"Last Sept. 11, German state-owned television ZDF marked the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by broadcasting a prime-time documentary titled "September 11, 2001: What Really Happened." By enticingly implying a discrepancy between what the film itself repeatedly terms the "official version" of 9/11 and the reality of the events, the mere title of the film already provides obvious grist for the mill of what might best be called "alternative" 9/11 conspiracy-theorizing: "alternative" because in the legal sense of the term, the 9/11 attacks were in fact the product of a conspiracy. On the ZDF Web page promoting the documentary, this effect is then underscored by a subtitle portentously announcing that "ZDF Investigations Reinforce Accusations against Authorities." The "authorities" in question are, of course, more specifically American authorities. As is well known, for "alternative" 9/11 conspiracy theorists, it is the latter -- and not Osama Bin Laden and the 19 identified hijackers -- that are supposed "really" to have been "behind" the attacks: often -- though the German broadcaster tastefully avoids this linkage -- in further connivance with the Israeli secret service Mossad.
When, however, (...) the German media-watch blog Medienkritik called attention to ZDF's seeming pandering to the most disreputable extremes of the 9/11 "truth" movement, his remarks quickly drew irate reactions from some German-speaking defenders of ZDF. The counter-critics argued that while the ZDF documentary did indeed give a platform to some well-known alternative "conspiracy theorists," it in fact served to "debunk" their theories. On the most generous assessment, ZDF had even pulled off a sort of pedagogical coup de force: in effect, fooling the most benighted sections of the German public into watching the documentary by way of its salacious conspiracy-mongering title and promotional material -- only in order then to set them straight about the erroneousness of the alternative "theories." (For the original post and discussion on Medienkritik, see here.)
And, indeed, the ZDF documentary does not exactly endorse the hypothesis that 9/11 was the product of a U.S. government conspiracy. It does not, however, reject it out of hand either. While it concludes that most of the variants of the government conspiracy "theory" are perhaps wrong -- or "unproven," as the narrator puts it, in the conspicuously noncommittal final word with which the documentary concludes -- what is so remarkable about the ZDF documentary is precisely that it treats them throughout as eminently reasonable and hence worthy of serious debate. It thereby, in effect, serves to render them, as one says in German, salonfähig: i.e. acceptable in polite company."
ZDF - one of Germany's largest state-sponsored public media networks - came out with an article promoting a documentary on September 11 conspiracy theories - just in time for the sixth anniversary of the terror attacks. Next to the article is an unscientific poll asking readers to vote on who really "pulled the strings" on September 11, 2001. The poll provides several interesting choices (which themselves say quite a lot about ZDF) and recorded the following numbers:
Above: Who is behind the attacks? ("Rüstungslobby" = arms lobby, "US-Behörden" = US authorities, "Ich weiß nicht" = I don't know)
The results (with over 6,000 votes registered) indicate that 65% - or nearly two-thirds - of ZDF participants blame either George W. Bush (26%), US authorities (24%) or the nebulous and ever sinister arms lobby (15%) for 9/11. By comparison, only 27% selected Osama Bin Laden as the culprit and 9% said they didn't know. The article itself promotes a documentary which claims to shed on 9/11 and provide "research" that "solidifies" an "allegation against authorities." A translation of the summary can be read here - and the banner and headline can be viewed below:
Above: "Myth and Truth: Documentation: 11 September 2001 - what really happened: ZDF Research hardens allegations against authorities"
This article and poll - published by a major German television network six years to the day after 9/11 - bear further witness to the outrageous and warped views that cloud the minds of so many in Germany and around the world. Some, including German pacifist activist Angelika Claussen, chose to portray the attacks as "accidents" while others pretend to live in a world where the attacks simply did not take place or are to be collectively repressed. Genuine anger with the true culprits - the fanatical Al-Qaeda terrorists who plague the world with their murderous activity - is nowhere to be found.
Others, including the conspiracy nuts who have gained notoriety and a sizable following, twist the facts in an effort to create a narrative to suit their own primitive anti-American tendencies. They thrive on a culture that blames America for virtually everything. They seek to wash away their own historic guilt at the altar of the sacrificial world-scapegoat - the hated 800 pound gorilla and source of all the world's ills - The United States of America. These "useful idiots" are - sadly enough - all too useful to Al-Qaeda and other anti-American fanatics in their propaganda war against the United States - as Osama bin Laden's recent reference to Noam Chomsky demonstrates.
Let there be no mistake: The only reason ZDF and other German media promote this sort of material over and over again is because so many Germans want to buy and believe it. Deep down - far more Germans than anyone is willing to admit are convinced that American leaders destroyed their own buildings and thousands of their fellow citizens to justify a campaign to invade the Middle East for oil. They believe that George W. Bush - together with a sinister cabal of government authorities and arms merchants (i.e. the dreaded military-industrial complex that haunts the fantasies of much of the Angry Left) essentially murdered thousands of innocents - and managed to keep the entire operation secret - without so much as a leak. (This despite the fact that it is also universally accepted among members of the Angry Left that Bush is a complete idiot incapable of forming a coherent sentence...)
