was repeatedly lambasted as a poodle, lapdog or underling of the Bush administration...even as then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was signing billion dollar pipeline deals with Russia, ignoring atrocities in Chechnya and openly praising Vladimir Putin as a "spotless democrat." Since Angela Merkel took office, the "vassal" rhetoric seems to have subsided...or so we thought.
The "vassal" rhetoric is back and this time the perpetrator is Amerika-Korrespondent Gerhard Spoerl. In his most recent article, entitled "Bye, Bye Blockheads" Spoerl celebrates what he describes as the downfall of America's neo-conservative movement. He writes:
"John Bolton was among the subservient ones, the vassals who were increasingly congregating around strong figures like Rumsfeld. Douglas Feith was another one. But does anyone remember him? He was allowed to bully intelligence officials who had the audacity to voice an opinion on weapons of mass destruction that diverged from that of the Pentagon and the office of Vice President Cheney. Bolton ended up as the Ambassador of the United States of America to the United Nations. Yet another irony of fate: Bolton, the blockhead and America First type, as UN ambassador. As a diplomat. And now he has resigned. Finally."
Interestingly enough, after deriding Bolton as a "vassal" and "blockhead," Spoerl cannot list a single example of what Bolton did wrong while serving at the United Nations. Apparently, engaging in petty name-calling is enough to engage the SPIEGEL audience.
The article also features another oft-used smear tactic common at SPIEGEL ONLINE:
The photo gallery also includes Richard Armitage as one of the eight key neo-cons in America. Yet anyone who knows Armitage knows that he cannot stand Cheney, Rumsfeld, Feith and other "neo-cons" or conservative "hawks" in the Bush administration who he views as having betrayed Colin Powell, his former superior in the State Department. To label him a "neo-con" at this point is questionable at best.
And like so many other members of the Far Left, Spoerl looks down his nose at his political opponents by claiming that they were fools to believe that Iraqis would welcome Americans in 2003. It has become a given fact for many on the far-left that no Iraqis welcomed the Americans. Unfortunately, reality contradicts this all-too common revisionism. Many Iraqis clearly did welcome the Americans and these videos (and many more like them) prove it:
As we have mentioned before: Gerhard Spoerl and others like him are the true vassals. They are vassals to a special 1968-brand ideology of anti-American Schadenfreude that their sick readers simply can't seem to get enough of. They will twist facts and reality to fit their worldview and have demonstrated their willingness to do so time and again. They are intellectually stuck in the Vietnam-era and see everything through the prism of defeat for America, its military and its President. Right now, they are crowing and thumping their chests in self-satisfaction. What happens to the people of Iraq and what happened to the people of Vietnam and Cambodia after a US withdrawal is something they could truly care less about. If a few million people have to die for them to be right and maintain a firm footing on the moral high ground - then so be it.
And let us close by asking this: How often have you seen people like Gerhard Spoerl lifting so much as a finger to make the world a better place? All they can do is criticize and tear others apart because deep down they are so pathetic, miserable and inadequate. They would rather ridicule and wallow in their own cynicism than spend a moment formulating constructive, measured criticism in an attempt to find a better way forward.
Here is Christian Wernicke, U.S. correspondent of left-wing daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, asking questions to Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, during a press briefing about "U.S. Policy Toward Iran" at the Foreign Press Center Roundtable of the State Department on November 13, 2006.
No need to comment on the apparent bias in the questions of the malinformed Sueddeutsche correspondent:
QUESTION: [Christian Wernicke, with Sueddeutsche Zeitung] Ambassador, you mentioned in your introduction that the U.S. is not seeking a regime change, what we are seeking is a change in behavior. Is that totally in line with all parts of the government or even Congress legislation, which kind of asked -- not by military means, but by political and diplomatic and communication means -- to change the mullah regime in Iran?
AMBASSADOR JEFFREY: I would have to know the specific piece of legislation you're referring to. The --
QUESTION: Especially in the House. I mean --
AMBASSADOR JEFFREY: But once again, there are certainly voices. You know, I mean, America is, like many other societies including your own, a very pluralistic place.
The last legislation, the renewal of what we call the ILSA legislation against Iran and Libya, only this time Libya was dropped off thus we can't call it ILSA anymore -- I think we can call it ISA -- certainly did not go as far in calling for a change in regime as the -- what was it, the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998? I would say -- I would cite that as a good example of regime change legislation. I don't see the same thing.
