« Libanon-Krieg: Hisbollah soll britische Nachtsichtgeräte haben | Main | Sueddeutsche Zeitung: Biased Daily Life for Media in Germany »


Bravo Ray, superb answer! I have no suggestions as to how you could improve your site - you are simply doing a great and (sadly!) necessary job!

The gist of the critique is that, yes, there is anti-American bias in the German media, but, please, present it in a nicer package. Mike Wallace has just shown the world how to wrap a megalomaniacal would-be mass-murderer (guess who?) in crisp gift paper, all tied up nicely with shiny ribbons. Maybe DMK's role model should be Mike Wallace.

If I could find in the German media as many reports explaining, or even promoting the American position, as there are reports criticizing it, I wouldn't read DMK anymore. DMK would probably not exist anymore. I wouldn't mind the most vicious and unfair attacks on America, as long as in the same publication there is always a counterbalancing opinion. As long as there is a heavy preponderance of anti-American reports in the German media, DMK should present them as they are, raw and unfiltered.

Some readers' blood will get boiling and they will react impulsively, without being aware of the entire picture. This is unfortunate, it happens everywhere in the blogosphere, it will keep happening, and it is not DMK's fault or shortcoming. Most commenters though are *not* in that category. However, comments and DMK posts are two entirely different aspects.

If German readers are not happy with the DMK postings, they should direct their unhappiness towards the source of those postings, the German media. As Ray said, it is ridiculous to say that DMK's tone would damage transatlantic relations, when it is in fact the conduct of the German media, which has helped create a wide divide between the two countries.

Thanks for this explanation. You're really doing a very good job and I like the way you handled that criticism. As a German, I agree with you: we're given much more biased information than balanced. But there _is_ balanced information in German media, too, and you may consider to quote it from time to time when criticising other texts - to show how it _could_ have been done.

Ray wrote: "if our readers have suggestions as to how we could improve, we are happy to listen"

http://usaerklaert.wordpress.com/ is a great, serious and funny German language blog by an American explaining the US to German readers. That's one of many good ways to fight Anti-Americanism.

Here's a quote from the About us page:
"Was in den Medien und Blogs über die USA zu lesen ist, ist oft genug Halbwissen oder Vorurteil und hin und wieder wohl auch bewusste Desinformation. Unkritisches zitieren führt dazu, dass diese Fehler weitergegeben und verstärkt werden, bis jeder es “einfach weiß”. Als Amerikaner erkennt man dann schon mal sein eigenes Land nicht mehr wieder. Nun gibt es keinen Mangel an deutschsprachigen Blogs über die USA. Aber sie sind irgendwie alle damit beschäftigt, das Land entweder als des Satans neue Heimat zu verdammen oder es als das neue Paradies zu vergöttern. Ein Blog, in dem einfach beschrieben wird, wie die Dinge funktionieren - was eine Nationalgarde ist, wie man Sheriff wird, was Root Beer ist - scheint es nicht zu geben. Und genau diese Lücke soll dieses Blog schließen: “USA Erklärt” will in leicht lesbarer Form Hintergrundwissen über die USA anbieten."

Here's the Table of Contents of USA Erklaert.

Perhaps you could feature that blog in your currently dormant (?) series of "Blog of the Month"?

The Atlantic Review has recommended this blog and other blogs by American expats in Germany.

USA erklärt participated in the last Carnival of German-American Relations.
I hope Medienkritik will again participate in the next carnival on September 24th. The carnivals are read by liberals and conservatives on both sides of the ocean, i.e. the carnivals bring Medienkritik a few new readers, incl. German and American lefties, who need to read about Medienkritik's valid criticism of examples of Anti-Americanism in Germany. Medienkritik might not get huge numbers of readers, but a few new liberal German and American readers is more important than preaching to the choir, I believe.

Just a few suggestions.

I find Medienkritik a very valuable blog. The anti-American bias of German and other European media (Spanish media are actually worse) is saddening and I find the examples quoted here very enlightening. I think though that there is a certain disconnect between the published opinion in German media and the opinion of average Germans. They are far less anti-American as the German press seems to make believe.

Cubans in exile face a similar media bias problem as Americans do, but the other way round. The "pro Cuba bias" (read pro socialist Cuba bias) is often very annoying. For people who know how the situation really is in Cuba this can be infuriating. Cubans have been struggling for decades to show Europeans how barbaric the Cuban dictatorship really is. Europeans have no idea how painful it is for a Cuban dissident to see all those posters and T-shirts with Che on them.

The good thing is that blogs like this one and many more in the USA are watching the media more closely. Of course the journalists don't like it. It makes it much more difficult for them to get away with manipulation. How far those go is easy to see when you realize how biased the reporting on Lebanon is.

Keep up your good work


I am pleased to see your website in English. I have German friends who work and live here in the U.S., and their attitudes and opinions made me suspect the German media portrayals might not be a reliable guide to the "man on the street" German, much as the American media horribly distorts what I know vs what the media portrays. Then again, "German media" is usually imported, digested, and fed to me by American media. Thank God for the Internet!

Its always the same criticism isn't it - an observer will say that its a distortion of the way Germans feel to cherry-pick examples of anti-american bias out of the German media and present them to outsiders.

This kind of objection might carry more weight if the tone of reporting on the USA in the German media was a 1:1 positive:negative balance - even 2:1 I'd go as far as 5:1 maybe

The reality is that its 10:1 and higher

Positive reviews of things American in any serious area are uniformly negative - this was true of the UK media when I lived there and true of most Euro media I have seen.

Keep up the good and vital work - lets try to shame these media leftists into showing some amount of balance and so improve relations between our two great nations

To all those who claim that Medienkritik is overemphasizing the "dark" side of the coin I can only say that I have been watching the german medias for the last 30 years and in the last 10-15 years I can hardly see any unbiased reports and almost none positive about the US here in germany.
When I grew up reports about the US always showed both sides of the coin. So when there was a positive report about something also the disadvantages were shown. The same about negative reports. Thats what I call unbiased journalism. Now 95% of what I see in the media here about the US has a negative spin without any positive side and ,what I consider even worth, is the spread of misinformations. If these misinformations are intended lies or simply born out of ignorance is up to anyones speculations.