Sadly - this article is symptomatic of a wider mental illness that affects a disproportionate number of Germans and is to be found throughout the world wherever angry America-haters (and American self-haters) brood.
This can only be described as one of those moments - with state-sponsored media offering a public stage for these outrageous conspiracy theories - that one feels sincerely ashamed to be a German citizen...
UPDATE: Several readers point out that the documentary (which had not yet aired at the time of this posting) reviews numerous conspiracy theories - only to debunk or contradict them at the very end. It is true that the documentary reaches this conclusion - and we are happy about that - but the entire program is presented and advertised in a manner that hypes and promotes the madness - and offers the conspiracy theorists a platform to spread their lies. Further - had a ZDF documentary concluded that 9/11 was an inside job - the media reaction certainly would not have limited itself to this blog. But the cavalier and disrespectful manner in which the network handles the topic with its article and poll is disturbing - and has more to do with ratings than with a responsible handling of the subject. The poll - which offers outrageous choices (only "space aliens", "Israel", and "free masons" were missing) is a clear indicator that ZDF is anything but dedicated to dispelling the many myths that surround 9/11.
Eric Staal of Republicans Abroad appears on ZDF talk show "Maybrit Illner"
One of the greatest frustrations for the authors of this site is the the near total unwillingness of American diplomats to effectively engage German mass media. What do we mean by "effectively engage"?: Start by sending a representative fluent in German onto as many television talk shows, radio programs and internet forums as possible. In other words: utilize the mass media to explain American policy, to put a human face on the United States and to engage in the national dialog. Unfortunately for Americans in Germany (whether Democrat or Republican or Independent) that hasn't happened for years now - but it's not that difficult - as private individuals have demonstrated.
Eric Staal of Republicans Abroad Germany, (a proud reader of Davids Medienkritik), provided a stellar example this past week when he appeared as a guest on a major German talk show - ZDF's "Maybrit Illner" to discuss the G8 summit, poverty, the environment and security. He lent a human voice to the Republican viewpoint in America - a viewpoint that has been irrationally vilified and misrepresented countless times in German media. In fact, Eric spoke his piece so effectively that the German studio audience erupted in applause. We have two clips below: (View the entire program here)
Above: Eric's first answer with applause - 2 minutes
Above: Highlights - 9 minutes
One of the reasons we felt the need to start this site is because the US Foreign Service in Germany has exhibited a near total unwillingness to defend the United States from even the most vile media attacks. The bottom line: The US Embassy in Berlin is a near total failure in its efforts to engage the German mass media so as to reach the largest possible German audience. The American taxpayer is being under-served by his or her representatives in Germany. Frankly - the public diplomacy officials at the US Embassy in Berlin ought to send Eric Staal half of their annual paychecks - because he just did more to engage the German people in 2 minutes than they have done in the past year.
There is absolutely no excuse for this dereliction of duty on the part of the United States Foreign Service. Even if the Ambassador cannot appear on television or radio because he or she lacks fluency or media experience, there are literally dozens of qualified individuals in the Foreign Service who are prepared to do just that. There are scores of bright and capable young people coming out of foreign affairs programs more than able to engage in this work. The failure to effectively engage German mass media is symptomatic of a lack of leadership - a hamstrung bureaucracy - and an unwillingness to make media outreach a top priority. That must change.Whether 2008 brings a Democrat or Republican to office, the United States diplomatic mission must enter the 21st century - particularly in a world of hostile media. Explaining American policy, engaging foreign media and reaching a mass audience must become the number one priority looking ahead. The failure to this point is baffling - and American taxpayers must demand accountability and reform. In the meantime - blogs like Davids Medienkritik and private individuals like Mr. Staal will continue to hold down the fort.
This is perhaps the only way German citizens will ever see the true opinions and positions of the US administration unfiltered. This is one of the few ways the administration can hope to get a fair shake in foreign media - by defining its own positions without the overwhelming spin of a hostile press.
US Diplomatic Representatives in Germany Have Long Failed to Effectively Engage Mass Media...
The US Embassy ought to have representatives fluent in German engaging mass media on a regular basis to clarify the US position, debate transatlantic issues and correct misinformation. They ought to be far more present on television talk shows, radio shows and as guest columnists in major newspapers. One appearance on a program such as "Berlin Mitte" will reach exponentially more Germans than years of organizing art exchanges or discussion groups at the local Amerika Haus or cultural center.
The fact that members of the American Foreign Service haven't more effectively engaged German media has been a costly failure. The system of two year rotations in the US foreign service clearly makes it more difficult to establish an effective media program. The fact that the Foreign Service and State Department tend to lean undeniably to the left also means that there is currently less desire to go out and explain and defend the positions of the US government on mass media forums - despite the fact that that is the very mission of the public diplomacy officials. One could say that some in the State Department and Foreign Service sympathize with or at least condone the America-hostile rhetoric of the European left.