In fact, the ISA legislation was quite remarkable. While it urged the promotion of democracy in Iran, it was very, very careful in stating explicitly that this is not to be done by military force. And I mean, as one who has worked with European Union diplomats extensively in the Balkans, in a way we were looking for what amounts to regime change or deep-seated changes in both institutions and behaviors and policies that amount to something approaching regime change. Part of the European Union accession process is something that I would consider regime change. So I think that part of the concern about regime change and the fact that I mentioned it is tied to this idea of regime change through lightning* military strikes.
QUESTION: Ambassador Jeffrey -- sorry, I didn't introduce myself. Christian Wernicke, Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Coming back to the two questions of my friends, you mentioned the parallel situation when -- in Afghanistan, which leads me to the point that a colleague of yours, or former colleague of yours, Jim Dobbins, is always citing this period, even including 2002, that there's a lot of missed options.
It all boils down to the question that has been raised: How do you weigh the different interests? I mean, if there is -- you like it or not, there is a tradeoff between the nuclear program and security and Iran's help in -- for security in Iraq. So is the -- is the U.S., for example, willing to give in to the Iranian demand or at least consider the Iranian demand for a kind of security guarantee for this regime? That's what they're asking for. They want to have the security that the big power of the world -- and that's your government -- is not interfering there.
AMBASSADOR JEFFREY: If I could shape that into a question as opposed to a debating point, I would say have -- has Iran asked for a security guarantee? I don't really know where they have actually asked for that. A lot of people both here in Washington and Europe assume that that's what they want, but I think that assumption needs to be, you know, questioned until someone comes up with an authoritative statement of the Iranians that that's what they want. I haven't seen it. But you know, maybe I missed it. I've only been doing Iran now since June. But you know, but that doesn't preclude the fact that maybe that's what they want but they haven't said it.
We have said, as part of the dialogue that was placed on the table by Mr. Solana discussions on regional security. That's the most we do. We don't give regimes security guarantees. There are good reasons for that. If a regime is well-behaved, such as Switzerland, it doesn't need a security guarantee. And if a regime is a bad actor, there probably are good reasons why you would not give it a security guarantee, because you would then be basically saying that no matter what it does nothing will happen to it. And we have friends, we have allies, we have interests in the region that we have responsibilities to defend and protect in a variety of ways.
Ein Verlierer der US-Kongresswahl steht jetzt schon fest, egal wer am kommenden Dienstag gewinnt: die Neokonservativen. Deren Ideologie von einer militärisch demokratisierten Welt unter amerikanischer Führung ist im Irak gescheitert.
Das hätten die Realpolitiker und Appeaseniks wohl gerne. Sie können es offenbar einfach nicht verwinden, daß der 11. September und der darauf folgende Sturz Saddam Husseins wie auch der
(The following text is a final exam paper authored by Ray for a graduate level class on media and politics taken in Spring of 2006. It contains excerpts from actual interviews conducted with top members of the German media as well as outside experts on the German media scene. Particularly shocking are admissions by top German journalists that self-censorship took place to a significant degree in the run-up to the Iraq war at the very highest levels of both state-sponsored and private media. The paper offers a comprehensive look at many of the problems with media coverage of the United States today:)
The international media research institute Media Tenor has released several studies over the past few years with one common finding: Rising anti-Americanism in German media. A 2005 study concluded that German television broadcasters had been continually casting “US-American protagonists and institutions” in a negative light since 2002. Another 2004 study on German-American divisions over Iraq concluded: “Especially German TV broadcasters worked less as news reporters and instead came across as part of ‘their’ government.” The same study found that in the run-up to the Iraq war, German media “barely drew a distinction between democracy and dictatorship in their news coverage.” Another study concluded: “While there were more opposing voices, such as the FAZ, available to the German readers than in its neighbor France, the media generally jumped on the popular, anti-war band-wagon.” 
The German media’s coverage of the United States was also discussed at length at a 2004 conference hosted by the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS). The participants concluded that German media “overwhelmingly backed the Schroeder government’s position” in the months prior to the Iraq war. Panel members also debated whether influential segments of the German media tend towards anti-Americanism. Considering decades of robust German-American ties through the much of the Cold War and beyond, the implications were troubling. But recently, a slew of contentious issues and conflicting interests, including the Iraq war, have served to widen the transatlantic divide. Several AICGS panelists discussed the recent rift and concluded that, “while the media is part of the problem, they are not the source or instigator.” In private interviews, however, numerous German journalists and media observers expressed a far more candid view of the German media’s role in shaping perceptions of the United States. Some spoke openly of pandering to anti-American populism, pressure from above to exclude certain viewpoints, lack of expertise and access, and pervasive bias. What follows is a summary of those interviews and the major themes addressed.
Ideological Media: Tradition or Problem?