I do absolutely agree that "USA erklärt" is a great side and I wish that it would be made in to a periodic docimentary in german TV (just reading it to the audience would be enough) but to "cure" germans view about the US you need a dosis of both "Medienkritik" and "USA erklärt". One to show them how they are misinformed and what might be the intention behind this and one to set the record straight.

I do absolutely agree that "USA erklärt" is a great side and I wish that it would be made in to a periodic docimentary in german TV (just reading it to the audience would be enough)

Perhaps Scot could make a podcast of his posts...

Hi -

Uh, the site's name **is** "Medienkritik", Media Critic. It's **not** "Deutsch-USA Liebesfest". :-)

Seriously, you guys have been very good. The German media is so "critical" in its criticalness that it has become very dogmatic and reactionary, and indeed very defensive of any criticism.

Hence what you guys have been doing is shining light on what most journalists would prefer to keep hidden in the dark, i.e. the nature of their biases.

Keep up the great work!


Is this really about constructive criticism or about changing DMK into a different site? I really like reading "USA erklärt" too, but to believe that spreading knowledge about the U.S. alone is enough to cure anti-Americanism is simply naive. Because it ignores the fact that some journalists "apparently deliberately" report negatively about the U.S. and therefore it is necessary to have both: Correct information and criticism of biased reporting. In many cases, it might well be the criticism in first place that could make people want to get more accurate information in second place.

garydausz nails it. The assertion by Tibor that the Medienkritik present only the 'bad' side of the German media is patently inaccurate. The Medienkritik occasionally posts articles from the German media that shed a positive light on the U.S. -- in fact, nearly every positive article from the major German weeklies gets posted here. As a reflection of the tone of the German media with respect to the U.S., this site is actually disproportionally positive. I spent twenty years in Germany. There is nothing unfair about this site.

As far as promoting "cultural understanding" goes, how can Americans hope to understand Germans and German culture without knowing what kind of hateful propaganda is being printed about them day in and day out in the German media?

I wonder how many of the hand-wringers that complain about this blog have found the time to pick up a pen to protest anti-American content and one-sided lies in the German press. I wonder how many of them bother to disabuse their fellow citizens and family when the subject of American "crimes" is raised in their presence.

Just for the record and benefit of those who might not have read my entire e-mail: I am Croatian-American, not German. I was raised and educated in the Midwest and NYC, then left New York for a clerkship in the South. Since the early 80s, I've been living and working in Germany. If you are looking for Germans complaining about DMK, fine, but that's not me.

As I wrote before, I generally feel very welcomed and well in Germany. Same goes for my family; notwithstanding the occasional annoying yet harmless encounter with uninformed idiots--which you'll find in any given society--we are quite happy over here. If I were still living in the States and more or less exclusively reading DMK, however, I would probably think that living in Germany and making friends with Germans was virtually impossible. Some of the commentators--and no, I of course do not hold DMK responsible for their commentators--apparently got that impression already. And that made me wonder and prompted my e-mail.

I appreciate Ray's answer to my concerns very much--and indeed, I meant to offer some "constructive criticism." My e-mail was not, however, about "changing DMK into a different site" or merely wrapping it in "crisp gift paper, all tied up nicely with shiny ribbons." But why not include some of the good and valid points Ray made in his answer in some sort of official DMK mission or permanent introductory statement? What bad would it do, for instance, to state that "this site was never intended to serve as a singular source of information on Germany and German culture. Our site is about bias in German media and politics. It tends to focus on a group of highly influential media and political groups that continually exhibit bias in a manner detrimental to transatlantic relations. Readers should not confuse our work as a watchdog site as a reflection of the entire German media or German society unless that is what we are specifically talking about?" This might seem self-evident, and for most of you guys it probably indeed is, however, other readers might then be able to put things better into perspective.

By no means did I imply that DMK should stop what it is doing. Ray and David are doing a great and important job. That being said, because I totally believe them that they do not want to create new bias on the other side, I thought I might voice some of the concerns I had. That's all.

Finally, on a slightly different note, I absolutely agree with some of the commentators over at the Atlantic Review blog that anti-Americanism should not be confused or even equated with sentiments against the current administration. To be fair, of course lots of German (or global, for that matter) criticism against Bush, against the war in Iraq etc. is motivated by anti-American bias. And that's sad. It is nevertheless wrong, though, to simply believe the opposite was true as well: I have many German friends who have lived in the U.S. and love our country but despise the current adminstration--heck, many Americans do! Same goes for the peace protests and Israel. A peace rally is not automatically a "pro Hizbollah" rally, even if some idiots praising the terrorists participate. People oppose war for a wide variety of reasons, anti-Americanism or antisemitism being only two--albeit horrible and stupid--of them. Thus, simply comparing the numbers of peace and pro-Israel demonstrations is a bit misleading, too.

Thanks again, Ray, for this post.

Tibor’s comment is certainly thoughtful and written from the point of view of one who obviously wishes the best for both Germany and America. However, I really don't think Medienkritik needs to spend much time agonizing over the kind of cosmetic changes and disclaimers he proposes. The site's mission and goal are clear. If it is effective in carrying out that mission, it is bound to offend some German readers. I, for one, am far from considering that a purely negative outcome. Let them be offended. It might eventually get them to start thinking.

Ray's answer to Tibor isn’t based on mere speculation. It is born out by the history of anti-American bias in the German media over the last decade or so. In the late 90’s that bias was blatant, vicious, and open. Little changed until around 2002 to 2003. The level of anti-Americanism in the German media was shocking. It could not have been worse if the German media had been deliberately trying to create a “Feindbild Amerika.” It was, in fact, quite comparable to the coverage of Germany in the American media when we were actually at war in 1917-18 and 1941-45.

The fact that large numbers of Germans did not share these attitudes did not change the fact that a very large part of the population did, and, as the hate propaganda in the media continued, their numbers increased. The situation did not change because a few bloggers began to suggest, with exquisite manners, bright smiles, and a determination not to offend German readers, that, perhaps, the hate propaganda should be toned down a little. It did not change by virtue of many appearances by charming ambassadors at social affairs promoting good German-American relations. It did not change because Americans simply continued to smile and take all the vicious hate-mongering on the other side of the Atlantic with a grain of salt. It certainly did not change because of any attempts by Americans to “understand” and appease the propagandists. It only began to change when Medienkritik and a few other principled people on both sides of the Atlantic got in the face of SPON, Stern, and the rest, and exposed them for the sellers of hate for profit that they really are.

