Spiegel's crack Amerika-Korrespondent Marc Pitzke strikes again! Apparently - SPIEGEL Online has gotten an extra early scoop on the death of GHW Bush!
Or perhaps its a bit of wishful thinking on the part of Marc Pitzke - who has already prepared a masterpiece of false praise, which is, in fact, a poorly disguised litany of attacks against the elder Bush's son George W.
Pitzke gets the usual low blows in: The mandatory griping about endless war, torture and how terrible a place America has become since the first Bush governed in a more innocent time. Ah the good old days!
But most importantly - SPIEGEL gets it wrong - again. This isn't the first - but perhaps one of the most dramatic examples of the magazine's total bias and lack of professionalism. Pitzke's next story: Elvis still lives - in New York - in the studio next to mine!
We hate to say we told you so - but we did. This was entirely predictable. According to SPIEGEL - Germans are increasingly "disillusioned" with President Obama:
In a new global survey released on Wednesday, approval of President Barack Obama's policies has declined significantly since he first took office. Overall confidence in Obama and attitudes towards the US have slipped modestly as a consequence. By several measures some of the greatest slippage has occurred in Germany, especially with regard to America's image and Obama's foreign policies. After more than three years in office, Germans are disappointed in the US president's unilateralism; his use of force, particularly drone strikes; his inaction with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian situation and his lack of effort in curbing climate change.
Analysis: The initial euphoria of an Obama victory and Republican defeat will lead some to predict a bold new era of happiness in transatlantic relations. These predictions will gradually be worn to a cool realism/cynicism by geopolitical realities which will inevitably manifest themselves through differences over trade, the use of force in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East, the unwillingness of even the Democrats to go along with Kyoto, etc. Obama may remain quite popular as a personality in the German media. The Republicans - despite their reduced role - will continue to act as foils and receive blame for all that goes wrong. The refrain that what Bush has broken will take time to fix may well grow to become a reflexive defense for some time to come among those who insist on clinging to their own initial euphoria.
But at least Obama is convincing Germans that he is making progress in transforming the American economy into a more socially-just copy of the German economy. According to the SPIEGEL piece:
"Germans also don't see America as an economic superpower. In 2008, only 30 percent of Germans named China as the world's leading economic player. Now 62 percent do, while only 13 percent say the U.S. plays that role. No other Europeans judge American economic prowess so harshly."
But it's really too bad that Germans still don't love America now that Bush is gone - we thought that his departure would end all anti-American feeling. All there is left to say is...
It contains no photos of Iraqi voters with ink-dipped fingers. No photos reminding us of Saddam's mass murder and destruction of his enemies. No reminders of the successful surge that Bush backed despite Reid saying the war was lost. No pictures of American troops and diplomats helping millions of Iraqis building roads, schools, power plants, providing medical care, jobs and stability. No pictures of the Sunni Awakening and the defeat of Al-Qaeda in Anbar province. In short - no pictures telling the whole story or providing any real balance.
Just pictures fitting the SPIEGEL ONLINE anti-American far-left narrative: The American military is evil. The war was all bad. The Iraqis only suffered at the hands of the terrible invaders.
With the Iraq war's apparent conclusion, one can only say of SPIEGEL ONLINE that - for a publication and readership that styles itself as so utterly nuanced and intelligent - the coverage has - in fact - been utterly one-sided and hyper-simplified propaganda - with very few exceptions. The magazine's coverage was designed to sell magazines to and please an anti-American audience from beginning to end, and the German readership will never have more than a very narrow and self-satisfying view of the conflict that in no way reflects reality.
Oh - and here's a shocker - the article and gallery are not featured on SPIEGEL ONLINE's English site homepage. Wonder why? Perhaps the English-speaking audience demands at least a fig-leaf of intellectual honesty - apparently the German audience does not...
Headline above: "US Drone War in Afghanistan: Photos Show the Real Victims of the Silent Killers"
"Remotely controlled drones are seen as the wonder weapon in the anti-terror fight. For years, Washington has used the high-tech weapons in west Pakistan, but the suffering of the civilians is mostly hidden. Now a photographer's pictures show the entire extent of the horror. By Hasnain Kasim, Islamabad."