Here's an important point: If the Ambassador cannot speak the local language - and the current US Ambassador in Germany cannot - then he needs to have a media representative fluent in the local language and able to effectively engage local media on important bilateral and multilateral issues. This MUST become a central mission of American embassies throughout Western Europe.
Education of US Future Diplomats is Wanting...
As someone who just graduated from a top foreign service Masters program in the United States - it is obvious that future American diplomats are not receiving the adequate preparation they need to deal with mass media. Writing memos, following the news and studying past foreign policy is fine - but it does not produce the sort of forward looking, modern, media-savvy diplomats that America has a critical need for moving forward. Top graduate programs must integrate communications and media studies into their foreign affairs and foreign service programs. Public diplomacy is a track that is vitally important and will only grow in importance. It must be emphasized and failure to do so will wield further mediocrity in dealing with foreign media.
Further, when it comes to U.S. university programs in international affairs, the conservative point of view is vastly underrepresented in programs designed to prepare future diplomats. The classes I took on media, for example, were taught exclusively by individuals with unmistakably left-leaning world-views and an open hostility towards conservative and electronic media. Even the self-proclaimed "registered Republican" professor bought a theory put forth by Bill Moyers and Dan Rather that the media were largely in lockstep with Bush before the Iraq War - serving as uncritical lapdogs in the administration's march to war. This deeply flawed and extremely self-serving theory has become widely (and often uncritically) accepted inside the beltway. We were asked to follow the New York Times and Washington Post - and largely ignored conservative publications and viewpoints. When a controversial conservative professor was invited to teach on campus, the protests became so loud among faculty (one could say that a lynch mob atmosphere was created) that the dean actually had to step-in to keep him on board. That would have never happened had he been a controversial liberal like Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky.
It may be that conservatives are politically "out of fashion" for the moment (but - then - aren't they always in Washington?) Still, as a graduate student, I would like to be exposed to both sides of the political spectrum in a balanced manner. It didn't help that most of the students also tend to the left. It didn't help that not a single classmate had served in the US Armed Forces. Academia can be a lonely place if you aren't down with the left-leaning groupthink - particularly in the social sciences. You essentially have to keep quiet - or risk being shouted down and disliked by most of your peers and professors.
The image below shows the "ZDF Heute" homepage ("Heute Journal" is the news program for a major German state network - ZDF). The lead story addresses the concerns of some in Germany that the expansion of the US missile-shield into eastern Europe could lead to a new arms race with Russia. It is certainly a highly convenient opportunity for the Social Democrats - led by Kurt Beck and Foreign Minister Steinmeier, to score some political points and play on pacifist fears and their constituents' reflexive dislike of the United States. Sounds a lot like a replay of the Schroeder 2002 game plan - and many in Germany's media are playing along with their ideological allies.
The ZDF homepage: "U$A NO" - with bomb superimposed on US and EU flags. No anti-Americanism or populism here. Just more fair and objective journalism.
Just another day at the office for the German Hate-America media.
Majorities in USA and Europe Favor Saddam Execution
The recent results of a poll conducted by Novatris/Harris for the French daily Le Monde on the death penalty shocked the editors and writers at Germany's left-leaning SPIEGEL ONLINE. When asked whether they favored the death penalty for Saddam Hussein, a majority of respondents in Germany, France and Spain responded in the affirmative. Here the results by country:
Percentage of respondents in favor of executing Saddam Hussein:
Clearly, there is a gap between the United States and the European nations polled. On the other hand, the western Europeans polled demonstrated that there is majority support for the death penalty in particular cases. In other words, the gap that exists across the Atlantic is not at all the clear-cut, "black-white" divide that some in mediamake it out to be.
Die Zeit: "The Europeans condemn the use of the death penalty" / Do they? The poll numbers above contradict that assumption.
Frankfurter Allgemeine: "President Bush praised the execution, from Europe came sharp criticism." / A tempting -and in the media oft used- opportunity to again pit "Europe" against Bush. A more intellectually honest headline would have pointed out that the majority of the criticism coming from "Europe" has emanated from a tiny media-political elite. The rest of society is evenly divided.
ZDF Heute Online: "Bush Welcomes Saddam's Execution - Criticism from Europe: Divided Reactions to Death Penalty: US President George W. Bush greeted the execution of Saddam Hussein as a milestone on the way to a democratic Iraq. In contrast, criticism came from European countries and human rights organizations - they reject the death penalty as a matter of principle." / ZDF is clearly attempting to create an "us versus them" - "Europe versus Bush and America" wedge issue out of the death penalty. This piece also totally ignores the opinions of the average German.
Deutsche Welle: "Europe condemns death penalty" / But what about the more than half the population in Germany and other European nations that does not condemn it in Saddam's case? Do they simply not matter? Do they somehow not exist for certain media-political elites? Why are their views systematically ignored?