Expressions of anti-Americanism in the German media today are much subdued from the extreme levels seen in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. That change has not come about because the editors of the German mass media have suddenly become principled. It has come about because they were shamed and exposed as hate-mongers. Enough people on the other side of the Atlantic finally began noticing what was going on that it became impossible for them to continue the strident propaganda and still retain any semblance of journalistic credibility or respect.

I am firmly convinced that, without a willingness on the part of Medienkritik and others to sharply confront the propagandists, get in their faces, and trade blow for blow, nothing would have changed. I don’t doubt that the sharpness of the counterattack also resulted in a certain level of hate being returned the other way. Malevolent and ignorant people exist on both sides of the Atlantic. If so, it is hardly reasonable to blame the victims. Those who blame Americans for reacting to hate with hate should direct their criticism against those who began promoting hate in the first place. For that matter, it is all to the good if Germans are made to understand that Americans are just as capable of hating as they are, and will, like any other human beings, return hostility for hostility. If a few Germans happen to feel offended by the sharpness of the counterattack, so be it. It won’t hurt them if they are forced to listen to criticism for a change, instead of just dishing it out.

"Finally, on a slightly different note, I absolutely agree with some of the commentators over at the Atlantic Review blog that anti-Americanism should not be confused or even equated with sentiments against the current administration."

It is certainly possible for Germans to disagree with the policies of the current Administration and not be anti-American. However, the notion that the two can never be equated is simply wrong. Bush is, in fact, very useful as a fig leaf for anti-Americanism. German media apologists are fond of claiming that "it's all about Bush," but that's patent nonsense. Anti-American propaganda in the German media was, in fact, much worse in the final years of the Clinton Administration than it is now. It's usually easy to see through this alibi. The "anti-Bush" people always tip their hands by only presenting negative half truths, never criticizing America's enemies for the same faults, never having anything positive to say about America, never confronting or even noting the existence of their opponent's counter-arguments, relentlessly emphasizing the negative in any reference to America, etc.

tibor, thank you for your elucidation of your thoughts. I take you as a very well-meaning person and I would like to address you as such.

It is true that criticism of Israeli policy or U.S. administration can be valid in and of itself. No argument there at all.

But throughout history anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism have served a very unique function in the glorification of the aggrieved. Part of what DMK illuminates is the inabilty of the German nation to come to terms with its history and go forward.

Germany was defeated. Utterly and without question.
It has made huge strides in reorienting itself to the western liberal model.

But really not enough, as evidenced by the German media. And I say that because the market forces of German media are quite distinct from those of American media. A lot of German media rose from politcal parties and unions. American media rose from private enterprise.

In the U.S., the NYT is going down. Fox is flying. Market forces.

In Germany? In France? Are they subject to market forces? In France, especially, the media are subsidized by the gov't. They are under no obligation to be profitable.

This is not to say that the media should just give 'the people' what they want - it is to say that people are not stupid - especially w/the internet. We can find out just about anything and we don't need Der Spiegal to tell us.

I would like you to ask yourself some hard questions about why German culture can support such anti-American and utterly dishonest media. Are the German people stupid? Do they just not read anything so are clueless? I would like you to ask what function such anti-American bias serves w/in the German public so that the likes of Der Spiegal are not publically ridiculed - besides on DMK, I mean.

And why so much of European identity and moral north pole is "Hell, we're not Americans".

It's not only that, helian.

I am a long-time reader of Bjorn Staerk's blog. He had a post up after 9/11 and the commentary was interesting.

there were 3-4 women, ages 20s to 50s who all said the same thing. We're not taking the bashing anymore.

Americans don't like confrontation, and stay quiet. But after 9/11, and with the internet, we can actually read what's being said about us. What's changed is they're not used to getting it back, we're paying attention and this wonderful invention of Prince Al has allowed us to answer our critics.

It's not Bush, it never has been, he's the excuse. It's always been like this, read the late Philippe Roger's America's Oldest Enemy, the history of French Anti-Americanism.

We were getting criticism before we were America.

It's getting old, Old Europe hasn't changed, same old nonsense from the 1700s or before.

"Because the ultimate aim of fighting bias should be to improve relations--not to create new bias on other side ."

No the ultimate aim of fighting bias is to reveal the truth, now that may or may not improve relations.

They say "the Truth will set you Free, but first it will P^&s you off,. "

I dunno, but perhaps the right answer to a letter like that, no matter how well-intentioned, is:

Blogger is free. Start your own blog!

I'm just sayin'.

I couldn't live anymore in Germany without David's Medienkritik. To read and listen to our news, makes us angry and deeply disappointed. And it brings us in danger. So we hope that Germany won't need a 9/11 and that it might be enough to report the truth. But this is a long long way. You need so much time to understand the bias and to check facts and find out the truth. I have my doubts that people have this time.

I think, the media would be more helpful with less speculation. Now we had these two Lebanese young men. Nobody knows anything but they all have answers. This is what we should stop first. No speculation, just facts when we KNOW them.

@sandy p:

You write: "It's not Bush, it never has been, he's the excuse."

I don't want to argue, but my impression is that e.g. Clinton was widely popular over here--and still is.

Also, how about this Pew poll: http://pewglobal.org/reports/images/252-1.gif ?

Check out the full report at http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=252.

78% favorable opinion of the U.S. in 1998, for example, does not exactly strike me as particular solid evidence of deeply rooted, historical anti-Americanism in Germany.