As it reads - the headline seems to imply the following: The real victims (and therefore the real targets) of drone strikes are innocent civilians, not the violent jihadists hell-bent on murdering anyone who does not share their worldview.
If there is any doubt amongst our German journalist friends about the kind of people the US is targeting - watch them brutally murdering sixteen Pakistani policemen here. The good, morally-superior journalists at SPIEGEL ONLINE who go to bed peacefully each night protected by American troops should have no doubt that they and their loved ones would end the same way should those the US is really targeting have the chance to effect their agenda.
This latest lead article displays the same sort of muddled logic that allowed SPIEGEL ONLINE and other like-minded media to imply earlier that the inmates at Guantanamo (for the most part) were just innocent Afghani vegetable gardeners or foreign honor students (not determined Islamic Fascists out to create a global caliphate) who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In addition - this story is essentially taking the Pakistani photographer's word for it that his photos are all actual depictions of civilian casualties. That's not to say that there have not been civilian casualties - but how many civilians have been victimized because militants chose to use them as human shields or their villages as bases of operations? Do they not at least share in the responsibility for the consequences?
And what about the victims of the Islamic militants? Perhaps SPIEGEL ONLINE would be so balanced as to run a front page post on photos of those victims. Perhaps that would be a bit too messy and not properly directed at the world's true enemy - the United States...
A wonderful and unbiased analysis by master Amerika Experte and Spiegel author Klaus Brinkbäumer as to why Barack Obama is no longer as popular as he once was - (complete with a photo gallery compiled to feed the deeply ingrained stereotypes and Feindbilder of the German left.)
Favorite German stereotypes and Feindbilder - Hyper-patriots, cowboys, stange tea-lady and Sarah Palin
"The older, conservative German demonstrators who have recently been taking to the streets to protest against the controversial "Stuttgart 21" railway station project are the product of demographic change and their own fears. But the German protesters look absolutely harmless compared to America's hate-mongers, gun freaks and Tea Party demagogues who first compare Obama to Hitler and then minutes later to Stalin. They are people so filled with vitriol they can no longer think straight -- people like television presenter Glenn Beck, who says that putting the common good first is "exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany." Beck has millions of followers, and appears in public with former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, the darling of the Tea Party movement, who gleefully pronounces Obama's middle name Hussein as if it were a naughty, menacing word. Just two years ago, such things would have been taboo, and considered below-the-belt by Republicans." (...) "While the older, white hate mongers make loud noises, surveys show that the younger generation are generally satisfied with the direction their country is heading in. Or rather, they are indifferent, taking a benevolent view of the nice, pleasant adults, their nice, pleasant president and those wild stories about 2008. The haters, on the other hand, will go and vote in November."
Summary: Obama Opponents = Fanatical Extremists
Here the author clearly implies that there is no constructive, intellectually-founded opposition to Obama and his policies. Instead, the opposition consists of older white fanatics, hate-mongers and gun-nuts - who - in being so demonized - are not worth listening to or understanding. The photo gallery further reinforces this conclusion.
Spiegel's black-and-white view of the opposition: More evil hyper-patriotism, extremists, and hated tea-partiers
"Of course the American media is largely responsible for the impression people get of President Obama as well as the state of the nation as a whole. Fox News, Rupert Murdoch's TV news channel, has come to specialize in partisan mudslinging. Four of the potential future Republican presidential candidates are on Fox's payroll. The liberal channels are only different -- they are no longer any better. CNN has atrophied into a soapbox for journalist presenters. There is no analysis anymore on American TV, and little news -- only polemical attacks and shouting delivered in 90-second chunks. Only the major newspapers still provide intelligent analysis, by people like the New York Times' insightful and levelheaded columnist David Brooks. Unfortunately, Obama's America is so polarized that the views of Brooks and his ilk are only read on the east and west coasts, and thus have little influence."