Sueddeutsche published a piece entitled: "Worldwide Sharp Criticism of the Execution." The piece goes nation by nation and lists criticisms as if they represented the view of the entire country. It does not mention poll results that indicate majorities in many of the same countries actually favored Saddam's execution.
Other media outlets, including Financial Times Deutschland and even SPIEGEL ONLINE have actually treated the death penalty question as a debate instead of falsely claiming that an imaginary, monolithic "Europe" has "sharply criticized" Saddam's execution. Another major theme in most of the Western media is that Saddam's execution does not help Iraq - in other words, more of the usual pessimism.
Additionally, there has long been a heated debate on the death penalty in the United States. Several U.S. states do not legally permit executions or do not make (wide) use of them. From the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s, executions came to a near standstill in the United States, in part because of legal challenges which culminated in the Supreme Court's 1972 Furman vs. Georgia decision. Recently, a botched execution in Florida led Republican Governor Jeb Bush to suspend the death penalty as a federal judge in California imposed a moratorium halting executions in that state.
Put another way: There is a lively debate on the death penalty on both sides of the Atlantic, with significant numbers and powerful factions on either side. Unfortunately, many in the German media have made death penalty out to be a divisive, "good versus evil" wedge issue. This stems in part from the transatlantic legal contrast: Most European nations have banned the death penalty while it remains legal in much of the United States.
The desire in influential segments of German media and society to reduce the death penalty to the level of a transatlantic wedge issue is also deeply rooted in another key factor: Ideology. The far-left in Germany is a political force to be reckoned with. Its representatives dominate wide swaths of the media, academia and certain political parties including the SPD, Greens and the PDS. Not only do representatives of the far-left reject the death penalty in all cases (putting them at odds with many ordinary Germans), they also oppose American-style free-market capitalism, smaller, less restrictive government, and the projection of American power in the world. This movement consists largely of an assortment of 68-radicals (including ex-Maoists, Leninists, RAF sympathizers, and your run-of-the mill Socialist demonstrators); ex-eastern-bloc-Communists; young people radicalized through academia, media and far-left political parties and movements; and out-and-out America-haters. Quite honestly, these folks would have rejected the execution of Hitler and Eichmann just as they reject the execution of Saddam. Ironically, they see the issue as a "black-and-white" - "with us or against us" issue. (Sound familiar?)
Nonetheless the death penalty remains contentious. Conservatives, libertarians and European Liberale, who traditionally favor a less powerful, less intrusive government, must ask themselves if they trust the state to determine who should live and who should die. Furthermore, they must consider whether the death penalty in the United States has become so legally contentious (filled with endless appeals, challenges and expenses) that it is practically (if not also ethically) questionable?
These are the debates that citizens on both sides of the Atlantic should be having with one another and not against one another, as many on the far-left would have it. The real "wedge", in this and many other cases, is not a transatlantic one. The real "wedge" is and has long been firmly lodged between the Angry left and the rest of society.
As the poll numbers above demonstrate, the peoples of the United States and Europe are not nearly as far apart on the death penalty as some would have us believe. Sadly, in a media culture that thrives on creating new controversies and divisions and exacerbating old ones (whether real or imagined) you might never know it.
UPDATE: Watch the full Saddam execution here:
A quick and painless death for a tyrant responsible for the murder and torture of so many.
(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.
Medien Tenor: Proportion of anti-American reports rise dramatically in European media
Davids Medienkritik has delivered examples of German media bias on a daily basis for nearly three years. But some readers still wonder whether there really is a larger pattern of anti-Americanism or whether we are we just "cherry picking" the negative. Well, the international media research institute "Medien Tenor" has just released (another) study that reaffirms what we've suspected for quite some time. In the summary of a newsletter entitled, "Bush has a difficult standing among Europe's journalists," the institute reports (translated):
"International Media Tenor Analysis: ARD and ZDF see the USA most Critically
Bonn. In January 2006 the proportion of "anti-American" reporting rose noticeably in the most influential European media. The reason was, above all, increased media attention on the Iraq conflict as well as the relations of the USA with Syria, Iran and Palestine. This is the result of an international analysis of the Bonn-based media research institute Media Tenor. Also in Asian media, that otherwise report in a balanced manner, journalists evaluated the USA more negatively than usual. Important topics there were, among other things, the US air bases in Japan and Google's involvement in China. The media analysis for the Middle East provided results that indicated the Arab language television broadcaster Al Jazeera showed small improvement in its evaluation of the USA. Print media, on the other hand, maintained their negative position in light of the Iraq conflict.