There you have your perfect example. Clinton was a president that was quite popular here in germany (probably only because he was a democrat and therefor presented in a better light in the media here) nevertheless even during his presidency the media and the public opinion about the US was full of negative news and negative clichees about the US.
In my view the anti-american feelings here in germany have nothing to do with who is the president. To quote a libanese hisbollah member interviewed in german TV "Its all because of Bush and after this Bush there will be another one and another one..."
It doesn't matter who will be in charge in Washington the negative spin about the US will be there.
In my view it is important that Medienkritik is in english so that americans know what people think about them in germany. It is important so they are prepared when they are asked some questions from germans and know what could be behind that question and react accordingly. Many americans tend to be too guest friendly when they are confronted by foreigners and therefor tend to give them right when they are confronted by idiotic remarks giving answers like : "Yes, maybe you are right that the government is sometimes a littlebit fascistic....". This should not be because this foreigner will go home telling everybody "See, even the americans are saying that...".
There was an interesting program once one notorously anti-american WDR where they had invited the representative of the american republicans and an american journalist and various germans with various degrees of knowledge but clear anti-american agendas about the US. The overall subject should have been american politics but the americans were right away confronted with barrages of anti-american clichees like SUVs, crime and off-course the death penalty. After a while it seemed to become clear to the americans that they had been setup and they became (understandably) pissed and started telling the other talk guests in clear and loud terms that the picture they are painting about the US is not reflecting the US as they know it and that it is none of their buisiness to criticise the death penalty effective in many (but not all) states of the US because this a decission made by the voters and therefor the will of the majority of people in these states.
After this the behaviour of the other guests changed dramatically and all of a sudden you could here them saying things like "Well after all there are some positive things in the US like..."
It shows that you have to correct people if they talk bullshit and not tread them like lunatics and give them right just to keep them calm.

when my American husband came to Germany, I told him, that I and most of the Germans like more the Democratic party. He forced me to have answers why and I discovered after a long research, that it has to do with anti-Americanism. It is a perfect example, like garydausz already said. Compare Clinton and Bush and wonder. They demonize the Republican party here as if it is next to a right wing nazi party. Right = Nazi. It is that simple.


Thanks for your input.

You wrote "In my view it is important that Medienkritik is in english so that americans know what people think about them in germany." Yet the Pew poll I linked to found that 78% of all Germans had a favorable opinion of the U.S. in 1998--not of Clinton, mind you, but of the whole country.

So, I am of course not arguing that all media reports over here were perfectly balanced and accurate during Clinton's presidency, however, apparently the vast majority of Germans nevertheless had a positive opinion of the U.S. and Americans back then. No matter what the media did or did not report. Thus, equating findings of anti-American bias in German MSM with "what Germans think about Americans" doesn't seem to be feasible.

Furthermore, and this is also a reply to Gabi: In the interest of full disclosure, I happen to be an Independent who has voted Libertarian and occasionally Democrat (if they found a fiscally responsible candidate which does not happen that often...) during most of his life. I therefore respect and understand any human being, U.S. citizen, German or whatever, who despises the Republican party if they have proper reasons for it. I won't dispute that many Germans probably simply oppose the Republican party because they are ill-informed, but at the end of the day, there are of course respectable reasons to prefer one of the other parties. This is not different from our domestic politics.

Now, given the set of values many people honestly subscribe to, the generally strong support for the death penalty in the Republican party is such a solid reason to criticize the GOP. Because if you believe that due to your particular understanding of social contract theory or foundations of natural law, a society simply does not have the right to kill one of its members, no matter how heinous the crime or how vast the majority in favor of such a bill, a laconic reference to the domestic democratic process and constituencies' preferences does not solve this problem. According to this view, the death penalty is a human rights violation which *needs* to be criticized--just as U.S. public opinion rightfully critizises human rights violations in other countries, such as restrictions to freedom of speech in China etc. and would not be satisfied with a mere: "Well, that's what our population wants" (granted, in China's case there is no democracy, however, I do remember very well U.S. public opinion and officials complaining about the alleged lack of freedom of religion in Germany and how badly the German authorities were treating the Church of Scientology).

So, I am of course not saying that all criticism directed towards the U.S. with a view to the death penalty is honest and purely motivated by moral values. Of course it can be a fig leaf for anti-Americanism. Nor do I intend to start a debate on capital punishment--I just want to point out that such criticism can be honest and is not only directed towards the U.S. Maybe I have been lucky in this respect, but I have yet to meet a German criticizing the death penalty in the U.S. who does not at the same time criticize it in all other countries that still apply it--I am sure you've all heard the "bad company"-argument. In my view, such a general criticism--no matter what you believe as to the actual subject matter--is consistent and not anti-American.

I will gladly admit, however, that the tone the German MSM and many Germans employ in these matters is not called for. And that's also what I try to make clear vis-a-vis my German friends. That said, I am afraid Gabi needs to elaborate on how "demonizing" the Republican party is necessarily a sign of anti-Americanism.

@ tibor,

Here are a few spontaneous (thinking-out-loud) thoughts:

I think the popularity levels strongly correspond to periods when the United States actively exerts its power in the world without full "international consensus." Clinton did not have to deal with the aftermath of 9/11 (as Bush has) or the threat of the Soviet Union (as Reagan and his predecessors did). You can repeatedly see that the United States suddenly becomes very unpopular in Germany when there is a question of exercising power without UN permission. When 9/11 happened, everyone was "an American" for about 3 or 4 weeks and America was incredibly popular (and Bush was President!). But when push came to shove in Afghanistan, the levels of support began to drop noticeably despite the fact that the leadership in Germany finally did go along (after a vote of no confidence was called to force the Greens on board kicking and screaming.) The entire "Ghost of Vietnam" and "America's Unholy War" mantra began in the German media. Of course we all know that Iraq created an even more dramatic split.

I think that the American use of power without European approval is particularly threatening because the Europeans are themselves so impotent and US action reminds them of that weakness in the world and lack of control. Does that mean it is wrong for the US to take action without "consensus" or that the US should even put its security in the hands of a "consensus" body (multilateral is another buzzword) in which Russia and China have a veto? I personally don't think so. But there is a price to pay (in terms of popularity) for acting independently when you believe your action is the right one.

Then you have the media dominated by a generation ("the 68er") whose defining experience and worldview was shaped by opposition to the Vietnam War and all the perceived crimes of the United States. Throw in an understandable knee-jerk pacifism (a result of German history) and you can understand much of the issue. Clinton leaned that way politically and was a character many in German media could at least relate to. His affairs only endeared him to the German left. Finally, the Democratic party is far closer to the German left in terms of most policy (government spending, taxation, social welfare, economic policy, death penalty, etc.) than the Republicans, so they are happy just to have a President who leans their way and feel threatened by one who doesn't. Many German journalists don't even make an attempt to honestly understand or explain Republicans or conservatives, they simply see them as "the enemy."

Furthermore, there has long been a strong desire to regain moral legitimacy in Germany after the World Wars. Some on the left and elsewhere have found that, in the struggle to regain moral authority, it is particularly satisfying to bash the nation that you perceive to be your (former) occupier and at the same time perceived moral leader and superpower in the world and the "beacon of democracy". It is also nice to bash the big kid on the block. This explains why some are so eager to attack every tiny fault of the US and ignore much larger faults in other nations including Russia and China. These factors also explain why German media is always letting the UN off the hook despite massive incompetence and impotence there.