Summary: American Media = Dominated by the Right and Superficial
The author is feeding a long held stereotype, nourished for decades by the German media, that there is little quality or diversity in American media. The irony here is that the above description is a far more accurate description of the state-dominated German press. The author seems to imply that because the United States is "polarized" - that left-wing views are somehow ignored or unavailable to anyone not living on the east or west coasts. That - of course - is preposterous. The reality is that an incredibly diverse array of media are available to Americans everywhere (without even mentioning the online offering). What Klaus Brinkbäumer fails to understand is how anyone could reject the logic of the Left - and he therefore concludes that the left-wing point of view is somehow not available or comprehendible due to mysterious factors such as "polarization".
"And there have been many weaknesses. Obama allowed Congress to negotiate the details of his healthcare reform while he deliberately held back. What emerged was a half-hearted reform that is complicated and that is really a reform of the health insurance system. But to get that reform, Obama used up his political capital, the one window of opportunity every new president gets."
Summary: Health Care Reform did not go Far Enough
Here the author implies that health care reform has not been popular or appreciated because it did not go far enough. In fact, most of the opposition to the plan comes from those who would characterize it as excessive government involvement in the health care industry - and who support its repeal.
"But there are also contradictions. Millions of Americans want to reduce the power of the government, because that's the way their countrymen have always thought. Yet these same Americans want their president to lead them out of crisis. They want railway stations, schools and clean energy, but they don't want to pay taxes. They are the descendants of immigrants, and proud of it. But they oppose immigration."
Summary: Opposition to Larger Government = Opposition to ALL Government
This is a common criticism of those who favor more limited government - essentially accusing them of supporting anarchy. The author mistakes an honest desire for a more limited and efficient government for an insidious desire to eliminate government. He implies that those who oppose an expansion of government somehow cede the right to expect anything of government. He does not understand that those who want a smaller government can still heartily support the presence of government where appropriate and financially feasible.
"Weren't there more urgent issues he could have tackled, like energy reform for example, which would have entailed a real change of direction and which would have meant re-educating America's consumers?"
Summary: Obama Didn't Have Enough Time to Adequately (Re)Educate Americans
Wow - re-educating American consumers - REALLY? Perhaps the author was having a 60s flashback - or perhaps the true problem is that economic conditions in the energy market simply do not reflect the utopian view that wind farms and solar panels will soon magically replace fossil fuels as primary energy sources.
Conclusion: Obama is not a bad president, but expectations were too high, AND:
"The Haters" - Obama's evil, irrational, white, hate-monger, gun-nut, tea party opponents - are too loud and have instilled too much fear
The media is dominated by Fox News and other (rational and unbiased) media (such as MSNBC and the New York Times) are ignored by the gun-nuts in middle America
Health reform did not go far enough
Obama could have re-educated Americans in other policy areas, but ran out of political capital
Americans oppose expansion of government - even though they hypocritically expect things from government - (which automatically means they oppose ALL government and have no right to ever expect anything from their government)
Well - its such a pity that Obama doesn't take advice from Der Spiegel and Über-Oberlehrer Klaus Brinkbäumer. After all, he can still reach for the polling records set by President Bush and Gerhard Schroeder at the end of their terms...
Endnote: On the bright side - at least Spiegel Online did interview a staunch Obama opponent and allow him to speak for himself. This may still be rare - but at least readers get some exposure to a different voice.
Not that we agree with Spiegel's overblown blanket criticism - this is simply requiring media platforms to be technically equipped to comply with a wiretap order - but isn't this the same administraton that furiously condemned Bush for eavesdropping?
In any case, looks like the Spiegel-Obama love-affair is over...the headline and photo choice speak volumes...
Big surprise: According to SPIEGEL ONLINE, members of the US military are once again humiliated fools - just as they have been in every conflict since the American Revolution.
Whoops! Looks like the Navy Seals just took out the pirates and rescued the captain. So what will SPIEGEL's reaction be now? Let us make a prediction... here are a few suggested headlines we have to offer the SPIEGEL ONLINE editors...
Bloodthirsty US Marines Kill Somalis Without UN Permission
Americans Kill 3 Civilians - Break Off Peace Negotiations
Somali Freedom Fighters Murdered in Standoff
Here's the bottom line: Whether the US military acts or not - they will always be demoralized, trigger-happy fools in the eyes of biased German media like SPIEGEL ONLINE. The true fools are the millions of readers who believe the news they get from German media on the United States to be reliable.