Along with President Bush, the international media viewed the US military especially critically in January 2006. That was also the case for all of 2005, as the Media Tenor analysis showed. During the entire past year, conflicts dominated the news, with primary focus on Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and Syria. The reporting in Europe was especially critical of the US in 2005 at the "ARD Tagesthemen" and the "ZDF heute/journal," followed by the British media "The Times" and "6 O'Clock News" on BBC1. In the French media, on the other hand, the image of the US improved somewhat. While the critical position of the journalists towards Bush was an important cause of the overall negative value of the USA in 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was primarily presented either positively or neutrally. Only in the Arab language media in January 2006 showed a somewhat more negative tone in reporting on Rice.
For the analysis Media Tenor examined print and television reporting in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, France, Japan, China, South Korea and in Arab language media from 01.01.2005 to 31.01.2006. The following 38 media were evaluated: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, Handelsblatt, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Welt, ARD Tagesthemen, ZDF Heute Journal, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Times, Newsnight (BBC2), 6 O‘Clock News (BBC1), 9 O‘Clock News (BBC2), Corriere della Sera, Il Sore 24 Ore, La Repubblica, El País, TVE1, El Mundo, Le Monde, Le Journal (TF1), Liberation, Metropolis, People‘s Daily, Asahi shimbun, Yomiun Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, Korea Economic Daily, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Al-Hayat, Al Saharq Al-Awsat, Al-Ikhbariya, Al-Alam, Al-Manar, Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiyah, LBC T.V"
Note that, of those media analyzed, the most US critical media in all Europe were Germany's two largest, state-sponsored television news broadcasts. Unfortunately, many Germans view these same state media as impartial and unbiased because they are (supposedly) independent of commercial interests. But they are necessarily dependent on the German government via the German taxpayer. And that means our German public television friends rely mightily on politicians who support continued and increasing levels of taxation (through the GEZ* fee and other taxes) to support, protect and expand their budgets, personnel and influence.
Not surprisingly, there is a deadly aversion against those who would so much as suggest cutting or even eliminating the taxes flowing through the umbilical cord. America, with its diverse, rough-and-tumble, private-sector media and emaciated public broadcasting, is seen as an anathema. There is great favoritism in Germany towards (and willingness to forgive/circle-the-wagons around) those who staunchly support taxation for public broadcasting. They tend to find themselves left of center: The SPD, the Greens, the PDS/WASG and sometimes the CDU**. These parties are populated with, and led by, the same 68ers who shared formative experiences with those sitting behind the editors' desks of so many German newsrooms today. There is a clear but unspoken symbiotic relationship at work. The result is political bias. The lack of influential alternative media only exacerbates the problem, especially when it comes to foreign reporting.
An NTV correspondent recently remarked that German media displayed a diversity of opinion. After all there are those who favor the SPD (Social Democrats) and those who favor the more conservative Union parties and so on. Absolutely right: There is an ample supply of commentary across the German political spectrum when it comes to internal, domestic politics, (although we would contend that there is still a bias towards the SPD and Greens.) But the picture is very different when it comes to reporting on the United States and other foreign countries: Here a shrill, extreme monotone dominates the media landscape. And the loudest, shrillest voices radiate from the usual suspects, some of them well-respected news sources within Germany. Sadly, these extremists are also influential opinion-shapers. Add to that a palpable German cultural skepticism towards foreigners. The result? Many Germans' views of the US consist of a regurgitated amalgamation of negative media reports, Hollywood flicks and fast-food legends. (Yuck!) Those who have lived in the US or actually know Americans tend to be most immune.
So what can we do to counteract the anti-American bias in German media and society? Here are a few suggestions.
Increase the influence, reach, and number of German-language blogs, particularly those with a media critical attitude. That includes blogs of all political persuasions. Additionally, increase other media alternatives with a more balanced view of the United States and other foreign nations within Germany, possibly via talk radio, television or printed material.
Increase funding (public and private on both sides of the Atlantic) for exchange programs so that more Germans can visit the United States and see the nation and its people for themselves. There is no better way to circumvent and short-circuit the stereotypes and biased reporting. The same goes for Americans. More Americans ought to learn German and participate in exchanges to Germany.
The US government should stop spending public affairs money on art exhibits and ballet excursions and start spending it on building a staff of professionals dedicated to countering and responding to bias in the German media. That means hiring people fluent in German (preferably German citizens) who can go on all the German talk shows and news programs and counter the anti-American bias on a regular basis. You can reach 1,000 people with an art exhibit; you can reach millions with a television appearance. It also wouldn't hurt if the US Ambassador to Germany actually spoke German!
Provide increased access to US government officials for relatively unbiased German media such as Die Welt and Focus. Also continue to engage biased media including SPIEGEL, ARD and ZDF, but do so very carefully and respond aggressively and proactively should they pull a stunt such as the recent Karen Hughes interview debacle. That could include formally complaining to German diplomats and politicians. (Just to be clear: We are not blaming Undersecretary Hughes for what happened, it was clearly SPIEGEL's fault.)
(*For those of you who have never owned a television or radio in Germany, the GEZ fee is a mandatory fixed tax on everyone who owns a television or radio used to fund public broadcasting. Government bureaucrats are actually sent door to door to enforce its payment.)