That is just a very rough outline of a few factors that I believe to be important. There are probably countless more factors I haven't mentioned. Having said all that, allow me to throw this monkey wrench at you. It is a quote from Jimmy Carter's autobiography "Keeping Faith":

"In Europe and elsewhere there were sharp debates about how much the United States should be supported on the crises in Iran and Afghanistan. Germany was being difficult. An election was approaching, and the leftists were opposed to any further criticism of the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. When Helmut Schmidt came to Washington for a visit, I was sharply critical because he had yielded to this pressure." (Page 500, "Keeping Faith")

Here is another quote on Helmut Schmidt:

"Helmut Schmidt seemed to be torn between the conflicting political forces in his country. In private conversations he was very tough in dealing with the Soviet threat, often the leader among Europeans in proposing strong action. But in German political debates, he emphasized the opposite facet of the same question and seemed reluctant to do anything which might be interpreted as anti-Soviet. At times this conflict made it difficult for Americans to understand him and was the reason for some of our problems. There were many reports from news reporters and others in Europe and in the United States concerning his critical comments about me, Secretaries Vance and Muskie, Dr. Brzezinski, and other officials in our government. These persistent criticisms, often highly publicized, helped to legitimize anti-American sentiments in Germany. Perhaps to compensate for these reports, Schmidt would publicly deplore any negative comments from others in Germany about the United States or its leaders." (Pages 537-538, "Keeping Faith")


“You wrote ‘In my view it is important that Medienkritik is in english so that americans know what people think about them in germany.’ Yet the Pew poll I linked to found that 78% of all Germans had a favorable opinion of the U.S. in 1998--not of Clinton, mind you, but of the whole country.”

Anyone who’s been reading Medienkritik for any length of time is bound to see this old chestnut pop up occasionally. It’s a classic example of the correlation vs. causation fallacy. It goes something like this: “Anti-Americanism doesn’t really exist. The German people are well informed about the US by their media. When Bush became President, they began to read the accurate accounts of his policies and actions in Spiegel and Stern. Great friends of the US that they were, they were, nevertheless, gradually forced to conclude that he was not a force for good, and became increasingly critical of his policies. This is wrongly interpreted by some as anti-Americanism.” If you think about it, it makes no sense at all. Why, exactly, should we consider it a “refutation” of the reality of anti-Americanism that 78% of all Germans had a favorable opinion of the U.S. in 1998, assuming for the sake of argument that the poll is accurate? Are we to believe that, if anti-Americanism is real, it would suddenly appear in all its hideous glory, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, out of nothing? Isn’t it more reasonable to assume that it would develop gradually, exactly as documented in the data cited by Tibor?

I think there is a more rational interpretation of Tibor’s data than the conclusion that, “It’s all about Bush.” The demise of the Soviet Union and, with it, Communism in 1991 brought vast changes, not only in the actual global distribution of power, but in the way people the world over perceived the distribution of power. The perception of a bipolar world was replaced by the perception of a world dominated by a sole superpower, a single hegemon, the all-powerful United States. This was the psychological precondition for the development of anti-Americanism. Human beings will, inevitably, resent any power if they perceive that it has a monopoly of force. Students of history know this. The same phenomenon can, for example, be observed over and over again in the reaction of the ancients to the emerging power of Rome.

Journalists tend to be astute judges of the currents of public opinion. The fourth estate the world over sensed the initial swells of the rising tide of anti-Americanism. German journalists were certainly not behind hand in this regard. In fact, it was not hard to detect. Go back and look through the archives of the German Internet forums from the late 90’s. With ever increasing frequency, little hatemongers, who seemed to have no lives outside of feeding their hate for America, popped up and blamed all the evils of the world on the US. To their shame, the German media didn’t take a principled stand against these irrational expressions of hate. Instead, they decided to profit from them. They knew they only had to prime the pump, and it would spew out pure gold. Prime it they did. Go back and read the accounts in Spiegel of the “Echelon scandal,” the US “stealing” of German panzer secrets in Spain, and just about any other “reporting” on the US from the final years of the Clinton Administration, and you will find a level of pure spite, hatred, and malevolence that absolutely puts in the shade anything you are likely to find today. The psychological preconditions for the development of anti-Americanism were there. Copiously fertilized by the mass media in Germany and many other countries, the poisonous flower sprang forth and grew apace. Hatred of America flourished, as documented in the data cited by Tibor. Spiegel was the avant-garde of the hate cultivators. It didn’t take long for the rest of the media to follow suit, regardless of whether they stood on the left or the right of the local political spectrum.

The fact is that incredibly violent and open expressions of hate against America appeared in the German media in the final years of the Clinton Administration that absolutely put in the shade anything we see today. England was declared “a traitor to Europe” for continuing to host the US Echelon system. Reading this violent propaganda had to be a shock for the few Americans who were paying attention to the German media at the time. It was certainly a shock for me. How are we to explain this explosion of hate in the context of the “it’s all about Bush” paradigm? The fact is that we can’t. The emergence of anti-Americanism, not only in Germany, but worldwide, has nothing to do with Bush. It is a reflection of the effect on human perceptions and psychology of the profoundly changed world that emerged after the demise of Communism.

Today, the hackneyed “it’s all about Bush” gambit is gradually falling out of fashion. It simply falls apart when confronted with the historical facts. Nevertheless, I doubt that it will ever disappear entirely. It’s just too good an alibi, and people who don’t like Bush themselves are always likely to swallow it. In fact, it’s pure, unadulterated bunk. If past history isn’t enough to convince you of that, just wait until Bush is gone. You’ll discover that (surprise! surprise!) anti-Americanism won’t disappear with him. A new whipping boy will probably be found an installed as a substitute fig leaf to take his place, but the reality of anti-American hate will be with us in any case.

Thanks Ray for the thoughtful and elaborate comment. I actually agree with most of your analysis, I really do.

That said, I don't think the points you make necessarily contradict most of what I wrote. Maybe it's also a problem of definition. Obviously, I am with you as far as the different political scales in the U.S. and Germany are concerned, it is also quite accurate to characterize the position many Germans take as knee-jerk pacifism (which to me actually is yet another reason to distinguish carefully between genuine anti-Americanism and mere situational knee-jerk opposition to whoever happens to exert military influence--or police power, if you will--in the world, as short-sighted as such a behavior may be, but I won't go deeper into that...).