Professor and State Department Foreign Service Officer Richard Schmierer served two four-year tours at the United States Embassy in Germany from 1992 to 1996 as Press Attaché and from 2000 to 2004 as Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs. During his second tour, transatlantic relations cooled considerably and media coverage of the United States became noticeably more critical. When asked whether he thought anti-Americanism was a problem in German media, Schmierer diplomatically replied that the charge of anti-Americanism was “too broad.” He emphasized that German media, “are professional and world class,” and have a long tradition of reporting from a particular viewpoint. Generally speaking, Schmierer felt that some German media reflect, “a certain European point of view that sees elements of the U.S. and certain administrations as not having the worldview they share.” Cornel Faltin, the Washington, DC Bureau Chief for Springer Publishing, also pointed out that, “there are different papers for different readers. On the one hand youhave TAZ (Tageszeitung – left-wing daily) and on the other you have Die Welt (conservative daily). That’s freedom of press.”
Others, including ZDF Bureau Chief and Correspondent Eberhard Piltz, felt that ideology was a major impediment to quality coverage of the United States. Piltz spoke of “prejudice” and described it as “an intellectual arrogance that thinks that the American way of life, feeling, taste and thinking is inferior and not authentic.” He complained that many journalists see “the U.S. through an ideological lens,” and that “most of them grew up with the leftist, socialist dream and now they look for scapegoats.” Stern magazine correspondent Michael Streck agreed with Piltz’s statement and worried “that populism goes over the line quite often.” Deutsche Welle Bureau Chief for North and South America Ruediger Lentz also expressed deep concern that “populist” ideology and views often “resonate the public mood” when it came to coverage of the United States.
Iraq: Views Suppressed
Ideology is clearly a serious problem in some corners of the German media. All too often, particularly in reporting on foreign affairs, viewpoints that go against popular sentiment are not given a fair hearing. Additionally, most of the journalists interviewed worried that bias negatively influenced reporting. One of the most troubling aspects of the interviews was the assertion, made by at least three of the interviewees, that journalists were pressured, or knew of colleagues who were pressured, not to run certain stories in the run-up to the Iraq war. Eberhard Piltz related that he “had to fight with the desk people (the editors) to tell and get in why the war was coming” and added that he "had a hard time telling the stories." Martin Wagner of Bayerische Rundfunk radio broadcasting said that he had not personally been pressured, but that “more than a couple colleagues,” experienced a “tendency especially in the run-up to the Iraq war,” not to run stories explaining the Bush administration’s position for fear of upsetting readers. Wagner claimed that the pressure on colleagues came from “above” from “owners.” Professor Schmierer observed that: “In the run-up to Iraq, media were put under strictures to limit the opposing side because readers and viewers might become incensed and the media were afraid to alienate or lose audience.” He summarized the situation this way: “Things got emotional.”
Stories in their Suitcases and “Leitmedien”
Cornel Faltin put it best: “Some colleagues already have stories in their suitcases.” In Faltin’s view, some correspondents working in the United States are influenced by pre-existing views. One interviewee stated anonymously that many journalists come to the U.S. “with preconceived bias.” Eberhard Piltz concluded that, “they tend to look at America with their European, German eyes.” He added that, "stories that make Bush look bad were requested all the time." According to Piltz, one would only have to "wait by the phone for the editors." Piltz also stated that the editors were those who "went in the streets and cried for Ho Chi Minh" at an earlier time and many still viewed the United States as "the spoiler of their dreams." Piltz was of the opinion that Spiegel and Stern magazines were in the forefront of "Bush bashing" and cautioned that it was often difficult to separate "Bush-bashing from anti-Americanism." He described anti-Americanism as a "larger phenomenon" that reaches back to at least 1917.
Another factor that has contributed to “predetermined” reporting is the excessive reliance on so-called “Leitmedien” or leading media. Martin Wagner explained that many “editors at quality papers read The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Der Spiegel and have stories and ideas all ready before the day starts.” This game of follow-the-leader reduces the number of issues that actually reach the German news consumer. Wagner stressed that many examples of good journalism were ignored because they did not relate to “hot” topics. The problem is compounded by what Cornel Faltin identified as, “too much entertainment” reporting. Uwe Schmitt agreed that media was “too celebrity oriented.” The result is limited coverage of substantive issues.
Monolithic Views, Pet Issues, and Clichés
Medien Tenor studies conducted over the past few years clearly indicate an increase in critical, negative reporting on the United States. German media have “picked out only the negative (issues) and forgotten the others,” according to Ruediger Lentz. Lentz suggested that too many Germans see America in a “monolithic way” and have a stereotypical image of a “bad, ugly American.” He lamented that German media “don’t follow up on the open and heated debate in the U.S. and the divisions.” Eberhard Piltz agreed that, “the criticism in the U.S.A. doesn’t fit into some Germans’ picture of the bad or ugly America.” David Kaspar, the founder of the German-American blog Davids Medienkritik, pointed to an excessive interest in the negative and sensational as a source of bias: “They search for problems and even if there weren’t any they would invent them.” Kaspar opined that positive stories, such as low unemployment levels in the United States, are often ignored.