(** The SPD are the Social Democrats (Ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's party); the PDS/WASG is Germany's new far-left party; the CDU is the Christian Democrat party (Chancellor Angela Merkel's party) which is viewed as "conservative" by German standards but still favors big social-welfare spending.)
Update from David: How timely: today (Sunday, March 19, 2006) on WELTSPIEGEL (one of German public tv's most venomous anti-American programmes): a report on a phony solidarity action of WELTSPIEGEL for "poor Americans". Quote: "In the USA in winter time and again old folks freeze to death in their beds.". WELTSPIEGEL was preceeded on ARD by a heart wrenching report "Tookie and the Terminator" about the execution of a saint: Mr. Tookie Williams. Was the report biased? Well, somewhat... I would guess that it was 100 percent in favor of Tookie Williams and 0 percent in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger. And of course - capital punishment in the U.S. was criticized with the usual fervor. Your typical anti-American Sunday menu on Germany's public tv...
Here is another commentary by our friend DL from Heidelberg. He addresses the need for more competition in the German news market place.
It’s Time for Independent Media in Germany
When NATO pursued its decision to field Pershing II missiles during the mid-eighties, the peace movement that gave birth to the Green party was the subject of Germany’s nightly news. Without fail the peace movement was always referred to as “die sogenannte Friedensbewegung” – “the so-called peace movement” as though it were pretending to be something it wasn’t. The reason was simple. Then Chancellor Kohl feared the growing opposition rooted in German pacifism. So state-funded media became a tool in his battle to shape public opinion.
Twenty years later and neither the system nor the methods have changed. Germany’s main national television stations, ARD and ZDF, are financed through tax revenue. Germans pay a monthly fee on every
I watched the movie "Meltdown" ("Angst über Amerika") on Germany's public tv channel ZDF on Monday night. The movie was originally produced for the U.S. channel FX Cable, in cooperation with Fox TV (!).
The plot addresses the anxieties and convictions of left-wing audiences: Terrorist group takes over a California based nuclear plant as easy as 1-2-3 and threaten to cause a nuclear meltdown (after all - we all know how dangerous those nuclear plants are!). The U.S government reacts cluelessly and tries to conceal the truth from the public. Also, evil U.S. forces acting on order from the evil U.S. government murder poor terrorist leader who already had given up. And so on. I watched the movie from beginning to the end, but not all of it, falling asleep at irregular intermittent intervals.
ZDF - afraid the naive German public wouldn't get the message - had this to say about the movie: "...production of frightening actuality ... frightening authenticity ... a movie about the feelings of a nation after September 11, 2001 - their anxieties and insecurities, the arrogance and the old lies."
ZDF here perpetuates the old lie of the lying U.S. government. While they can't offer proof for their assertion, a mediocre movie comes handy to remind German audiences of the wickedness of U.S. governments. (I know - the movie was first shown on U.S. television, but without a claim by FX of the "old lies" of the government.)
Regarding the likelihood of a nuclear meltdown deliberately caused by the terrorists, I found this enlightening comment by a student of Nuclear Engineering (scroll page down to "More accurate than some, but still inaccurate"):
Riding the false fear that a Chernobyl style meltdown could happen in an American plant, the movie states that any meltdown (even partial, according to one of the guest commentators in the movie) would mean disaster for the area. In fact, a partial meltdown in an American plant, while destroying the core, would not pose any risk to the surrounding area. Three Mile Island experienced a partial meltdown and no radioactive material was released into the environment at all, thanks to the natural stability of the fuel and core design used in this country paired with substantial containment.
The security steps shown in the movie were perhaps the part of the movie furthest from the truth. At any important strategic location -- be it power plant, chemical plant, military base, anything -- you will never see personnel responding to an alarm by milling around talking as if it were an unannounced drill. This is especially true at a nuclear plant, where, upon the sounding of the alarm, the reactors would be SCRAMed immediately, shutting them off. SCRAMing can be done with the push of a button in the control room (you do not need to put the core in "shutdown mode" like depicted in the movie), and the chemistry of nuclear fission prevents a core from being brought back up to power within about 9 hours of a SCRAM. (...)
Thank you, ZDF, for presenting ideological anti-nuclear crap without any reservation. A further meltdown of the journalistic core of public tv in Germany...
We knew it wouldn’t take long for the German media to find a way to blame the tsunami disaster on the US. Today, N24, ZDF and Focus are all reporting on the alleged failure of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to properly warn nations of the tsunami danger after a massive earthquake shook the floor of the Indian Ocean. The story is based on reports that the “US Congress is preparing to investigate” the NOAA's alleged inability to properly and rapidly pass on potentially lifesaving information to nations in the path of the tsunami.
What is troubling about this story is not its content, but the way in which it is being packaged, presented and sold to the German public. As always, whenever there is a problem in the world, the finger of blame is inevitably pointed at the United States. Instead of asking why the EU or the UN failed to detect the tsunami and promptly warn those in danger, the German media is once again turning to the usual suspect: The world scapegoat USA.