Be that as it may, I don't have much to add to what I have written before, and I commend you for the great discussion your post ignited. Anti-Americanism exists, it is inacceptable and plainly stupid. I will continue to read DMK, and I admire you and David for your hard work to expose bias in German MSM. I truly hope that responsible German journalists will learn to be more fair and balanced--speaking of which, no need to quarrel over whether there is bias in certain U.S. formats, either, is there? Furthermore, I respect all readers who challenged my thoughts with sincere and thoughtful comments.

The underlying theme of my original e-mail and my comments has been that the reality on the ground for me, as an American who has been living in Germany for over 25 years by now, is not nearly as grim as a compendium of anti-American statements in the German media might make an interested reader believe. On the contrary, life has been and still is very good for me and my family over here--and I write this as a free market - free minds Libertarian, not as a socialist ;). I had political debates in the U.S., I have them over here. Many people over here might dislike my views on free trade or disagree on issues such as globalization. But I don't feel any particular hostility directed towards *me* because I am an American.

Therefore, I just had the urge to communicate this gap between my personal experience and perception of everyday life and the impression the accurate, yet isolated analysis of German MSM might create.

Tibor, --I don't want to argue, but my impression is that e.g. Clinton was widely popular over here--and still is.--

But the Euros still wouldn't give in to our 2 requests to have Congress approve Kyoto, would they?

Euros had a decent shot at getting Kyoto, but they said no. And W's gone and done what the Euros didn't want to do, Kyoto's dead and our way will work. Which is how it usually goes.

Tibor, I've been reading US biz sections for over 20 years. Euro snobbery as to our biz practices has always been there, yet they are starting to put US practices into their models - accounting practices, too.

-- the generally strong support for the death penalty in the Republican party is such a solid reason to criticize the GOP--

Already covered on this blog, Tibor, read Cass Sunstein's research - no one will ever mistake him for a pubbie.

Governments have a moral obligation to apply the death penalty because doing so saves about 18 citizens per vermin put down.

Tibor, to add to helian's comment, this is how i see it.

We're the original rogue nation, we're the 1 that got away.

This grand experiment was never supposed to work and now they really hate Us because we took down their USSR-utopia.

And now they're trying to build the EUSSR-utopia. It will once again fail and it'll be our fault.

Sandy P.

You wrote: "Kyoto's dead and our way will work". What do you mean by "our way". The US does not care for environment protection! That is a FACT in Germany!

"You wrote: "Kyoto's dead and our way will work". What do you mean by "our way". The US does not care for environment protection! That is a FACT in Germany!"

The media made it easy for Schroeder to bamboozle the German people about Kyoto. In all the whining, hand-wringing, and moaning about the "irresponsible" US, three rather salient facts relating to the Kyoto greenhouse emissions targets were never mentioned by the German media. During the decade that elapsed between the time those targets were set, and the ratification process:

1. The US economy was growing and dynamic while the European economies languished.
2. Massive new sources of natural gas, which produces half the greenhouse emissions of coal, became available to the Europeans from Russia and the North Sea. No similar new resources were available to the US.
3. Europeans were able to score huge cuts in greenhouse emissions by shutting down moribund industries in former Communist countries that would have been shut down in any case.

These three reasons, which were pure windfalls, and had nothing to do with the superior environmental "virtue" of the Europeans, made it easy for them to reach their Kyoto targets. To meet its targets, it would have been necessary for the US to sacrifice tens of thousands of jobs. This is what the Europeans considered "fair." In retrospect, they couldn't even meet the modest goals they set themselves under Kyoto, and never even made a serious attempt to do so that went beyond the cosmetic.

None of this is ever mentioned in the German media. It wouldn't contribute to the smug delusions of moral superiority that are so comforting to many Europeans.

@Sandy P:

Ray wrote: "There are many superb comments on our site and some not so superb."

You are either flame or an impressive example of the last category. There are worlds between the responses Helian, Ray or Pamela provided, which I appreciate and which are an invitation to reflect on one's own views, and your comment.

For starters, since we are discussing bias, I freely confess: I am biased against people who call other people vermin. Not so much because of PC terminology--even though it is indeed inhuman--but because it usually also denotes intellectual laziness--resorting to calling names is sooo much easier than actually having to come up with a solid argument.

Also, referencing a law & econ study as a reply to an argument made in terms of natural law and absolute rights is ludicrous. You'd fail both moral philosophy 101 as well as law & econ, because you cannot switch between utility and natural rights in one and the same argument. Both are perfectly valid in their own line of argumentation, however, to a believer in natural rights, utility considerations stop right there (I am not taking positions here, just pointing to the obvious flaws).

Finally, don't be too proud of exporting accounting standards of all things. If you follow int'l capital markets trends, you'll see that the picture is very diverse. Foreign companies are adopting U.S. accounting standards but at the same time increasingly delisting in the U.S., because it's too expensive. On the other hands, I am lately doing a lot of covered bond deals at work, i.e. a genuine German instrument ("Pfandbrief"), instead of structured finance deals.

Helian, would you say then that the Americans are just as committed to protecting the environment as the Germans are?

A very simple example would be to consider this: would the current Pfand system in Germany, which not only recycles bottles, but reuses them, which is orders of magnitude better for the environment, even have even the slightest chance of being adopted in the US? There is nothing comparable in the majority of the US, so you can't say "the Left always needs the Govt. to persuade the people to..." This includes basically every drink bottle, plastic or glass, sold.

Just out of idle curiosity, so you still have much connection to the old country, Tibor? I can imagine it must be fascinating to hear the old timers there tell stories about the war years (WWII). It's a good thing Tito was a Croat. Otherwise the Communists might have wiped you all out.

@ Proletarian,

Actually a handful of states do have a deposit system and you are one of the few I've heard praising the confusing and inefficiant German system which is filled with exceptions (alcoholic beverages exempted) and problems returning bottles to certain stores. Furthermore, countless localities, states and private organizations in the US are engaged in recycling all sorts of items from paper to batteries to oil to aluminum cans. There is also the "Adopt a Road" program which allows private individuals and organizations to take care of the environment. If you scratch the surface you might get past your "Europe-good/America-bad" stereotypes.