UPDATE: The actual reaction from SPIEGEL ONLINE: The order for the spectacular commando operation came directly from the heroic Barack Obama - the nicest President since JFK because he loves windmills and doesn't get angry when Germany refuses to send more troops into a combat zone. Still no apologies for the trigger-happy, blood-thirsty fools in the US military...
The latest Der Spiegel cover seems to offer a glimpse of what's to come...
"The Capital Crime: Anatomy of a World Crisis that has Really Just Begun"
With Obama, Spiegel and others will no longer be focusing attacks on the American executive (at least in the short-term) as was standard practice under Bush. Instead, as we have previously speculated, they will likely turn to attacking broader aspects of American society (the economic downturn is the current dominant theme) for all that is wrong in the United States and the world. Think World Scapegoat USA. Think pet peeves. Having to respect Obama just makes accomplishing what readers require a bit more demanding. Just slapping Bush and a desecrated US flag on the cover will no longer cut mustard after January 20...
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...
Another SPIEGEL ONLINE headline on the Obama trip asks: "Will a German Speak at the Washington Monument in 2009?". The painful answer: Would anyone in the United States - other than a select band of media, diplomats and foreign policy wonks - really care?
"...there isn't an
American president since Eisenhower who hasn't ended up, at some point or
other, being depicted by the world's cartoonists as a cowboy astride a
phallic missile. It happened to Bill Clinton when he bombed Iraq; it will
happen to Mr Obama when his reinforced forces in Afghanistan or Pakistan
mistake a meeting of tribal elders for an unwise gathering of Taleban and
al-Qaeda. Then the new president (or, if McCain, the old president) will be
the target of that mandarin Anglo-French conceit that our superior
colonialism somehow gives us the standing to critique the Yank's naive and
A slowly creeping disillusionment with Obama - should he be elected - will almost certainly replace Europe's current euphoria - once the average observer realizes that American interests remain American interests - however they are packaged.
Case in point: Over the past few months, Germany's Social Democrats have continually toasted Obama and proclaimed: "Yes, we can!" Recently, however they realized that Obama will almost certainly demand more German troops in Afghanistan and quickly reversed to: "No, we can't!!!!"
"Obama should only ask of us what we are able to deliver," Niels Annen
-- a member of Germany's federal parliament, with the left wing of the
SPD -- told SPIEGEL ONLINE Monday. "We won't increase our number of
One has to wonder how Obama's demand for more German involvement in Afghanistan will go over with his gushing German fans. Spiegel Online has already taken a decidedly realist tone - declaring that German's love-affair with Obama may not survive his speech this week.
Obama's visit presents additional ironies: While so many Germans embrace Obamamania and a "new America" - Germany remains light years from the election or appointment of a minority to the prime ministry, presidency or any significant cabinet post.
On trade, Obama will almost certainly chart a more protectionist course - which would likely conflict with Germany's economic interests as one of the world's largest exporters.
Finally: It is particularly striking that so many Europeans proclaim such affection for Obama - without really being able to specifically explain why they like him so much. Simply being the leading anti-Bush is enough to be loved in Europe - yet it is the Americans who are continually accused of harboring a black-and-white view of the rest of the world.
In the long history of U.S. intelligence fiascos, few have been as minutely examined as the "Curveball" episode – the source whose fraudulent claims were largely responsible for the pre-Iraq War view that Saddam Hussein possessed biological weapons. So it's worth noting what a new, remarkable report from the German magazine Der Spiegel tells us about the spy who lied.
According to media legend, Curveball was a creation of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi politician who headed the exiled Iraqi National Congress before Saddam's overthrow. That notion was destroyed in 2005 with the bipartisan Robb-Silberman report on intelligence. But the myth persists in many circles that, through Curveball, Mr. Chalabi had conned his neocon friends, who in turn had conned President Bush, who in turn had pressured a reluctant but spineless CIA into giving him the "intelligence" he needed to make the case for war.
But Curveball was nobody's stooge. On the contrary, he is Rafid Ahmed Alwan, an opportunistic Iraqi asylum-seeker who came to Germany in 1999. His claims to having inside knowledge of Saddam's illicit weapons program quickly made him a prized asset of Germany's intelligence service, the BND. So convinced were the Germans of the reliability of his information that in the fall of 2001 they purchased 35 million doses of smallpox vaccine for fear of what Saddam might be cooking up.