A frequent complaint expressed by interviewees was that German media inadequately convey the complexity and internal divisions that make up American society. Professor Schmierer emphasized that it is important for Germans to understand “America’s position, values and approach” as well as the country’s “unique circumstances.” He felt that German media “did not generally give that level of depth.” Uwe Schmitt argued that, “high quality papers do get nuance,” but added that, “there are pet issues” that some media dwell on. Cornel Faltin acknowledged the presence of pet issues, but felt that it was a “periodical thing” and that “certain issues” evoked more interest at times than others. One interviewee stated anonymously that the media “don’t make an honest effort to explain the American mind” and don’t “explain why people supported Iraq.” He worried that the media regularly “feed stereotypes.”
Two Media Tenor reports from 2004 spoke of a view of America clouded by clichés. One offered a fitting quote from author Friedrich Mielke: “Today the Americans and Germans are again allowing themselves to be seduced by clichés. For many Germans, America is the land of predatory capitalism, striving for hegemony, and the arrogance of power.”
Lack of Access, Experience, and Travel
The most universally expressed frustration among journalists interviewed was the lack of access to the United States government. Claus Tigges, the Economics Correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), referred to German journalists in the United States as “no vote reporters.” When asked how he dealt with the problem, Tigges concluded that German media are often forced to rely on U.S. media and think tanks. Michael Backfisch, Bureau Chief of the financial daily Handelsblatt, agreed that access was “tough” and “networking crucial.” The access problem clearly boils down to a lack of interest and time on the part of U.S. government officials. Because most American politicians are interested in reaching voters, even small domestic newspapers receive more attention than the largest German network. With the end of the Cold War, Germany has become less central to U.S. geopolitical objectives and, as a result, no longer attracts the same level of interest from high-ranking U.S. government officials.
Professor Schmierer also pointed out that some reporters had inadequate knowledge of the United States: “Those who are reporting should have had recent exposure to the U.S.” As an example, Schmierer pointed to ZDF, a major public television network. According to Schmierer, most of the “ZDF staff assigned to foreign affairs had never been to America and an exchange was arranged.” Martin Wagner countered that, “many Germans have been to the U.S.” and added that, “media are often prepared.”
While it is true that many Germans have been to the United States, it is not necessarily the case that German journalists assigned to cover the world’s only remaining superpower are fully prepared. As in most nations, German media focus primarily on domestic events. International coverage, though relatively extensive in Germany, still suffers from limited budgets and lack of interest. When coupled with the pressures of the twenty-four hour news cycle and the need for ever-shorter sound bites, the impact on the quality of coverage can be stifling. Limited budgets also make it difficult for some journalists to travel outside of Washington, DC or New York. Uwe Schmitt felt that it was “pulling the rug out if you can’t travel” and worried that, “it does influence journalism.” Ruediger Lentz agreed that, “it is a problem getting out” and getting “exposure.” Other journalists, including Michael Backfisch, felt that the focus on Washington was “overloaded” and remarked that journalists often felt compelled to stay in Washington for “scoops” and “new material.”
But not everyone agreed that travel was a problem. Several correspondents insisted that a reasonable balance was possible. Additionally, escaping the Washington “bubble” is hardly a problem unique to German media. The focus on Washington, DC is, however, clearly another factor that influences German coverage of the United States.
Anti-Americanism? Populism, Bush, the 800 Pound Gorilla, and Iraq
There is little doubt that the German media has grown more critical of the United States over the past five years. But there is disagreement as to the causes and implications of this trend.
Since September 11, 2001, German and American leaders have cooperated in Afghanistan but bitterly disagreed over Iraq. Gerhard Schroeder turned opposition to a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein into a winning campaign issue during the 2002 elections, much to the dismay of the Bush administration. Overall, approval of the United States and the Bush administration has fallen significantly in Germany since 2001. The overwhelming majority of Germans opposed the Iraq war and America’s refusal to seek a more multilateral solution. Many Germans dislike President Bush and what they perceive to be his overbearing approach to issues such as the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and Guantanamo Bay. Some worry that America is striving towards world hegemony. Uwe Schmitt remarked that the United States is admired as a “cultural leader,” but is also perceived as an “800 pound gorilla that wants to dominate yet be loved at the same time.”