Never mind that the United Nations would have been the most appropriate organization to set up and run a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean that could have saved thousands. Never mind that the EU (that great bastion of humanitarian soft-power) completely and utterly failed to detect and warn anyone of the tsunami. Never mind that wealthy Asian nations failed to invest in a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean in their own back yard. The German media is once again telling its audience what it so desperately wants to hear: It’s America’s fault!
The Truth: The NOAA Did Issue Tsunami Warnings
The headline, “Criticism: US Authority Did Not Pass On Tsunami Warnings,” is misleading in the extreme. It implies that the NOAA negligently failed to pass on information that could have saved thousands of lives. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The NOAA did, in fact, pass on tsunami warnings to several nations and made repeated attempts to warn them of the potential tsunami danger. In most cases, the nations warned either could not react in time or, as was the case in Thailand, chose not to react for fear of harming the tourist industry. It must also be noted that some nations (India for example) detected the oncoming tsunami independently of the NOAA, yet were unable to take decisive action due to a lack of time, coordination and infrastructure.
The main problem facing the NOAA was that it simply did not have the proper contact information for every nation in the tsunami’s path and, absent a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean, had no exact way of knowing where the tsunami was, where it was headed or whether it even existed. The NOAA’s inability to quickly contact the proper authorities due to a lack of coordination is the main issue that Congress would investigate. Here is an excerpt from the NOAA’s December 29 statement on the disaster:
“NOAA scientists at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii went to work within minutes of getting a seismic signal that an earthquake occurred off the west coast of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia. NOAA issued a bulletin indicating no threat of a tsunami to Hawaii, the West Coast of North America or to other coasts in the Pacific Basin—the area served by the existing tsunami warning system established by the Pacific rim countries and operated by NOAA in Hawaii.
NOAA scientists then began an effort to notify countries about the possibility that a tsunami may have been triggered by the massive 9.0 undersea earthquake. The Pacific Basin tsunami warning system did not detect a tsunami in the Indian Ocean since there are no buoys in place there. Even without a way to detect whether a tsunami had formed in the Indian Ocean, NOAA officials tried to get the message out to other nations not a part of its Pacific warning system to alert them of the possibility of a tsunami. However, the tsunami raced across the ocean at speeds up to 500 mph.”
The fact that the German media has chosen to package the story with headlines that imply gross negligence on the part of the US government in this disaster is the truly troubling issue here. Legitimate criticism of the NOAA’s response time or lack of full coordination with affected nations is both legitimate and necessary. It is a problem, however, when the US and the NOAA are singled-out as a primary focus of criticism while the UN, EU and affected nations are largely let off the hook despite their many failings.
Conversely, it is interesting to note that the USA is not being singled-out for praise in the German media for its donation of $350 million in aid or for the fact that US helicopters were the first to bring aid to remote regions affected by the tsunami. This all further underscores the underlying bias prevalent in the German media.
This notice about the Cuban dance group "Havana Nights" is a good two years old. It appears on the website of ZDF, a public TV channel in Germany, and advertises a showing of the film on November 17, 2002.
As happens so often in the German media, a sly admiration for life in Cuba resonates throughout the notice. Pro-government statements by Cubans are taken at face-value - without taking into account linguistic defense mechanisms by people who are faced with the dangers of a dictatorship.
The show from Cuba
"Havana Nights" is a play that excites young Cubans most. The show is a megaphone for the young generation, which is proud of its musical tradition, which the show interprets in a modern way.
In the footsteps of Wim Wenders’s "Buena Vista Social Club," it’s another German who helps Cuban music achieve a breakthrough. But this time there is an innovation: In "Havana Nights" Nicole Durr wants to show what the young generation has to say....
Eighteen-year-old Deyanira did it....As a child she dreamed of being a singer. Fidel Castro fulfilled her wish, she explains: "When I stood next to Fidel Castro during the 30th anniversary of my school, he asked me what I do, whether I had any desires. I said that I studied music and that I only wanted my photo taken with him. I received the photo, and then he had a piano sent to my house, too."...
Until now there have been hardly any defections after a foreign tour. That speaks to satisfaction with the ensemble. But it also had to do with pride in one’s own country, its attitude towards life, and its culture, which for most Cubans can’t be balanced by money.(emphasis added)
Two years later we find this photo of the group, which is clearly in the best of moods:
What are they celebrating - another photo op or a piano gift from Fidel?
Looks like the German media wake up to the dangers posed by islamic fundamentalists.
ZDF, one of the two German public tv channels, secretly made a film in a Berlin mosque. And this is what the preacher said:
"These Germans, these atheists, these Europeans don't shave under their arms and their sweat collects under their hair with a revolting smell and they stink. Hell lives for the infidels! Down with all democracies and all democrats!"