More remarkable is that even after September 11 – when then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder promised "infinite solidarity" with the U.S. – the German government refused to allow the CIA to interview Curveball in person. Often, the Germans resorted to dishonest pretexts for their lack of cooperation, such as that Curveball didn't speak English, when in fact he spoke it fluently (and as if nobody in the CIA spoke German or Arabic). "It was a blockade that made
To mark the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War, SPIEGEL ONLINE has spewed forth a flurry of articles as predictable as they are shrill. The most recent installment is a piece complete with a 50-photo picture gallery entitled: "The Pictures of the Iraq Catastrophe: Panorama of the Perverse".
What makes this gallery truly perverse is its total omission of Saddam Hussein's twenty-four year reign of war and terror - a period that could - in fact - accurately be labelled "Iraq's Catastrophe." This conspicuous omission - the fact that German media elites once again fail to remind German readers of the horror of modern-day dictatorship while bashing ideological enemies in the United States - reminds us that they have learned far less about confronting despotism than they would have us all believe.
SPIEGEL ONLINE Again Speaks with Two Tongues
Interestingly enough, there is a similar photo gallery on the SPIEGEL ONLINE English site that does show Saddam's victims. It also shows more about Saddam's capture and fewer Rambo-style images of US troops. Why the different presentation in German versus English? Why won't SPIEGEL ONLINE acknowledge Saddam's victims to its German readers? Why are US troops presented more negatively in German?
Finally - there is almost never any historic perspective when it comes to US military losses. Every loss is one too many, but there were single days in the Second World War in which the United States lost more men that it loses on average in a year of war in Iraq (roughly 800 to 900). And yet - the far left media continues to insist that America can't sustain such losses - and far too seldom is their credibility called into question for doing so.
Endnote: Somehow there is not nearly the level enthusiasm at SPIEGEL ONLINE when it comes to reporting how another greedy European conglomerate admitted its guilt in greasing the bloody palms of the Saddam regime for a little profit in the UN Oil-for-Food scandal. Of course - there's nothing terribly perverse about that...right?
Let's face it: Media tend to over-report the most vile and extreme aspects of our society. "If it bleeds - it leads" is much more than a cliche - it is a journalistic fact of life. The danger with the daily sensationalism is that it skews the viewer's perception of reality. In other words, a viewer is apt to believe that the world around him is a much more rotten than it actually is.
Interesting thought experiment: What if you were a foreign correspondent...?
Imagine you are an American correspondent in Germany. You are encouraged by your editors to report only the most extreme, outrageous, strange and dark sides of German society. Your publication chooses to ignore the 97% of issues that bring Germans and Americans together and instead focus on the 3% that most divide the two nations - such as attitudes towards prostitution, social welfare, guns, etc. This seedy sensationalism sells - and that is exactly what your editors are after. For that reason, they also strongly encourage you to write whatever you can on Neo-Nazi violence - not because the issue is genuinely troubling - (and it is) - but because it brings good ratings and reaffirms your readership's dark stereotypes of the Vaterland.
Beyond that - your editors oblige you to bring stories only on a narrow band of pet issues that they have predetermined are of "interest" to the readership. (In fact, you may have been specially selected for your job because you have an ideological propensity to dislike Germany and favor stories that make Germany look bad.) When you arrive in Berlin, you discover that Germany isn't quite the awful place you expected and - because you are a free spirit - the urge is great to report on the many complex aspects of German society. Predictably, however, your editors discourage any independent ideas that might shed a different (you might say balanced) light on things.
The pet issues and big politics are all they want. In particular, the editors want to demonstrate that Germany is a nation infatuated with pornography, cursed by extreme alcoholism and blighted by racist attitudes towards non-Germans. Every other week - if things are slow - the boss pressures you to bring a story on another hopeless unemployed wretch in East-Berlin desperate to get out of the country. He just won't publish your more "upbeat" stories or even critical stories that fall outside the narrow band of pet issues.