So is German media coverage of the United States a fundamental source of the transatlantic divide or simply a reflection of larger societal trends? The answer is both. History is an undeniable source of differences. Contemporary observers too often forget the heated disagreements between the United States and West Germany over Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s and over the deployment of nuclear missiles in the 1980s. These disagreements also revolved around the question of military force and American geopolitical dominance. For Germany, the use of military force was taboo for decades following the Second World War. Because of its past, Germany has a far more skeptical view of military action and tends to favor multilateral approaches, even if they are sometimes flawed or ineffective.
Unfortunately, many influential figures in German media, politics and society have undeniably exploited recent transatlantic tensions for political and financial gain. All too often, populism and anti-Americanism have replaced honest, constructive criticism. Take, for example, the following covers from Stern and Der Spiegel, two of Germany’s best-selling, most influential political weeklies:
How America Lied to the World (2004) / Method Wild West (2004)
USA: The Lords of the World (1997) / Blood for Oil (2003) / The Conceited World Power (2003) / Operation Rambo (2003)
“A writer for the German weekly Der Spiegel told me during the Iraq debate not to take offense at the crude anti-American covers of the magazine such as the ugly, bearded, drooling Rambo figure it used to show the typical GI in Iraq. "We're just trying to please our million readers," he explained.”
Some, including German diplomats, have attempted to downplay and deny the problem of anti-Americanism. Others, including some of the journalists interviewed, felt that most of the recent ugliness in German media was attributable to dislike of the Bush administration. Ruediger Lentz put it best when he said that, “it’s not as simple as anti-Bush.” Lentz worried about a vicious cycle or “Teufelskreis” of anti-American media feeding anti-American, populist sentiment. When asked how the cycle could be broken, Lentz offered only this: “To change patterns of behavior is a long process.” It now seems that that process is slowly beginning to move forward. Iraq is no longer as divisive an issue and Gerhard Schroeder has since left office, leaving a more America-friendly Angela Merkel to patch up the wounds. Most observers hope that this difficult period in German-American relations is just another bump in the road of an otherwise healthy relationship. Only time will tell.
Eberhard Piltz, Bureau Chief and Correspondent, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) – German state television.
Uwe Schmitt, Senior National Correspondent, Die Welt – Daily newspaper.
Ruediger Lentz, Bureau Chief and General Manager of Deutsche Welle North and South America – State sponsored international news broadcaster.
Michael Streck, Correspondent, Stern magazine – Weekly political illustrated.
Martin Wagner, Foreign Corresponent, Bayerischer Rundfunk – Bavarian Radio Broadcasting
Cornel Faltin, Bureau Chief, Springer Publishing – Media publishing house.
Michael Backfisch, Bureau Chief, Handelsblatt – Daily financial newspaper.
Richard Schmierer, State Department Foreign Service Officer and Georgetown University Professor, Press Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn from 1992 to 1996 and Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the American Embassy in Berlin, Germany from 2000 to 2004.
David Kaspar, Founder and Editor in Chief, Davids Medienkritik – English-language weblog on German media and politics.
 Media Tenor, “Wenn Klischees die Wahrnehmung trüben (When Clichés Cloud Perceptions),” Sep. 2004. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)
 Media Tenor, “Bush hat bei Europas Journalisten einen schweren Stand (Bush Has a Difficult Standing with Europe’s Journalists),” March 2006. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)
 Lehmann, Ingrid A., “Transatlantic Divide over Iraq,” Sep. 2004. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)
 Media Tenor, “Supermacht mit Imageproblem (Super Power with Image Problem),” June 2004. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)
Addendum:Pet issues common in German media coverage of the United States include:
Perceived American religiosity.
Perceived American obsession with guns and violence.
The death penalty.
The perceived excess and superficiality of American capitalism and (non)culture (i.e. fat people, the super rich, SUVs, fast-food, M-TV/hip-hop culture, Hollywood, corporate scandals, buy-outs and "excessive" profits.)
Perceived social inequality in the United States (i.e. amerikanische Verhaeltnisse, poor Americans are starving and freezing to death or at least struggling with 2-3 jobs and no health insurance while the rich live it up. Perception that America has no social safety net or a woefully inadequate social safety net.)
Perceived American unilateralism/exceptionalism (i.e. Iraq, Kyoto, ICC, Guantanamo)
Perceived American "hurrah" patriotism or "hyper" patriotism (i.e. flag-waving).
Perceived American paranoia/overreaction about terror and obsession with security and the "war" on terror and the perceived willingness of Americans to sacrifice key civil liberties (the Patriot Act has become a favored target) and take extrajudicial actions involving torture, renditions, etc.