Now, the smell thing doesn't sell well in Germany.
If only the preacher had just concentrated on denouncing democracy...
(Hat tip Miles.)
Update 1: Well, not all folks seem to be up to the challenge: Green MP asks for Islamic public holiday in Germany. Hans-Christian Stroebele, deputy chairman of the Green faction in the Bundestag, wants an Islamic holiday in Germany "at the end of Ramadan". More (for our German speaking visitors) here. What's next? Shariah law in Germany? Stay tuned...
Update 2: Great comment by James in our comment section: "A dwarf is awakening in Europe : terrorists watch your shoelaces!"
Let the man (Bush) cope with the consequences of his mistakes himself – or not. Then at the next election people will probably look back with horror at eight years of Bush, remember that fair loser Kerry and his rather reasonable proposals and hopefully at last give the Democrats their long overdue chance. A nice dream, granted, and a European one, too, but the current electoral reality can’t be tolerated otherwise.
The world looks with bewilderment at the US.... The current economic upswing belies huge problems.... The consequences of these policies are dramatic: the state is going broke.... Since November 3, 2004, George W. Bush can consider himself to be truly elected. However it might be a rude awakening for his country.
He forced a war on this world with threadbare arguments, which the people didn’t want. He split the Western world, although the war against terrorism can only be won together. He overrode rights whenever it suited him. With his false rationale for war he deceived millions.
The groaning about the outcome of the US election is deafening. Had George W. Bush stood for election in Europe, he would have been blown out of office with drums and trumpets.... Four more years with this man! You Americans, what have you done to us? More brusqueness, more going it alone, more wars? The groaning is deafening.
Until now my impression had been that the groaning was for Chancellor Schroeder – and the massive unemployment, for which he is responsible, the ever increasing national debt (although Germany doesn’t have to pay for a war in Iraq!), as well as the zero growth of the economy.
How wrong can you be...
BTW: Here are other examples in our blog for the German media's post-election "Bush Derangement Syndrome":
Update 1: And here's the hysterical reaction of the Austrian media... Update 2: I love this comment to the Brender quote (see above) : "Us Americans, what have we done to you? Uh... for one thing, you're not Nazis anymore. Sorry about the brusqueness..." Update 3: Check our posting "Thank you, USA".
"We are, within the framework of our possibilities, prepared to become involved in the stabilization of the situation in Iraq, for example through the mentioned training of police and soldiers outside of Iraq or through the civil rebuilding in Iraq. But not just President Bush, but also presidential candidate Kerry knows that the position of the German government not to send any troops to Iraq is not dependent upon who will be elected in the American elections." (emphasis ours)
It is becoming more and more clear with each passing day that Germany and France will not send troops to Iraq even if John Kerry should win the election. So the big question remains: If elected, which allies will a President Kerry convince to join the US in Iraq after calling the war a "mistake" fought at the wrong place and the wrong time? Mr. Kerry's promises to build a broader coalition and attract more international allies to Iraq seem awfully hollow. Perhaps Burkina Faso can still be convinced...
Voigt: Bush has Himself to Blame for Germans' Negative Perceptions
Mr. Voigt's reaction to the following question was also interesting:
"Question: Most Germans want Kerry to be the next US President. Despite that, wouldn't it be simpler for the position of the German government if Bush were re-elected?
Answer: I believe that here there is a difference between the populace and the experts in the government, who not only know that we have to work together with the American president, no matter what his name is. The experts also know that there are moderate differences between the candidates, but no principal differences in the foreign and security policy. That is something that is not perceived by the German people in the same manner, because there naturally the rhetoric of Bush that is aimed at a particular political clientele and political milieu is not exactly something that in the same way garners great favor. I believe that the differences in the policy, that do indeed exist, are not as dramatic as they are, in part, perceived by the general population." (emphasis ours)
So according to Voigt, the main reason that most Germans can't see how similar Bush and Kerry really are is because of "Bush's rhetoric." In other words, it is Bush's own fault that people in Germany dislike him in overwhelming numbers. "Selberschuld" Mr. President.
But is that really what is behind Germans' disdain for Bush? Is Mr. Voigt giving us the complete picture?
Hmmmm...I wonder if Mr. Voigt thinks any of this objective German media coverage has influenced Germans' perceptions of Bush:
Could this sort of media coverage possibly have influenced Germans Mr. Voigt?
One thing is clear: It is certainly much easier from a political point of view for Mr. Voigt to place all the blame on Bush and his "rhetoric." Bush has become a favorite scapegoat for nearly everything of late. Now he is even being blamed for job losses in Germany. After all, why should the German media blame the Socialist-Green government's failing economic policy when they can point the finger at the evil American cowboy? It certainly sells more magazines and numbs the pain.
But can we really blame poor Mr. Voigt? It really wouldn't make much sense for a member of the Socialist Schroeder administration to criticize such strong natural allies in the German media. Why bite the hand that feeds you?