The editors supplement your work by sprinkling-in stories cut-and-pasted from news wires on Germans behaving badly worldwide. You eventually realize that intellectual honesty takes a distant backseat to the pet-issue template devised by your editors. Making Germans and Germany look bad at all costs - to reaffirm the stereotypes and political leanings of readers - is no longer something you can question without risking your job.
One week - your publication runs a cover depicting a giant spider drapped in a German flag and wearing lederhosen sucking the blood of a lifeless blue collar American trapped in its web. You realize that this crude reference to recent lay-offs of American automobile workers by a large German multinational is appalling and unfair. The cover sparks a slew of hateful and irrational letters-to-the-editor by readers. You want to speak out against what you now believe is hate-mongering for profit - but again - you fear for your job.
Not surprisingly, the most "self-critical" Germans - those with a particular talent for shamelessly bashing their own nation and people - are held up as heroic dissenters and showered with awards by your publication and others like it.
Finally - because quite a few other publications share the same general ideology of your own and follow the same pattern of reporting - it is not beyond the pale for your editors to proclaim that you represent the "mainstream" of American media and that you are largely fair and unbiased in reporting on Germany.
Turn the mirror around...
Now let us turn this script around. The above is a reflection of how certain influential segments of German media have operated for years now. The latest Amerika-Korrespondent for Stern magazine - Jan Christoph Wiechmann - offers an excellent example. One of his more recent articles is entitled: "Weapons Trade in the USA: An AR-15 with your Coffee?" The opening paragraph reads:
"In Europe one usually receives a cookie with their coffee. In the USA it is an assault rifle: In the Texan solitude, waitresses with highly teased hair offer the things for sale in weapon shops camouflaged as cafes. Normal daily life in Bush-Country."
The article paints a picture of daily life in the USA that is neither typical nor normal. Yet the author intentionally presents the extreme as the ordinary - not because it represents an accurate reflection of typical daily life in the United States - but because it is sure to sell and re-affirm the deeply-held stereotypes of "Stern" readers. Further, Wiechmann cleverly selects a subject - or perhaps his editors selected it for him - that has long been a favorite pet issue of left-leaning German media for years.
Another recent example is an article, entitled "US Tourist Collapses During Sex - Dead," that appeared in SPIEGEL ONLINE on an American who died after overdosing on a potency drug while engaging in sex tourism in Thailand. Certainly - had the tourist in question been Dutch, Brazilian, Russian or German - this article probably would not have made it onto the SPON website. Fellow blogger Joerg of Atlantic Review - who brought this article to my attention - hit the nail on the head:
"If it had been a German tourist, it might not have made news on Spiegel. Or maybe it would have been, if at least the pills were American."
Why is this piece newsworthy at all? The answer is simple: It offers SPIEGEL readers another choice opportunity to look down on Americans.
Looking at the larger picture...
The long-standing media patterns described above - when combined with the sort of ugly and exploitative political opportunism that marked the Schroeder re-election campaign of 2002 - serve to transform the fault lines that represent honest German-American differences of opinion (on questions such as Iraq, trade, the role of the state, etc.) into gaping chasms of misunderstanding and mutual abuse. This leads to the sort of self-reinforcing media-political feeding frenzy that we saw from 2002 to 2005, a period that produced some of the most ugly and irrational manifestations of anti-Americanism in the history of democratic Germany.
Fortunately, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have made it evident that it is possible to disagree with the United States without tapping into the overflowing keg of anti-American sentiment - fueled by the media tendencies outlined above - in their respective nations. As a result of the political changes at the very top, the level of media vitriol has ebbed over the past year or two. It is important to remember - however - that the group of people calling the shots in the German media in 2002 and 2003 are essentially still running the show today. Given the right political conditions and the media's tendency to follow larger political patterns, they would gladly return to the high-pitched anti-American hysteria that flooded German media only a few years ago.
Endnote: Allow us to offer that there is certainly some of what we describe above in American media as relates to Germany - though on a much smaller scale. It is true that some Americans still associate Germany primarily with Nazism, beer or lederhosen. If anything, however, the American media pays far too little attention to foreign issues - and it is the lack of attention to Germany and Europe that is far more troubling.