A lot of our recycled paper goes to China. Don't forget paint cans.

Our plastic, unlike Britain, IIRC, has a number on the bottom to denote recycling.

Cass Sunstein came up w/a solid argument for the death penalty - did you read it?

Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs
Cass R. Sunstein, Adrian Vermeule. Working Paper 05-06. Mar 2005.
View PDF
Downloads: 8652

Recent evidence suggests that capital punishment may have a significant deterrent effect, preventing as many as eighteen or more murders for each execution. This evidence greatly unsettles moral objections to the death penalty, because it suggests that a refusal to impose that penalty condemns numerous innocent people to death. Capital punishment thus presents a life-life tradeoff, and a serious commitment to the sanctity of human life may well compel, rather than forbid, that form of punishment. Moral objections to the death penalty frequently depend on a distinction between acts and omissions, but that distinction is misleading in this context, because government is a special kind of moral agent. The familiar problems with capital punishment – potential error, irreversibility, arbitrariness, and racial skew – do not argue in favor of abolition, because the world of homicide suffers from those same problems in even more acute form. The widespread failure to appreciate the life-life tradeoffs involved in capital punishment may depend on cognitive processes that fail to treat “statistical lives” with the seriousness that they deserve.

Gacy/Bundy/et al are vermin, so are the islamofascists. Or they were put down like the mongrels they were. You've gone native, Tibor. You need some time in flyover country. Unless you're suggesting they're not noxious. What term would have suited your sensibilities better?

1. noxious, objectionable, or disgusting animals collectively, esp. those of small size that appear commonly and are difficult to control, as flies, lice, bedbugs, cockroaches, mice, and rats.
2. an objectionable or obnoxious person, or such persons collectively.
3. animals that prey upon game, as coyotes or weasels (ohhh, froggies!).

Sometimes you gotta call a spade a spade. Another reason the --get your knickers ready cos vermin upset your delicate sensibilities -- the Zeros hate us and Bush. It's called "arguing like an American."

-- Foreign companies are adopting U.S. accounting standards but at the same time increasingly delisting in the U.S., because it's too expensive. --Yeah, I know that. There's complaints and lobbying to overturn Oxley-Sarbanes here, too.

Ray D. What is so confusing about Pfand. You are one of the few people who find it confusing to return a bottle to any store. Judging by the content you produce, however, this is perhaps not the most surprising thing I have heard. Also, please provide us with sources on your handful of states that have a deposit system that is as through as the system here.

As for your recycling programs, all that is provided here in every single city. This still doesn't address the fact that returning bottles conserves far more resources than simple recycling, and even this isn't available everywhere in the US. Primitive, isn't it.

Also, regarding Pfand, please inform the World on how this is inefficient. It is painfully obvious that this is perhaps the most effective approach to reuse yet, since the financial incentive to return your container (25 cents per bottle, big or small) has people returning their bottle almost without fail, and in fact even people who make money from returning any of these bottles not returned. By putting money into the equation, this system has seen extremely high return rates. Perhaps you would like to clarify how this system is inefficient, rather than throwing empty words in the air.

Also, Ray D, here is a good article suggesting what Germany is doing is actually a great thing.

You will see that this approach means that Germans collect and recycle almost everything (and not just in a handful of states), and makes the producer responsible for designing products with recycling in mind.

So all those stating that the US is just as committed to Environmental Protection as Germany is are just whistling Dixie.

Also, this does not just apply to recycling. Legislation from the EU place Manufacturer responsibility for recycling, not just at the end stage of the product life-cycle, but for the entire life cycle, and to create life cycles themselves that are far more conducive to waste management and recycling. This means recyclability is made to be a design goal just like reliability or quality.

It might be hard for you to know/believe it but recycling has been in the US some time before germany introduced it. I remember the first time that I have been in the US people were already collecting glas in a seperate trash years before the public glas collectors in germany were setup.
Also you should try to remember (if you can, but I feel that you are probably too young for that) that the US had adopted tough car emmission laws and the usage of catalysators a decade before they got introduced in germany. You would be astonished, if you would take real interest in finding real facts, about the level of environmental protection in the USA and how close and in certain areas even exceed the levels in germany.

Well, Gary, you do not reference my article at all. Germany is leading the EU in Manufacturer Responsibility for Recycling and Waste Management, and is light years ahead of the US in this aspect. Any advantage the US had in the late 80's is now long lost.

My link references real facts (unlike you mentioning defunct facts which are no longer relevant), and also, please reference the EU environmental site to read up on what the Directive of Manufacturer Responsibility is all about.

Sorry Gary, anecdotal evidence such as "I remember when..." doesn't count. Germany is FAR AHEAD of the US when it comes to environmentally friendly waste management policies.

Also, the Pfand system addresses the problem of plastics, by ensuring that billions of plastic bottles do not have to be recycled, they can be reused, returned for a refund at ANY store, not just the one where they were bought, and at many "reverse vending machines" where the return of the bottles gives you a reciept. Almost every beverage bottle is subject to Pfand, except for alcoholic beverages, which are always glass. Pfand also applies for most glass bottles, again, making it far more energy saving than recycling.

@ Proletariat

Alcoholic beverages are not always glass, they also come in aluminum cans and I wouldn't be surprised if they came in other packaging as well.

@Proletariat (oh, you are not an individual anymore but a whole population group, interesting...)
Just to make the foam on your lips disapear: Yes, the germans (gods gift to earth) have an excellent recycling system with an overall recycling rate that probably ranks among the best in this world. To state that the american system is "lightyears" behind might be a littlebit exagerated but I will let you run with that (your wild eyes are startling me).
So does this mean that if there is indeed a global enviroment problem caused by human emissions that germany can say: "don't look at me, look at my recycling rate"? (Lets forget about almost 200 years of industralisation in germany plus two world wars which probably caused more emissions than the 100 years before.) Does it also mean that the US does bear all responsibility for this problem (if it exists) because it doesn't have a recycling rate like germany? (Lets forget about all those other environmental friendly countries like china, india, indonesia ....)
These are superficial questions actually because I know your answer.

BTW, what does this have to do with the article, anyway?

--since the financial incentive to return your container (25 cents per bottle, big or small) --

Oberweis bottles return 85 cents in my area.

But I really want to know, can one now purchase aspirin after 6 PM on the weekend?