The perception that the Bush administration controls (or at least dominates) the media and can somehow intimidate media into following the party line. The perceived view that there is a lack of diversity of opinion in US media and that FoxNews, talk radio and blogs are the menacing conservative vanguard of what all US media are becoming or have already become. (i.e. US media are "gleichgeschaltet" or in lock-step.)
Anything that casts a negative light on the US military (i.e. Abu Ghraib, trials of US troops, bombings or killings of civilians real or imagined).
Anything that casts a negative light on the Bush administration.
Iraq is a disaster-quagmire-catastrophe-debacle perhaps unparalleled in human history. Iraq = Vietnam = defeat and humiliation for America, the US military and Bush.
The perception of the US as an imperial hegemon out to expand its global power and military-industrial complex while using democracy as a convenient (yet false) excuse to do so. Oil = blood = Halliburton = war.
US-Präsident Bush veröffentlichte ein Geheimdienstmemo zum Krieg gegen den Terror, um sich gegen Kritiker zu wehren. Leider gibt es denen nur noch mehr Munition: Der Irak-Krieg, heißt es darin etwa, fache die Dschihadistenbewegung täglich weiter an
Wenn der Autor dieses Artikels irgendjemand anders gewesen wäre - Schwamm drüber. Aber der Autor heißt Marc Pitzke. Und das wirft die Frage auf, was Bush in der Frage der Freigabe des Geheimdienstmemos hätte machen können, damit unser Marc endlich mal zufrieden ist und sagt "Chapeau, Dubya, das war jetzt zugegeben mal ein cleverer Schachzug". Denn eigentlich gab es neben der Veröffentlichung der Dokumente nur eine weitere Alternative, nämlich sie nicht zu veröffentlichen. Nehmen wir aber spaßeshalber mal an, Bush hätte sich tatsächlich für die zweite Variante entschieden, was hätte der gute Marc dann geschrieben? Tatsächlich das hier?
US-Präsident Bush hielt ein Geheimdienstmemo zum Krieg gegen den Terror zurück, um sich gegen Kritiker zu wehren. Damit nahm er ihnen den Wind aus den Segeln. Ob der Irak-Krieg die Dschihadistenbewegung tatsächlich weiter anfacht, ist somit nicht zverlässig bekannt.
Oder nicht doch eher das hier?
US-Präsident Bush hielt ein Geheimdienstmemo zum Krieg gegen den Terror zurück, um sich gegen Kritiker zu wehren. Leider gibt das denen nur noch mehr Munition: Die Geheimniskrämerei läßt nur den Schluß zu, daß Bush etwas zu verbergen hat und der Irak-Krieg die Dschihadistenbewegung nur weiter anfacht.
Die Verantwortlichen beim SPIEGEL sollten allmählich wirklich mal ernstlich drüber nachdenken, ob ein Amerikahasser wie Pitzke wirklich die richtige Besetzung für den Posten in New York ist. Denn
It's all Bush's fault. Bush lied and people died. Everything Bush does is wrong. That, in a nutshell, is the message of Marc Pitzke's recent series of articles on the Katrina anniversary.
Of course we've reported on SPIEGEL ONLINE's star Amerika-Korrespondent before. He's well known for his slavish dedication to seeking out and reporting on only the most miserable, ugly and hopeless aspects of American society. Pitzke's articles are something like a crude literary version of "The Jerry Springer Show." They are written to please a readership that desperately wants to believe that, because it rejects European-style big government and socialist-democracy, the USA is a nation drowning in poverty and social injustice.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: "Republican Election Campaign: Fear to Help Bush to Victory"
It is difficult to label Pitzke a journalist because his opinionated brand of campaign journalism resembles propaganda more than anything else. Unfortunately, most Germans take SPIEGEL ONLINE very seriously and don't always recognize that they are being spoon-fed one-sided refuse. Take, for example, Pitzke's latest piece, entitled "Bush's Cynical Gestures." He writes:
"And they are those 37 million who continue to live in poverty in the entire USA, those who Bush promised to care for after "Katrina." Because this number was reported by the Census Bureau, as fate would have it, as Bush was kneeling in the Cathedral. According to it, one in every eight Americans is "poor."
Ignored the Chasm in His Own Land
That is about as many as in the previous year. But while the poverty rate remained constant, the average income of the overall population rose. That means: The majority are doing better - but "the poor are getting poorer," as the independent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed. In the context of the economic upturn that was "the worst performance in recent decades." The last year in which the US poverty rate sank was 2000: It fell to 11.7% under Bush's predecessor Bill Clinton.
More still: The number of Americans without any health insurance climed from 45.3 to 46.6 million according to Census figures. The health care costs of a family of four increased by almost 10 percent. Those hit hardest: The poorest.