Or does everything still shut down over there?

How often, I wonder, has Tibor Vukovic made the same type of remarks to members of the German media?

How often, I wonder, has he taken the time to pen a seven-paragraph missive to leave on the websites of German media or of (the numerous numbers of) openly-admitted America-bashing websites? (hyperlinks, please…)

Tibor Vukovic makes two apparently innocuous mistakes that actually lead to anti-Americanism, if only indirectly.

First of all, he thinks, like most in the EU, that the world will start working when everyone comes together (both on a national level and on that of common citizens debating on the webosphere) and start agreeing on at least basic things. (For instance, had Bush, members of the peace camp, Saddam, et al all agreed to talks, the Iraq crisis would have been averted.)

No. I hold that in this life, an individual must seek out the truth and discover what those basic truths are — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thus, among other things that talks in the Iraq crisis would have glossed over are the double-dealing (not to call it the treachery) of members of the peace camp and the United Nations, not least their oil dealings with Saddam.

More to the point, public talks gloss over what people (and members of government) say (and think) behind your back. Everybody has been nice with you, Tibor? You object to people using the word "vermin"? At parties, I have heard from people not knowing I was American that "les Américains, c'est de la merde" (the point being not what the person said but that nobody around him or her bothered to correct him or her, at least not in any meaningful way). In other words, I have heard comments far worse than you have ever heard here (or that castigators of websites like this have ever bothered correct).

(That doesn't mean that public talks should always be avoided; it means just that: you need to find out what the other party — or the members thereof — are really thinking and saying (and whether such talk is fair!). Which happens to be… the whole point behind the existence of Davids Medienkritik!!)

Speaking of what people (and politicians and media members and institutions and societies) really think with regards to George W Bush as opposed to other presidents, I think you should check out John Rosenthal's Legend of the Squandered Sympathy.

Second, notice Tibor Vukovic's language: he thinks that there is danger in the world, but: that the danger does not come from Saddam, the UN's double standards, members of the peace camp, or common citizens speaking in nuances and with flowery formulations (but actually, as we have seen, smugly spewing bile at neocons and other Yanks); it comes from the risk of people misinterpreting the DMK website (and thus Germany's mainstream media) and thinking the Germans "bad" when they are obviously not and the reality is much more nuanced — i.e., the danger comes from (clueless) Americans!! (No danger (ever) comes from the direction of Germans and Europeans.)

Which brings us back to the subject of this and other blogs; anti-Americanism.

Again, how many people offering "constructive criticism" on DMK have taken the time to pen long missives to leave on the websites of German media or of (the numerous numbers of) openly-admitted America-bashing websites?

"I guess my point is that since there is no blog of comparable prominence (at least none that I know of) that provides Americans with examples of pro-American publications or reports of positive experiences our countrymen have over here, Medienkritik unintentionally does a lot of unnecessary damage instead of making people from both countries actually get to know each other better."

I can imagine Tibor's fear, that people, especially from Germany who read this blog will probably polarize to one side or another. Although that fear is reasonable, I would not worry too much about. People who read Medienkritik are usually interested in politics and therefore relativly well informed. As ist is, they will be able to understand the message.

And of course. There are pro-American articles in German Media, but they are few and, unlike their anti-american counterparts, usually not in the headline of the newspapers(Die Zeit is here maybe an exception).


The German rycycle system has been invented for a good cause. Unfortunatly, it has been the case(at least in Baden-Württemberg), that the system also creates a lot of waste(Carrying bottles back, cleaning them, etc.).
So if the system really helps the environment is, in my point of view, questionable.

For example, the system is unable to deal with the garbage, the society creates the most of: earth and stone from construction sites and industrial waste( makes about 90% of the total garbage: Source: Duales System, 1998).

And the rycycling system is in many cities a joke, because the waste vou have seperated at home, is often burnt again togehter. That's why, they're thinking of skipping the yellow bag again.

Ups, just saw, that I wrote recycling entirely wrong. Sorry, my english isn't the best.

@Erik S:

I know that this probably does not fit into your Carl Schmitt Weltanschauung, however, I regularly write letters to the editor if a German newspaper I read publishes biased articles (sometimes even as prompted by DMK's analysis), I (scil: my blogger ID) have left literally hundreds of long comments on German websites and discussion fora to fight anti-American and, given the current Lebanon crisis and my relatives and friends in Haifa, particularly anti-Israel bias, and I openly confront people with their anti-American bias if I overhear it at parties or at work. I won't provide hyperlinks, because for personal reasons my blog is not and should not be linked to my name. So you have to take my word for it.

Shocking, huh? How can that be, given that I actually like living in Germany and haven't experienced anti-American bias directed against *myself*? To be honest, I probably spend more time with these things than is healthy for my work--but you oh so innocently "wonder"... I will make a good faith effort and won't take your comment as an implied insult, however, it strikes me as yet another example of your entrenched prejudice against people who don't share your politics. Using the label anti-American to delegitimize other people's position is a truly cheap shot.

The rest of your comment by and large consists of attacks against things I have neither said nor implied. As for the alleged dichotomy between truth and everybody coming together, I never said the truth about anti-American bias in German MSM should be covered up. On the contrary, I explicitly commended DMK. My concern was that if the mode of presentation involuntarily creates a distorted picture for some, there is no truth but new bias--based on inaccurate assumptions about the German society as such. Of course you can dispute my impression that some readers come to wrong conclusions. But please don't create those ridiculous dichotomies.

Finally, I never wrote anything about "danger in the world," let alone about DMK being the main or only a source of "danger in the world." Can you imagine that I simply care about how people, especially my countrymen perceive the country in which I happily live? That I would like them to have what I believe is a complete, accurate picture? You know, seeking truth and such? Can you further imagine that this has nothing to do with what else I may or may not think about world politics? About Iran, Saddam, islamist terrorism etc.? About the role the UN, the EU or Germany are playing?

It's really dishonest and contumelious to insinuate I see "clueless Americans" as the or a source of danger in the world. I would never make an outrageous claim such as "no danger ever comes from the direction of Germans and Europeans." I don't know what leads you to bring up topics I never mentioned, and I also don't know why you make those assumptions and attack strawmen. I do know, however, that I find this kind of behavior inacceptable in a candid discussion.

The comments to this entry are closed.


The Debate

Blog powered by Typepad

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27