A literal sign of poverty: A President who wants to democratize the world, yet stubbornly ignores the growing chasm in his own country despite all the "Katrina" speeches."
Of course, Bush was kneeling in the Cathedral as the announcement came that his nation was sinking in poverty. A perfectly conceived, made-for-Hollywood image of Bush's supposed cynicism (Michael Moore, George Clooney and Oliver Stone would be proud) and another example of how important it is for media outlets like SPIEGEL to drum the image of Bush as hypocritical religious zealot/poseur into the minds of receptive European audiences over and over and over again.
Now to the question of poverty. Pitzke tells us that under Bill Clinton (when America was still happy-land), the US poverty rate sank to 11.7% in 2000 and the world was in order. Under Bush, who Pitzke claims has ignored the problem and allowed the poor to languish, the poverty rate has supposedly skyrocketed out of control, with the poor getting poorer as the rich get richer. So let's look at the numbers: Pitzke writes that one out of eight Americans is living in poverty. That would represent 12.5% (the actual figure is 12.6%) of the population, or less than 1% more than the 2000 level. This despite the massive economic burden of September 11, two wars and Hurricane Katrina. Add to that consistently strong economic growth over the past few years (compared with virtual stagnation in Germany) and the 4.6% unemployment rate (in Germany it is over 11%) and the Bush performance doesn't seem so shabby after all...
But Pitzke isn't finished with his Katrina tirade. He continues:
"But what happened? Nothing. Instead the Republican controlled Congress refused an increase in a minimum wage for the "working poor" that has remained unchanged for ten years, and, in the same breath reduced the archaic inheritance tax on multi-millionaires to virtually zero, an election gift for wealthy party donors.
Even smaller measures concentrated on "Katrina" zones have turned out to be empty promises. Bush announced financial aid (recovery accounts) for evacuees, an "urban settlement law" and an enterprise zone on the Gulf. Only the latter came about - but, as columnist Jonathan Alter reports, the zone has mostly benefited "southern firms owned by Republican party donors who want to earn some money in New Orleans.
Not Recovered from the Katrina Depression
But Americans do indeed slowly seem to be waking up. In a current poll, 58% declared themselves "not satisfied" with the rebuilding process after "Katrina;" 51% found that Bush had not kept his promises. In another poll 64% disapproved of the country's general course. Bush's popularity remains around 39% - Ratings that have not recovered since the "Katrina"-depression.
"The government cannot do this job alone," Bush said yesterday and called on the people of New Orleans to help themselves and to take personal responsibility upon themselves, as if that weren't the only thing with which they had survived to this point. It was a perfect summary of the Republican ideology of the "small state" - and new evidence of the wise old saying that the Americans are better than their leaders."
Indeed. Ideology is what it is all about. If we are to believe Pitzke, the evil Republicans in the administration and Congress have done nothing but leave the poor of New Orleans (and America) to die while providing kickbacks to wealthy donors, all for the sake of their "small government" worldview. Of course Pitzke makes absolutely no mention of the $122 BILLION in aid approved months ago by the "Republican Congress" and President Bush. No need to trouble readers with a little detail like that. He makes no mention of the fact that, in the United States, a wide range of federal, state, local and private charity programs exist to assist the poor with everything from healthcare to housing to basic needs. He also makes absolutely no mention of the incompetence (and re-election of) Mayor Ray Nagin nor does he mention the failings of Louisiana Governor Blanco. And why would he? They are Democrats and can do no wrong. In the world of carefully selected stories written and prepackaged to satisfy pre-existing worldviews, uncomfortable facts that upset the pre-fabricated media reality are left by the wayside.
"I take full responsibility for the federal government's response, and a year ago I made a pledge that we will learn the lessons of Katrina and that we will do what it takes to help you recover. (Applause.) I've come back to New Orleans to tell you the words that I spoke on Jackson Square are just as true today as they were then.
Since I spoke those words, members of the United States Congress from both political parties came together and committed more than $110 billion to help the Gulf Coast recover. I felt it was important that our government be generous to the people who suffered. I felt that step one of a process of recovery and renewal is money. (...)
But I also want to remind you that the federal government cannot do this job alone, nor should it be expected to do the job alone. This is your home; you know what needs to be done. And a reborn Louisiana must reflect the views of the people down here and their vision and your priorities."
Pitzke interprets Bush's statement as an ideologically-motivated call for "the people of New Orleans" to take on more responsibility, exercise more self-reliance and expect less assistance from government. In fact, Bush was letting his audience know that the federal government needs help from everyone (including state, local and private institutions and citizens) and plans to respect their views in the rebuilding process as opposed to imposing its will from the top down. Furthermore, it is nothing short of laughable that Pitzke would accuse Bush, who has been anything but fiscally conservative, of trying to push a traditional "Republican" agenda of smaller government. There are many things that one could accuse President Bush of. Being a champion of smaller government and limited federal spending is unfortunately not one of them.
But this is not about reality, it is about ideology. Not the ideology of President Bush, but the ideology of Marc Pitzke, his editors in Hamburg, and the readers back home in SPIEGEL-land. It is an ideology of activist Socialism that can only survive if it can convince its captive audience that life is much worse outside the prison walls. The problem is that more and more Germans realize that they can do better elsewhere and are fleeing the grand social experiment. In the meantime, little will change as long as cynical hacks like Marc Pitzke continue to pollute the media landscape with their hackneyed tripe. The sad truth is that this sort of biased propaganda (that passes for legitimate news on the United States) goes largely unchallenged in the German mainstream and many Germans believe it to be entirely accurate, balanced and reliable. And then outside observers wonder why Germans and Americans can't understand one another...
Update on the "CIA Leak Case": Contrary to reports in the German media (led by German press agency dpa) Lewis "Scooter" Libby does not contend that President Bush ordered the leaking of Valerie Plames name to the press:
In the court filing, Libby's lawyers said they did not intend to argue that he was ordered to reveal Plame's identity.
"Consistent with his grand jury testimony, Mr. Libby does not contend that he was instructed to make any disclosures concerning Ms. Wilson by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or anyone else," the filing said, using Plame's married name.
Even the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Washington correspondent Matthias Rüb (article not online available) last week wrote - referring to a statement by Libby - that President Bush ordered the leak of Valerie Plame's name. Normally, Rüb is one of the few German Washington correspondents not subject to the Bush Derangement Syndrome. Let's hope he will recover from this mild viral outbreak...
German correspondents in America are a special breed. With a few exceptions they are mostly victims of the "Bush Derangement Syndrome" (BDS), as defined by Charles Krauthammer:
Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.
BDS leeds - among other things - to a complete loss of reality. If the BDS victim is lucky, Doctor John R. Bolton is available to provide immediate medical treatment.
The Doctor is IN.
Such as in this New York Foreign Center briefing on March 9, 2006, for foreign correspondents on the topic of "THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION AND UN MANAGEMENT REFORM":
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: In the back there, in the very back. (sic!)
QUESTION: Juergen Schoenstein from the German news magazine, Focus. I just want to follow up on your explanation about the different assessment on Iraq and Iran. But in hindsight, doesn't that put the decision or the procedures taken, in the case of Iraq, in quite a different perspective when with Iran, you say we have to pursue the diplomatic option? And in 2003, a different path was chosen.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we pursued the diplomatic course with respect to Iraq. From the time of the Security Council's adoption of Resolution 687, the Ceasefire Resolution in 1991, when -- as a condition of the ceasefire, that coalition forces allowed Iraq -- that Iraq undertook certain commitments, among which were establishing that they had declared and destroyed all of their weapons of mass destruction. And Iraq consistently, for 12 years, failed to comply with that obligation.
And so, it was not a question of how much additional diplomatic activity there would be in 2002 or 2003. It was a question of 12 years of Iraq ignoring Security Council resolutions. And you have to ask yourself, if the Security Council doesn't look after its own resolutions, who will? So in that respect, I think there's a substantial difference.
Needless to say, Schoenstein's article in German news magazine Focus on the Bolton briefing is filled with blatant slants and misrepresentations of the positions of Bolton and the U.S. government. Unfortunately, it is a well known fact that BDS treatment - while effective in the short run - cannot guarantee for lasting improvements.
If there should ever be a movie about German U.S. correspondents, "Clueless in America" might be an appropriate title...
As to the reaction of the German media to the speech, it's so far largely matter-of-fact reporting. An exception is this comment by Washington correspondent Carsten Schmiester of Norddeutsche Rundfunk (part of the vast German public radio network): "President Bush said in all earnest that the state of the nation is good. ... The state of the nation isn't good...Bush's war against terror not won...unfulfilled american dreams in education, better schools, health policies, lesser dependence on foreign oil...Republicans involved in corruption scandal...economic growth in last quarter 2005 faltered dramatically...".
2006 will be Kofi Annan's last year as UN Secretary General - and now already he is applauded by all sides. ... German UN ambassador (Gunter) Pleuger: "Kofi Annan is the most impressive and most successful of the five Secretaries General I worked with ... the UN is equated with the person Kofi Annan." Martina Buttler, New York Radio Correspondent for ARD (Largest German Public Broadcasting Organization)